American Goulash for the Slow Cooker

Ask Chef Phyllis

It seems like just yesterday it was New Year’s Day, but as I glance at the calendar, I see that we’re already at the end of February! Any time now, these slow, bitterly cold, never-enough-sunlight days will be coming to an end. However, though spring is just around the corner, winter is still here with a vengeance (at least for a little while yet). Slow-cooked classic soups, stews, and chilies are all cozy winter favorites. But in my book, coming home to a fully cooked dinner is a bonus at any time of the year!

Hungarian goulash, famous for its sweet or spicy paprika, is really just a stew. It’s traditionally served over oodles of noodles (egg noodles to be exact), but you can make this American style goulash with a couple of easy substitutions: switch out the beef cubes for ground meat, and, if you like, swap the egg noodles for small-shell pasta. The benefit of using ground meat is that it cooks in half the time, and you can choose whatever protein you desire—ground chicken, pork, lamb, or beef. Any one of them will warm the house with aromas that memories are made of.

And who said that a great company dinner shouldn’t be easy? Though this dish shines on its own, if you add a variety of sautéed mushrooms (or even some of the wine you’re serving) to the sauce, your guests will surely ask you for the recipe.

For company, I would serve it with a salad of designer greens (arugula or endive) and bruschetta with a spread of oven-roasted garlic. This is pure comfort food and an easy choice for a long, dreary, cuddle-up-by-the-fire night. I guarantee it will make a cold winter evening a bit brighter!

American Goulash for the Slow Cooker

Chef’s note: Hungarian paprika officially makes this goulash. Paprika can be mild or spicy. If you’re using the latter, taste the spice before adding too much. Cooked egg noodles are the usual carb, traditionally served under the goulash in large, deep bowls. However, you may add small-shell pasta to the slow cooker if you wish to eliminate the extra step of boiling the noodles. Either way, this is a winner! It also makes at least two dinners—one for tonight and one to freeze. Who wouldn’t like that?


2 lbs. free-range, organic ground beef or other ground meat of your choosing
1 teaspoon each sea salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
24 oz. marinara sauce (homemade, if possible)
2 (15 oz.) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 cups water or stock
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (sweet or hot)
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon caraway seeds, ground (optional)
4 cups hot egg noodles (cooked separately) or ½ box uncooked small-shell pasta


  1. Preheat slow cooker on high for 30 minutes. Add sea salt and pepper to the ground meat and mix well. Place olive oil and butter in slow cooker. When butter has melted, add meat and onions and cook until the meat is no longer pink.
  2. Add garlic, marinara sauce, fire-roasted tomatoes, water or stock, and spices. If using uncooked pasta, add it to the slow cooker as well.
  3. Cover and cook for at least 2 hours on high or 4 hours on low. Turn off slow cooker and let the goulash rest for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Image from iStock/ALLEKO.

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

Products by Phyllis Quinn

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