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Easy One-Pot American Goulash

American goulash is comfort food that the whole family will love. It’s warm and hearty with a rich, savory sauce.

Best of all, it’s one of the most affordable meals you can make in a single pot!

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What I love most about this recipe is just how simple it is. As much as I enjoy cooking, I still don’t want to spend all my time in the kitchen.

Warm and Hearty American Pot Goulash with Ground Beef and Tomato Sauce

This is a meal that I can prep on Sunday and feed the family for multiple meals. It’s also great for potlucks.

American goulash is made with a tomato baste, ground beef, and elbow macaroni. Topped with a variety of seasoning to give it that rich, savory flavor.

I actually remember eating this in elementary school. One of my favorites back when school lunches were actually good.

It’s similar to what many people refer to as beef-a-roni or Chili Mac. But goulash is my personal favorite.

What Is Goulash?

Goulash means something different, depending on where you’re enjoying it. For this recipe, we’ll talk about American goulash.

American goulash is a quick, comforting, one-pot meal popular in southern and midwestern US states.

It typically contains ground beef, a tomato-based sauce, pasta, onions, and peppers.

American Pot Goulash Ingredients - Ground Beef, Onions, Peppers, Tomato Sauce, Diced Tomatoes and Elbow Macaroni

Goulash Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need for this goulash recipe:

  • Ground beef. Good, old-fashioned ground beef provides the protein for this recipe. It’s flavorful, juicy, and absolutely delicious. Don’t get it too lean; you want a little fat for extra flavor.
  • Onions, peppers, and garlic. Yellow onions, green bell peppers, and fresh garlic work best. These ingredients provide loads of earthy, umami flavor and a bit of crunch.
  • A liquid base. You can use three cups of water or two cans of beef broth for the base. The beef broth makes the recipe richer, but it also adds more calories.
  • Tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. These ingredients combine to make a rich, zesty sauce.
  • Seasonings. You’ll add Italian herb seasoning and seasoned salt to the goulash. Together, they add a ton of great Italian flavor.
  • Elbow macaroni. You can also use bowtie pasta, shells, or something else. I don’t suggest using long noodles, though. Add the pasta to the recipe uncooked. It’ll cook along with everything else.

How to Make Goulash

Here are the basic steps for preparing goulash:

1. Cook the meat. Use a large saucepan or a Dutch oven. Cook the meat for about 10 minutes, draining the grease when it’s done.

2. Add the veggies, tomatoes, and seasonings. Next, add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the onions are fragrant and translucent.

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Then, add the water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and seasonings. Mix well.

Reduce the heat to low, and put the lid on the pot. Simmer the dish for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the pasta. Pour in the pasta and stir well. Return the lid to the pot and let the goulash simmer for another 30 minutes.

4. Garnish and serve! Transfer the goulash to individual serving bowls. Then, top them with shredded cheese (if desired), and enjoy!

Tips & Variations for American Goulash

    Before you start cooking, check out these few final tips and variations.

    • Cook the noodles separately if you prefer. Cooking this dish in one pot is super simple. However, some people like to cook the noodles separately. If you go that route, don’t add water to the recipe.
    • Add extra flavor. Feel free to add a shake of garlic powder and freshly ground pepper.
    • Make it spicy. Add a dash of chili powder or cayenne. Or swap 2 tablespoons of chili powder for the Italian seasoning. Either way, it’ll taste delicious.
    • Add a little sweetness. Two tablespoons of sugar can be your own secret ingredient for this recipe. If you don’t mind the extra calories, sugar adds a bit of magic to the dish.

    What’s the Difference Between Hungarian Goulas and American Goulash?

    Despite having the same name, these two dishes are as different as night and day. The primary difference between the two lies in their ingredients.

