How do you make goulash from scratch? Follow my hamburger goulash recipe and find out! This crockpot goulash is an American-style goulash, packed with ground beef, macaroni noodles, onions, and tomatoes. Learn how to make the BEST slow cooker goulash that freezes well and feeds a crowd. Plus, find out the difference between Hungarian and American goulash, and other types of goulashes too!
Some call this dish American chop suey. Others may refer to it as Johnny Marzetti, or (my favorite!) slumgullion.
Where I grew up, we called this classic dish beef goulash. However, it would be more precise to call it American goulash, as there are many types of goulash made worldwide. These other dishes often include beef too.
Do you know your goulash? Here are some common types:
- American goulash: A dish made (most typically) with ground beef, elbow macaroni noodles, tomatoes, and onions. We don’t use paprika in our version but some recipes for American goulash do.
- Hungarian goulash (gulyas): This is a meat and veggie stew with paprika. Traditional Hungarian goulash recipes did not use pasta or tomatoes. Goulash is one of the national dishes of Hungary and there are TONS of variations.
- German goulash: A meat stew often containing red wine. (Beef, pork, venison, and wild boar are commonly used.) The starch used varies by local region and may include potatoes, rice, noodles, or dumplings.
- Austrian goulash: A meat stew with lots of onions but no other vegetables (including tomatoes). Dark bread is often served on the side.
- Polish goulash: Goulash in Poland is similar to Hungarian goulash. It is often served with mashed potatoes, noodles, or dumplings.
One thing all these dishes have in common is that they are comfort foods! Meat and potatoes (or noodles or bread) predominate here.
- 📋 What are the calories, net carbs, and protein?
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- 🔪 How to Make Hamburger Goulash
- ⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🌡️ How to Store Leftovers
- ️👪 What makes a good goulash?
- 🥗 Side Dishes
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🏻🍳 Other Crockpot Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
📋 What are the calories, net carbs, and protein?
One serving of this goulash made in a crockpot provides 651 calories, 55.3 grams net carbs, and 35.9 grams protein. It’s also an excellent source of iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and it provides a rich source of fiber.
Why make goulash in crockpot? Here are some reasons I love crock pot cooking and this recipe in general:
- Easy to prep: Don’t feel like making something complicated? This crockpot goulash recipe is mostly hands-off; the slow cooker does the work for you!
- Inexpensive: Ingredients like ground beef, canned tomatoes, and pasta are all pretty cheap. (This depends, of course, on where you shop and the brands you use.) If you’re looking to keep your grocery expenses down, goulash is a good recipe to have on hand.
- Great for family gatherings: This easy slow cooker recipe feeds a crowd! I always make a big batch because it freezes well, but it would be great for potlucks too.
- Simple ingredients: You don’t need to go to a health food store or international market to make American style goulash. Everything in this recipe can be found in most major American supermarkets.
- Delicious family favorite: The slow simmered flavors from the long cooking time tends to be a hit with the whole family. Plus, I have lots and lots of suggestions for add-ins below to help ensure you have a crowd pleaser.
Let’s do this! Here are the ingredients for crock pot goulash:
- Avocado oil (olive oil or another cooking oil may be used)
- Large yellow onion
- Canned diced tomatoes
- Lean ground beef
- Crushed garlic cloves
- Jar of spaghetti sauce (marinara sauce is my top pick)
- Dried basil
- Dried oregano
- Double-concentrated tomato paste
- Reduced-sodium soy sauce
- Box of whole grain elbow macaroni
- Fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese (for garnish; optional)
You might notice that I have three types of tomatoes going on here: canned diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, and tomato paste. Through years of goulash experimentation, I’ve determined that this trifecta provides the perfect thickness for goulash.
Using diced tomatoes alone leaves your slow cooker goulash too thin. With spaghetti sauce alone, you lose out on the satisfying larger tomato pieces. The goulash can also become too soupy if you add too much sauce.
The combination of tinned chopped tomatoes and tomato sauce gives you an almost perfect goulash thickness with bigger tomato pieces. Add a little tomato paste, and IMVHO things will be just right.
