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Mom’s Goulash

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I never learned to make goulash – I just knew it had noodles, ground beef, and tomatoey stuff going on in it, according to my Mom’s memories of what her mother made. But she never made it so I just came up with my own way of making it which was sort of like the same way I made spaghetti with meat sauce, but just with macaroni noodles instead.  I have my favorite version of my own version posted here.

I finally had real (real as in the Americanized real, not the Hungarian real) goulash at my in-law’s house.  I’d been wanting to get my MIL’s recipe for a long time, because although Dennis never says “this isn’t like Mom used to make,” I’ve always wanted to cook his favorite meals that he grew up eating and goulash topped that list.  His Mom’s goulash is really, really good!  After enjoying it on Easter, I asked her exactly what she put in it so I could recreate it at home.  I’ve never turned out better goulash and Den’s favorite is now one of my absolute favorites as well. We could eat this almost every week!

Mom’s Goulash

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1/2 lb macaroni
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 large onion, diced
garlic salt, pepper, chili powder, & hot sauce to taste
2 (14.5 oz) cans whole stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 tablespoons ketchup
Tomato juice as needed

Cook the macaroni to al dente according to package directions. While it’s cooking, brown the ground beef and onion together in an extra-large skillet or in a dutch oven. Drain and season with spices to taste. In a large bowl, mash tomatoes with potato masher and add to beef along with the ketchup. Drain macaroni and add to the beef mixture, stirring well. Taste and add additional seasoning as needed. I didn’t need to add any tomato juice to mine, but if you like yours very juicy you can add as much tomato juice as you like. Phyllis adds it to her leftovers, which I would also recommend, because the noodles tend to soak up all the juice with time.

Recipe source: Phyllis Miller

P.S. Happy anniversary to my hubby! These have been the best 14 years of my life.

About Veronica

I have a kitchen addiction and love to collect & share recipes. My passion is baking but I love to cook as well. The only thing I don't like to do in the kitchen is wash dishes, but my husband generally does them for me in exchange for his dinner.

37 responses »

  1. My hubby loves goulash more than I do, but if it’s good, I will favor it too. I like mine with a little sugar in it. But tried and true and hand-me-down recipes like this are sure fire great! Looks delish. Happy Happy Anniversary too! =D

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  2. My Mom made something similar – but called it Slumgulion – I am sure she made it just to stretch out the ground beef by adding canned tomatoes, ONIONS, green pepper and elbow macaroni. I obviously never cared for it since it had onions in it, but my twin sister probably makes this once a week still!

    Happy Anniversary! Tony and I are right behind you – 14 years in December!

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  3. When I was growing up, my Mom served goulash alot, and I loved it! =)
    This recipe sounds delicious,and I plan on trying it soon!

    Happy Anniversary!

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    • I use the same recipe as listed above (which was a recipe of my Grandmothers). The only difference is I add a small can of Tomato Paste.

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  4. Happy anniversary and bless Dennis for never saying “It’s not like mom’s.” Lol

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  5. Pingback: Italian Goulash | Veronica's Cornucopia

  6. This looks delicious, and I would absolutely eat it. But it’s not goulash. Trust me. My mom’s side of the family is Hungarian, and I learned to cook at my grandma’s knee. This is either “chili mac” (due to the chili powder) OR something we made in Girl Scout Camp — “hobo stew”, I think they called it. I am not a snob, this looks yummy and I would absolutely make it and eat it.

    This is why it is not goulash: the essential ingredient of goulash (and most Hungarian cookery) is PAPRIKA…real Hungarian paprika. (The cheap stuff is from Spain. It’s bitter and just not as good. Use it only in an emergency.) The paprika combines with butter and/or oil to make the goulash SAUCE. Without that, it is not goulash.

    Goulash also does not have macaroni noodles like this. Usually it has potatoes. It can have pork or beef cubes (cooked until VERY tender) and my mom made a cheap, Depression-era version with hot dogs. But not hamburger. Some people serve goulash over spaetzel, which is a kind of tiny dumpling. But not elbow macaroni … that’s very Italian.

    You could even make a vegetarian goulash, with just potatoes and onions and garlic AND PAPRIKA. I cannot emphasize enough that what makes it GOULASH (and not just beef with pasta, or chili mac, or hobo stew) is the PAPRIKA.

    I would be happy to send you a recipe for authentic Hungarian goulash; there are many variations but the essence is the Paprika sauce, which has a very distinctive taste and color (orangey-red).

    A good brand of Paprika is SZEGED, which is widely available. It’s about $4-$5 a can, but a can will last practically forever. It comes in sweet, hot and “sweet-hot” flavors. My family prefers the sweet, but your tastes may vary. It’s good on lots of things, including deviled eggs and egg salad.

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    • Spaetzle isn’t German……nokedli is Hungarian …..just sayin!

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      • *is*

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      • You are entirely correct. They are very similar, however. And my family (for some very quirky reasons that would take too long to explain) spoke German in the home (despite being Hungarian by ancestry and origin). So they did often use German words to describe things, and of course, I picked it up from them. My bad. But the overarching point here is that goulash HAS to have paprika in it, and that it should be obvious it would not have Mexican chili seasoning.

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        • I watched cutthroat kitchen the other day and they also said goulash must have paprika in it :) but the above is also like the american goulash my mom made me as kid i guess they could dream LOL

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          • My mom made something just like the above recipe, but we called it “chili mac” due to the chili powder. I think the confusion comes from the fact that chili powder LOOKS like paprika (but it doesn’t remotely taste the same).

            Looking back at my recipe file, “hobo stew” has neither paprika nor chili powder, but just onions & garlic flavoring (from powdered spices). It’s blander than either chili mac or goulash, because it is usually made by kids at camp (at least, the version I know).

