Old Fashioned Goulash

5 from 1 vote

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Old fashioned goulash always brings to mind a hearty, comforting dish that’s been savored in my family through generations. 

A plate of old fashioned goulash with some crusty bread.

This classic goulash recipe is one of my favorite recipes to whip up on busy weeknights because you can make it under 45 minutes. At less than three dollars per serving, goulash is also one of our best budget meals.

About this Goulash

I grew up eating this American version of Hungarian goulash (we called it American chop suey), and I’m happy that my kids grew up loving it as well.  Like our Amish donuts, German coffeecake, and slow cooker chicken and biscuits, this classic recipe is yet another incredible example of how good food can bridge the past to the present.

And if your kids love to cook like ours, a family recipe like this might even extend those bridges into the future. (That’s always a hope of mine.)

W wooden spoon with some elbow macaroni, ground beef, and tomato pieces on it.
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I always think of this old-fashioned goulash recipe as the ultimate comfort food. It’s an old recipe that merges hearty ground beef and elbow macaroni in a delicious tomato sauce that even picky eaters can’t get enough of.

Like our homemade beefaroni, goulash is a great way to feed the whole family, and it’s a big hit every time I make it.  Because it’s an easy recipe that goes together quickly, it’s perfect for those busy nights when you don’t want to spend a lot of time fussing and mussing in the kitchen. 

What’s in Old Fashioned Goulash

This is an easy goulash recipe that requires simple ingredients you likely have in your pantry and fridge.

Ground beef and other ingredients to make old-fashioned goulash.

To make this classic goulash, you’ll need hamburger meat, 1/2 lb. of uncooked macaroni noodles, and a variety of seasonings, including garlic salt, black pepper, and chili powder, to taste.

Recipe Tip

For the hamburger, I like to use 85/15 ground beef. The small amount of fat adds a world of flavor to this old fashioned goulash! You can, of course, go leaner, like with a 90/10 mixture, but I don’t recommend anything leaner than that.

This goulash sauce is a rich, tomato-based concoction made from whole stewed tomatoes, ketchup, and tomato juice as needed to get the right consistency.  V8 works great for this, and if you were to use some cream of tomato soup, I promise I will not judge you!

You can also use beef broth or chicken broth if you want to add even more flavor. I always recommend using homemade broth instead of the stuff you buy in the grocery store. It’s so much better tasting, and it’s not full of salt and nasty preservatives.

A bowl of goulash with a skillet of goulash behind it.
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How to Make Old Fashioned Goulash

This is an awesome recipe that’s all about tasting and adjusting as you go, ensuring you get the best results tailored to your family’s preferences.

Start by cooking your elbow macaroni al dente, then brown your ground beef in a large skillet or a large Dutch oven with diced onions and a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat.

Drain the meat and season the mixture with your chosen spices.

Mash the stewed tomatoes.

Add them to the beef along with the ketchup.

Combine the drained pasta and beef mixture, adjusting the seasoning as necessary.

If you prefer a juicier goulash, feel free to add more tomato juice. You can let this old- fashioned goulash simmer over low heat for a few minutes to let the ingredients get to know one another.

Top Recpe Tips

  1. Spice it Up: Don’t be shy with the seasonings! Garlic salt, pepper, chili powder, and hot sauce are just the starting point. Adjust them to your preference, or add additional spices like paprika, cumin, or oregano for deeper flavor.
  2. Mash Matters: Take the time to mash those stewed tomatoes! This breaks them down, creating a thicker, richer sauce that beautifully coats the pasta and beef. Skipping this step can leave you with a soupier goulash.
  3. Texture Tango: Cook the macaroni al dente for a satisfying bite. Overcooked pasta can become mushy when mixed with the sauce. Remember, it will continue to soften slightly as the goulash simmers.

Variations and Substitutions

  • If you’re interested in different versions of this goulash, there’s plenty of room for creativity. For a Hungarian version, consider adding chunks of beef, root vegetables, and a pinch of paprika. 
  • To make this more of an American goulash recipe, consider a lighter option, such as using ground turkey, lean ground beef, or ground chicken instead of beef.  
  • Onion powder, garlic powder, and even a hint of chili can be added for a little extra kick. You can also throw in green beans, red bell peppers, or kidney beans for added nutrition and color. 
  • If you’re a cheese-loving family, sharp cheddar cheese or melty cheddar cheese can be added, based on what you have on hand.
  • Finally, sometimes I like to add a bit of Italian seasoning into the goulash and a splash of Worcestershire sauce for depth, and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese right before serving.

How do you serve it?

I love serving this hearty pasta dish in a big bowl, topped with a generous sprinkle of cheddar or parmesan cheese and a side of crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Goulash is perfect for any night of the week and makes for great leftovers the next day. Store any leftover goulash in an airtight container in the fridge, and it’ll be just as good, if not better, when reheated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this goulash as a slow cooker recipe?
Yes, this old-fashioned goulash recipe can easily be adapted for a slow cooker. Just brown your meat and onions before adding them to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients, except the pasta, which should be added in the last hour of cooking.

Is it possible to use something other than beef?
Absolutely! While beef is traditional for most goulash recipes, ground turkey or chicken are excellent substitutes for a lighter version that still satisfies.

How can I make this goulash spicier?
For those who enjoy a bit more heat, adding red pepper flakes or a bit more chili powder is a great way to dial up the spice level. Don’t forget to adjust according to your and your family’s taste preferences!

This old-fashioned goulash recipe is more than just a meal; it’s a journey back to simpler times, filled with the warmth of home-cooked comfort. Whether you stick to the original recipe or explore different versions, this easy recipe is guaranteed to become a new favorite at your family dinner table.

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Old Fashioned Goulash

5 from 1 vote
Old-Fashioned Goulash is Family-Friendly Comfort in a Flash! This quick and easy goulash is packed with flavor and ready in under 45 minutes. With ground beef, pasta, and stewed tomatoes, it's a hearty dish that's sure to please everyone at the table. Plus, the simple ingredients and adjustable spices make it perfect for customizing to your family's tastes. So ditch the takeout menus and whip up this comforting classic instead!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Yield: 6


  • 1/2 lb Macaroni
  • 1.5 lb Ground beef
  • 1 White onion, diced
  • 2 14.5 oz Whole stewed tomatoes, Undrained
  • 2 tbsp Ketchup
  • 8 oz Tomato juice, Adjust the amount as necessary.
  • 1 tsp Garlic salt
  • 1 tsp Chili powder
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste


  • Cook the macaroni to al dente according to package directions. While it’s cooking, brown the ground beef and onion together in an extra-large skillet or in a dutch oven.
 Drain and season with spices to taste.
  • In a large bowl, mash tomatoes with potato masher and add to beef along with the ketchup.
  • Drain macaroni and add to the beef mixture, stirring well. Taste and add additional seasoning as needed.
  • Add more tomato juice if you want it juicier.


Take the time to make sure the beef is well browned and cook the onions until they’re soft for better taste.
Mash the tomatoes in the can (or use a bowl) with a masher before putting them in with the beef to make it chunky.
Add tomato juice slowly until the goulash is as thick as you like it.


Calories: 448kcal, Carbohydrates: 33g, Protein: 25g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 81mg, Sodium: 522mg, Potassium: 525mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 296IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 39mg, Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
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Dan & Scott split their time between Wisconsin and Southwest Florida and are dads to six boys. Good food runs through their veins, and they love showing others how to cook easy recipes.

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5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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