For the pasta, I used Jovial Foods organic brown rice elbows because it’s one of my favorite whole grain pastas. It also happens to be a gluten free pasta, and it was on sale when I bought it!
Whole wheat pastas tend to be one of the least expensive whole grain pastas, if budget is your main concern. If your priority is protein, legume pastas are a super choice to bump up that macronutrient. I bet Explore Cuisine penne or fusilli would be amazing in this recipe.
To make this slow cooker American goulash recipe, you’ll need a cast-iron skillet, a good knife, and a large pot to cook the noodles. You’ll also need a very large slow cooker.
I used a Crock-Pot SVC700-B, an oval slow cooker with a 7-quart capacity for this recipe. If you are using a smaller crockpot, you may need to cut the recipe in half so everything will fit. An Instant Pot can also be used for this recipe (use the “slow cooker” function).
🔪 How to Make Hamburger Goulash
To make hamburger goulash, add some oil to a cast iron pan, and heat it over medium heat. Add the beef and onion to the skillet and let it brown, breaking the meat up with a spatula as it cooks. It will take 15-20 minutes.
Next, add all of the ingredients EXCEPT the elbows and the optional garnishes to your slow cooker. Believe it or not, you’re already ready to cook goulash!
⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
Slow cook goulash for 3-4 hours on low. Give it a stir about halfway through cooking time to help ensure more even cooking.
Towards the end of the cooking time, cook the pasta on the stovetop according to the pasta package directions. Drain the pasta well.
If you will be freezing the goulash, I recommend freezing the meat sauce and pasta separately. This will help prevent the pasta from absorbing the sauce and becoming overly mushy.
If you’ll be eating now, simply stir the drained pasta into the contents of the crock pot. Serve immediately, garnished with a sprinkle of Parm and basil (if desired). You did it!
🌡️ How to Store Leftovers
Leftover goulash keeps for 3-4 days in the refrigerator in covered containers. For longer storage, the pasta and meat mixture should be frozen in separate containers. It’s best to use a glass container for the meat mixture (the tomatoes will stain plastic containers).
To reheat frozen goulash, let it thaw in the fridge overnight. We like to heat the meat mixture on the stovetop, partially thaw the noodles in the microwave, and then stir everything together. Cooking fresh pasta to go in your leftover goulash is an even better way to ensure the best texture.
️👪 What makes a good goulash?
Everyone has their own idea of what makes the best goulash! The best goulash recipe for you includes flavors you love, and fits your dietary needs, budget, and time constraints.
I can’t help you with time and budget, but I have lots of ideas for flavors. I’m giving you my basic, easy goulash recipe. However, feel free to experiment with some of the options below!
Instead of ground beef, try:
- Ground pork
- Ground lamb
- Sausage crumbles
- Ground chicken
- Ground turkey
- Beans or lentils (includes soy foods, e.g., tempeh and tofu)
- Stew meat
Try one (or more!) of these vegetable add-ins:
- Fresh tomatoes
- Green beans
- Green bell peppers
- Roasted red peppers
- Mushrooms (Yup, not technically a veggie, I know)
- Other vegetables
Flavor things up differently in hamburger goulash with:
- Italian seasoning
- Chili powder
- Bay leaves
- Red wine
Make your slow cooker goulash thinner or creamier with the following:
- Beef broth (great addition for a crockpot goulash soup!)
- Tomato juice
- Tomato soup
- Cream cheese
- Heavy cream
Swap out the macaroni pasta for one of these:
- Another shape of pasta
- Egg noodles
- Brown rice
Add a topping for another layer of flavor:
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- Bacon crumbles
- Chopped fresh herbs
Have enough ideas yet? I didn’t want you to get bored! With the suggestions above, you could make enough different versions of goulash to last you all year!
