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Easy Beef Goulash with Ketchup: Only One Pot To Clean

Preview: Beef Goulash with Ketchup combines ground beef, macaroni, tomato sauce, cheese, and ketchup. Only one pot is needed to make this comforting dish.

This American Beef Goulash recipe (as opposed to Hungarian Beef Goulash) is not exactly gourmet cooking. It’s more of a what-can-I-throw-together-that’s-quick,-filling,-and-something-everybody-likes kind of dish.

Try it tonight. You will only have to wash one pot.

Easy Beef Goulash in an individual serving bowl.

Is it Goulash or Chop Suey?

My mother-in-law used to make a dish she called Beef Goulash. She told me she cooked the macaroni and ground beef then added ketchup and Cheddar. That’s it!

When I recently saw a recipe for “American Chop Suey” in Cook’s Illustrated, I was puzzled by the title. Then, however, I recognized the food in the magazine picture as a first cousin to my husband’s beloved goulash.

Never before had I heard a mixture of beef, tomatoes, sauce, and macaroni called “Chop Suey.” Sounds Chinese, doesn’t it?

I’ve learned this dish is known as Chop Suey in the northeast. They traditionally add soy sauce to add umami.

Easy Beef Goulash in a serving dish before adding cheese

Instant Pot vs. slow cooker vs. stovetop

Using the Instant Pot takes about the same amount of time as cooking on top of the stove. The advantage of using the Instant Pot is that you can make this casserole ahead of time.

When the cooking time ends, the pot will automatically switch to “warm.” So whenever you come home, your goulash will be warm and ready to eat.

The slow cooker will take all day if you use the “Low” setting. Then, again, dinner will be ready and waiting for you at the end of the day.

All of these methods require only one pot. Winner!!

Ingredients and substitutions:

Beef: This is the perfect place to customize your goulash. Substitute sausage for the beef, or go half beef and half sausage. Use leftover roast beef instead of ground beef. Cut the amount of beef in half if you prefer. Vegetarians can leave it out altogether.

Pasta: Macaroni is traditional. Ditalini (sometimes called salad pasta) is fun. If you only have spaghetti in the house, break it into small pieces and use that if you want to.

Tomato sauce: Because I wanted this recipe to be something you could make without going to the grocery store, I called for tomato sauce. Substitute pasta sauce instead or even pizza sauce.

Water: Amp up the flavor by substituting 1/2 cup red or white wine for 1/2 cup of water.

Worcestershire sauce: This magic brown liquid adds umami flavor to anything. If you prefer, substitute soy sauce or coconut aminos. Another way to add umami is with a dry mushroom seasoning like the one sold at Trader Joe’s. Alternatively, you can make your mushroom seasoning mix with this recipe for mushroom seasoning mix.

Catsup is the defining feature of this recipe as we know and love to eat it. If you’re not a catsup lover, you might want to add an extra can of tomato sauce for sauciness.

Cheese: We like LOTS of Cheddar. Mozzarella or Velveeta would also be delicious and melty.

Onions and Garlic: Feel free to chop up fresh onions and garlic instead of using powdered. I often opt for “easy” with this recipe. After all, this is not intended to be a gourmet recipe. Instead, it’s first-degree comfort food.

Miscellaneous seasonings: We like a little kick, so I add red pepper flakes and a quick squeeze of Sriacha. Leave this out if you prefer your food milder or you are serving kids.

If you don’t have Italian seasoning on hand, improvise with oregano, basil, and a touch of thyme.

Beef Goulash after the cheese has been added.

FAQ for Goulash recipes:

How is American Beef Goulash different from Hungarian Goulash?

A typical recipe for Hungarian Goulash is a paprika-flavored broth full of meat and other vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. The consistency is more of a cross between a soup and a stew.

Can I freeze Beef Goulash?

Let prepared goulash cool completely in the fridge. Then, double wrap it and keep it in the freezer no longer than three months.

How can I make this ahead of time?

Prepare recipe entirely except for the final sprinkling of Cheddar. Wrap and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

When ready to eat, stir the casserole and microwave or heat in the oven until hot. (If the pasta has absorbed all the moisture, stir in some water or more catsup to make it saucy again. Sprinkle the final cheese over the top and let it melt.

