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Sausage Goulash (American-Style)

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Sausage goulash is a simple, savory stew with Italian sausage, tender pasta, and veggies in a smoky tomato sauce. Perfect for cozy weeknights! Customize your goulash with your favorite vegetables, spices, and pasta shapes for an easy, hearty dish everyone will love.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Close up of sausage goulash in a pot.

Weeknight dinners just got a little bit easier with this Italian sausage goulash recipe. Think simmering Italian sausage, al dente pasta, and vibrant veggies in a smoky tomato sauce – comfort food heaven in a single pot. There are no fancy ingredients or techniques, just good stuff coming together for a hearty meal that can feed a crowd.

This isn’t your grandmother’s goulash (unless your grandma lived in Texas, maybe). While inspired by the Hungarian classic, this American goulash brings a punchier flavor with bold smoked paprika and mild Italian sausage, making it a hearty, easy weeknight dinner. Browning the sausage is actually a key factor for this dish. It unlocks a richer taste as the sugars caramelize, adding a new dimension to the sauce.

In 30 minutes flat, you’ll have a satisfying stew ready to satisfy even the hungriest crew. So gather your ingredients, crank up the tunes, and make some goulash! And if you’re looking for more easy weeknight meal ideas, check out my coconut milk chili, Dutch oven lasagna, or shrimp nachos.

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Why You’ll Love This Recipe

✔️ Not only is sausage goulash budget-friendly, but it’s also perfect for meal prepping!
✔️ It’s hearty enough to satisfy even the hungriest crew, and the simple flavors appeal to both adults and kids.
✔️ Sausage goulash with pasta is easy to customize with different veggies or toppings.

Ingredients For Sausage Goulash

Ingredient Notes

  • Mild Italian Sausage: The star of the show! Provides savory flavor and protein to the dish. Choose mild for a family-friendly option.
  • Beef Stock: Forms the liquid base of the sauce, providing richness and umami. You can use low-sodium broth if desired.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Adds a thick, smooth texture and rich tomato flavor to the sauce.
  • Diced Tomatoes: Provides a chunkier texture and additional tomato flavor.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Adds a savory, tangy complexity to the sauce—a classic ingredient in many goulash recipes.
  • Italian Seasoning: A blend of herbs and spices like oregano, basil, and thyme.
  • Smoked Paprika: Contributes a smoky depth and complexity that sets this goulash apart.
  • MSG: Enhances the savory flavors of the other ingredients. Some people prefer to avoid MSG, so it’s listed as optional.
  • Bay Leaf: Adds a subtle herbal aroma to the sauce. Remove before serving.
  • Elbow Macaroni Noodles: The pasta element of the goulash provides a satisfying texture and absorbs the flavorful sauce.

It’s important to note that when making substitutions in recipes, the texture and flavor may be slightly different. However, these substitutes are the best options to change the original recipe.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Olive Oil: You can substitute any neutral cooking oil like canola, vegetable, or avocado.
  • Mild Italian Sausage: Feel free to use an equal amount of ground Italian sausage (not in casings). You can also replace it with hot Italian sausage, ground beef, turkey, chicken, or plant-based sausage. Smoked kielbasa would also be good.
  • Green Pepper: Substitute with red, yellow, or orange bell peppers for different color and sweetness variations.
  • Onion: White or yellow onions work equally well.
  • Garlic: Garlic powder (½ teaspoon) can be used in a pinch, but fresh garlic is always preferred.
  • Beef Stock: Chicken broth, vegetable stock, or water with added bouillon cubes can be used.
  • Canned Tomatoes: You can use two cans of the same kind of tomato if you want.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Soy sauce (start with 1 ½ teaspoons) offers a similar umami flavor.
  • Italian Seasoning: Use a combination of dried oregano, basil, and thyme to your taste.
  • Smoked Paprika: Regular paprika works, but the smoky flavor will be less prominent.
  • MSG (Optional): Omit if you prefer, but a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese can add a similar savory depth.
  • Bay Leaf: Skip if you don’t have one, it won’t significantly impact the flavor.
  • Elbow Macaroni Noodles: Any small pasta shapes like shells, penne, or ditalini can be used.

