Chili Mac and Cheese – incredibly delicious quick and easy meal featuring two of your favorite comfort foods Chili and Mac and Cheese. Cheesy, beefy, filling, scrumptious dinner ready in just 30 minutes – all made in one pot!
Hearty and over-the-top delicious dinner in just 30 minutes?! Count me in!
Every home cook needs this kind of dish, especially on busy weeknights. And the best part? Everything happens in ONE POT; so that means lesser clean up which is a major win!
Our sauce is packed with everything you want in a Chili – beans, ground beef, rich tomato-based sauce seasoned with chili powder, of course, and a handful of other spices and seasonings.
Top that off with the cheesy goodness from Mac and Cheese and you’ll have one scrumptious and satisfying meal that you can easily add to your weekly menu.
So dang GOOD!
What’s the Difference Between American Goulash and Chili Mac?
Ahh. Good thing you asked! Although both Goulash (recipe HERE) and Chili Mac recipes are one-pot meals that feature ground beef, elbow macaroni, and a tomato-based sauce, the latter has somewhat more to offer.
Chili Mac and Cheese includes beans (I use both red and white kidney beans) and chili powder which is a spice blend of dried chilis and other spices like cumin, onion, and garlic powder.
What Goes in a Chili Mac and Cheese?
There’s nothing unusual in my chili mac recipe here. You probably have everything sitting in your pantry already. But if you don’t have all of them yet, you can easily find them at the grocery store. Below are the ingredients that I use for my one-pot chili mac recipe including the ingredient substitutes, too.
- Cooking Oil – any cooking oil would do, but I usually use olive oil when browning meat. See my How to Dispose of Cooking Oil.
- Ground Beef – I use extra lean ground beef for this recipe. But if you’re using fatter ground beef, drain whatever fat there is. You may also use ground chicken, pork, and turkey meat.
- Onion and Garlic – Fresh garlic and onions would yield better flavors and an exceptional fragrance. Here’s how I cut Garlic and Onion.
- White and Red Kidney Beans – To make this dish quick and easy for busy home cooks and extra heartier (good enough to feed a family of 5), I decided to use canned white and red kidney beans, both drained and rinsed.
- Tomatoes – I use both canned diced tomatoes and tomato sauce to add acidity and more depth in flavor to this dish. See my How to Cut Tomatoes.
- Chicken Broth – Always go with the low-sodium chicken broth so you can easily adjust the salt in this recipe.
- Elbow Pasta – You don’t need to cook your pasta ahead as it will be cooked in the same pot as the chili. Furthermore, you may also replace this with any type of pasta especially those that can hold the sauce well.
- Cheese – I use cheddar cheese but you may replace it with any sharp cheese. You may also use a blend of cheddar and mozzarella.
Herbs and Spices
- Chili Powder – This recipe won’t be what it is without Chili Powder – a popular spice blend especially in Tex-Mex cuisine. Chili powder is a spice blend that differs from other kinds of spices and is not just pure dried chili.
- Cumin – The distinct flavor and aroma of cumin surprisingly made quite an impression on this chili mac casserole.
- Coriander – I love how the tart and citrusy flavor notes of this herb create an explosion of flavor to any dish.
- Oregano – One of the famous herbs added to pasta dishes. It has a refreshing pungent smell and taste but creates lovely flavors when added to a dish
- Thyme – I often use it along with other herbs like rosemary, basil, and oregano. The subtle minty and earthy flavor with a hint of sweetness and floral notes blends well with other herbs. Learn more about Thyme.
- Cayenne Pepper – It wouldn’t be chili mac casserole without the presence of heat. Feel free to add or omit depending on the level of your heat tolerance. 😉
- Salt and Pepper – The power seasoning duo that can make or break any dish. See more about Pepper.
- Parsley – Often used as a garnish but offers refreshing flavor too when added to this easy chili ma and cheese.
- Make it Fiery Hot – you can make it spicier by adding chili peppers like habanero, scotch bonnet peppers, or jalapeno peppers. Don’t forget to wear gloves when handling these bad boys as they can burn your skin.
- 3-cheese Combo – feel free to add more cheese to this chili mac recipe. You can choose among Velveeta, gouda, mozzarella, provolone, and jack cheese to add more cheesy goodness to this chili mac.
- Vegan Chili Mac and Cheese – guilt-free and healthier version made with vegan cheese and vegan broth. Click here for the full recipe.
- Chili Mac Casserole – Transfer the chili mac to a baking dish and top it off with more cheese. Bake for 25 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
- Instant Pot Chili Mac – take a shortcut with the ever-reliable instant pot!
What’s the Best Cheese for Chili Mac?
I simply prefer cheddar cheese for this recipe. But feel free to replace it with a blend of cheddar and mozzarella. Provolone also makes a good candidate for this recipe just like in our Sloppy Joes recipe.
Our recipe for today makes quite a big batch of comfort food. So just in case of leftovers:
- Store the leftover in an airtight container.
- Refrigerate – Keep refrigerated for up to 4 days.
