American Chop Suey (Macaroni and Beef) Slow Cooker Recipe

I'm sure we all grew up eating "Hamburger Helper." This is much, much better. 

It's homemade, uses from-scratch ingredients and has very little sodium. 

Some people call it Macaroni and Beef, some people American Chop Suey. 

Whatever you call it, this is delicious!

I had never heard of American Chop Suey before Amy Jo sent me an email wondering if it could be made in a slow cooker. 

She first learned of the dish on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  

I looked the name up on Wikipedia and learned that it seems to be a regional thing---

sometimes it's called Macaroni and Beef, and it appears that it was the inspiration behind Hamburger Helper. 


I love learning new things.

The Ingredients.
serves 6

1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained
5 bacon strips, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes --- any flavor, or plain
1 can water (empty tomato can)
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 (26-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
1 (16-ounce) package elbow macaroni (I used brown rice pasta)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

The Directions.

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. In a large skillet, brown the beef, bacon and onion all together until the meat is no longer pink. 

Drain well and plop into your slow cooker. 

Add everything else into the pot except for the pasta and cheese.

Stir to combine. 

Cover and cook on  low for 6 to 8 hours, or high for about 4. 

Stir in the raw pasta and cook on high for approximately 30 minutes, or until pasta is bite-tender. 

Serve in a wide-mouthed bowl with a handful of cheese on each serving.

The Verdict.

Amy Jo, thank you so much for letting me know about this dish! 

The slight smokiness from the bacon really flavors the meat well, and I loved how the pasta cooked in the pot and swelled nicely to create a wonderful casserole. 

The serving sizes are generous, here---I had a bunch left that I shared with my friend Lorraine and her family. 

My girls and Lorraine's girls all really liked the pasta with meat sauce. Success!

The leftovers taste great the next day, but the texture is different, and something to note. 

You'll find that the pasta really breaks down overnight and soaks up a lot of the moisture.

I'm sure we all grew up eating "Hamburger Helper." This is much, much better. It's homemade, uses from-scratch ingredients and has very little sodium. Some people call it Macaroni and Beef, some people American Chop Suey. Whatever you call it, this is delicious!

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at May 08, 2017

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What they say about this article

  1. I was just the other day talking to 2 teenagers about American Chop Suey... they had never heard of it...I grew up on it during the 60' & 70' seems, though, mom left out the bacon and dare she!?

  2. We call it Johnny Marzetti!

  3. american chop suey is the best - i grew up eating it and i love making it. there are SO many different ways that it can be spiced up.
    thanks for sharing a slow-cooker version of it. Of course I'm going to have to try it out now!

  4. Thanks for this -- my mother in law, sister in law, and nephew are coming to visit tonight and I was going to make baked pasta but the time they get here is a moving target so I don't know when to have it ready by! This will be perfect because I can set the Crock Pot on "keep warm" until they get here. And I have everything but bacon, but I do have some bacon crumbles for salad and soup so I will just use those.

  5. my mom calls this goulash, although according to wikipedia it seems that goulash would be more of a stew..

  6. I'd never heard of this until my MIL served it. My in-laws are from Mass. so I always assumed it was a regional thing - I'll have to serve it for them next time they visit!

  7. Oh I like the idea of pasta you can cook in the crockpot. I'm thinking maybe I'd pull those pieces of bacon out before I served I imagine they get kind of limp, did you leave them in?

  8. Cheryl, they did get limp, but not bothersome enough for me to want to remove them. I probably should have diced them into smaller pieces.

  9. I've never had American Chop Suey, but now I want some! This is a dish that Mr. GFE (aka Carnivore and Pasta Guy) will really like. Homemade "Hamburger Helper" dishes are some of my favorites, too. ;-)


  10. It's hotdish where I'm from--we don't add bacon, but sounds good! We call it "Red Hotdish" at our house. I love it.

  11. Anonymous10/11/2010

    wow I totally forgot about American chop suey! This was a staple in my house as a kid (my family hails from Rhode Island). Our version was not as fancy as this recipe though (no bacon and no cheese except for parm). sounds delish!

