American Chop Suey

Bowl of American chop suey on a cutting board
The Spruce
  • Total: 45 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 25 mins
  • Servings: 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
515 Calories
25g Fat
35g Carbs
37g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 515
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 25g 33%
Saturated Fat 10g 48%
Cholesterol 109mg 36%
Sodium 588mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 5g 19%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 37g
Vitamin C 21mg 107%
Calcium 108mg 8%
Iron 6mg 34%
Potassium 1082mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

You might know this as beef-a-roni, or macaroni and beef, or more generically as goulash, but American chop suey is a beloved and economical mixture of ground beef, elbow macaroni, and tomatoes. It's an appealing comfort food and a highly adaptable recipe that makes the best of pantry staples.

What's curious about the naming of this recipe is that it's a far cry from the Chinese-American version of chop suey, which typically includes meat, bean sprouts, mushrooms, and rice. There are many origin stories about this dish that believably position it as Chinese-American, but the most likely genesis comes from a Cantonese dish called tsap seui (chop suey) which roughly translates to "miscellaneous leftovers." You might consider it a fridge-clearing dish if you happen to keep a lot of vegetables around.

American chop suey recipes are typically defined by Italian-American flavors. Extra garlic and tomatoes give this version an abundance of flavor. The green bell pepper is optional; use a yellow or any other bell pepper you might have on hand, or skip it altogether. This recipe makes a big batch and, like chili, the leftovers are better the next day. Serve with warm bread or dinner rolls and a tossed green salad on the side.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1 1/2 cups onion (chopped)

  • Optional:

    1 cup green bell pepper (chopped)

  • 2 pounds ground beef

  • 2 clove cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes (1 large can)

  • 14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes

  • 8 ounces tomato sauce

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    American chop suey recipe ingredients
    The Spruce 
  2. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water following the package directions.

    Elbow macaroni in boiling water in a large pot
    The Spruce
  3. Drain in a colander and rinse under hot water. Set aside.

    Elbow macaroni rinsed and drained in a colander for American chop suey
    The Spruce
  4. In a large deep skillet or saucepan, heat the vegetable oil and butter over medium heat.

  5. Add the onion and bell pepper, if using. Cook, stirring until onion is softened and edges are lightly browned.

    Onions and peppers cooking in a large pot for American chop suey
    The Spruce
  6. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up, until the beef is cooked through and no longer pink.

    Chop Suey Recipe
    The Spruce
  7. Add the garlic and garlic powder and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes longer.

    Garlic and garlic powder added to American chop suey in a large pot
    The Spruce
  8. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes, the tomato sauce and paste, sugar, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the sauce mixture begins to boil. Taste and add salt, as needed. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. 

    Tomatoes simmering in a large pot for American chop suey
    The Spruce
  9. Add the drained macaroni to the sauce, mix well, and heat through. Serve and enjoy!

    American chop suey in a white bowl garnished with basil
    The Spruce

Tip

  • Many pasta shapes can work in this dish, but small ones work the best. Make it with cavatappi, mini or regular penne pasta, or ditalini.

Recipe Variations

  • Omit the chopped green bell pepper, if desired, or substitute with
  • Saute 4 to 8 ounces of sliced fresh mushrooms with the onions.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes for heat.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or Italian seasoning).

How to Store American Chop Suey

This recipe will keep for 3 to 5 days in the fridge and reheats well both on the stovetop and in the microwave. Add a little bit of water to thin it out, as it may need it during reheating to thin it out and keep it from sticking from the pan. Or add some oil or butter to the pan before adding in the leftover chop suey.