Recipe Variations

Add any of the following ingredients for a twist on this American-style sausage goulash recipe:

  • Add Beef: Replace half of the sausage with ground beef to make goulash with sausage and beef.
  • Basil Pesto: Serve the goulash topped with a dollop of basil pesto.
  • Cajun Seasoning: Go bold with 1-2 tablespoons, adding a distinct Cajun flair.
  • Chili Powder: A teaspoon or two will add warmth and depth.
  • Corn: Frozen or canned corn adds a pop of sweetness and texture.
  • Fresh Herbs: Chopped parsley, basil, or oregano add brightness at the end.
  • Greens: Stir in a handful of fresh spinach or chopped kale at the end for a pop of green and added nutrients.
  • Lemon Juice: A squeeze of lemon juice will brighten the flavors and cut through the richness.
  • Make Sausage Goulash Soup: Add extra beef stock to make the goulash more liquidy and serve as a soup.
  • Mushrooms: Sauté sliced mushrooms with the sausage for an earthy flavor boost.
  • Potatoes: Dice 2 or 3 potatoes and add them when you add the green pepper and onions.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Add a pinch or two for a subtle kick. Adjust to your heat preference.
  • Red Wine: Splash in a glass for a sophisticated depth of flavor.
  • Rice: Omit the macaroni noodles, reduce the beef stock slightly, and serve your sausage goulash over rice instead.
  • Ricotta Cheese: Add a few dollops of ricotta before serving.
  • Shredded Cheese: Stir in mozzarella, cheddar, or Parmesan cheese at the end.
  • Tomato Paste: A tablespoon of tomato paste adds a deeper tomato flavor and richness.
  • Zucchini: Diced zucchini adds a fresh, slightly sweet element.

Use the JUMP TO RECIPE button at the top of this post, or scroll to the bottom to see the PRINTABLE recipe card with ingredient measurements and complete instructions.

How To Make Sausage Goulash

Process steps one through four to make this recipe.

STEP 1: Brown the sausage in the olive oil.

STEP 2: Add chopped peppers, onions, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables have softened and the garlic is fragrant.

STEP 3: Add in all of the other ingredients (beef stock, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire, Italian seasoning, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and uncooked macaroni noodles.

STEP 4: Simmer until the pasta is tender. Serve hot goulash with crusty bread for dipping.

Expert Tips

1. Brown the sausage thoroughly before adding the vegetables to ensure a rich flavor foundation for the goulash.
2. Stir the goulash occasionally after adding the noodles to prevent sticking and to ensure even cooking.
3. You can cook the macaroni beforehand and add it separately if you like, however, adding the noodles directly to the pot allows them to absorb the flavors of the sauce.

Recipe Notes

  • Be sure to remove any casings from the sausage before cooking.
  • I use MSG in almost all of my cooking, and I highly recommend using it in this dish, however, simply omit it if you want.
  • Feel free to use any kind of sausage, vegetables, or stock that you like. This recipe is very easy to customize to your liking.

Storage

Storing the Goulash

  • Cool the sausage goulash completely before transferring it to airtight containers.
  • Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days for optimal freshness.
  • The goulash may thicken upon refrigeration; add water or stock when reheating to adjust consistency.

Freezing

  • This goulash freezes well. Use freezer-safe containers and leave some space for expansion.
  • Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or reheat directly from frozen, adding extra liquid as necessary.
  • Consume within 2-3 months for the best quality.

Reheating

  • Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through. Alternatively, microwave in a suitable container, stirring at intervals to ensure even heating. Adjust the consistency with additional stock or water if the goulash is too thick after storage.
A bowl of sausage goulash on a white crocheted trivet with a fork and spoon nearby.

Recipe FAQ


What is traditional goulash made of?

Traditional goulash, originating from Hungary, is a hearty stew made of meat (usually beef), onions, Hungarian paprika, tomatoes, and sometimes bell peppers. It can also include other vegetables but is distinct for its rich paprika-infused broth. The meat is typically cut into chunks, seasoned with paprika, and slowly cooked with onions and other vegetables until tender. In some variations, potatoes or small dumplings known as “nokedli” or “csipetke” are added to the stew, making it a filling, standalone dish.


