This easy vegan goulash is quick & simple and features noodles cooking in an amazing tomato broth flavored with paprika. Plus, it is loaded with healthy vegetables and has a nice meaty texture. Makes for a delicious weeknight dinner that's healthy and great to feed kids, meat-eaters, omnivores, etc. Perfect for the whole family!
If you love this vegan hamburger helper, then you need to try my new American-style meatless Goulash! It is a saucy dish with a nice 'meaty feeling' from the lentils, but also veggie-packed, super flavorful and more importantly, super quick and easy to prepare.
And don't be afraid of the name! There are no weird ingredients, only wholesome and simple things I'm sure you already have on hand!
This recipe is perfect for the colder months when comfort food is all you want. Once you cook the lentils, then everything else comes together in one-pot, even the raw noodles. It makes for a large pot of stew-like cozy tomato-y macaroni that you just won't be able to stop eating. Nom nom.
What's to love about this dish
- Quick weeknight dinner.
- High-in-fiber and protein rich.
- Hearty and satisfying.
- Whole food plant based ingredients.
- Approved by kids and meat eaters!
American goulash vs Hungarian Goulash
Goulash originates from Hungary where it has been served since the 9th. century. It is actually a symbol of Hungary and there are multiple variations of the Hungarian goulash depending on the ingredients used.
The Hungarian goulash looks much more like a stew, almost a soup, packed with pieces of meat that are bathing in a tomato broth. There are often also large cubes of potatoes alongside other vegetables and paprika is the main spice flavoring the dish.
Over the years, an American version of a goulash was born, although it does look very different than the Hungarian one. Also called 'American Chop Suey', the goulash is made using elbow macaroni noodles and is much more of a pasta dish than a saucy stew, although also featuring meat in a tomato-paprika base.
Making a vegan version of a goulash
Even though meat is a key ingredient in a goulash, it is also a recipe that easily can be made vegetarian.
In this case, the meat is replaced with tender lentils that recreate a crumbly hearty feeling. It makes the dish super satisfying and higher-in-protein too.
Cheese sometimes is included part of an American goulash, but you really don't need it. If you were looking for a cheesy dish, then feel free to add a sprinkle of vegan cheese after the noodles are cooked.
Ingredients you'll need
- Elbow macaroni noodles
- Lentils (dry or canned)
- Dried oregano
- Vegetable broth
- Tomato sauce
- Diced tomatoes
- Produce: onion, celery, carrots and garlic
How to make it
Cook the lentils
Start by cooking the lentils in a separate pot if not already done. I find that cooking the lentils within the tomato stew just didn't work well and took so long to cook. They should be ready by the time you need them for the recipe.
I like to use about ¾ cup of dried lentils, which gives me about 1 ½ cup of cooked lentils (perfect amount for this recipe). I usually transfer the dried lentils in a small pot, cover with plenty of water, simmer for about 20 minutes or until they are tender (but not mushy) then drain to remove the extra water. Feel free to use canned cooked lentils!
In a large pot, start by sautéing the onion with the celery and carrots for 5-7 minutes. Then, add the dried herbs, paprika and garlic and cook for another minute while stirring often.
Add the broth, tomato sauce and diced tomatoes and stir. Cover and let it simmer for about 15 minutes on low-medium heat stirring a few times.
Then, add the noodles and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (keep al dente). Once the noodles are cooked, turn off the heat and add the cooked lentils. Stir well and adjust seasoning. Serve the vegan goulash immediately.
Watch how to make it
What kind of paprika to use
Did you know that paprika comes from pulverizing dried red peppers to a fine powder? Paprika is the national spice in Hungary and has a rich flavor with a beautiful bright red color. Different kind of red peppers (bell pepper, chili pepper, red peppers, etc) and varied methods of drying are used to prepare paprika, explaining the wide variety of flavor you can find. The most common are:
- Regular sweet paprika: milder in flavor and found in many Hungarian dishes, it adds a subtle sweet touch.
- Smoked paprika: also called pimentón in Spain, the peppers are dried over an opened fire, which create the smoky flavor. Can be used in meals to give it a BBQ-ish taste without having to use the grill.
- Spicy paprika: made using spicy peppers like cayenne. It has a nice kick to it, so use sparingly!
To make this recipe, use the kind of paprika you prefer! I actually love to combine about half sweet + half smoked paprika, but I'll skip on the spicy paprika so my kids can eat the meal.
- Cooking the lentils apart makes this meal not quite a true one-pot recipe, but actually speeds up the process. Lentils cook much quicker in water compare to a saucy tomato-y mixture, plus you can simply cook them while the stew simmers and they will be ready in time when you need them.
- Add the raw noodles only when the stew has simmered for 10-15 minutes so the flavor can deepen. The noodles will cook within 10-12 minutes and you won't want to let them cook longer than that so they do not become mushy.
- Be sure the broth is simmering before adding the raw noodles. Then, you can turn down the heat to medium-high and keep covered.
- Cooking raw noodles in a sauce instead of a large amount of boiling water makes it easier for the noodles to stick to the bottom. So, be sure to stir right away after adding them and then stir OFTEN, OFTEN and OFTEN.
