Weight Watchers Recipe of the Day: Easy American Hamburger Goulash (aka American Chop Suey)
Today I'm sharing a recipe I've been eating since childhood, my mom's recipe for goulash. Or as they called it in the school cafeteria, American Chop Suey.
My mom learned to make this simple ground beef and macaroni skillet dish by watching her friend's mom make it back in the 1950s in a small town in rural coastal Maine.
I love how so many recipes, including longtime family favorites like this one, can work with the Weight Watchers Program. With just a few little adjustments, this dish easily becomes a Weight Watchers American Chop Suey (Goulash) Recipe!
What is Goulash?
American goulash is completely different from the Hungarian version. It's a quick and easy skillet dish combination of ground beef, onion, tomatoes, bell peppers, tomato soup and elbow macaroni. Think homemade from scratch Hamburger Helper, that was known as American Chop Suey at my local school cafeteria.
Hungarian Goulash, (traditional goulash) by comparison, is a long-simmering stew made with chunks of beef and vegetables seasoned with generous amounts of paprika.
The two dishes couldn't be more different.
How To Make American Goulash?
There are lots of different variations of "hamburger goulash," or "American Chop Suey," out there. It's one of those recipes passed down through the generations. Everyone puts their own spin on it.
Some call for tomato sauce and others for jarred spaghetti sauce or beef broth, but I don't think they taste as good as this old-fashioned, classic American version from my mom that calls for canned tomato soup. But, my tastebuds are biased because it's the one they grew up eating.
Mom's hamburger goulash with elbow macaroni is comfort food at its best - quick, easy, tasty, and satisfying. I made it for my whole family a few nights ago and my guys each ate three servings. I can think of no better compliment for a cook.
It is also just the kind of food we can depend on in these uncertain economic times - hearty meals made from wholesome simple ingredients.
How Many Calories and Weight Watches (WW) Points in this Classic American Goulash Recipe?
According to my calculations, each serving has about 354 calories and:
9 *SmartPoints (Green plan)
9 *SmartPoints (Blue plan)
5 *SmartPoints (Purple plan) (with whole grain macaroni)
9 *PointsPlus (Old plan)
To see your WW PersonalPoints for this recipe and track it in the WW app or site, Click here!
Weight Watchers Friendly American Goulash Ingredients
- 2 cups (8 ounces) elbow macaroni (gluten free or whole wheat if desired)
- 2 teaspoons olive olive oil
- 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cans (10-¾ ounces each) condensed tomato soup
- 2 cans (14 ounces each) diced tomatoes
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of Sugar
- Salt & Pepper to taste
Hamburger Goulash Recipe Substitutions & Variations
Meat: Though ground beef is traditional, any ground meat— ground turkey, chicken, pork, lamb—may be substituted. It could also be made vegetarian with the addition of meatless veggie crumbles. If you are watching WW Points opt for extra lean ground beef.
Pasta shape: Elbow macaroni noodles are traditional in this easy recipe but any small cut of pasta will work. Gluten-free pasta and whole grain / whole wheat pasta are also good choices.
Bulkier: To add more volume to your goulash for minimal calories, add more vegetables such as mushrooms, corn, zucchini, etc. or drained canned beans.
Thicker: I like to make this old-fashioned Goulash saucy. If you don't, use one can of diced tomatoes instead of two. It also thickens up a lot as it sits to make it ahead of time. Many like it better as leftovers the day after when it has thickened and the flavors have melded.
Spicier: There are lots of way to add extra flavor to suit your tastes. Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, tomato paste, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, etc.
Southwestern/Chile Mac: For a spicy southwest/chile mac variation, add 1 cup of drained corn and 1-2 tablespoons chili powder when adding the tomatoes. (Check out this Weight Watchers Southwestern Goulash)
Cheesy: Stir in or top with your favorite grated or shredded cheese. (A cup of cheddar cheese or Parmesan cheese would be yummy.)
Italian American Goulash: Substitute marinara sauce or another tomato-based sauce for the tomato soup and Italian sausage for the ground beef.
Vegetarian/Vegan: Substitute your favorite ground plant based crumbles for the ground beef.
What Should Your Serve with Classic American Goulash?
We always enjoyed this easy goulash recipe with a simple green salad alongside. Most any vegetable makes a healthy accompaniment: zucchini, broccoli, green beans, corn, carrots, etc. If you are not concerned about calories and/or carbs, warm crusty French bread or garlic bread would be a great option.
