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What is the Difference Between Goulash and American Chop Suey

There is a big debate over whether or not your pasta dish is called American chop suey or goulash or if they are the same things.

If you are sitting around the dinner table debating its “real” name, let’s settle it here and now.

Whatever you want to call it, American chop suey, American goulash, or Johnny Marzetti all refer to the same comfort food.

This traditional dish consists of ground beef, macaroni elbows, chopped onions and green peppers, Italian seasonings, and tomato sauce. It is great comfort food that is super easy and economical to make.

Up close bowl of American chop suey: Macaroni elbows, ground beef, green peppers and tomato sauce.

Being from New England myself, it has always been American chop suey to me. Although many others outside of New England probably know it as American goulash or Johnny Marzetti.

My mom’s made the best American chop suey recipe that I grew up eating often if you are looking for a traditional New England recipe!

What we know as American chop suey is similar to traditional “goulash” but not the same. American chop suey is more of a ground beef and macaroni casserole or pasta dish instead of a soup or stew.

If you enjoy Pasta I have an incredible lasagna recipe without ricotta cheese.


Goulash is a Hungarian stew made up of meats, potatoes, carrots, lots of paprika, and other spices.

The name goulash comes from the Hungarian word gulyá which means a herd of cattle and the herdsmen were called gulyás.

The meats were prepared by the gulyás which is why over time the stew was named gulyáshús “goulash meat”.

Technically speaking goulash is more of a soup or stew and doesn’t include any noodles. Instead, they thicken it up with lots of meat and vegetables.

American Chop Suey

Chop suey is actually a Chinese dish that was brought over to America in the late 1800s. It made its way across the United States from San Francisco to New York City and became a popular dish in Chinatown.

Fast-forwarding to the 1960s, American chop suey became a popular comfort food that was served in restaurants, schools, and in many homes especially in the New England area.

From the Chinese dish, chop suey means meat and vegetables and that is where the name American chop suey came to be.

Many of us New Englanders know it as a great comfort dish for those cold winter nights. I have an entire post that describes how American chop suey is a New England thing.

American chop suey vs. American Goulash

I think that we can all agree that when we look into the history of what traditional goulash is that there are a few differences.

Hungarian goulash is a soup or stew made up of meats, vegetables, and seasonings. Whereas American chop suey is ground beef, macaroni, onions, green peppers, and tomato sauce.

When we are deciphering the difference between American chop suey and American goulash they are in fact the same things.

It is only a matter of what part of the United States you live in as to what you would refer to the dish as but the components are going to be the same thing.

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