American Goulash

American Goulash, often referred to as “American Chop Suey,” stands as a testament to the simplicity and comfort of home cooking. This one-pot wonder, beloved across the United States, combines ground beef, macaroni, tomatoes, and a blend of spices to create a hearty and satisfying meal. Unlike its Hungarian counterpart, which is more of a soup or stew, American goulash is a thicker, pasta-based dish that has become a staple in household kitchens due to its ease of preparation and adaptable ingredients.

American Goulash

The Basic Ingredients

At its core, American goulash requires only a few key ingredients: ground beef for richness, elbow macaroni for substance, canned tomatoes for a tangy sauce, and onions and garlic for foundational flavors. Bell peppers often make an appearance, adding a sweet crunch to the dish. The spices, typically a mix of paprika, salt, and pepper, can be adjusted according to taste, with some opting to include Italian seasoning or bay leaves for added depth.

Preparing the Dish

The process of making American goulash is straightforward and forgiving, making it perfect for busy weeknights or feeding a crowd. You start by browning the ground beef in a large pot, ensuring to break it into small pieces for even cooking. Once browned, the beef is drained of excess fat, and onions, garlic, and bell peppers are sautéed in the same pot until softened.

Next, canned tomatoes, water, and the spices are added to the pot, brought to a simmer, and then the uncooked macaroni is stirred in. The mixture is then covered and left to simmer, absorbing the flavors and cooking the pasta to perfection. The result is a rich, tomato-based sauce clinging to tender bites of pasta and beef, with each ingredient melding together to create a comforting bowl of goodness.

Customizing Your Goulash

One of the joys of American goulash is its versatility. While the basic recipe is satisfying on its own, the dish can be easily customized to suit individual tastes or to make use of what’s available in the pantry. Some popular variations include adding cheese for a creamy texture, incorporating different types of pasta, or throwing in extra vegetables like mushrooms or zucchini for a nutritional boost. The dish can also be made spicier with the addition of chili powder or red pepper flakes.

Serving Suggestions

American goulash is typically served hot, straight from the stove, often accompanied by a simple side salad or crusty bread to soak up the sauce. It’s a dish that’s meant to be shared, offering warmth and comfort with each bite. Leftovers, if there are any, reheat well and can taste even better the next day as the flavors continue to meld.

Through its humble ingredients and easy preparation, American goulash captures the essence of American comfort food. It’s a dish that brings people together, offering a taste of nostalgia and the simple pleasure of a home-cooked meal. Whether you stick to the traditional recipe or add your own twist, American goulash remains a beloved classic that satisfies the soul as much as the stomach.

Exploring the History of American Goulash

American goulash has a rich history that reflects the melting pot of American culture. Originating from the Hungarian goulash brought over by immigrants, the American version evolved over time to suit local tastes and available ingredients. This adaptation turned the dish into a unique American classic, differentiating it from its European ancestor by incorporating pasta and a tomato-based sauce, ingredients that were more readily available and affordable in the United States. This evolution showcases the ability of food to adapt and change, becoming embedded in the fabric of a nation’s culinary identity.

The Comfort Food Appeal

The appeal of American goulash lies in its status as a comfort food. It’s the kind of meal that reminds people of home, family dinners, and gatherings with loved ones. The warmth and simplicity of the dish, combined with its hearty and filling nature, make it a go-to recipe for those seeking solace in food. American goulash embodies the concept of comfort food, providing not just nourishment for the body but also for the soul.

American Goulash

Nutritional Considerations

While American goulash is undeniably comforting, it’s also possible to make it more nutritious without sacrificing flavor. Incorporating lean ground beef or even substituting it with ground turkey can reduce the fat content. Adding a variety of vegetables increases the dish’s vitamin and mineral profile, making it a more balanced meal. Whole-wheat pasta can be used in place of regular pasta to add fiber. These simple modifications allow for a healthier version of the classic dish, appealing to those mindful of their dietary needs.

The Social Aspect of Goulash

American goulash is more than just a meal; it’s a social dish, often served at gatherings, potlucks, and family dinners. Its ease of preparation in large quantities makes it ideal for feeding a crowd, and its universally appealing flavor profile ensures it’s a hit with guests of all ages. The act of sharing a big pot of goulash fosters a sense of community and togetherness, highlighting the dish’s role in social occasions and its ability to bring people together.