What can I serve with Goulash?

Try French Bread or garlic breadsticks, a green salad (I always have these on hand), and a green vegetable like broccoli or Brussel sprouts.

How to make Easy Beef Goulash with Ketchup

Browning ground beef in a large pot.

1. Brown ground beef in a large, heavy pot.

Adding onion and garlic powder to ground beef.
Add onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and red chili flakes.

2. Add onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and red chili flakes.

Adding water

3. Add 1/2 cup water and scrape the brown bits off of the bottom of the pan.

Adding tomato sauce, tomatoes and remaining water

4. Stir in tomato sauce, tomatoes, and remaining water.

Uncooked macaroni added to pot

5. Add uncooked macaroni and stir. Cover and simmer on low heat for 20-30 minutes or until the macaroni are soft.

Adding additional seasoning after macaroni has cooked.

6. Add ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and Sriacha if using. Stir.

Adding Cheddar to pot

7. Stir in half of the Cheddar.

After Cheddar is added on top of ready-to-serve goulash with ketchup

8. Sprinkle remaining Cheddar over the top when ready to serve. (If the goulash has cooled off a bit, pop it back into the microwave to melt the cheese on top.

Eating Hamburger Goulash brings back so many memories for us. Maybe this recipe will be the beginning of new memories at your house.

If you enjoyed this recipe, it would help others and me if you gave it a five-star rating inside the recipe card below. 🤩 No comment required. Thank you.

Hope to see you again soon!

p.s. Questions or suggestions? Please email me: Paula at

Yield: 8 servings

Easy Beef Goulash Recipe with Ketchup

Easy Beef Goulash Recipe with Ketchup

This easy recipe can be made in one pot in about 45 minutes on the stove. An Instant Pot version and a slow cooker version is included in the notes below.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (8-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 -1/2 cup water
  • 1-1/2 cup (6 oz.) elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup catsup
  • a quick squirt of Sriracha
  • 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese (mild or medium)


  1. Brown ground beef in a large heavy pot. Season with salt and pepper. Drain off excess grease.
  2. Stir in onion powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Add 1/2 cup water to the meat and scrape the bottom of the pan.
  4. Stir in macaroni. Stir in remaining water, tomato sauce, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until macaroni is tender.
  5. Stir in catsup, Worcestershire sauce, Sriracha and half of the Cheddar.
  6. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Move to a serving dish and sprinkle with remaining Cheddar and let it melt before serving.
  7. If you are not eating immediately, you may need to add some extra water and/or sauce as the pasta absorbs moisture. This is especially true when eaten the next day or two after goulash is made.


Instant Pot Version: (Illustrated in the video)

  1. Cook ground beef on the Sauté setting. Proceed through step 3.
  2. In step 4, add the tomato sauce and tomatoes. Sprinkle macaroni evenly over the top. Pour remaining water over the top WITHOUT STIRRING.
  3. Seal pot and set to high-pressure cook for 8 minutes. (It could take 10-12 minutes for the IP to come to pressure.)
  4. When the IP beeps that cooking is done, do a quick release and proceed to step 5 above. Stir everything together. If not eating right away, you can leave it in the Instant Pot on warm for 5-6 hours. When ready to eat, go to step 6.

Slow Cooker Version:

Cook ground beef in a skillet on the stove. Add to a slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients except for cheese. Stir and allow to cook for 8 hours. When ready to eat, stir in half of the cheese. Sprinkle the remaining half of the cheese over the top and allow it to melt before serving.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 626Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 142mgSodium: 702mgCarbohydrates: 40gFiber: 3gSugar: 17gProtein: 48g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest


Wednesday 4th of August 2021

This recipe is somewhat similar to the one I grew up with. I have never seen or heard of anyone making it the way I do which I learned from my mother and grandmother. The only ingredients we use are ground beef, macaroni noodles, ketchup, a little salt and pepper to season the meat, and a little diced onion and green pepper. Boil the macaroni noodles separately and then add them to the cooked ground beef (seasoned to taste), stir in enough ketchup until it is all evenly coated and let simmer until it no longer has the ketchup taste.