- Freeze – Or store the leftover in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Pro Tip: Chili mac and cheese can also be made ahead of time by taking it off the stove when the pasta is still firm to touch. It should still be saucy. Allow it to cool at room temperature, then top with cheese. And use the same storing instruction.
- Thaw overnight inside the fridge when ready to serve.
- Stove – On medium-low, heat the saucepan with a little bit of oil. Add the chili mac and stir gently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed.
- Microwave – Heat for 2-3 minutes on medium power, stirring occasionally at 30 seconds intervals. Heating time varies depending on the serving size being heated.
- Oven – Cover loosely with foil and bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes or until heated through.
Pro Tip: Add a tablespoon or more of broth to loosen the macaroni and to bring back moisture.
It really depends on your taste preference. Add more or use less, it’s completely up to you. Though, you’ll need to adjust the broth to get the right consistency.
Add more cheeses like provolone, gouda, gruyere, jack cheese, or mozzarella to make your chili mac and cheese recipe to make it cheesier.
Yes, you can! Make a new dish out of your leftover chili with this easy chili mac recipe.
What to Serve with Chili Mac?
Serve this delicious and fiery baked mac and cheese with equally comforting dishes like these recipes below.
More Easy Comfort Food Ideas
- One Pot Puerto Rican Chicken and Rice
- Stovetop Mac and Cheese
- One Pot Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice
- Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Chicken and Rice Soup
How to Make Chili Mac and Cheese
Sauteing the Beef
- Cook the beef – Add oil to a large dutch oven, place over medium-high heat. Add ground beef, break beef apart with a wooden spatula, stir frequently until beef has been cooked through or brown and crispy, if possible. Drain excess oil if any. To avoid draining fat use lean or extra-lean ground beef. (Photo 1)
- Saute – Stir in onions, thyme, and garlic continue cooking for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion wilted. (Photos 2-3)
Cooking the Pasta
- Add all the remaining ingredients except for cheese and parsley – Add diced tomatoes, kidney beans, white beans, tomato sauce, and elbow pasta. Followed by all the spices; ground cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, ground oregano, chili powder, chicken broth, salt, and pepper to taste. (Photo 4)
- Let it boil and simmer – Stir everything to fully combine, bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover the pot and continue cooking for about 10 to 12 minutes or until the elbow macaroni is cooked. Start checking after 10 minutes. (Photos 5-7)
Topping it off with Cheese
- Add the Cheese – Once macaroni has been cooked, stir in shredded cheese and mix to fully combine. You may reserve half of the cheese to sprinkle on top of the dish.
- Broil – Place in heated oven and broil for about a minute or two or until slightly brown or cover pot for about 1 minute just until the cheese melts.
- Garnish – with fresh parsley, if desired, and serve slightly cool.
Watch How To Make It
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This blog post was first published in October 2019 and has been updated with additional information and a video.
One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
- 1-2 tablespoons or (14-28 ml) cooking oil
- 1 pound or (453.59 g) lean ground beef
- 1 large onion , diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon or (8 g) minced garlic
- 1 cup or (177 g) canned white kidney beans , drained and rinsed
- 1 cup or (177 g) canned red kidney beans , drained and rinsed
- 1 can or (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 can or (8-ounce) tomato sauce
- 4 cup or (1 L) chicken broth
- 1 ½ cup or (150 g) elbow pasta , uncooked
- 1 ½ tablespoon or (12 g) chili powder
- 2 teaspoon or (6 g) ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoon coriander
- 2 teaspoon or (2 g) ground oregano
- 1 teaspoon or (1 g) dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon or (0.5 g) cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt to taste
- black pepper freshly ground
- 1- 2 cup or (113- 226g) shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons or (8 g) roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Add oil in a large dutch oven , place over medium high heat. Add ground beef, break beef apart with a wooden spatula , stir frequently until beef has been cooked through or brown and crispy , if possible . Drain excess oil if any. To avoid draining fat use lean or extra-lean ground beef.
- Stir in onions , thyme and garlic continue cooking for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the onion wilted and aromatic.
- Add diced tomatoes , kidney beans, white beans, tomato sauce, and elbow pasta. Followed by all the spices ; , ground cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, ground oregano, chili powder , chicken broth , salt and pepper to taste .
- Stir everything to fully combine , bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover the pot and continue cooking for about 10 to 12 minutes or until the elbow macaroni is cooked. Start checking after 10 minutes
- Once macaroni has been cooked , stir in shredded cheese and mix to fully combine. You may reserve half of the cheese to sprinkle on top of the dish. Place in heated oven and broil for about a minute or two or until slightly brown or cover pot for about 1 minute just until the cheese melts. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired, and serve slightly cool.
- Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired, and serve.
Tips & Notes:
- Make sure to drain out fat if you are using fatty ground beef for chili mac and cheese.
- Store chili mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 4 days. Microwave to reheat.
- Freeze leftover chili mac and cheese in an airtight container in the freezer for about 2 months. Thaw and reheat – it is best reheated in microwave. Chili mac and cheese can be made ahead by taking it off the stove when the pasta is still firm to touch. It should still be saucy. Allow it cool at room temperature , then top with cheese. Put in an airtight container then freeze for about 2 months.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.