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"American" goulash -- what's your family's version?

TorontoJo Nov 2, 2012 04:20 AM

iL Divo and I were having fun in another thread talking about authentic Hungarian goulash and porkolt versus the "goulash" our parents made in the U.S. and Canada when we were young. Link to that original thread:


So now I'd love to know: what was "goulash" in your home growing up? Was it a soup or a stew-like dish? Did it involve ground beef? Sour cream? Tomato soup? Were noodles an integral part of the dish?

My mother made what she called "goulash" by taking a can of goulash (yes, they sold goulash in a can in the 70s), adding vegetables and soy sauce, some ketchup and lord knows what else, and serving it over rice. I can still remember it to this day. It tasted and looked nothing like the rich, hearty Hungarian beef stew that I've come to know as porkolt, but it...well, it wasn't awful.

I was curious when and where the first goulash recipe appeared in North America and wikipedia pointed me to this 1914 cookbook:


FWIW, here is the recipe for an authentic Hungarian beef stew that ChristinaMason pointed me towards a couple of years ago and I haven't needed another recipe since (you should watch the video that the blog links to, it's kinda awesome):


But hey, that's not the stuff I want to talk about! What kind of goulash recipes did you grow up with? Do you still make the dish the way your parents did?

  1. tiffeecanoe Nov 2, 2012 05:17 AM

    My aunts version is 1 can of cream corn, 1 can of corn, 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup, 1 lb of ground beef, sauteed onions and a bag of egg noodles. Gotta say, it's strangely delicious topped with a generous amount of Louisiana hot sauce ;)

    I have edited to add that some times she adds an additional can of cream corn if she wants more moisture.

    2 Replies
    1. re: tiffeecanoe
      melpy Nov 2, 2012 06:50 AM

      For some reason I kind of want to try that. We are not soup as ingredient folk but I love a one dish meal. Wonder if I could retool that making my own sauce?

      1. re: melpy
        tiffeecanoe Nov 2, 2012 07:11 AM

        I'm not a condensed soup person either - except the occasional tomato soup - in the past I've made this with higher end, more natural condensed soups and I have to say, it's just not as good - haha! Also, my aunt swears it must be Campbells or it's just not the same.

    2. tiffeecanoe Nov 2, 2012 05:19 AM

      I have to add. My Hungarian step father - he came to the states at 17 - his mother makes a goulash that invovles sliced hot dogs! I really should find out more about this recipe, but it always cracked me up that their version of goulash sounds so hilariously American!

      2 Replies
      1. re: tiffeecanoe
        bagelman01 Jan 21, 2014 05:17 AM

        I know it's 14+ months since you posted this, but someone revived the thread and I'm reading from the top....
        My current MIL was married to a Hungarian-American for 25 years (not wife's father) and my Ex-MIL was from Germany with a MIL living in the house who was from Budapest.
        Both of these MILs made hot dog goulash..The main ingredient besides the sliced up hotdogs was ketchup which cooked down slowly until a sticky thin sauce. Also in the pot were thinly sliced white all purpose potatoes that melted away during the long slow simmering process. EX-MIL often added caraway seeds (because she was German), current MIL is repulsed by the idea, so I eat it with a slice of seeded rye bread.

        I hate ketchup, but loved either oine of their hit dog goulash

        1. re: bagelman01
          thymetobake Feb 19, 2014 05:03 AM

          I see that this post is old also, but...

          That reminds me of some of the food I had in Norway 30 years ago. Their idea of spaghetti was pasta with ketchup. And hot dogs (which they called sausage - "pulse" in Norwegian) were on the table 4 nights a week. Although I must say that the quality of their hot dogs was much better than ours.

          Things are different over there these days. But i was amazed by some things. Just depends on how many things are imported or aren't, I guess.

      2. macca Nov 2, 2012 05:24 AM

        My mom made this- and we all loved it! She used ground beef, onions, peppers and stewed tomatoes. Cook it all, and add it to cooked shells. Still love it! Not sure why we called it goulash- but thats what we called it! We live in the Boston area- I know other areas of the country have a sililar dish they call johnny marzetti.

        6 Replies
        1. re: macca
          KSlink Nov 2, 2012 05:48 AM

          Sounds like what we know as American Chop Suey in western MA and CT.......is that what Johnny Marzetti is, too?

          1. re: KSlink
            melpy Nov 2, 2012 06:52 AM

            My mom's family from CT also made American Chop suey. I don't know what it is exactly but it sounds similar.

