Slow cooker goulash is a delicious full meal-in-a-bowl. Ground beef, tomato sauce, spices and noodles all cook together to make this easy, delicious and satisfying dish!
Ground beef is to a slow cooker what a clump of raw clay is to an artist. It is relatively inexpensive and pretty uninteresting on its own. But, you can use it to make so many different master pieces. Goulash is one such piece of artwork.
To make goulash, you will need the following ingredients:
- ground beef - browned
- tomato sauce
- diced tomatoes
- crushed tomatoes
- minced garlic
- soy sauce
- Worcestershire sauce
- Italian seasoning
- smoked paprika
- chili powder
- bay leaves
- pasta - cooked (elbow macaroni is a popular choice)
- salt and pepper
Note: Exact quantities can be found in recipe card below
This recipe starts off with cooked ground beef. This can be accomplished stove top. Just make sure to (carefully) drain all of the melted fat that will accumulate in the pan while cooking. To keep things easy, I prefer to use my slow cooker to cook the beef in large batches (click here to see how) . Cooked ground beef can then be frozen in recipe sized portions so that it is always on hand and ready to go.
🥣How to assemble
Add the ground beef to your slow cooker followed by the tomato sauce, crushed and diced tomatoes, onion and garlic. Next add in all remaining seasonings (other than salt and pepper) and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for anywhere from 6-10 hours.
Prior to serving, remove bay leaves from slow cooker, add in cooked pasta, stir, cover and cook for another 15 minutes or so. Add salt and or pepper to taste, if needed, and enjoy!!
Can't The Pasta Just Cook In the Slow Cooker?
Yes! It can. However, there are some important factors to keep in mind:
- It can get mushy. Pasta takes about 30-45 minutes to cook in a slow cooker depending on the shape/size. If you want to cook the pasta in your slow cooker, keep an eye on it so you can serve it as soon as your pasta is ready to go. The longer it sits, the more water the pasta will absorb.
- It will use up a lot of liquid. Pasta absorbs almost 1.5 times its weight in water. If you were to add pasta to this recipe as it is written above, the sauce would become very dry. To compensate, add more liquid. In the case of this recipe, you can add more tomato sauce or even some beef broth.
- It will change the way to store leftovers and how long you can keep the dish on warm. If your people will be eating at different times, your later diners will wind up with mushier pasta. This is not a drawback for everyone, just something to keep in mind when deciding how to cook this dish.
How To Store Leftovers
I always hope for leftovers! But, not all leftovers are created equally. If you choose to make this dish by the described method of adding cooked pasta at the end AND you know you won't be eating it all, a great choice is to only mix pasta into the portion of your beef mixture that you know for sure will be eaten. This will avoid mushy pasta leftovers as you can just add freshly cooked pasta during subsequent servings. In addition, without pasta, this dish is a great one to freeze. Slow cooker goulash will last 3-4 days in the fridge and 4-6 months in the freezer,
Can leftovers be frozen? Yes, they can! Just be aware that defrosted pasta will definitely be mushier and may break up some when stirred. In my house, no one minds this texture change and we regularly freeze slow cooker dishes with cooked pasta in them. However, if you are an al-dente pasta purist, the above described method of adding fresh pasta is recommended.
Goulash is pretty much a full meal all by itself! It is great served with a side salad or vegetable such as broccoli or cauliflower. It is also great served with a side dish of rice, riced cauliflower, mashed potatoes or mashed cauliflower. A dollop of sour cream and/or shredded cheese on top makes for a wonderful addition. As does a side of some nice crusty bread.
😉Hints & Hacks
- This is a great dish if your people will be eating at different times. After the cooking time, turn your slow cooker to warm (or have it automatically switch to warm if your slow cooker has this feature) and everyone can have a hot and filling meal, no matter what time they are ready to eat. If you will be serving this dish multiple times throughout a day/evening, you may want to consider adding pre-cooked pasta to each bowl of goulash individually (as detailed above) .
- Leftovers reheat really well in the oven or microwave.
- I always recommend the use of a slow cooker liner. Of course, this is an optional step. I like to purchase my liners in bulk for a less expensive per-piece price. Here are the liners I buy.
- Not a fan of slow cooker liners? Parchment paper also works with this recipe and will leave you with virtually zero slow cooker clean up.
- In the market for a new slow cooker? Here is the one I am currently lusting after.
I was hesitant to label this dish as "lazy" because it requires cooking both the ground beef and the pasta before assembling in the slow cooker. Generally, this is way too much work for my taste. There is one way to bypass this: By cooking large quantities of ground beef and pasta in advance and freezing them in recipe sized portions. This does involve planning ahead. But if you make it a habit to always have these two items on hand in your freezer, many, many great dishes can be made and be considered "lazy" (or week-day-friendly). Click here for another great recipe that would be made much easier by just being able to pull these two items out of the freezer.
More Slow Cooker Ground Beef Recipes
Lazy Slow Cooker Goulash Recipe
- parchment paper or slow cooker liner (optional)
- measuring spoons
- Mixing Spoon
- 2-2½ lbs browned ground beef weight is before cooking
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 28 oz can, crushed tomatoes
- 1 15 oz can, diced tomatoes, with all juices
- 1 15 oz can, tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1.5 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 box elbow macaroni (or other medium sized pasta), cooked
- salt and pepper to taste
- shredded cheddar cheese optional
- sour cream optional
- place parchment paper or slow cooker liner in slow cooker, if using
- add all ingredients except pasta and bay leaves into slow cooker and stir to combine
- place bay leaves in slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 6-10 hours
- after cooking, remove bay leaves and stir to mix.
- add cooked pasta into beef mixture. This can be done by stirring directly into the slow cooker. Or, you can stir pasta into each individual serving. (Adding it into each individual serving will make leftovers easier to store).
- add any salt or pepper as per your taste preference (or place on the table so each diner can adjust their own)
- optional, mix sour cream and/or shredded cheese into each bowl based on your taste preferences.
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