What To Do with Leftover Goulash?
Keep leftover American goulash in a covered airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days for future quick and easy meals. (I know many picky eaters who actually prefer this classic comfort food better the next day.)
You can reheat on the stove top over low to medium heat or in the microwave (affiliate link) before serving. Freeze chilled portions in freezer bags or airtight containers for up to 4 weeks. For best results thaw in the refrigerator before reheating.
If you've made this American Beef Goulash, please give the recipe a star rating below and leave a comment letting me know how you liked it. And stay in touch on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the latest updates.
Easy American Hamburger Goulash
- 2 cups (8 ounces) elbow macaroni (gluten-free if desired) (uncooked)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cans (10-¾ ounces each) tomato soup
- 2 cans (14-ounces each) diced tomatoes
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook macaroni according to package directions; drain.
- Meanwhile heat oil in a large skillet, or dutch oven, over medium heat. Stir the ground beef, onion, and pepper into the skillet, breaking up the beef into small pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
- Cook, stirring often, until the beef is no longer pink and the onion and pepper are soft (5-8 minutes).
- Stir in the tomatoes, tomato soup, cinnamon, and sugar. Simmer until heated thoroughly.
- Stir in the drained macaroni and combine well. (Alternatively, if your skillet isn't quite big enough, stir everything together in the pasta pan.) Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Hamburger Goulash Recipe Substitutions & VariationsMeat: Though ground beef is traditional, any ground meat— ground turkey, chicken, pork, lamb—may be substituted. It could also be made vegetarian with the addition of meatless veggie crumbles. If you are watching WW Points opt for extra lean ground beef. Pasta shape: Elbow macaroni noodles are traditional in this easy recipe but any small cut of pasta will work. Gluten-free pasta and whole grain / whole wheat pasta are also good choices. Bulkier: To add more volume to your goulash for minimal calories, add more vegetables such as mushrooms, corn, zucchini, etc. or drained canned beans. Thicker: I like to make this old-fashioned Goulash saucy. If you don't, use one can of diced tomatoes instead of two. It also thickens up a lot as it sits to make it ahead of time. Many like it better as leftovers the day after when it has thickened and the flavors have melded. Spicier: There are lots of way to add extra flavor to suit your tastes. Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, tomato paste, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, etc. Southwestern/Chile Mac: For a spicy southwest/chili mac variation, add 1 cup of drained corn and 1-2 tablespoons chili powder when adding the tomatoes. Cheesy: Stir in or top with your favorite grated or shredded cheese. (A cup of cheddar cheese or Parmesan cheese would be yummy.) Italian American Goulash: Substitute marinara sauce or another tomato-based sauce for the tomato soup and Italian sausage for the ground beef. Vegetarian/Vegan: Substitute your favorite ground plant based crumbles for the ground beef. Click here to see your WW Points for this recipe and track it in the WW app or site. 9 *SmartPoints (Green plan) 9 *SmartPoints (Blue plan) 5 *SmartPoints (Purple plan) (with whole grain macaroni) 9 *PointsPlus (Old plan)
*Points® calculated by WW. *PointsPlus® and SmartPoints® calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. All recipe ingredients except optional items included in determining nutritional estimates. SmartPoints® values calculated WITHOUT each plan's ZeroPoint Foods (Green plan, Blue plan, Purple plan) using the WW Recipe Builder.
More Variations of American Goulash
- Here is a One-Pot Recipe from Spend with Pennies
- Here's an American Goulash / Johnny Marzetti Recipe made in the Instant Pot (affiliate link) Pressure Cooker from The Country Cook
- This is a Healthy Take on Old-Fashioned Goulash from Eating Well
More Great Recipes for Ground Beef for Weight Watchers
- Southwestern Hamburger Goulash - An easy American goulash recipe with flavors of the southwest.
- Easy Taco Soup - Easy and delicious soup with all the flavors of a taco perfect for a weeknight dinner.
- Easy Hamburger Macaroni Soup - A simple warm and satisfying soup that is pure comfort food.
- Easy Healthy Ground Beef Enchilada Skillet - An easy dinner the entire family is sure to love.
Martha is the founder and main content writer for Simple-Nourished-Living.
A longtime lifetime WW at goal, she is committed to balancing her love of food and desire to stay slim while savoring life and helping others do the same.
She is the author of the Smart Start 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge.