          2. re: macca
            cleobeach Nov 2, 2012 06:41 AM

            My best friends mother made it with ground beef, onions, peppers and probably canned tomatoes of some sort and......tons of sugar. It was so sweet it made your teeth ache. She served it with egg noodles.

            1. re: macca
              lynnlato Dec 1, 2012 07:21 AM

              Yes! That's how my mom made it (w/ elbow macaroni) and we called it goulash also. Our school cafeteria made basically the same dish and called it Johnny Marzetti. Ha! Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

              1. re: macca
                HeyImBack Jan 20, 2014 01:33 PM

                That's exactly what my mom made except she used elbow mac. I grew up in the Detroit area. She called it, quite originally, "hamburger macaroni."

                1. re: HeyImBack
                  cleobeach Feb 25, 2014 08:14 AM

                  Too funny this thread popped up again. I was just talking about "goulash" with a friend the other day and she said her mom used elbow macaroni.

              2. prima Nov 2, 2012 06:59 AM

                By the way, TorontoJo, they still sell goulash/gulasch in a can in Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

                3 Replies
                1. re: prima
                  TorontoJo Nov 2, 2012 07:06 AM

                  Oy. I would have liked to think that canned meat was a thing of the past. I wonder if anyone there adds soy sauce to it like my mom did! :)

                  1. re: TorontoJo
                    prima Nov 2, 2012 07:17 AM

                    The Swiss canned version actually looked pretty good.
                    I'd buy "Chunky -the soup that eats like a meal" Goulash, if they sold it! Well, I'd buy it at least once, to try it!

                    1. re: TorontoJo
                      lagatta Jan 19, 2014 03:36 PM

                      I've actually had very good tinned meat stews from Central European countries.

                  2. RealMenJulienne Nov 2, 2012 07:56 AM

                    We never had it at home, only at the school cafeteria. As I remember it, it was ground beef in sweet tomato sauce, with chunks of green bell pepper and lots of macaroni. A cheese slice was broiled into the top until the grease separated out and ran all over everything. It was highly unpopular with most of the kids, which was good for me because I got a lot of unwanted portions (I was a fat kid who would eat anything)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: RealMenJulienne
                      Antilope Nov 3, 2012 12:33 AM

                      This school version sounds similar to what my mom made in the mid-1960's in southern California. Except she used egg noodles instead of macaroni. She didn't add cheese to it. I think the sweet red sauce had paprika in it in addition to tomato sauce.

                      Here's a recipe from the 1930's called Noodle Goulash (similar to what I remember):


                    2. tcamp Nov 2, 2012 08:04 AM

                      My mom's goulash looks exactly like that in the 2nd link so I guess it was actually porkolt. I'll let her know.

                      It's been years but hers contained beef, cubed not ground, onions, garlic, paprika, and more. There may have been green peppers, chopped fairly fine. It was served over noodles with sour cream on the side. Very good.

                      1. j
                        jmorris4371 Nov 3, 2012 04:59 PM

                        Mine is as follows:

                        Brown 1 lb ground beef in a deep skillet. Add 3 onions and 1 green bell pepper (medium dice), and sweat them. Add 3 TB smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp caraway seed, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp cracked pepper.

                        Add 2 cans whole peeled tomatoes. I snip them into pieces with kitchen shears.

                        While all of that stews, cook 3 cups dry elbow mac. Drain, return to pot, then add the tomato sauce and stir to combine.

                        Serve with crushed red pepper flakes.

                        1. o
                          onrushpam Nov 3, 2012 05:07 PM

                          Stouffers Macaroni and Beef is a very close approximation to what my mom made. Every now and then, I grab a box of it for lunch. http://www.stouffers.com/products/det...

                          1. JenJeninCT Nov 3, 2012 05:18 PM

                            My grandmother's version, which I still make about once a year:
                            I saute ground beef (1.5-2 pounds) with onions, adding garlic as they are finishing (S&P, of course). Drain and add 1- 2 cans of kidney beans, 1 large can of mushrooms, 1 can of tomato soup and 1 can of tomato paste. Serve over (or mix in) cooked spaghetti. My grandmother was known to add cans of spaghetti, but this is not something I would recommend!

                            1. j
                              JTilCT Nov 7, 2012 08:38 AM

                              This is one of my favorite topics, as it is one of my favorite comfort food meals. My family made it with ground beef, onions, green peppers, and stewed tomatoes with elbow macaroni. If Mom made it, she put in mushrooms. If Dad made it, he added a secret ingredient: cubes of Velveeta stirred in just before serving. These days I substitute ground turkey and increase the amounts of vegetables. I still put in the Velveeta sometimes.
                              A good friend makes it with ground beef, onions, tomato soup and elbows. Pretty good as well but I like more vegetables.

