Delightfully rustic and full of satisfying beefy flavor, crockpot goulash is an easy dinner recipe made from juicy ground beef, tender macaroni, tangy tomatoes, and a delicious blend of spices.

Recipe Overview

Why you’ll love it: American-style goulash is the best kind of comfort food that’s easy to make in the crockpot with basic ingredients.

How long it takes: 10 minutes of prep and 3 hours to slow cook

Equipment you’ll need: crockpot or slow cooker

Servings: 8

Close up of a serving spoon stuck into goulash inside the crockpot.
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Easy American-Style Crockpot Goulash

This is the slow cooker version of my one-pot American goulash that’s a fixture on my stovetop in the winter months. Turning it into a crockpot recipe is perfect for weekdays when you can prep the ingredients, combine them, and set the crockpot to cook while you go about your afternoon. As the clock strikes dinnertime, there’s a cozy, comforting, flavorful bowlful of chunky goulash waiting to go. 

Why You’ll Love This Crockpot Goulash Recipe

  • Simple ingredients. American goulash is filled with ground beef, juicy tomatoes, tender elbow macaroni, and a whack of delicious spices, with sweet, smoky paprika coming out on top.
  • Kid-friendly. This dish is savory, tangy, and even kid-friendly. Ask anyone in our family – we devoured my mom’s goulash on the regular while growing up. It’s a family heirloom that I know you’ll love, too.
  • Adaptable. You can change up this homemade goulash as many ways as you’d like. Try whole wheat pasta, or ground turkey in place of beef, or play with the veggies and seasonings to find a variation that suits you. Don’t forget to scroll for ideas.
Overhead view of a large spoonful of goulash held over the slow cooker.

What Is Goulash?

Goulash is a thick soup or stew that originated in Hungary. Traditional Hungarian goulash is similar to a beef stew, made from braised meat and veggies and flavored heavily with paprika. American-style goulash is made with ground beef, tomato sauce, and macaroni noodles, a bit like Hamburger Helper. While this American-style recipe isn’t too similar to its Hungarian cousin, it does have paprika (and deliciousness) in common.

Ingredients for crockpot goulash.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Let’s kickstart this recipe with a short overview of the ingredients you’ll need. As always, you’ll find the full ingredients list, amounts, and recipe instructions in the recipe card below the post.

  • Ground Meat – American goulash calls for ground beef, or you can use ground turkey without too much difference in flavor.
  • Onion and Bell Peppers – Diced yellow onion and diced green bell pepper. You can also make this recipe with red, yellow, or another colored bell pepper.
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes – Low-sodium canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce form the base of the sauce.
  • Elbow Macaroni – Or another short-cut pasta, like penne or ditalini (see the variations section for ideas). You can make this recipe with regular or whole-wheat pasta.
  • Beef Broth – You can also use chicken stock or broth. I recommend the low-sodium kind.
  • Worcestershire Sauce – For a hit of umami flavor. Soy sauce also works.
  • Paprika – Paprika is the prominent flavor in goulash recipes. You can use sweet, smoked, or hot paprika depending on the flavor profile you’re after, see below.
  • Italian Seasoning – Use your favorite store-bought blend or homemade Italian seasoning.
  • More Seasonings – Dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf.
  • Garnishes – Shredded cheese and freshly minced parsley, for topping. 

Is Paprika Spicy?

Paprika is a vibrant red spice made from red peppers that have been dried and ground. Paprika can be sweet and mild, smoked, or fiery hot. Most of the paprika you’ll find in your local spice aisle is mild, but choose whichever kind you prefer.

How to Make Crockpot Goulash

If you’re looking for a tasty meal that requires very little hands-on time, this crockpot goulash is the answer. All it takes is a few quick steps to brown the meat and cook everything together:

  • Cook the beef and veggies. Begin by sautéing the ground beef with onion and bell peppers. Season with salt and cook until the meat is nicely browned, then stir in the garlic to cook until fragrant. Add the beef mixture to your crockpot.
  • Combine. Next, add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce followed by the remaining ingredients and seasonings (aside from the garnishes). Give the crockpot contents a good stir.
  • Cook. Cover and set the crock to cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or on high for 2 to 3 hours.
Overhead view of finished goulash inside the crockpot.
  • Add the pasta. About 30 minutes before the cooking time is up, stir in the dry macaroni noodles. Switch the crockpot to high (if it’s not already set to high) and close the lid. After the 30 minutes are up, the pasta should be tender.
  • Finish and serve. Pluck out the bay leaf and season the goulash to taste. At this point, you can stir shredded cheese right into the crockpot, or garnish individual bowls of goulash with cheese and parsley. All that’s left to do is dig in!

Make Ahead Tip 

If you’re not ready to add the pasta, turn your slow cooker to low or warm. Add the pasta 30 minutes before serving. If you leave it in longer, it may get mushy.

Tips for Success

It doesn’t get more straightforward than an old-fashioned crockpot dinner. Here are a few extra tips for the best slow cooker goulash:

  • Only add the pasta 30 minutes before serving. Continuing to cook the macaroni after it’s become tender can result in a mushy goulash. You’ll find make-ahead details below and in the recipe card.
  • If you have a multi-cooker, you can brown the ground meat and cook your goulash all in one pot.

