$10.17 recipe / $1.27 serving

I was all set and ready to make another lentil dish when I saw this recipe and was hit with a serious craving for Goulash. I know goulash is exactly the type of basic “recipe-rut” dish that a lot of you are trying to steer away from but you gotta give this one a chance. Goulash is one of those dishes that if it’s done right, its really right but if it’s done wrong (hamburger helper anyone?) then it’s really really wrong. Well, Mehan’s recipe is oh so right. The red wine sauce is deep and rich and the soy sauce adds an interesting twist. You won’t be disappointed. It’s delicious, satisfying and inexpensive. This goulash fits Budget Bytes to a T.

I made only a couple small alterations to the recipe this time because the original was just that good. I used two green bell peppers instead of one red and reduced the wine to 1/2 cup, both in the name of cost reduction. I upped the diced tomatoes and sauce because I’m a tomato fiend. The rest is just as it’s written.

Oh, and here is my disclaimer: Goulash is one of those dishes that is different in just about every country that it’s made even though they all use the same name. So, before you email me with disgust at how this is NOT goulash, just know that “goulash” takes many forms. Thank you, the end.

(but I really do love every single email that I get, good, bad or ugly!)



4.5 from 4 reviews
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $10.17
Cost Per Serving: $1.27
Serves: 8
  • 1 lb. ground beef $2.88
  • 1 medium onion $0.59
  • 4 cloves garlic $0.22
  • 2 medium bell peppers $1.68
  • ½ cup red wine $1.10
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce $0.12
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes $1.46
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce $0.88
  • 2 whole bay leaves $0.04
  • ½ tsp oregano $0.05
  • ½ tsp basil $0.05
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes $0.05
  • to taste salt and pepper $0.05
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni $1.00
  1. Cook the ground beef in a large pot until thoroughly browned. Drain off the fat, if necessary (less than 10% fat ground beef usually doesn’t need draining). While the beef is browning, chop the onion and mince the garlic.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook until they are softened (2-3 minutes, stir occasionally). While the onions and garlic are cooking with the beef, dice the bell peppers.
  3. Add the bell peppers to the pot and continue to cook until they are slightly softened (2-3 minutes). Add the wine and stir well, allowing the moisture to loosen any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add the soy sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaves, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine, add a half cup of water then reduce the heat to medium low, cover and let simmer for a half hour.
  5. Stir in the dry macaroni, replace the cover and let the macaroni cook until soft (10-15 minutes). Stir every five minutes or so to prevent the macaroni from sticking to the bottom. Lower the heat if necessary but do not turn it down so low that it stops simmering.

Step By Step Photos

ground beefCook the ground beef in a large pot until thoroughly browned. I find that I don’t need to add any extra oil or butter to cook ground beef, even if using a low fat variety like 97/3.

drain meatDrain the meat if you are using a high fat content ground beef. My beef was 80/20 so I drained it well.

add onions garlicWhile the meat is browning, mince the garlic and chop the onion. Add them to the pot.

cooked onions garlic beefCook for a few minutes more until the onions and garlic are softened and slightly transparent.

add bell pepperWhile the onions are cooking, dice the bell pepper then add them to the pot. It’s okay if stuff starts to stick to the bottom of the pot during all of this, the wine will “deglaze” the pan.

add wine deglazePour in your wine, stir it all around and scrape up anything that has stuck to the bottom of the pan – that’s where all of the flavor lies!

tomatoes and seasoningAdd everything else except the pasta (diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaves, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper). Stir it all together.

simmerAdd a half cup of water, place a lid on top, reduce the heat to medium low and let it all simmer together for a half hour. (I was baking some no-knead bread at the same time, see it in the background? It turned out great!)

macaroniAdd the macaroni, stir it in, put the lid back on and let it simmer until the pasta is fully cooked (10-15 min.). Stir it occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom.

GoulashThen it’s all done and OH SO DELICIOUS!

GoulashNOTE: I used a $7 dollar bottle of wine, you really don’t need anything more expensive for this recipe. You can find some decent wine between $7-$10 per bottle and the rest of the bottle can be enjoyed with dinner. Or, buy a four pack of the mini bottles and use one at a time for cooking.


  1. Ellen Cormier says:

    can you nix the wine? and would it still taste good? I love to make this but am not a big Wine drinker.

  2. Alex says:

    This maybe a silly question but when you are cooking with bay leaves do you take them out after cooking or leave them in?

