Classic American Goulash

Mom’s Classic American Goulash

Mom’s Classic American Goulash is an old American standby that only has the slightest resemblance to its namesake, Hungarian Goulash; both types of Goulash contain beef and both have noodles and that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Classic American Goulash

A classic pairing!

This Classic American Goulash is a casserole of ground beef, noodles, tomatoes, and a few seasonings, sometimes topped with a little cheese. Simple, tasty, cheap, and filling, Goulash is familiar to generations of Americans and is comfort food in many families.

About Mom’s Classic American Goulash:

According to Wikipedia American Goulash just recently celebrated its 100th birthday last year, being published in cookbooks as early as 1914. I’m guessing most people of my Mom’s generation never had a “recipe” for Goulash or looked it up in a cookbook; it was just a kind of back-pocket recipe that people made. I got a kick out of reading this article from Delish about the history, various names, and variations of “Goulash.”

I learned how to make this Goulash by watching Mom, and when I was older, she watched me, lol! Of course, every family has their own little twists and for me, Mom’s version’s my fave, the “right” way to make it.

Now that I’m down at the folk’s helping out, we revisited this old recipe last week. We were right smack in the middle of holiday preparations, knee-deep in cookies, candies, decorations, and planning (with a lot of direction from Pat, my Stepmom, and sporadic runs for batteries and lightbulbs) and it turned out that Goulash was the perfect dish for a busy weeknight.

I’m not sure if Pat ever made Goulash or not; I’m guessing she did; I think it was ubiquitous in the ’60s and ’70s and maybe even today, but it went over very well with both Dad and Pat. Heck, I don’t think I had made it since my kids were young and thought the simple flavors were a taste of home; almost a respite from anything “fancy.” It’s just plain cooking, down-home goodness, and maybe even a little generic in flavor.

I’m guessing these days, a lot of people might find the taste of goulash a little bland. Some of the families I know cube up cheese & stir it throughout to melt into little pockets of cheesy goodness, or add Cheddar to the top and jazz it up in various ways, especially with more garlic salt and/or chili powder. If you go too far, you’ll be morphing this into another recipe, altogether, Chili Mac, which is almost a combo of goulash and Macaroni & Cheese with lots more chili flavor. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s how Chili Mac came about. 🙂

Easy Cheesy Chili Mac - Instant Pot or Not

Easy Cheesy Chili Mac – Instant Pot or Not. Coming soon!

Making Mom’s Classic American Goulash:

It’s hard to go wrong with this simple recipe. A little trick I learned as an adult was to make this quickly without a lot of dilly-dallying (which I’m prone to do in the kitchen) and pop it in the oven when the noodles and ground beef are still hot. It doesn’t take as long to warm through and it comes out juicy, bubbly, and delish.

I like to use whole tomatoes (because that’s how Mom did it) and it gives the casserole just the right amount of moisture without being overly tomato saucy. I crush them by hand and always remove the hard, almost inedible stem pieces; maybe because when I was a kid, I particularly hated them, tried to push them around on my plate, and inevitably was forced to eat them?

We always topped the casserole with a little Parmesan (and yes, it really should be from a “can” – it’s all a part of the spirit of the dish) and that cooks into a bubbly little crust as the casserole bakes. It’s really the best part, that crispy “crust.”

Saving Money on Mom’s Classic American Goulash:

Most of the ingredients in this dish are simple pantry/freezer items and are items you should never pay full price for.


  • Stock your pantry when pasta is at a low, taking advantage of the many sales throughout the year and using coupons if you use them.
  • Freeze any item like pasta that contains flour for three days and you’ll avoid any possible future issues with “peskies.”

Ground Beef:

  • It goes on sale regularly and it pays to know the regular price, a good sales price, and the rock bottom price. Generally, it will reach a rock bottom price and that’s a great time to pick it up in quantity, break it down into sizes your family needs (the best sales will probably be in larger family packs), and stock the freezer.
  • A pound is a great size for a lot of dishes and many, if you’re being frugal, can be made with 3/4’s of a pound. Since the ground beef is cooked and drained you won’t need to buy a premium ground beef.

Canned Tomatoes:

  • I have a thing about tomatoes. I do not like to have a ton of cans of different tomatoes cluttering up my pantry. Unless a recipe specifically calls for a certain tomato product and the end result relies on that product, I stock up on the larger cans (usually 29 ounces) of whole tomatoes when they are on sale.
  • Generally about once a quarter, there will be stellar sales. Use as is, crushed by hand for recipes like this, pulse in the blender for “crushed” tomatoes, and whir in the blender for tomato sauce. If the larger cans are too much for a recipe toss the remainder of the tomatoes in a ziploc and into the freezer. Always try to put items away in the same place in your freezer and they’ll be much easier to find and use.
Classic American Goulash

Classic American Goulash – let it sit for a few minutes right out of the oven.


Mom’s Classic American Goulash

  • Author: Catherine Barlow
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 1x
  • Category: Casseroles
  • Cuisine: American


  • 3/4 cup of dry macaroni, small-sized, cooked al dente
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, crush tomatoes by hand
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Cheddar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a Dutch oven or large casserole, add hamburger, onion and green onion. Cook, breaking up the beef until cooked through, drain. Add garlic and stir together. Add tomatoes and chili powder, stir and heat through. Add in macaroni noodles and toss together. Taste – add salt if desired.

Sprinkle top with cheese. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until bubbly and the top has begun to brown a bit.

Allow to sit for several minutes before serving,

Keywords: Bargain Meal of the Week, Beef, Bell Peppers, canned tomatoes, Casserole, Cheese, Family Recipe, Ground Beef, Heritage Recipe, macaroni, parmesan, Pasta, Tomatoes

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can't wait to see what you've made!

So how about you? Is this a recipe that sparks any family memories? It’s the antithesis of “gourmet” but think I’ll take it to both Throwback Thursday (I am so happy to be a co-host – yay!) and Fiesta Friday this week – FF is hosted by two of my favorite bloggers, Johanne@French Gardener Dishes and Liz@spades, spatulas & spoons.

Please stop by and check out ALL the postings! With the upcoming holidays there are bound to be many posts from many bloggers – and from all over the world, celebrating their own holidays with their own foods and traditions!


17 thoughts on “Mom’s Classic American Goulash

  1. Hahaha! I have tried taking the plates and everything in my room (light is better from there) and my brother’s mother-in-law caught me and asked ‘Uh, what are you going to do with those?’ 😀 Blogging is really fun!

    This dish sounds amazing, Mollie. Yum! xx

  2. Oh Mollie I am still laughing at the visual of you running out with the skillet! The things we do for blogging! The goulash looks like a perfect weeknight dinner. Quintessential American fare but can’t say I have ever made one. You might have inspired me….after all I made my first beef stroganoff this week.

    • Oooh, I LOVE beef Stroganoff! I hope it’s on your blog coz I wanna see! I am having quite a time at the folk’s with the cooking because of all the dietary restrictions and an ongoing issue with dentures! Goulash fit the bill. I am NEVER skipping my flossing after seeing what the folks are going thru!

  3. I love that these recipes have a huge margin for error and can be made many different ways with different substitutions. Many of us grew up with similar meals and remember them fondly. What I love about these hearty meals is they make great leftovers for lunch the next day too.

    This post would make a great submission to Our Growing Edge, which is a link up party for new food adventures. This month’s theme is “Nostalgia”. More info here:

Hearing from you makes my day! Comment below.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.