                              1. p
                                Puffin3 Nov 7, 2012 09:13 AM

                                My mom made a 'goulash' with paprika etc. The only thing that was different was the meat was always some type of wild game. Goulash to me is basically just a meat stew with paprika

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Puffin3
                                  lagatta Jan 19, 2014 03:37 PM

                                  That sounds very authentic! Yum!

                                2. JerryMe Nov 30, 2012 02:56 PM

                                  Mom's goulash - Wow! Does that bring back memories! It was elbow macaroni, LOTS of green pepper (Mom loved green pepper), LOTS of onion (Mom loved onion) and some stewed tomatoes. I don't remember her ever using canned tomatoes so I'm sure they were home canned.

                                  Really soupy, she would add water unit it was enough to feed our large family. She started with a pound of hamburger or ground venison. Salt and pepper were added. Absolutely nothing strange like garlic was added. It was on at least a weekly rotation. There was always homemade rolls as a side though.

                                  1. thymetobake Dec 1, 2012 07:47 AM

                                    My mom never made it but I do remember eating it somewhere. I've even had it in a diner once. It was always like a soup with loose ground beef, onions, peppers, tomatoes, corn and a very small amount of macaroni.

                                    My grandmother made something she called goulash which was a hamburger patty in a tomato, onion sauce.

                                    I make meatball soup which pretty much tastes like my goulash memories. It's half pork and half beef meatballs, browned on two sides. Add onions, peppers, garlic, tomato puree, broth, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and corn at the end. Same flavor, more veggies. Top with parmesan at the table. It's actually my favorite soup.

                                    1. v
                                      Violatp Dec 1, 2012 07:59 AM

                                      It's funny; the dish that so many are describing was called Chili Mac at my grade school and served almost weekly!

                                      1. jmcarthur8 Dec 1, 2012 10:17 AM

                                        I wish I knew just how my mother made it, because I would love to make it myself...hers had elbows, ground beef, green peppers, corn, tomatoes and maybe cheese. She called it 'Yankee Noodle '. I can picture the flavor in my head.

                                        1. j
                                          John Francis Dec 1, 2012 12:20 PM

                                          James Beard includes a recipe in one of his books that he attributes to Walter Slezak - it uses cut-up frankfurters as the meat. Since Slezak was born in Vienna, this may not count as American goulash, but my feeling is that anything with hot dogs is bound to be American. Several times I've come close to making it, only to tell myself no. But I'll bet it's delicious.

                                          I just now Googled and here's the recipe:


                                          1. CatteNappe Dec 1, 2012 05:00 PM

                                            Growing up, it was ground beef, onions, canned Veg-All mixed vegetables, tomato sauce, and spiciness from some worcestershire sauce or HP steak sauce - all served on noodles. In more modern "goulash debates" I've got a recipe from an old Lousiana cookbook (Pirates Pantry) that has a dish that involves ground beef, tomato juice, and uncooked spaghetti. It's titled as "Texas Hash", but my fellow Texas residents insist it has to be goulash, because Texas Hash invariably has rice.

                                            1. q
                                              Querencia Dec 1, 2012 06:59 PM

                                              My version is Goulash Soup which I tried to improvise after eating it all over Europe. In the dry slow cooker I put 1/2 cup flour, 2 tablespoons paprika, and 1 teaspoon salt then I mix in 16 oz of canned tomato sauce and 3 cups of water. Then about a pound of beef stew meat cut up smaller, chunks of onion, potato, carrot, and sweet red pepper, a little hot red pepper depending on taste, and enough water to bring the surface up to an inch from the top. I cook this overnight on Low. Correct the seasoning. The meat should be totally falling apart and the soup should be a little thick, very beefy, and slightly spicy.

                                              1. s
                                                sandylc Dec 1, 2012 08:44 PM

                                                I know that my mother made some version of "goulash" using ground beef; I just can't recall what it was like. I think my memory is selectively saving my sanity.

                                                1. horseshoe Dec 2, 2012 08:58 AM

                                                  My elementry school in Irving Texas, back in the 60's served Texas Goulash. Not sure what was in it that made it "Texas" but it was simular to chili mac as best I can remember.

                                                  1. jenscats5 Dec 2, 2012 09:30 AM

                                                    My mother never made American Goulash - my father wouldn't have allowed it! He hated food like that......I've made it in the past simply with ground beef, spaghetti sauce & elbow macaroni.