    • Yes, you take them out after cooking because they stay thick and tough. Not a silly question, I get that one a lot. :)

  3. Dana says:

    Can leftovers be frozen? How would you reheat it?

    • Yes, this freezes really well. I just freeze single serving portions in resealable plastic containers, then reheat in the microwave until it’s hot all the way through (you’ll want to stir a few times during reheating).

  4. I haven’t had a dish like this since I was a little kid (Okay, okay… maybe the dining hall served something like this in college, but we called it “slop!” It never smelled this good!).

    I’m certain whatever my Italian-American family made wasn’t authentic Hungarian goulash, so I’m definitely not judging you on too much tomato, the lack of paprika, or addition of soy sauce. Ha!

    This is simmering now and smells great. I’d gotten some free ground venison and this goulash seemed perfect for it. The only changes I made were a little extra soy and wine (cuz, why not?!) and I did end up adding some paprika because I felt like I should.

    Can’t wait to eat it. Likely I’ll have to restrain myself from consuming far too much.

  5. Jahyeon says:

    Going to make this tonight, excited for a warm dish since it’s -10°F here in Minnesota! Im going to double the recipe so i have lots of leftovers:)

  6. Rachel DeJonge says:

    Both the boyfriend and I enjoyed this recipe very much, and enjoyed finishing the rest of the bottle after dinner even more.

  7. A++! The only modifications I made were adding roughly-chopped mushrooms with the onions/garlic (seemed like a recipe that would accept my attempts to sneak in extra veggies at every turn) and finishing with a dollop of sour cream when serving. I love the little kick from the pepper flakes, and the depth from the red wine. So psyched to bring some leftovers to work tomorrow for an envy-inducing lunch.

  8. Barbara says:

    Just found this recipe the other day and made it last night–a big hit! My husband’s mom, a US Midwest cook, made a dish she called goulash that was like this, but hers didn’t taste as good (sorry, Mom!). My only change was to use a red bell pepper for the green ones. Looking at this post also led to the one about freezing wine…what a terrific idea! I have the remains of last night’s bottle in the freezer now. Love your blog; I’m finding so many recipes I want to try.

  9. Stefanie says:

    Made it tonight, have a ton of leftovers and am happy about it. :) Think next time I’ll add a few additional vegetables, but that’s what’s great about this dish, you can add anything that works for you. Thanks for posting this, I’ve used your site so far for a couple of recipes and each of them have been a hit with me and my friends!

  10. Dominique H says:

    Made this tonight with ground turkey instead of ground beef (it was in the freezer). I’m looking forward to leftovers! Boyfriend liked it too.

  11. So I made this tonight and all five of my children had seconds. It is extremely rare to get majority approval at my house, we didn’t even need to bribe them with seconds on strawberry flavored milk. Will be making again!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Here in the heartland (Ohio) we call this Johnny Marzetti. The name comes from the Italian restaurant where the dish originated in Columbus, Ohio. Stir in cheese – cheddar or Parmesan – and it’s even better. It’s a hearty, cold-weather staple around here. Add a crusty bread and salad or green vegetable and you’re good to go!

  13. I made this last night, was so good………but the leftovers I had for lunch were even better. Thanks f or sharing the recipe. :)

  14. Anonymous says:

    Made this tonight, my son loved it. And he’s as picky as they come!!

  15. Update! I ended up using just water instead of wine and the dish was a complete hit! (imagine what it would be WITH the red wine? :)
    Thanks for another great recipe!

  16. Well, the red wine really does give it a unique flavor. In its absence I would say use some beef stock but a half cup of beef stock is hard to come by without having extra… I would say you could also try adding 2 Tbsp of either balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar for that extra zing that wine usually adds. It will still be different but I think it would be nice. You may also need to add a little water (1/4 – 1/2 cup) in the absence of the wine but play it by ear. Add it in at the end if it looks like the macaroni made it too dry. I hope that helps! Good luck!

  17. I’m thinking of making this tonight for my family (I’m a flexitarian but they love their beef and macaroni :P) and I was wondering how essential red wine is to this recipe and are their any suitable substitutes? We have none on hand at the moment and working on a tight budget has its constraints.

  18. Kymberly L says:

    …and it makes great left overs because it gets nice and creamy overnight.

