This American Slow Cooker Goulash with hamburger and pasta is a warm and comforting all-in-one meal that makes dinnertime easy.
Slow Cooker Goulash: A Comforting Family Friendly Dinner
On days when you need more time with family and friends, reach for this classic ground beef goulash recipe. The hands-off cooking of the slow cooker gives you time to socialize, and when they smell this goulash simmering away, you won't have any trouble gathering them at the dinner table.
When it comes to flexibility, this recipe delivers. It’s a meal where you can add in extra vegetables and ingredients and the kids won’t even notice. (They’ll be too busy eating the noodles).
Slow Cooker Goulash works around your schedule. If needed, it can be on the table in two and a half hours, or it can simmer in the slow cooker for several hours and be ready whenever the kids start asking “what’s for dinner?”
This recipe makes a big batch, which means you’ll likely have leftovers to send for work and school lunches. Just make sure you have a Thermos that’s up to the task.
The benefit of this Goulash (and almost any slow cooker recipe) is walking into the house and being greeted by the sweet smells of dinner essentially cooking itself. There's nothing better than the smell of simmering tomato sauce and meat. It's why we love dishes like goulash and Creamy Beef Tomato Soup.
Plus, any anxieties about meal prep or cleanup melt away when you remember that this Slow Cooker Goulash has everything necessary for your meal all in one, so grab a bowl, and get ready for a cozy night at home with a full belly.
Why You Are Going to Love This Slow Cooker Goulash
- It is easy. 15 minutes of prep, and then dump and run.
- This recipe uses simple ingredients that you already have around.
- Goulash is a one pot meal, so no side dishes are needed.
- It has mass appeal. Whether you're a meat lover, a kid who plays with their food, or a parent who just wants their kid to eat a dang vegetable once this decade, there's something here for everyone.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
- Ground beef - An 80-90% lean meat is perfect, but you can also use ground turkey if you prefer.
- Vegetables - This recipe uses the goulash classics: onion and green peppers. I like adding mushrooms sometimes. Baby portobellos have a hearty texture and do well in tomato dishes. If you add some chopped up spinach, no one will even notice and they’ll get the benefit of getting more leafy greens.
- Seasoning - Italian seasoning (a combination of rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme, and sage) is what flavors this dish. If you like some kick or a hint of smokiness, add some red pepper flakes or a little smoked paprika.
- Pasta- This recipe calls for elbow macaroni, but just about any pasta will work. I like to use a heartier slightly bigger macaroni noodle, like these.
- Cheddar cheese - Classic sharp cheddar is our favorite, but really any blend of melting cheeses will work here (Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, or Mexican Blend), so let your preference be your guide.
How To Make Slow Cooker Goulash With Hamburger
- Sear meat- Brown the ground beef in a skillet using our no-fail method for browning ground beef, then drain the fat, season, and add to the slow cooker.
- Slow cook vegetables and sauce- This is why this recipe is so easy! You throw in all the vegetables and spices and let the slow cooker do its magic, melding the flavors together.
- Stir in pasta- After cooking the meat, vegetables, and spices, you just toss in the pasta and let it cook until finished.
- After it’s done simmering, add the cheese last! The heat will melt it, and then you’re set.
- Serve with extra cheese and a side salad and enjoy with family and friends. This meal makes great leftovers.
Storage Instructions and Tips
- If you cook your ground beef in the crock pot (*some slow cookers have a sear mode for browning meat) just remember that you will still have to drain the fat.
- This recipe is infinitely flexible and perfect for helping you clear out the pantry or your refrigerator's produce drawer. Feel free to add additional frozen or canned veggies, just remember to drain any canned veggies, and always add cheese last.
- Leftover crock pot goulash should be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. It’s easy to reheat in the microwave.
What's the difference between Hungarian Goulash and American Goulash?
Hungarian Goulash is a beef stew with a rich broth heavily seasoned with paprika.
American Goulash, which is the recipe included here, is a simple pasta dish featuring tomato sauce, ground beef, and Italian herbs.
Can you put raw ground beef in the crock pot?
I only recommend adding raw beef to the crock pot if the slow cooker has a sear feature so you can brown the meat. Browning ground beef first builds flavor and results in a less oily final product.
What goes good with goulash?
Serve this hearty meal with homemade breadsticks, garlic bread, a simple side salad, or applesauce.
More Hearty Ground Beef Pasta Recipes
If you like the flavors in this Slow Cooker Goulash, try the casserole version! My Johnny Marzetti recipe is packed with tender pasta and tomato sauce and topped with melty baked cheese. This Company Casserole is another (creamier, cheesier) version we love.
We love making One Pot Lasagna Soup. It has all the creamy, beefy, cheesy flavors of lasagna in an easy-to-make package.
One Pot Taco Spaghetti is an extremely kid friendly and fun way to celebrate taco night.
Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Casserole is a make ahead friendly dish that kids and adults both love!
Instant Pot Chili Mac gets dinner done in a flash!
And of course, you can't ever go wrong with classic Crock Pot Spaghetti with Ground Beef.
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 small yellow onion (diced)
- 1 green pepper (diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 24 ounce jar pasta sauce
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (plus more for serving)
- Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add oil and heat until shimmering. Add the beef, spreading it out in chunks over the pan. Cook undisturbed for several minutes, or until browned on the bottom. Stir, then continue to cook until browned and cooked through on all sides. Drain excess fat from the pan, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the ground beef to the crock pot.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients except the macaroni and cheese to the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook on the high setting for 2 hours or on the low setting for 4 hours.
- After the allotted cook time, add the macaroni and let it cook an additional 30-35 minutes until the noodles reach the desired consistency.
- Turn off the heat. Add the cheese and stir it into the pasta.
- Serve immediately with additional shredded cheese.
½ teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon sage Alternatively, you can cook the pasta separately and stir it into the crock pot ingredients right before serving. If you use different types of pasta, you made more or less cook time. Smaller macaroni noodles might be done at 25 minutes. Do not overcook the pasta, as it will get mushy.