  12. I used to make something like this I just called Chili Mac. I used canned chopped tomatoes and chili powder instead of jarred spaghetti sauce (but never had a set amount, so it was different every time!) and put corn in it (I love the taste of corn with ground meat and tomatoes!). Didn't use bacon, but that sounds like a YUMMY addition! I'll be giving this a try!~

  13. Anonymous10/11/2010

    Oh yum, this sounds really good! I've never heard of American Chop Suey, but it's now on my meal list for next week. Thanks!

  14. I have never heard of this. Something new. This is a must try. Thanks for this wonderful idea.

  15. This was my grandmother's "go to" dish when she had to feed a lot of kids on short notice, minus the bacon and cheese, that would have been too fancy for her likes :) Thank you for sharing, brings back fond memories, and now I can make it in the crock!

  16. Anonymous10/12/2010

    Becky, we called this goulash too!

  17. I love the idea of making this in the crockpot. Would never have thought of that. I'm so glad you love that crockpot! Great laughing with you over the weekend!

  18. We called it Train Wreck at summer camp - a great dish to make on a campfire :) I'll have to try it in the slow cooker.

  19. This was basically called goulash at our house. Never heard of American Chop Suey before! Sounds like perfect comfort food to me.

  20. My mom made similar when I was little and we called it goulash too! I loved making this version because anything in the crockpot is phenomenal. My husband had never had anything like it and asked that I add it to our regular recipe rotation. Thanks for posting this one!

  21. Posed about my version of this here:
    Thanks for this. I loved it!

  22. I made this about a week ago, and we loved it! Hubby said it kind of tasted like lasagna. Definitely is going to become part of our crockpot rotation. Thanks for the recipe!

  23. This is what we used to call "Hamburger Pudding" when I was growing up. I'm having flashbacks! Tasty flashbacks!

  24. Hi, I grew up in Massachusetts and now live in Rhode Island. We call it American Chop Suey here. Goulash is something different and usually made with cuts of beef, not ground beef and contains paprika. American Chop Suey is a take off of Chinese Chop Suey, but Americanized. Most people around here make it with ground beef (I use ground turkey), garlic, onions and CELERY. Some people add green peppers too. Then you add tomato sauce, usually a chunky version. You then add the macaroni, typically elbows or shells. This is usually not a very soupy, wet type of food. Of course, everyone has their own way and there is no wrong way, if you like it! I have never seen anyone use bacon. Some people may add cheese, but this is not too common. Just a side note from a Rhode Islander.

  25. Anonymous1/10/2011

    Ooh, this was a staple in our house growing up..minus the bacon and cheddar..with parm cheese sprinkled on top. Grew up in Mass and have found from moving away that there are SO many regional dishes out there. I never thought to do it in the crock though. Thanks for the idea!


  26. I'm from Canada and I also have fond memories of my grandmother making "chop suey" when I was growing up. Apparently both my grandmothers had pretty much the same recipe for this even though they came from different provinces (Nova Scotia and Quebec).

    Our version never had any cheese or bacon in it. As far as I remember, it was elbow macaroni, beef, tomatoes, condensed tomato soup, onion, and celery (+ salt & pepper). I think bread crumbs were sprinkled on top before it went in the oven.
    It came out very thick. We usually "cut" it with a serving spoon and gave everyone a big chunk, but you could have sliced it if you were so inclined.

    I've been craving this off and on for months now. I'll have to try your crock pot variation (although I may modify to more closely resemble the family recipe). Thanks for the great idea!

  27. Linda Donovan6/16/2011

    No, no, no, no, no! You all have it wrong. Here is the correct recipe. It's not goulash, it's not Johnny - it is American Chop Suey!

    1 lb ground beef browned in a frying pan with 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic. This gives the meat flavor. When browned, toss in 1 large onion chopped into chunks, 2 large green peppers chopped into chunks, 1 large can of "Hunts" Tomato Sauce (not spaghetti sauce), an 1 medium can of chopped peeled tomato's. Simmer until peppers are just about done. Add this mixture to 1 lb of elbow macaroni cooked al dente'. Simmer together for about 10 minutes.