  19. Kymberly L says:

    I put zucchini (usually sauteed in bacon grease)and kidney beans in my goulash :)

  20. I made this for dinner tonight with the no-kead bread and it was SO delicious! I am a fraction hungarian and have only had a very traditional sort of goulash…but this was a great, unexpected change from the norm. I actually think I like it better! The only this I did differently is use egg noodles instead of elbow mac (it was all I had on hand).

    Also, I used Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon wine which, if you haven’t tried yet is amazing, as well as all the other Cupcake varieties. They are my favorites! Reasonable too!

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never heard of this kind of goulash, I’ve only seen/heard/eaten goulash as A soup(with potatoes, not macaroni), but it’s probably because I live in Europe and the Hungarian goulash is the only goulash imaginable – well, no need for other kind of goulashes since the Hungarian one is so damn delicious. But this does sound good, though, and I’ll definitely try it sometime.

    Keep on the good work! As a poor student it’s great to have inexpensive but delicious recipes! And it’s funny to notice how much difference there is in prices between USA and Europe…

  22. Honestly, I’ve never used it… I’m not really sure what differentiates the two. If I can get a cheap bottle of red for $7, that’s worth using some in the recipe and enjoying the rest :)

  23. Anonymous says:

    Beth, how do you feel about red cooking wine? Is that an acceptable replacement for red wine? Everytime I buy wine for cooking, I end up drinking the bottle and never saving any for the next time I cook.

  24. This is FANTASTIC! We have had it twice, and it will be in our monthly rotation for quite some time, I expect. Your site is great, and we have enjoyed some of your other recipes as well. Thank you!

  25. Anonymous says:

    Made this last night for my friends. Everyone said it was “THE BEST THING THEY EVER ATE!” Thanks for all the great recipe ideas! :)

  26. Beth,

    Second dish I’ve made of yours this week, for the first time, and I’m hooked on your site. This was a big hit as well. My fiancee had 2 helpings and I had one big one and had to practice some self-control to not go back for 2nds. It also made the house smell so good. Even the cats were sniffing the air, and one of them got to my plate after I was done and he approved. I served this with crescent rolls. The only thing I changed was I used a 12 oz bag of macaroni, and my fiancee requested a smaller macaroni. I think I used medium.


  27. Anonymous says:

    Just wanted to say this looks really good. Your other recipes look so appetizing. I have been intrigued and will try one for the first time next week. Keep this site going!

  28. This looks really good. I can’t wait to make this.

  29. my mother in laws version of “goulash” was add a can of tomato soup and mix it with the cooked beef and noodles ::shudders:: i still have to make it sometimes for hubby ..i add some paprika to try though to spice it up a bit

  30. Anonymous says:

    In New England, this dish is called American Chop Suey. It also doesn’t have wine or soy sauce in it — usually very very simple seasoned.

  31. Sounds great! I’m going to try it tonight. This sounds like an improved version of my gran’s…except she always puts kidney beans in hers. Most likely because my gramps loves kidney beans in every thing. haha
    Thanks for all the great recipes!

  32. Wendy, the goulash name is is just local label. My husband’s family grew up calling a beef/macaroni dish like this as “spaghetti”.

    I would assume it’s the wine/soy sauce that add the extra depth to this recipe. It looks yummy. I may have to make this. Looks yummy!

  33. That’s a lot fancier than the one my mom used to make! ;)

  34. Wendy R says:

    I’m not being critical here – I thought Goulash was supposed to heavily feature paprika. I’m probably just thinking Paprikash… But this mix here looks really good, have all the items in my pantry and I will definitely try it.

    P.S. Several of your recipes have made it into heavy rotation in my house so 1) Many Thanks and 2) Keep it up!

  35. I make a dish similar to this (typed up on a recipe card by my mother years ago) called ‘Beef Poor Boy,’ but I just call it beef and noodles or homemade hamburger helper.

    I use about 2 1/2 cups (roughly equal amounts) of carrots/celery/onions, some garlic, and 4 c. beef broth (or Better than Bouillon, whatever) to 2 c. elbows.

    I’ll tell you, it’s saved me a bunch of times when hungry teenage boys want to devour everything in sight, and they all like it.

  36. In my family we have an almost identical recipe (no wine or soy sauce, but you know), and we call it Glop. Doesn’t that make it sound SO yummy?

  37. Hahaha, yeah, I have a feeling that Hungarian Goulash is the “original”… this one is more like “Mid-Century American” Goulash. :P

  38. LOL…I’d never thought that there was any other kind of goulash other than Hungarian Goulash. Goulash is such a great weeknight fall meal!

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