What’s the difference between American and Hungarian goulash?

The difference between American and Hungarian goulash is quite significant, mainly due to variations in ingredients and preparation methods. American goulash, often referred to as “American Chop Suey” among other names, is a simpler, one-pot dish that typically includes ground beef, elbow macaroni, tomatoes (either as tomato sauce, crushed, or diced tomatoes), and sometimes cheese. It’s more akin to a pasta dish than a stew and lacks the paprika-heavy flavor profile of traditional Hungarian goulash. American goulash has evolved into a comfort food with various regional adaptations across the United States.


Does goulash have to have beef in it?

Goulash does not have to have beef in it, although beef is the traditional choice in Hungarian goulash. Variations of goulash can be made with different types of meat, including sausage, chicken, lamb, or even game. The key components that define goulash are the method of preparation and the use of paprika. In vegetarian versions, meat can be omitted entirely or replaced with meat substitutes, mushrooms, or additional vegetables, still maintaining the characteristic flavors of paprika and other seasonings associated with goulash.

Did you make this American-style sausage goulash? Please rate the recipe and tell me how it went in the comments below. Also, stay in touch with me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to see more delicious food and recipes!

Printable Recipe Card

Close up of sausage goulash in a pot.

Sausage Goulash (American-Style)

Author: Kelly Neil
Sausage goulash is a simple, savory stew with Italian sausage, tender pasta, and veggies in a smoky tomato sauce. Perfect for cozy weeknights! Customize your goulash with your favorite vegetables, spices, and pasta shapes for an easy, hearty dish everyone will love.
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Family Meal Ideas
Cuisine American / Canadian
Servings 10 servings
Calories 519 kcal

Special Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons or digital kitchen scale
  • Large heavy-bottomed pot
  • Heatproof rubber spatula or wooden spoon
  • Digital kitchen thermometer
Need Metric Measurements?Use the button options below to toggle between US cups and Metric grams.

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 lbs mild Italian sausage, uncooked, casings removed
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika, or regular paprika
  • 1 teaspoon MSG, optional
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni noodles, uncooked

Instructions
 

  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once heated through, add the sausage in a single layer. Cook until the sausage is browned and reads 165ºF (74ºC) on a digital thermometer, about 7 to 8 minutes.
    1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 lbs mild Italian sausage
  • Add the chopped green pepper and onion, and minced garlic to the sausage. Continue to cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the garlic is fragrant.
    1 large green pepper, 1 large onion, 2 cloves garlic
  • Add all of the remaining ingredients, including the macaroni noodles. Stir well, then bring to a light simmer. Simmer the goulash until the pasta is tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve sausage goulash hot with crusty bread on the side.
    2 cups beef stock, 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning, 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon MSG, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, 1 bay leaf, 2 cups elbow macaroni noodles

Recipe Notes

    • Be sure to remove any casings from the sausage before cooking.
    • I use MSG in almost all of my cooking, and I highly recommend using it in this dish; however, omit it if you want.
    • Feel free to use any sausage, vegetables, or stock you like. This recipe is very easy to customize to your liking.
  • Storage 

    • Cool the sausage goulash completely before transferring it to airtight containers. Store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days for optimal freshness.
    • The goulash may thicken upon refrigeration; add water or stock when reheating to adjust consistency.
    • This goulash freezes well. Use freezer-safe containers and leave some space for expansion. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or reheat directly from frozen, adding extra liquid as necessary. Consume within 2-3 months for the best quality.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 519kcalCarbohydrates: 41gProtein: 19gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 11gPolyunsaturated Fat: 4gMonounsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 1048mgPotassium: 405mgFiber: 2gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 220IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 38mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate only. If accurate data is important to you, please verify it independently.

Did you make this recipe?Let me know on Instagram @kellyneildotcom or tag #kellyneil!

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is a delicious take on American Goulash. I love the addition of the goat cheese for a little something different in a pasta recipe!

5 from 5 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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