FAQs

What is “goulash” in English?

The term goulash comes from the Hungarian word gulyás, which translates to “herdsman” or “cowboy.” It eventually became known as gulyáshús or goulash meat. Basically, cowboy stew!

Do you have to cook ground beef before putting it in the crockpot?

Technically, you don’t need to cook the ground beef before you add it to your slow cooker. It’s fine to put raw ground meat in the crockpot. However, I wouldn’t recommend it for this goulash recipe. Just like in slow cooker chili recipes, browning the beef beforehand creates a richer, deeper flavor and the vegetables are precooked, as well.

How can I thicken goulash?

American goulash is usually on the thicker side due to the pasta, but if you notice that yours is a bit watery, try adding a slurry. Whisk 1 teaspoon arrowroot powder or cornstarch with a bit of cold water. Stir the slurry into the stew right at the end, only after the pasta is tender. You’ll find that the goulash thickens as it sets because the pasta continues to absorb moisture.

Overhead close up view of crockpot goulash garnished with parsley.

Make This Goulash Recipe Your Own

At its heart, goulash is a very simple recipe, and there are countless ways that you can adapt this crockpot version. These are some of our favorite ideas:

  • Use another protein. As mentioned, beef is the traditional choice for goulash, but you can make your crockpot goulash with ground turkey, ground pork, or sausage. Shredded chicken is another leaner option.
  • Vegetarian. To make a vegetarian goulash, omit the ground beef and substitute plant-based mince, or a can of kidney beans, cannellini beans, or chickpeas. Brown lentils are another good option.
  • Different pasta. Instead of elbow macaroni, use regular or whole wheat penne, ditalini, cavatappi, farfalle, rigatoni, rotini, or another short pasta.
  • More vegetables. Add diced zucchini, chopped mushrooms, kale or spinach, sweet corn, or peas.

What to Serve With Slow Cooker Goulash

A warm bowl of crockpot goulash goes great with a fresh and leafy arugula salad and crusty French bread or Dutch oven bread for sopping up extra sauce. Roasted broccoli or snap peas also work wonderfully as a veggie side dish. For dessert, try a cozy slice of apple crisp or homemade pumpkin pie.

Overhead view of a bowl of crockpot goulash on a white countertop.

Can I Prepare This Recipe In Advance?

Yes! With a bit of prep, it’s easy to make this goulash recipe a dump-and-go crockpot meal. Brown the ground beef and vegetable mixture as directed, allow it to cool, and add it to an airtight container with the other ingredients (apart from the pasta). Refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze it for up to 3 months. 

When you’re ready to cook, dump everything into the crockpot and go ahead with the recipe, adding the pasta in the final 30 minutes of cooking time.

A spoon stuck into a bowl of crockpot goulash on a white countertop, with a second bowl in the background.

Storing & Reheating Leftovers

  • Fridge. Transfer any leftover goulash to an airtight container and refrigerate it for 3 to 4 days. Reheat individual portions gently in the microwave or larger amounts in a saucepan on the stovetop until warmed through.
  • Freezer. This crockpot goulash keeps well in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost frozen goulash in the fridge before reheating. Note that the noodles may become softer once they’re thawed.
Meal plan 54 graphic with text and photos of recipes included.

Free Meal Plan

Interested in weekly meal plans that include this recipe? Take a look at Meal Plan #54 and Meal Plan #57. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. We add a new meal plan weekly.

More Crockpot Recipes

Recipe

Crockpot Goulash

5 from 1 vote
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 3 hours
Total: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
This cozy and hearty American-style crockpot goulash is easy to make with juicy ground beef, macaroni, canned tomatoes, and savory spices.
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Ingredients 

  • 2 pounds ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1 cup diced onion (1 medium onion)
  • 1 cup finely diced green bell pepper (about 1 bell pepper)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (28 or 29 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional, for topping)
  • minced fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

Instructions 

  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the ground beef, onion, bell pepper, and salt, breaking the beef apart as it cooks. Once the meat is browned and cooked through (about 10 minutes), drain any excess fat if desired. Stir in garlic and cook for another minute or until fragrant.
  • Transfer beef mixture to crockpot.
  • To the crockpot, add diced tomatoes (with their juices), tomato sauce, beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, Italian seasoning, dried oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, and bay leaf. Stir everything together until well combined.
  • Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or on high for 2 to 3 hours.
  • Thirty minutes before serving, stir in the macaroni and turn the crockpot to high. Cover and cook until pasta is tender, about 30 minutes. Do not continue cooking after this point or the macaroni will become mushy.
  • Remove bay leaf and stir in cheese if desired. You can also sprinkle the cheese on individual bowls of goulash.
  • Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
  • Serve immediately topped with fresh parsley.

Notes

  • Nutrition information includes the shredded cheese but not the parsley. To reduce sodium, choose no-salt-added diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beef broth. 
  • Make-ahead. Leave out the pasta and switch the slow cooker to low or “keep warm”. Add the pasta 30 minutes before serving as directed, so it doesn’t become mushy.

Nutrition

Serving: 2cups, Calories: 551kcal, Carbohydrates: 51g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 23g, Saturated Fat: 10g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 91mg, Sodium: 1144mg, Potassium: 1073mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 753IU, Vitamin C: 30mg, Calcium: 182mg, Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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