Busy days call for a recipe like Easy Goulash, a one-pot masterpiece that practically cooks itself. It’s cheesy, meaty, and 1000% delicious. My mom made this all the time when I was growing up and I hope you share it with your family, too.
Browse all the best ground beef recipes here, like the Best Sloppy Joes you’ll ever have, or Maid-Rite’s famous Loose Meat Sandwich recipe. Or make a Homemade Meat Sauce to carry you into the weekend. Come dinnertime, all you’ll have to do is make a salad.
Sometimes, kitchen-sink dinners are the best kinds, thrown together purely out of hunger and what’s in the refrigerator. A long time ago, Easy Goulash probably started out as just that: something fast and filling that can feed a group—especially kids. That’s why it’s called Mom’s goulash, made by cooks all over the country.
In case you’re wondering, it’s definitely not a traditional Hungarian goulash, or even a German goulash. It’s more of an American goulash; a beef, mac and cheese concoction made in one single pot for easy clean-up.
That's because the raw pasta simmers in the pot until it’s tender, so there’s officially no pre-cooking involved. In fact, it's probably the most successful one-pot pasta recipes; if you've ever tried any, you already know they are not created equal.
This recipe uses Italian Seasoning (which you can make yourself here) but other recipes swear by smoked paprika, oregano, or chili powder. You can mix and match the seasonings and ingredients depending on what sounds good, to make your own unique version.
This recipe's motto: don’t worry about it, just make it! It should also be: OMG this is flipping fantastic can I have seconds?
Making Easy Goulash for a bigger group? Better get a bigger pot! Then click and slide the number next to “servings” on the recipe card below to adjust the ingredients to match how many you’re feeding—the recipe does the math for you, it’s that easy.
What is goulash?
Traditional goulash is a Hungarian or central European rustic meat stew, made with beef, lamb, or veal, plus vegetables, paprika, and potatoes. It’s peasant food at its finest, which was made to feed hungry bellies after a hard day’s work.
American goulash is something different, but still every bit as delicious. Similar to chili mac, it’s a quick recipe that uses tomatoes, ground beef, pasta, and spices—oh, and some cheese to make every bite melty, gooey, and unbelievably good.
(The cheese is optional, but I'm from Wisconsin so cheese goes on everything.)
What’s in goulash?
Here’s what’s in this classic goulash recipe, even though there are a million versions out there.
- Ground beef and onion. You can lighten things up by using ground turkey, instead.
- Fresh garlic and Italian seasoning. Make your own, or use store-bought.
- Tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Some cooks even make goulash with tomato soup.
- Macaroni. Or any shape of pasta that you have on hand: radiatore, penne, fusilli, shells, etc.
- Worcestershire sauce. For a little umami flavor.
- Cheddar cheese. Shredded is best, so it melts. You can also use shredded mozzarella cheese.
How to make Easy Goulash:
- First, find a pot. It should be sturdy and large enough to fit the ingredients—remember, the pasta will expand as it cooks.
- Then, brown the ground beef, onion, and Italian seasoning over medium-high heat (if you don't add the Italian seasoning with the meat, the final dish will have strong, harsh flavor of Italian seasoning. This recipe is so fast that we add it first so it has enough time to cook). Then stir in the garlic.
- Next, stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes (and their juice), macaroni, water, Worcestershire sauce, and a little salt and pepper.
- Cover the pot and simmer until macaroni is almost as tender as you want it. This could take 10 minutes or longer, depending on the shape you chose. Then uncover the pot and let the sauce thicken up while the pasta finishes cooking.
- Finally, season to taste with s&p and garnish with cheddar cheese, or mix all the cheese into the pot and stir until melted.
How to make American Goulash in the crock pot:
This recipe cooks in under an hour, but in case you want to use a crock pot, here's how to do it. Slow cooker goulash, coming up! (In about an hour)
- First, brown the meat on the stove, then transfer to a crockpot. Add the water, onions, spices, tomato sauce, tomatoes, Worcestershire, and pasta.
- Then cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for one hour or LOW for 2 to 3 hours.
Other fun mix-ins for Easy Goulash:
This genius goulash recipe will take whatever you can give it, and then some.
- Beans. A can of drained, cooked beans (or two) mixed in would be fantastic.
- Corn. Frozen, fresh, or canned.
- Peppers. Chop them up and throw them in.
- Mushrooms. Basically, whatever you have in the veggie drawer. Add them when you add the onions.
- Sour cream. A cup of sour cream folded into the finished goulash definitely takes it up a notch and makes a creamy goulash.
- Green chilies. Hot or mild hatch green chilies make a delicious, zippy goulash.
Best tips for making Easy goulash:
- You can lighten up the beef goulash by using ground turkey, instead--or ground venison, if you have it.
- Make a low sodium goulash by checking the labels on your canned tomato products, opting for low-or no-sodium added. Also by using a low sodium broth, and omitting any added salt in the recipe.
- Corn pasta works just as well as durum wheat pasta, so gluten-free goulash is just one little substitution away.
- This recipe needs enough liquid for the pasta to cook. You can use beef broth instead of water to add an extra layer of flavor.
- Goulash is very forgiving. Forgot to grab tomato sauce? That’s alright. Use beef broth, chicken broth, tomato soup, or a jar of tomato paste with a little water.
- Switch up the spices depending on the flavor profile you plan on creating: chili powder, ground cumin, and oregano for a Tex-Mex goulash, smoked paprika for a classic goulash, or Italian herbs for more of an Italian style goulash.
- Like it extra cheesy? Stir in some shredded mozzarella, goat cheese, or extra cheddar cheese. This is your dinner, after all.
Easy Goulash Recipe
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes undrained
- 1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni uncooked
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 cups shredded cheese for garnish
- In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat, add beef, onion, and Italian seasoning. Cook until beef is browned, about 5 minutes. Drain well.
- Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with juice, macaroni, water, Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
- Cover and simmer until macaroni is mostly tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook until macaroni is tender and sauce has thickened slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes longer, then season to taste with salt and pepper (I like an additional 1/4 teaspoon salt). Garnish with cheddar cheese.