🥗 Side Dishes
What should I serve with goulash? You have lots of options for side dishes for goulash! Here are a few of my favorites:
- Spaghetti squash: Pile your slow cooker goulash on cooked spaghetti squash to add more veggies to the meal. Try: Air Fryer Spaghetti Squash
- Green salad: A garden salad on the side makes a great companion for goulash and requires no additional cooking! Try: Chop Salad Bowl
- Garlic Bread: For carbs on carbs on carbs, nothing beats some buttery garlic bread as a side dish. This is a great way to pack some more calories into your meal! Try: Air Fryer Garlic Bread
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). The nutrition information for this hamburger goulash recipe includes the goulash without toppings or side dishes. By the time you add these things, your meal will be over 700 calories.
Though American-style goulash is rich in protein, it’s lacking a bit in the non-starchy veggie department. This means you’re missing out on some of the low-calorie fluid volume you’d get from veggies. As a result, your meal is more energy dense (i.e., a lot of calories packed into a relatively small volume).
I recommended sides like roasted spaghetti squash and green salad above because these items will help you balance out the meal. They’ll add more color to your plate, along with a wider array of phytonutrients. The veggies should also help to make your meal to feel more filling.
One strategy that I regularly employ when I want to eat energy dense foods like goulash, pasta, and pizza is to pair them with lots of veggies. Instead of entirely cutting these foods out of my diet, I’ve found I fare better changing the portions on my plate. I might eat less pasta, but then I add in more veggies and/or protein.
The result is that I end up with a higher overall volume of food on my plate. You read that right. I end up eating MORE food (but fewer total calories).
The standard advice to “eat less, move more” should probably be rewritten. “Eat less” isn’t sustainable for most if it leads to constant gnawing hunger. How about “eat less of some things, but much more of others” instead?
You can use a crockpot to cook dry pasta, but the pasta will absorb a lot of moisture. To ensure your goulash has the right thickness, cook the pasta separately and add it in at the end.
You can cook raw hamburger in a crockpot. However, I don’t recommend it for this recipe because browning the ground meat first adds a ton of flavor. If your slow cooker has a “warm” setting, do not use it to cook raw meat. Only the “low” or “high” setting should be used.
To make this goulash keto, you will need to swap the macaroni for your favorite keto pasta alternative. One of my favorite noodle substitutions is cooked spaghetti squash. It’s a lot less expensive than many of the low carb pastas as well!
To make Paleo goulash, you’ll need to swap the elbow macaroni for spiralized squash or spaghetti squash. You’ll also need to use coconut aminos rather than soy sauce.
To make this goulash vegan, you will need to swap out the ground beef for a source of plant-based protein. I bet a combination of crumbled tempeh and mushrooms would be SO GOOD, similar in spirit to this tempeh bolognese.
Unlike goulash, chili mac is typically made with chili (often canned) as a main ingredient. Instead of plain elbow macaroni, boxed mac and cheese is sometimes used for chili mac. The result is a tomato, beef, and noodle dish with more cheese and more heat than American goulash.
👩🏻🍳 Other Crockpot Recipes
Looking for easy crockpot recipes? I’m on it! After you’ve made this slow cooker goulash recipe, check these out:
- 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 appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Crockpot Goulash | Slow Cooker Hamburger Goulash
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or other cooking oil)
- 2 cups onion, chopped (about 1 large onion)
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef (907 grams)
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 24 ounces marinara sauce (680 grams)
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 12 ounces whole grain elbow macaroni, dry (340 grams; I used Jovial Foods brand)
- grated Parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil (optional)
- Put the avocado oil in a cast iron pan, and heat it over medium heat. Add the beef and onion to the skillet and let it brown, breaking the meat up with a spatula as it cooks. It will take 15-20 minutes.
- After the meat has cooked, add all of the ingredients EXCEPT the elbows and the optional Parm and fresh basil to the slow cooker.
- Cover the crockpot and cook for 3-4 hours on low. Stir it halfway through cooking time to help ensure more even cooking.
- Towards the end of the cooking time, cook the macaroni pasta on the stovetop according to the pasta package directions. Drain the pasta well.
- Stir the drained pasta into the contents of the crock pot and serve immediately. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil (if desired).