                                                    1. e
                                                      EmmaFrances Dec 6, 2012 07:54 AM

                                                      My grandma made "goulash" - ground beef and spaghetti in Ragu pasta sauce (always Ragu) served over mashed potatoes. I have no idea how she came up with that as "goulash!"

                                                      1. c
                                                        charlesbois Dec 6, 2012 08:05 AM

                                                        Yes! I was just thinking about "American" goulash, as I wanted to see how my husband remembered it compared to my experience with it. We both said tomatoes, ground beef, elbow macaroni and lots of paprika. I used red bell peppers whereas his were green bell peppers. My grandmother made a similar dish, but if more stuff was added (canned corn, carrots, maybe some sour cream, etc.) she called it slumgullion.

                                                        1. s
                                                          shellas04 Jan 19, 2014 03:13 PM

                                                          My dad made it with 2 cans new potatoes (drained), 2 lb ground beef (drained fat), 1 lrg can of whole tomatoes, 1 can tomato paste, 1 can corn, one diced sweet onion, 1 tbs. paprika, salt and pepper to taste. It tastes wonderful and so easy to make because most ingredients come from canned vegetables. I have done it with a couple of large fresh potatoes before. That is even better.

                                                          1. Hank Hanover Jan 20, 2014 06:40 AM

                                                            My wife still calls this goulash. Seems more like a stew to me.

                                                            We take left over pot roast (chuck usually) and cut it into bite size pieces. If there are any carrots or potatoes left over, they are cut up too. If we have to, we will saute some extra carrots and potatoes until they are fairly soft.
                                                            Slice some onion and saute that up. Put everything together in a skillet add some Golden mushroom soup and some water. heat until hot and thick. Pour it over egg noodles. Good stuff.

                                                            If you want to be more modern, you can use beef broth a roux and some tomato paste and some sliced mushrooms to replace the golden mushroom soup.

                                                            1. t
                                                              tzurriz Jan 20, 2014 06:50 AM

                                                              A hearty beef stew with tons of paprika and dumplings.

                                                              1. d
                                                                debbiel Jan 20, 2014 03:18 PM

                                                                I don't remember exactly (because I hated it, so blocking is a defensive move), but something along the lines of creamette's elbow macaroni, ground beef, lots of onion and I believe green pepper, and maybe canned chopped tomatoes? Maybe on the tomatoes. Almost for sure on the tomatoes. I think.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: debbiel
                                                                  sandylc Jan 20, 2014 03:28 PM

                                                                  Sounds like something my mother made - but I've blocked it to preserve my sanity, as well.

                                                                  Her "lasagna" was equally bland and tasteless.

                                                                2. breadchick Jan 20, 2014 03:31 PM

                                                                  My late mother cooked ground beef and added a jar of Ragu pasta sauce. Then, she either:

                                                                  1. added cooked elbow macaroni and stirred it all up in the big pot - this she called goulash, or

                                                                  2. cooked regular spaghetti and the sauce was spooned on top of each serving - this was "spaghetti."

                                                                  She made the same meat sauce for both! Gotta love it!

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: breadchick
                                                                    sandylc Jan 20, 2014 03:50 PM

                                                                    You are so lucky! Your mom used Ragu! Mine used either watery canned tomatoes or watery canned tomato sauce. The only seasoning was salt, and lots of it! I'm sure she must have had some dried oregano somewhere, but I'm not sure what her requirement was to take out a tiny pinch and actually put it into a dish!

                                                                    1. re: sandylc
                                                                      breadchick Jan 21, 2014 04:38 AM

                                                                      LOL, I guess we were lucky! It wasn't until I started eating at friend's house (Italian) that I learned the basic way of making a good pasta sauce.

                                                                      My mom loved her Ragu, so that was Italian in our house. She never would think to buy oregano or even garlic. If it came in that jar - it was good! :)

                                                                  2. l
                                                                    laliz Feb 19, 2014 09:37 AM

                                                                    I kniow we had something called goulash; and it was as described, ground beef, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, can't remember if it was macaroni or noodles though. (I'm thinking it was noodles)

                                                                    As a kid, I objected to the green peppers.

                                                                    1. y
                                                                      Yankeegirl28 Feb 24, 2014 01:59 PM

                                                                      Interesting that folks use ground beef! My mother always used stew beef (chuck). She would brown the meat with onions. Add paprika, mushroom and tomatoes and tomato paste. Sour cream was added at the end. It was usually served over egg noodles or potatoes. Ultimate comfort food!

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