Slow Cooker Goulash Recipe (Easy to Prep Ahead!)

This rich, beefy, and cheesy Slow Cooker Goulash is a winner for family dinners. As the ultimate dump-and-go crockpot recipe, it’s easy to prep hours in advance and uses simple, everyday ingredients. The hearty, comforting bites are always a hit!

This easy Slow Cooker Goulash recipe is the answer to your comfort food cravings. Featuring juicy ground beef, shredded cheese, and macaroni nestled in a rich tomato sauce, it has rich and hearty flavors the whole family will love.

What’s better is how easy slow cooker beef goulash is to throw together! Like these 60+ Dump and Go Slow Cooker Recipes, all you need to do is dump most of the ingredients in the slow cooker and let it work its magic. Get on with your day, and then in a few hours, you’ll have beefy and cheesy comfort food that’ll instantly curb your cravings.

What is goulash?

Goulash is a traditional Hungarian dish that simmers paprika-seasoned meat (usually beef, veal, pork, or lamb), vegetables, and egg noodles in a well-seasoned tomato-based broth. The authentic version is a lot like beef stew, while my Westernized version uses straightforward ingredients and is a little more thick and cheesy. 

You can cook goulash on the stovetop or over an open flame, but I much prefer to use the crockpot because it skips most of the hard prep work and long waiting times!

Ingredients for crockpot goulash labeled on counter.

Ingredients needed

  • Ground beef – Opt for lean ground beef, like an 80/20 mix. It still has a delicious beefy flavor but won’t make your slow-cooked beef goulash overly greasy.
  • Aromatics – A blend of chopped onion, red bell pepper, and garlic starts the goulash off with deep and irresistible savory flavors.
  • Herbs and seasonings – The goulash is simply seasoned with an Italian seasoning blend, salt, and black pepper.
  • Bone broth – It doesn’t get better than my Slow Cooker Bone Broth. It’s full of collagen, has rich flavors thanks to a mix of chicken and beef bones and veggies, and is easy to make and freeze. If you don’t want to make your own bone broth, feel free to use a quality store-bought chicken broth or beef broth instead.
  • Canned crushed tomatoes + petite diced tomatoes
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Elbow macaroni – I like macaroni best, but you can use another short-cut pasta, like penne, fusilli, or farfalle.

How to make beef goulash in the slow cooker

Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until it’s browned all over and cooked through. Transfer the beef to your slow cooker.

Add the remaining ingredients (except the pasta and cheese) to the slow cooker and stir to combine.

Cover with the lid and cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours or on LOW for 4 to 6 hours.

To cook the pasta, either cook it in a separate pot of boiling water according to the package instructions or add it to the slow cooker in the last 45 minutes of cooking. Stir until it’s submerged, then cover and cook until tender.

Note: My preferred method for the best taste and texture is to cook the pasta separately and then add it to the crockpot.

Stir the cooked pasta and cheese into the goulash until the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then serve and enjoy!

Tips and tricks

  • For even easier prep, brown the ground beef the night before and add it to the slow cooker liner with the other ingredients and place it in the fridge. The next morning, just add it to your slow cooker and turn it on to cook!
  • Are you planning on saving the leftovers? Then it’s best to cook and store the pasta separately from the goulash. If the noodles sit in the goulash for too long, they’ll absorb the liquid and become mushy.
  • The goulash can cook on LOW for up to 8 hours if you need some extra time.
  • Add a pinch of smoked paprika along with the Italian seasoning to replicate the flavors of classic Hungarian goulash.

Variations

  • Instead of ground beef – Make the goulash with ground pork, ground turkey, or ground chicken.
  • Add more vegetables – Like green beans, cauliflower, celery, carrots, leafy greens, zucchini, broccoli, or potatoes.
  • Instead of pasta – Make this recipe with cooked rice, quinoa, or the grain of your choice. You can also omit the pasta or grains entirely for a low-carb version.
  • Add a kick of spice – Use red chili flakes or a drizzle of hot sauce to give the goulash some heat.
  • Finish with a garnish – Top every bowl of goulash with fresh parsley, fresh chives, extra shredded cheese, or parmesan cheese to take the flavors over the top.
  • Vegetarian goulash – You can use your favorite plant-based ground meat substitute, vegetable broth, and vegan shredded cheese to make a vegetarian goulash instead.
Finished goulash in slow cooker.

Serving suggestions

Beef goulash is hearty enough to enjoy on its own or pair with a few simple side dishes when serving a crowd. When you need a family dinner to remember, serve the goulash with any of these dishes:

Storing

Like I said, the leftovers are best when you cook and store the pasta separately from the goulash. Pasta tends to become soggy if it’s stored with sauces or liquids for too long.

After the goulash cools to room temperature, store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. It also freezes well for about 3 months. Remember to thaw the leftovers in the fridge overnight before reheating.

To reheat, either zap the goulash in the microwave for 1 or 2 minutes or heat it in a saucepan over medium heat on the stove until warmed through. Serve with freshly cooked macaroni and enjoy!

Wine pairings for goulash

Just like a meaty bolognese sauce and hearty beef stew, ground beef goulash is perfectly complemented by full-bodied red wines.

  • The tomato-based sauce and rich meat are well-balanced when served with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
  • If you prefer sweeter red wines, enjoy the goulash with a glass of ​​Zinfandel instead.
Close up of goulash served in white bowl with spoon.

More slow cooker recipes

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Finished goulash in slow cooker.

Slow Cooker Goulash

This rich, beefy, and cheesy Slow Cooker Goulash is a winner for family dinners. As the ultimate dump-and-go crockpot recipe, it’s easy to prep hours in advance and uses simple, everyday ingredients. The hearty, comforting bites are always a hit!
5 from 1 vote
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat, until cooked through. Add to your slow cooker.
  • Add the remaining ingredients (except for the macaroni and the cheese). Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook 2-3 hours on HIGH or 4-6 on LOW (can let simmer on low up to 8 hours).
  • Stir in the cheese and stir until melted. Add the pasta and stir gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Enjoy!

Notes

After testing this recipe several times, I recommend boiling your noodles separately because they tend to get a bit gummy in the slow cooker. However, to cook the pasta directly in the slow cooker, add it during the last 45 minutes of the cooking time. Stir in the pasta, ensuring that it is all submerged. Cover and cook until just tender.
Did you make this recipe?Mention @platingsandpairings or tag #platingsandpairings!

Equipment

Nutrition

Calories: 357kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 66mg | Sodium: 998mg | Potassium: 459mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 840IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 184mg | Iron: 3mg

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