How to Prepare Goulash from Scratch
Discover my mouthwatering recipe for hamburger goulash and learn how to make the best American-style goulash using your crockpot. This delectable dish features ground beef, macaroni noodles, onions, and tomatoes. It’s perfect for feeding a crowd and can be easily frozen for later enjoyment. In this article, we’ll also explore the differences between Hungarian and American goulash, as well as other variations of this comforting dish.
A Multitude of Names
Goulash is known by various names across different regions. Some refer to it as American chop suey, while others call it Johnny Marzetti or slumgullion. Although I grew up calling it beef goulash, American goulash is a more accurate term since there are numerous goulash variations worldwide, many of which include beef.
Different Types of Goulash
Let’s take a closer look at some popular goulash varieties:
- American goulash: Typically made with ground beef, elbow macaroni noodles, tomatoes, and onions. While our version doesn’t include paprika, some American goulash recipes do.
- Hungarian goulash (gulyas): This hearty stew is made with meat and vegetables seasoned with paprika. Traditional Hungarian goulash doesn’t typically include pasta or tomatoes. It’s considered one of Hungary’s national dishes and has countless variations.
- German goulash: A meat stew often prepared with red wine. It commonly features beef, pork, venison, or wild boar, and is served with various starches like potatoes, rice, noodles, or dumplings, depending on the local region.
- Austrian goulash: A meat stew that’s heavy on onions but excludes other vegetables, including tomatoes. It’s often served with dark bread on the side.
- Polish goulash: Similar to Hungarian goulash, the Polish version is often accompanied by mashed potatoes, noodles, or dumplings.
All these goulash variations share a common thread: they are all comforting and satisfying dishes, typically centered around meat and potatoes, noodles, or bread.
📋 Nutrition Facts: Calories, Net Carbs, and Protein
One serving of this crockpot goulash provides approximately 651 calories, 55.3 grams net carbs, and 35.9 grams of protein. It’s also an excellent source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber.
⭐ Why Choose Crockpot Goulash?
There are several reasons why you should consider making goulash in a crockpot:
- Easy to Prep: If you’re looking for a hassle-free recipe, this crockpot goulash is perfect. The slow cooker does most of the work for you!
- Budget-Friendly: With affordable ingredients like ground beef, canned tomatoes, and pasta, this recipe won’t break the bank. It’s an ideal option for those trying to save on grocery expenses.
- Ideal for Gatherings: This recipe is designed to feed a crowd, making it ideal for family get-togethers or potlucks. You can also freeze the leftovers for future meals.
- Simple Ingredients: You don’t need to visit specialty stores to find the ingredients for this American-style goulash. Everything can be found in most major American supermarkets.
- A Family Favorite: The long cooking time and flavors developed through slow simmering make this goulash recipe a hit with the whole family. Plus, I have plenty of suggestions below to customize and please everyone’s palate.
🥘 Ingredients for Crockpot Goulash
Here’s what you’ll need to make this delicious crockpot goulash:
- Avocado oil (or olive oil, or another cooking oil)
- Large yellow onion
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Lean ground beef
- Crushed garlic cloves
- Jar of spaghetti sauce (marinara is recommended)
- Dried basil
- Dried oregano
- Double-concentrated tomato paste
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce
- Box of whole grain elbow macaroni
- Fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese (optional, for garnish)
You’ll notice that I use three types of tomatoes in this recipe—canned diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and tomato paste. Through lots of experimentation, I’ve found that this combination provides the perfect thickness for goulash. Using only diced tomatoes can result in a thin consistency, while relying solely on spaghetti sauce may lack the satisfying larger tomato pieces. By using all three, you achieve an almost perfect goulash thickness with chunkier tomato bits. The addition of tomato paste helps further enhance the flavor.
For the pasta, I recommend using Jovial Foods organic brown rice elbows. It’s one of my favorite whole grain pastas and happens to be gluten-free. However, if you prefer whole wheat pasta or are looking to increase your protein intake, legume pastas like Explore Cuisine penne or fusilli are great options.
🍽 Equipment Needed
To prepare this slow cooker American goulash, you’ll need the following equipment:
- Cast-iron skillet
- Good knife
- Large pot for cooking noodles
- Large and preferably oval-shaped slow cooker
I used a 7-quart Crock-Pot SVC700-B for this recipe, but if you have a smaller crockpot, you may need to halve the recipe to fit everything. You can also use an Instant Pot with the “slow cooker” function.
🔪 Step-by-Step Guide: How to Make Hamburger Goulash
Follow these simple steps to prepare your hamburger goulash:
- Heat some oil in a cast-iron pan over medium heat. Add the beef and onion, and let them brown while breaking up the meat with a spatula. This process usually takes about 15-20 minutes.