    Remember, "Hunts" is the key to this meal. It makes all the difference. Do not use tomato sauce from a jar, that is spaghetti sauce and you are just making another form of plain old spaghetti with meat sauce.

  28. I made this today and just ate my first bowl. Yummy!! The smokiness of the bacon absolutely added to the flavour of the dish. I'll be taking this to work all week...mmmmmm!

  29. Just threw this in and already it smells amazing. I was out of onions,peppers and diced tomatoes and all we had was presliced bacon so I tossed in a can of tomato sauce, half can of water and then added some onion powder, paprika and chili powder, so we will see how it turns out!

  30. Oh my! Never knew any name for this, we didn't have it at our house b/c my mom thought green papper was too strong a flavor to cook with(!), and garlic was, *totally* beyond possibility. But once a year we would go to my brother's Cub Scout potluck. I would seek this dish out (great meal for a crowd) and devour as much as I could.

    Whew, you just took me back 55 whole years! Crockpot = Tardis?

  31. never had that before but i will have to try that that sounds good hubbey might like it to

  32. I live in MA and my husband makes it like Linda.When we take a serving we top it with American cheese and microwave a few good! I'll have to try this version. Thanks!

  33. I never made this version before, but it is so funny reading all the comments from all over the place. I had a version of this for the first time when I was 22 at my ex MIL's house, it was one of her 7 weekly dinners (yes, that's right, they had the same dinner every week on corresponding days). Her version, as I remember, was ground beef, tomato soup, corn, elbow mac and slices of American cheese melted into it. Sounds gross, and I almost didn't try was one of those dishes I kept thinking about days and weeks later. Every now and again I will whip it up the closest way I know how, and its still good.

  34. I make chili mac, and no bacon, please. It's cholesterol hell for me, and one heart attack was enough! I grind my own round steak to get as little fat as I can get away with, and I make my own spice mixes so they can be low sodium (high sodium is a blood pressure killer), and add some chopped red, green, and yellow bell peppers, garlic, and onions to it, along with a can of diced tomatoes and some chipotle Tabasco. Add a touch of cornstarch for thickener, then the cooked macaroni. No one would miss the fat or salt, because it is so flavorful, healthy and delicious! I just never made it in a slow cooker, but I will now! Thanks! Please, for the sake of your hearts, leave out the bacon. I know it's wonderful, but open heart surgery isn't. If you don't start it with your kids, they'll never miss it, and you'll save their lives.

  35. We call this Goulash as well but with lots less ingredients!

    1# hamburger browned
    1/2 pkg froz onion/celery/carrot mix (don't know what it's called but its in the freezer veggie section @ bakers and has a french name)
    Brown together.
    Add 2 cups of noodles - we use penne, spiral or whatever
    Either 1 reg jar of pasta spaghetti sauce or 1 can contadina pizza sauce
    (We use the extra veggie style spaghetti sauce)
    Mix together & serve

    My "ultra will not eat bread or grains" toddler inhales this & my 5 year old picky person asks for it.

  36. My grandmother made this and called it Beefaroni. She did add bacon or cheese.
    Thanks will be quick in the crock pot.

  37. I grew up in RI, went to School in VT, and now reside in MA. I've had many versions of American Chop Suey throughout my life. I never had American Chop Suey with bacon or American cheese. The only cheese was parm or romano. Sometimes different macaroni was used, such as ziti, ditalini, farfalle, etc. Folks also sometimes used Italian sausage or mixed the sausage with the beef (my personal favorite). Sauce was sometimes jar, or homemade with Pastene kitchen ready tomatoes. This dish is more of an Italian pasta dish than a casserole.

  38. I leave out the cheese and add a generous splash of Worcestershire (right at the end). No cheese makes this less like everything else. I like this with a little plain bread & butter. ... The next day, the leftovers can have some ketchup stirred in and a little more Worcestershire, then microwaved and the change in texture is somehow not nearly as apparent.

  39. My mom called it "goulash". I LOVE that stuff! I'm going to try her recipe in the crock pot. Never thought of that! I wonder now if her tuna casserole would work ....