Preserving and Adapting Traditions

As with many traditional dishes, Americ

A goulash is subject to personal and regional variations that keep the recipe alive and relevant. From family to family, the recipe is passed down and tweaked, incorporating new ingredients or techniques while still preserving the essence of the dish. This ongoing adaptation and evolution of American goulash reflect the dynamic nature of culinary traditions, ensuring they continue to be cherished and enjoyed by future generations.

American goulash remains a beloved dish across the United States, celebrated for its simplicity, comfort, and versatility. Whether sticking to the classic recipe or experimenting with new variations, it continues to be a staple of American home cooking, embodying the warmth and generosity of the American spirit.

Celebrating Diversity Through Ingredients

American goulash not only showcases the melting pot of American culture through its history but also through the diverse ingredients that can be incorporated into the dish. As America’s demographic landscape changes, so too do the variations of this classic dish. Ingredients such as cilantro, jalapeños, or even curry powder find their way into different versions of goulash, each addition reflecting the multicultural influences that enrich American cuisine. This diversity in ingredients not only enhances the flavor profile of the dish but also celebrates the cultural tapestry that defines the nation.

The Art of Leftovers

One of the many strengths of American goulash is its ability to taste even better the next day. The flavors have time to meld and deepen, making leftovers a sought-after commodity. Creative cooks might repurpose these leftovers into new meals, such as topping a baked potato with goulash, using it as a filling for stuffed peppers, or even creating a goulash pot pie. This ability to transform and repurpose leftovers speaks to the dish’s versatility and the ingenuity of those who make it.

Teaching Moments in the Kitchen

Preparing American Goulash offers valuable teaching moments for young cooks and culinary novices. The simplicity of the dish makes it an excellent recipe for teaching basic cooking skills, such as sautéing, boiling pasta, and creating a balanced sauce. Moreover, the process of making goulash can serve as an introduction to the concept of comfort food and the importance of food in cultural identity and family traditions. These cooking sessions become more than just about the food; they’re about passing down knowledge, sharing stories, and fostering a love for cooking.

Sustainability and Conscious Cooking

In an era where sustainability is increasingly important, American goulash aligns well with the principles of conscious cooking. The dish can easily accommodate leftovers or surplus vegetables, reducing food waste. Additionally, its adaptability means that seasonal and locally sourced ingredients can be used, supporting local farmers and reducing the carbon footprint associated with food transport. Cooking American goulash with sustainability in mind not only results in a delicious meal but also contributes to a more environmentally friendly way of life.

The Future of American Goulash

Looking forward, American goulash continues to stand as a symbol of comfort, versatility, and the blending of cultures. As new generations discover and put their own spin on the dish, it will undoubtedly evolve, reflecting changing tastes and influences. However, its essence as a comforting, hearty meal that brings people together is likely to remain unchanged. American goulash will continue to be cherished in many households, a testament to the enduring power of good food to comfort, unite, and celebrate the rich diversity of American life.

American Goulash

In embracing the past while looking to the future, American goulash exemplifies the dynamic nature of culinary tradition, offering endless possibilities for innovation while holding fast to the comforting flavors that have made it a beloved classic.

Celebrating Diversity Through Ingredients

American Goulash, in its essence, celebrates the diversity of American cuisine through its adaptable ingredient list. As America is a melting pot of cultures, so too is this dish a reflection of that diversity. Cooks across the country add their own cultural spin to the recipe, incorporating spices and ingredients reflective of their heritage. This inclusion transforms the dish into a culinary mosaic, showcasing flavors from around the world while still maintaining its comforting core.

The Art of Leftovers

One of the many virtues of American Goulash is its ability to be even more flavorful the day after it’s made. The art of utilizing leftovers is well-practiced with this dish, as the flavors deepen and meld together overnight. Creative home cooks often find that adding a fresh sprinkle of herbs or a dash of cheese when reheating can rejuvenate the dish, making leftovers something to look forward to rather than a mere afterthought.

Teaching Moments in the Kitchen

Preparing American Goulash offers valuable teaching moments for young cooks and culinary novices. The simplicity of the recipe makes it an excellent tool for teaching basic cooking skills, such as sautéing, boiling pasta, and creating a balanced sauce. It also opens up discussions about food history, cultural adaptation, and the importance of family traditions in cooking. These moments in the kitchen become about more than just preparing a meal; they’re about passing on knowledge and fostering a love for cooking.