- Once the meat is browned, transfer it to your slow cooker along with all the other ingredients (except for the elbows and garnishes).
- Believe it or not, your goulash is ready to cook!
⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
Slow cook the goulash on the low setting for 3-4 hours. Give it a good stir halfway through to ensure even cooking. Towards the end of the cooking time, prepare the pasta separately on the stovetop according to the package directions. Drain the pasta well.
If you plan to freeze the goulash, I recommend storing the meat sauce and pasta separately to prevent the pasta from becoming overly mushy. For immediate consumption, simply stir the drained pasta into the crockpot contents and serve. You can garnish with grated Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for an extra touch of flavor.
🌡️ How to Store Leftovers
Leftover goulash can be stored in covered containers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. For longer storage, it’s best to freeze the meat mixture and pasta separately. Consider using a glass container for the meat mixture to avoid staining from the tomatoes.
To reheat frozen goulash, let it thaw in the fridge overnight. We recommend reheating the meat mixture on the stovetop, partially thawing the noodles in the microwave, and then combining everything. For the best texture, you can also cook fresh pasta to add to your leftover goulash.
️👪 What Makes a Good Goulash?
The best goulash recipe is one that suits your preferences, dietary needs, budget, and time constraints. To help you create a personalized version, here are some ideas to consider:
- Experiment with different meats instead of ground beef, such as ground pork, lamb, steak, sausage crumbles, ground chicken, ground turkey, beans or lentils, or stew meat.
- Add various vegetables to enhance the flavors, such as corn, cabbage, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes, spinach, green beans, carrots, green bell peppers, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, or any other vegetables you enjoy.
- Spice up your hamburger goulash with seasonings like Italian seasoning, chili powder, paprika, bay leaves, or a splash of red wine.
- Adjust the consistency of your goulash by including beef broth, tomato juice, tomato soup, cream cheese, or heavy cream.
- Switch up the pasta by using a different shape or substituting with egg noodles, dumplings, or brown rice.
- Consider adding a topping for an extra burst of flavor, such as shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, bacon crumbles, or chopped fresh herbs.
With these suggestions, the possibilities are endless. Feel free to experiment and create unique goulash variations that suit your taste buds.
🥗 Side Dishes
Wondering what to serve with goulash? Here are a few side dish options that pair perfectly with this dish:
- Spaghetti squash: Serve your slow cooker goulash over cooked spaghetti squash for an additional dose of veggies. You can try our Air Fryer Spaghetti Squash recipe.
- Green salad: A fresh garden salad complements goulash nicely and requires no additional cooking. Our Chop Salad Bowl is an excellent choice.
- Garlic bread: Indulge in buttery garlic bread for a carb-loaded side dish that adds extra flavor and calories to your meal. Our Air Fryer Garlic Bread recipe is sure to satisfy.
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
Please note that this recipe is classified as a level 3 recipe, suitable for weight maintenance and active lifestyles. The provided nutrition information excludes toppings and side dishes. Once you add these extras, the calorie count exceeds 700.
While American-style goulash is rich in protein, it could benefit from including more non-starchy vegetables. Incorporating veggies would increase the low-calorie fluid volume and create a more filling meal. To balance it out, we suggest pairing your goulash with sides like roasted spaghetti squash and a green salad. These additions will provide more color, a wider range of phytonutrients, and a boost in satiety.
One strategy to enjoy energy-dense foods like goulash, pasta, and pizza while staying mindful of portion sizes is to include plenty of vegetables. Instead of completely eliminating these foods from your diet, adjust the proportions on your plate. By reducing the amount of pasta and increasing the veggie and protein portions, you can maintain a higher volume of food while reducing total calorie intake.
The traditional advice of “eat less, move more” may not be sustainable for many if it leaves them constantly hungry. An alternative approach is to “eat less of some things, but much more of others” instead.
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👩🏻🍳 Other Crockpot Recipes
Looking for more easy crockpot recipes? Check out the following recipes after you’ve tried this slow cooker goulash:
- Make Your Own Homemade Veggie Broth in a Crockpot
- How to Make Lard in Your Crock-Pot
- Slow Cooker Applesauce Recipe
- Cinnamon Apple Steel Cut Oats in a Crockpot
- Chicken Feet Soup Recipe (Collagen Rich!)
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All recipes on this website may or may not be suitable for everyone based on their medical needs and personal preferences. It’s recommended to consult with a registered dietitian or physician to determine the dietary pattern that best meets your requirements.
The nutrition information provided is an estimate and should be used as a courtesy. The actual values may vary based on specific brands and ingredients used. Calorie information on food labels can be inaccurate, so it’s best not to focus too much on the numbers.
For more information on how the three recipe levels can help with weight management, check out my overnight oats no sugar post. Let’s get cooking!
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