American Chop Suey

American Chop Suey Recipe
The Spruce
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 25 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
522 Calories
26g Fat
37g Carbs
38g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 522
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 26g 33%
Saturated Fat 10g 48%
Cholesterol 109mg 36%
Sodium 734mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 37g 13%
Dietary Fiber 6g 21%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 38g
Vitamin C 24mg 118%
Calcium 112mg 9%
Iron 6mg 36%
Potassium 1173mg 25%
*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 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."

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 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped, optional

  • 2 pounds ground beef

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

  • 1 (8-ounce) can 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
    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
    The Spruce
  6. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring and breaking up, until the beef is cooked through and no longer pink.

    Add the ground beef and cook
    The Spruce
  7. Add the garlic and garlic powder and cook, stirring for 1 to 2 minutes longer.

    Garlic and garlic powder added
    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. 

    Stir in the crushed and diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste
    The Spruce
  9. Add the drained macaroni to the sauce, mix well, and heat through. Serve and enjoy.

    American chop suey garnished with basil
    The Spruce

How to Store

  • This recipe will keep for three to five 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 keep it from sticking from the pan. Or add some oil or butter to the pan before adding in the leftover chop suey.
  • Like other casserole-type dishes, American chop suey freezes well. Make sure it is cooled thoroughly, place any leftovers in an airtight container, and freeze. It will keep for up to three months in the freezer. Defrost in the fridge before reheating.

Tip

  • Many pasta shapes can work in this dish, but small, open 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 yellow or red peppers.
  • Sauté 4 to 8 ounces of sliced fresh mushrooms with the onions.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes for a little heat.
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian seasoning.

Is Goulash the Same as American Chop Suey?

Yes, goulash and American chop suey are the same dishes in the U.S. While recipes vary slightly, the basic dish consists of pasta, ground beef, and tomatoes. The name American chop suey is more common in the northern states while goulash is more common in the South. Note that American goulash is a different dish than Hungarian goulash.