            I would so love for you to taste ACTUAL REAL GOULASH, because while chili mac is a good dish, goulash is one of the truly great dishes in all the world — the foundation of all Hungarian cuisine — and a very accessible, easy-to-make dish so long as you have a source of good Hungarian paprika.

            The secret is to combine the paprika (in much larger quantities than most people use any spice — like a half cup or more!) with the cooking meat cubes (beef or pork or veal) in the pan while the fat is “bubbling”. The paprika combines with the hot fat — “catches” — and it foams up. This is what makes the paprika sauce.

            I cook a lot of stuff, and this process — foaming the paprika — is a unique process. The closest I have come with other cuisines is some Indian cookery. They too use a form of powdered peppers for flavoring AND coloring, which is basically what paprika is. It gives everything it touches a unique orange/red coloration.

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    • Oh, I know it’s not Hungarian goulash…I never even thought to clarify that this is definitely not a Hungarian dish because in my mind, goulash is this stuff LOL. This is an American version…that probably isn’t similar in taste in the slightest, but has the same name. I’ve also heard it called “American Chop Suey” but since I grew up hearing it called “goulash,” and that’s what my MIL calls it, that’s what I still call it. I do need to try the authentic stuff, for sure! And in the goulash I make, the chili powder is just a dash and it can not be tasted, because Mom’s doesn’t taste like chili so I keep it scarce. It’s really just a strange & delicious tomatoey beefy mac! lol

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      • American Chop Suey! I couldn’t think of that name! Boy, that’s one I have not heard in a long time. You are correct — I have heard it called that also. Isn’t that funny? (I am sure you’ve had Chinese Chop Suey, so you know it is pretty far from that.)

        It’s definitely an AMERICAN dish that many people make, and that is served in school cafeterias. I am sure your MIL does call it goulash.

        That is an interesting comment about the chili powder being so slight, you can barely taste it.

        Again, I do very well remember eating this as a kid, and I have made it as an adult. It probably deserves its own name, LOL, after all this time and some status as a unique American dish.

        You would enjoy some actual Hungarian goulash, though, and I think comparing the two would be very interesting.

        Reading about this has made me want to make some of each! thanks.

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    • She said “goulash”, not Hungarian Goulash. This IS goulash… yours is an entirely different meal.

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      • GOULASH is not some generic term, like “stew” or “soup”. You can make any sort of stew you wish, from beef or chicken or lamb, or have it vegan or spice it any way you like.

        GOULASH is a very specific Hungarian term, in the Hungarian language — which BTW is unique, having nothing in common with European “romance” languages like French, Italian, Spanish, etc.

        I have no problem with the recipe here, and I’ve made it and would happily it eat. I was only pointing out it is not “goulash”. By definition, all goulash is Hungarian, as it is a unique Hungarian name.

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        • Oy, I’m sorry to cause such controversy with this recipe! I understand that we have totally fouled up the definition of goulash by applying it to our American beefy tomatoey dishes, but it is still what we call it, at least in these parts, even if it has no similarity to the REAL dish it’s supposed to be. It’s so interesting how definitions can change in different areas and cultures, isn’t it?

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    • So true. I love Hungarian paprika on almost everything. Indeed my goulash is always served with home made spaetzel. So easy to make and fast to cook.

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  7. well i am making this tonight but wish there were measurements on the spices listed

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  8. You can also use hot and spicy v8

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  9. She was correct, it is ‘Goulash” Hungarian Goulash is an entirely different dish.

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  10. I don’t care what you call it. It’s delicious! I made it last week and I’m making it again. Call it goulash, hamburger surprise or American hamburger creation. People worry about the silliest things!

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    • United States[edit]
      Main article: American goulash
      American goulash, mentioned in cookbooks since at least 1914, exists in a number of variant recipes.[14][15] Originally a dish of seasoned beef,[15] core ingredients of American goulash now usually include elbow macaroni, cubed steak, ground beef or hamburger, and tomatoes in some form, whether canned whole, as tomato sauce, tomato soup, and/or tomato paste. In some areas it is called Slumgullion.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed!

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  11. Thisisn’t goulash it’s chili. Goulah has no garlic or hot sauce or tobasco. Leave these all out and you have goulash. Also add kidney beans tomato soup and Hunts Ketchup.

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  12. In our American home, we call this goulash also and your version looks delicious so I am making it tonight! Thank you for sharing!!

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  13. What nonsense! It sounds yummy and reminds me of the childhood “goulash” I was served by my mom. Just enjoy and call it what you want in your household; no need to preach. The recipe stated “Americanized.”

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  14. Sounds like my Moms recipe except she adds a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce! Then in typical 1970s fashion, we would have garlic toast (garlic salt on toast).

    I just made this last weekend!

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  15. Delicious!! Can’t believe people are debating name. Cook has artist license and can call it what ever she wants!!

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  17. Oh my, I just had a flashback to my childhood – – my mom used to make this macaroni dish all the time and I always LOVED it – – It was one of those foods I could just eat and eat and eat until I explode. Haven’t eaten this in at least 40 years. Really makes me miss my mom.

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  18. My grandmother called it Yankee spaghetti. She used celery in it & put it on cooked elbows. I have changed it a bit…I make it in 1 pot by adding some extra liquid-chicken base & water or tomato juice & cook the macaroni with the sauce. It’s good with cavatappi pasta.

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  19. Call it whatever you like. It is a great comfort food. My recipe is similar but I always use fresh garlic, add a can of V-8 juice and some cheddar cheese while omitting the hot sauce, tomato juice, garlic salt and chili powder that your recipe calls for. I will have to try your version sometime. It sounds delicious too.

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