Wednesday 4th of August 2021

Hi Samantha,

Thanks for writing. Was your mom or grandmother from Texas? I'm curious. My mother-in-law (from Texas) made hers exactly as you describe. I applied the one-pot method just to save time and dirty pans. Wait! You didn't mention cheese. My mother-in-law added lots of cheese.


Friday 5th of July 2019

I grew up in Rhode Island, and here as in the rest of New England American Chop Suey was what some in the Midwest and south called Goulash... or at least that’s what some say. To me what I see in goulash recipes isn’t the American chop suey we were served in the school cafeteria, or what mom made a huge pot of when we went camping, or what a local grocery store used to serve up as a prepared food. There was no tomato sauce, probably canned chopped tomatoes in their juice, as it wasn’t saucy, there were onions, peppers, maybe Worcestershire sauce and some seasoning.. that is the mystery to me, whatever seasoning that provided the particular taste that was distinctive. It was closer to a sloppy joe flavor than anything else. If I know that I could fake my way to a better approximation :). I never got the recipe from my mom before she passed away, and haven’t found a recipe that delivers.


Friday 5th of July 2019

Very interesting, Mary. When I think of sloppy joe flavor, I think of prepared mustard and catsup mixed with a little Worcestershire sauce. Do you suppose your mom added any mustard?


Saturday 14th of September 2013

This is becoming a forgotten dish sadly! I grew up on this (before hamburger helper found it's way into my single mother's hands, lol)...anyway, I have never tried to make it, but would like to try one day. Mostly because my last name is Losch, and oftentimes people have a hard time pronouncing it, so i always say, "It's like goulash, without the 'goo,' " which up until recently went over well. Now when I say it people just smile awkwardly sometimes. I started asking, and many people have NEVER even heard of it...imagine that! I'm going to be 27 this year, so I know it's not that old...or is it? lol... Anyway, thanks for posting!


Monday 16th of September 2013

Julie, Goulash is definitely not old. The name maybe, but the dish itself is a classic. Right?

Ravyn Guiliani

Wednesday 17th of July 2013

I was thinking about this simple American/Italian dish and wondered what you all grew up calling it? In south Jersey we called it American Goulash (or just goulash--small "g"-really not sure how the Hungarians figure in there), in school they called it Beef-a-Roni (which I thought was made by Chef Boy-Ar-Dee and came in a can...), but my husband's Boston family calls it American Chop Suey (which makes NO sense to me at all!) So what do you call elbow macaroni in tomato sauce with ground beef and chunks of tomatoes and onions (and sometimes green peppers, or in the case of my school lunches chopped bacon pieces...)? This to me is the ultimate "comfort-food".I get the "chop suey" or "goulash" thing being a thrown together kind of random left-overs type of dish---however this is not random. It is made with as much care and planning as most any pasta dinner, so I don't understand that inference either.

I never had it with ketchup (is catsup also a regional thing?) but my mother always put a spoonful in her sauce (which my husband's family call "gravy" even if it is made of tomatoes) instead of the sugar most other mothers I knew used. You might try it with the bacon pieces like my school lunch-ladies did--it gives it a sweet tang.


Friday 19th of July 2013

Yes Ravyn, I can imagine bacon would be a wonderful addition! Thanks for the suggestion.


Wednesday 6th of February 2013

Hi Paula,

I've spent the last 15 or so years trying to find my mother's recipe for her goulash. We couldn't get enough of it when I was a kid. I just stumbled on yours and couldn't believe just how close it was to hers. However, she used a loaf of bread and a lot of tomato paste in hers and she did it in a 12 qt stock pot. The rest seemed basically the same so I tried it. A couple of variations such as an xtra 1/2 cup of water and 2 large cans tomato paste and.......PERFECTION. It was exactly what she used to make. I had tears in my eyes the first time I tried it. It brought back the days when we came home to a hardy bowl of Mom's goulash. I can't thank you enough. Peace be with you and thank you very much.

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