- Again, remove the pot from the heat once the noodles are al dente. They will keep cooking longer just by soaking in a super hot saucy mixture.
This dish is amazingly versatile: you can swap the veggies and use mushrooms, corn or add some leafy greens. Also try adding a splash of Worcestershire sauce or even liquid smoke if you want a stronger smoky kick.
If you want the goulash to be saucier, then simply add more tomato sauce and don't hesitate to use fire roasted tomatoes for a charred vegetable touch.
Also, you can easily swap the lentils for a different protein such as tempeh, tofu, TVP or seitan. (psst...although not whole food plant based, if you are trying to impress meat-eaters, then consider beyond meat). In these cases, brown the beef substitution in the pot with the veggies before adding the broth for best flavor.
One more thing: some goulash recipes will have cheese included. If you are looking for a cheesy touch, then add some nutritional yeast at the same time you add the paprika. You could also include shredded vegan cheese or even some vegan cashew ricotta, simply add them AFTER the dish is cooked.
Keep leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. The noodles will soften and the sauce will slightly thicken, but still makes for great leftovers.
You can use the microwave or the stove top to reheat the leftovers. You might have to add a splash of broth or water to loosen up the noodles and also, don't 'over warm' as you don't want to cook it any longer.
Elbow macaroni noodles are a classic for an American goulash. But really, you can use any other type of noodles such as penne, orzo, farfalle, ziti, etc. I find it easier to use short noodles for this recipe. You can also use whole wheat noodles, although you might have to cook them a little longer and add more broth if needed.
Yes! You will have to choose gluten-free noodles. In this case, I recommend you cook the gluten-free noodles APART (opposed to add them raw to the tomato stew) and then, add them al dente to the saucy mixture. Use only half of the recommended broth (2 cups instead of 4). Gluten-free noodles can become mushy easier, so cooking them apart will help getting a better texture.
You can, but I found that the meal was as its best when just prepared as the noodles will keep cooking to a softer texture and the meal will be less saucy.
Other vegan noodle recipes you might like
- Tomato and cabbage one pot spaghetti
- Vegan baked ziti
- One-Pot Curry ramen
- Vegan hamburger helper
- Garlic cream pasta bake
- Quick creamy tomato pasta
I hope you enjoy this vegan goulash recipe as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
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Vegan American Goulash (with Lentils & Vegetables)
- ¾ cup dried green lentils (or French Du Puy) - or 15 oz drained canned lentils
- 1 yellow onion - diced
- 1 cup celery - diced
- 1 cup carrot - diced
- 3 large cloves of garlic - crushed
- 2 tsp dried oregano or Italian mix
- 1 tsp paprika - sweet or smoky or spicy (or a combo!)
- 4 cups vegetable broth - plus more if needed
- 28 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 8 oz tomato sauce
- 1 lbs uncooked elbow macaroni noodles
- If using dried lentils, start by cooking them. Transfer the lentils to a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and turn down the heat to low-medium. Keep simmering for about 15-20 minutes or until tender and cooked through, adding more water if needed. Drain well.
- While the lentils are cooking, warm up a large pot on medium-high heat and sauté the onion, celery and carrots with a pinch of salt for about 5-7 minutes or until browned (use a small amount of oil or water to prevent the veggies from sticking to the pot).
- Then, add the garlic, oregano and paprika, stir often and cook for about 30-60 seconds.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and vegetable broth. Stir, cover and let it simmer on medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes.
- Then, add the raw noodles and keep simmering for about 10 minutes or until al dente. STIR OFTEN as the noodles tend to stick to the bottom and keep covered. You might have to add more broth if too much water evaporated.
- When the noodles are cooked al dente, then add the cooked lentils, stir well and warm up for a minute. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve warm and top with fresh herbs and vegan ricotta if desired.
- Store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days. The noodles tend to soak up on the sauce, so add a splash of broth (or water) before reheating (I use the microwave, but stove top works too).
- This recipe is SO versatile! Add some corn, mushrooms, green beans, etc. Also, swap the beef substitution using tempeh, tofu, seitan or if you are in for a treat or try to impress meat eaters, then consider beyond meat!
- Cooking noodles in a sauce opposed to plenty of water makes the noodles want to stick to the bottom. You will have to STIR OFTEN!
- Keep mostly covered for the whole recipe to keep the water in the stew and make sure there is enough to cook the noodles. You might have to add more broth if too much water evaporated. Or, add more tomato sauce for a saucier dish.
- Some goulash have cheese included. If you want to, add some nutritional yeast when adding the paprika or even, toss some vegan shredded cheese when the dish is done, just so it melts slightly.
- You can use whole wheat elbow macaroni, although you might have to cook the noodles a little longer and even add some extra broth.
We really enjoyed this vegan goulash and all the hints that were given for success. Followed it exactly and it didn’t disappoint. A great hearty dish for apres skiing or tobogganing with the family. Thank you plantbasedjess. Will definitely make it again.
So good my husband can't stop eating! I burnt my lentils and used mini penne since it was what I had on hand. We topped with vegan parmesan and some vegan shredded cheese. Yummy!
Oh that's great! I'm glad you guys liked it, thanks for sharing! 🙂