Goulash as a Canvas for Creativity

For those with a creative culinary spirit, American Goulash serves as a canvas for experimentation. Beyond the traditional recipe, imaginative cooks can explore a variety of pasta shapes, meats, vegetables, and spices to create a dish that is uniquely their own. This flexibility not only keeps the dish exciting but also encourages cooks to think outside the box and personalize their meals to suit their tastes and dietary preferences.

A Dish for All Seasons

While often associated with colder months due to its hearty and warming qualities, American goulash is truly a dish for all seasons. In the summer, lighter versions can be made by incorporating fresh vegetables from the garden or farmers’ market. During spring, a focus on bright herbs and leaner meats can refresh the traditional recipe. No matter the season, American goulash adapts to fit the mood and produce available, proving its enduring appeal and versatility.

American goulash continues to be a cherished dish across the United States, embodying the spirit of American cuisine with its adaptability, simplicity, and comforting nature. It stands as a testament to the power of food to bring people together, create memories, and bridge cultural divides, making it a timeless favorite in the landscape of American cooking.

American Goulash

FAQs about American Goulash

Can I make American goulash in a slow cooker?

Yes, you can easily adapt the recipe to a slow cooker. Brown the meat and onions before adding them to the slow cooker with the other ingredients, except the pasta. Add the pasta about 30 minutes before the end of cooking to prevent it from becoming too soft.

Is American goulash gluten-free?

As it’s traditionally made with wheat pasta, it’s not gluten-free. However, you can make it gluten-free by using a gluten-free pasta alternative and ensuring all other ingredients are gluten-free.

Can I freeze American goulash?

Absolutely. American goulash freezes well. Cool it completely, then store it in airtight containers. It can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat on the stove or in the microwave.

How can I make my American goulash more flavorful?

Enhance the flavor by adding more spices, such as smoked paprika, chili powder, or Italian seasoning. A splash of Worcestershire sauce or a bit of red wine can also deepen the flavors.

What can I serve with American goulash?

Serve American goulash with a side of crusty bread, a simple green salad, or steamed vegetables to round out the meal. For a heartier companion, garlic bread or a roasted vegetable medley make excellent choices.


American goulash is more than just a dish; it’s a culinary tradition that embodies the comfort, diversity, and adaptability of American cooking. Its simplicity and heartiness make it a beloved meal across the country, bringing warmth and satisfaction to any table. Whether sticking to the classic recipe or adding your own twist, American goulash offers endless possibilities to create something delicious and comforting. It’s a testament to the power of simple ingredients coming together to create a meal that’s not only nourishing but also rich in history and flavor. As American goulash continues to be passed down through generations, it remains a cherished staple, symbolizing the melting pot of cultures that is American cuisine.

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American Goulash

  • Author: recipstep
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


American Goulash is a hearty, comforting one-pot meal that combines ground beef, elbow macaroni, tomatoes, and a blend of spices. It’s a versatile dish that’s perfect for a cozy family dinner and is known for its rich flavors and simplicity.



1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef (90/10)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
1 celery stick, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fine sea salt, or to taste
1 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 tsp granulated sugar, or more to taste
28 oz crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup water, plus more as needed for cooking
2 cups macaroni pasta (10 oz), or any small pasta you prefer
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more to serve


Sauté Ground Beef: Set a heavy pot or 5 1/2 Qt Dutch oven over medium/high heat and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Add ground beef to the hot pot and break it up with a spatula for 1 minute.

Add Vegetables: Add carrot, onion, celery, and garlic and stir until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, oregano, pepper, and sugar, then stir to combine.

Combine Sauces: Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

Add Pasta: Add macaroni and stir to combine. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more hot water 1/4 cup at a time or as needed if the mixture seems dry. It should remain very moist and saucy.

Finish and Serve: Stir in parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste if needed. Serve with more parmesan cheese on top.

Enjoy your hearty American Goulash! 🍽️


  • For a healthier version, consider using lean ground beef or ground turkey.
  • Feel free to add more vegetables for a nutritional boost.
  • Leftovers store well and can be reheated, often tasting even better the next day.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Main Course
  • Method: Simmering
  • Cuisine: American


  • Calories: 350
  • Sugar: 8g
  • Sodium: 700mg
  • Fat: 10g
  • Carbohydrates: 45g
  • Fiber: 4g
  • Protein: 20g

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