    • Hungarian goulash. This recipe is a slow-cooked stew recipe. It includes three main ingredients: beef stew meat, tomato broth, and paprika. It’s also a much older recipe that dates back to the 9th century AD.
    • American goulash. This recipe is a newer, quicker goulash recipe. It uses ground beef (instead of stew meat) and doesn’t usually contain paprika. It also traditionally has some type of pasta in it.

    How to Store Leftovers

    To store leftover goulash, follow these steps: 

    1. Let the goulash cool completely. 
    2. Transfer it to an airtight container. 
    3. Place the container in the fridge. 

    The leftovers should last up to 4 days. 

    To reheat them, you have two options: 

    • Nuke them in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes on high heat. 
    • Warm them on the stove over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes. 

    Can You Freeze Goulash?

    You sure can! You can safely freeze goulash for up to 3 months in Ziploc bags or freezer-proof containers.

    When you take it out, be sure to thaw it overnight in the refrigerator. To prepare, reheat in the microwave or a large saucepan over medium heat.

    Remember, though, that when you freeze goulash, the pasta continues to absorb the liquid – becoming softer.

    So the noodles can get a little mushy after freezing and thawing. Personally, I don’t mind. It’s hard to mess up this savory dish.

    But if you’d like, you can also cook the pasta separately and freeze it a separate container. To freeze cooked pasta, follow these instructions:

    1. Allow it to cool slightly.
    2. Toss it with a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. (1 tablespoon oil for every 8 ounces of cooked pasta).
    3. Spoon your pasta into airtight containers or freezer bags.

    You can freeze pasta for up to 2 weeks. When you’re ready to enjoy, run cool water over the bag of frozen pasta.

    You can also put the frozen pasta directly into boiling water. Takes just a few minutes and it’s ready to go!

    Homemade American Goulash with Ground Beef and Elbow Macaroni

    What Can I Serve with Goulash?

    There are so many options for what you can serve with goulash.

    However, when it comes to savory dishes like this, I always love a side of garlic bread to dip in the sauce. It’s probably my favorite part.

    Use my favorite recipe for garlic butter to make your bread extra delicious.

    Here are some other suggestions:

    Let me know in the comments if you’ve made this before. I’d also love to hear any tasty variations you’ve come up with 🙂

    Easy One-Pot American Goulash



    Prep time


    Cooking time








    • 2 pounds 2 ground beef

    • 1 large 1 yellow onion (chopped)

    • 1 green bell pepper

    • 3 cloves garlic (chopped)

    • 3 cups 3 water (or two cans of beef broth)

    • 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce

    • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes

    • 2 tbsp 2 dried Italian herb seasoning

    • 1 tbsp 1 seasoned salt

    • 2 cups 2 elbow macaroni (uncooked)


    • Cook 2 pounds of ground beef in a Dutch oven or large, heavy saucepan until the meat is no longer pink. It usually takes about 10 minutes. Afterwards, drain the grease from the pan.
    • Add the onion, garlic, and green bell pepper. Cook until onions are translucent.
    • Add the water, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt. Mix well. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
    • Add the uncooked elbow macaroni. Stir well. Cover once again and allow everything to simmer for about 30 minutes.
    • Enjoy! Top with shredded cheese right before serving.
    Easy One-Pot American Goulash

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    Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

    7 thoughts on “Easy One-Pot American Goulash”

    1. I have saved your Cracker Barrel Meatloaf Recipe and am looking forward to making it when the weather gets a little cooler. What I am looking for is a good recipe for Salisbury Steak and sauce.

    2. Made it. Didn’t have Ritz substituted a buttery cracker. Omitted the green pepper and grated the onion. I used 2# beef and 1# pork. Delicious..will definitely make again.

    3. I have been making a variation of this for over 65 years, The kids called it “Dad’s Special”. I use cut up bacon to start with. I agree, slice of bread, heavy on the butter, goes perfectly with this dish.

    4. I have made a rendition of this for years. I got the recipe for this from a friend, and it includes chopped celery (and grated cheddar cheese at the end). We call it Hamburger Heaven. A family favorite.


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