A huge fan of the slow cooker and confessed cookbook addict, when she's not experimenting in the kitchen, you're likely to find Martha on her yoga mat.
This post contains affiliate links to products I like. When you buy something through one of my Amazon links or other (affiliate links), I receive a small commission that helps support this site. Thank you for your purchase!
updated with new content and photos 1/2023
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Love all types of goulash - is there anything more comforting than ground beef, macaroni and tomato sauce?
Is the tomato soup the condensed kind or regular? Looks amazing and I’m going to try it this week!
It condensed tomato soup. ~Martha
Perfect, thank you! It’s great to find a WW recipe that looks kid friendly too.
Do you add any water with the condensed soup ?
Hi Pamela, No water, just the soup. ~Martha
Can it be frozen and thawed for future meals?
Hi Bonnie, I've never tried to freeze it, but think it should be fine. ~Martha
I can't seem to find this anywhere on any of the sites. Maybe you can please guide me where to go for this information.
How do I find what are the Smart Points and Points Plus? I am Purple but have no idea how to figure out foods so the whole thing seems a waste of money.
Hi Donna, Your WW App should provide you with everything you need to track your food on Purple. SmartPoints are what you are using. PointsPlus are old points that I provide for WW who did the old plan and never switched over to the new SmartPoints plan. Hope this helps. ~Martha
I made what is similar to your tomatoes and hamburger casserole. With mine I used, 1 lb. ground beef, 1 can tomato soup, 2 Tbl. ketchup, 1 Tbl. yellow mustard, 2 tsp. chili powder, 1 can water using tomato soup can, and about 1 1/2 cups macaroni. I mix all this together and placed in oven at 350* until water is absorbed, macaroni is tender and cheese if used is melted. I served it with cornbread and the boys loved it. my version of hamburger helper before there was such a thing. My boys are now 58, 55, 52 and they will still eat it.
My hubby loved this so I didn’t tell him it was WW friendly. If you mentioned how much a serving is I didn’t see it. I’m guessing 1 cup = 1 serving?
It was delicious! I wasn’t at all sure about the pinch of sweetness but it was super!!!
I’m 64. I grew up on this. I forget what we use to call it, but goulash wasn’t it. But all the same, I loved it. I’ve been looking for the recipe for a long time. I’ll try this, this week when my brother visits. Thank you for this article with recipe.
My Mom always made this. We called it Macaroni and Hamburger. I add garlic powder, oregano, seasoned salt and pepper and other spices that we like. Also, I add parmesian cheese to the sauce and mazzarella cheese on top and then I bake it at350 degrees for about 30-45 minutes until the cheese melts. I usually simmer the sauce while the pasta cooks. Also, I don’t add sugar as the soup is sweet enough and I don’t use cinnamon. It is wonderful with Italian bread and usually green beans.
im 73 we called it beefaroni
I thought that Rotel along with a can of chopped tomatoes would add a little flavor and zest to this recipe. It sure picked up our meatloaf this past week!
This is my Moms recipe passed on to me. We ate it a lot because it was a cheap meal to feed a large family. We only used tomatoes. I made it with the tomato soup today. Thank you for reminding me of an old time favorite.
Question; Do you drain the browned ground beef prior to adding the other ingredients? Didn’t see that listed anywhere or is it just a “given”. Thank you
Hi Vicki, this is a personal choice based on the fattiness of your ground beef. I use extra lean ground beef which doesn't really leave anything to drain. Hope this helps. ~Martha
I made this recipe and it was delicious. I will make again
I bought your bundle just before
WW went to Smart points. Do I need
To repurchase the bundle to get the
Updated points? I’m on blue. Also,
I did try and and input the recipes
Into the WW app. Now they ask for sodium amount for each recipe. How
Would I figure this out? Thank you
For all that you do,
P.s. I love your recipes
Here's a link to the updated SmartPoints: Hi Cheryl, Here's a link to the updated SmartPoints: https://simple-nourished-living.com/ecookbook-updated-freestyle-smartpoints-values-december-2017/
Darryl Anne McClellan
So good. Comfort food at its best!!
Author that posted the recipe -
I am looking for the sodium content for the hamburger-goulash-macaroni recipe - I see the calories etc... per serving but can you please share the sodium per cup , 3/4 cup or 1/2 cup etc....? This sounds fun and good to make, but I need the sodium. THank you so much.
The addition of cinnamon was different but delicious!
It looks delicious and I want to try making it for my elderly patients I have living with me.
How much hamburger do I use?