My Chili Mac is a mouthwatering masterpiece that’s so easy to make! Chili mac and cheese is a mildly spicy and hearty pasta casserole that absolutely overflows with ooey-gooey cheesiness!
One-pot pasta meals are lifesavers. Whether you’re a student on a budget, a parent, or a busy professional, you gotta love them!
Chili Mac ingredients are all delicious on their own: creamy beans, ooey gooey cheddar cheese, savory ground beef, tender macaroni, and the always drool-worthy garlic.
Toss them all together in a skillet, and you have a meal no one will be able to resist!
My chili mac recipe doesn’t use any seasonal ingredients, so you can really make it any time you want!
This easy chili mac comes together in 30 minutes and makes a hefty 7 servings. So it’s great for families, meal prep, or game day parties!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Ground Beef – You want to use lean ground beef — somewhere around 90%. But this is also the perfect recipe to swap in some healthier proteins!
Turkey, chicken, and even a meatless alternative are just as tasty as mac and cheese with ground beef.
- Onion and Garlic – Where there’s flavor, there’s onion and garlic! Don’t swap in onion or garlic powder.
Also, take the time to saute and bring out the natural flavors (and irresistible scents!) of these ingredients.
As for substitutes — green onion, shallots, or chives are all super choices.
- Elbow Macaroni – A classic mac and cheese noodle, but don’t feel boxed in! Any tube pasta is really fine. And if you want to use farfalle or fusilli? I say go for it!
- Pinto Beans – These creamy beans are my choice for chili. However, black beans or kidney beans work like a charm. You can even use a mix — go nuts!
- Cheddar Cheese – Use one that’s nice and sharp, and ideally freshly grated. Even better, use a variety of cheeses.
Parmesan, Monterey Jack, and Gruyere are three really delicious varieties that I love to use in chili macaroni and cheese.
Mix them into the dish, or just melt them on top!
Best Chili Mac Recipe Variations
- Make it meatless.
If you prefer not to make mac and cheese with ground beef, simply amp up the beans — even using more than one kind if you’d like!
Bell peppers or any hot chiles can also be tossed right in and sauteed with the onions and garlic.
Chickpeas and corn are two other vegetarian chili mac recipe faves of mine that you can add to the mix!
- Dress it up!
What chili toppings do you love? Jalapenos, avocados, Fritos, or sour cream? Toss them right on top!
- Make it spicier.
Play with the spices for your ideal heat level. Cayenne pepper works really well with the flavors in chili macaroni and cheese.
If you don’t want to spice up the whole batch, just add some hot sauce to your own bowl.
And don’t be afraid to go all out inferno hot — add some fresh chile peppers like jalapenos or chiles in adobo on top!
Chili Mac Recipe FAQ
Not at all! Use any noodle variety you have shoved toward the back of your pantry.
I recommend using a tube-shaped or smaller noodle — penne or ziti are good picks — but the only pasta I really don’t recommend is something long and thin like spaghetti.
Both dishes are similar — a one-pot meal featuring ground beef, tomato sauce, pasta, and plenty of cheese.
However, American goulash does not include beans.
Storing and Reheating Leftover Chili Mac and Cheese
Allow leftovers to cool, then transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for about 4 days.
Reheating is a breeze — just microwave for 20 seconds, give it a stir, and repeat until warmed through.
This is also the best chili mac recipe for make-ahead meals because you can freeze it for up to 3 months!
It isn’t a good idea to freeze, thaw, and then refreeze meat, so be sure to portion chili mac into separate containers if you plan on using leftovers for several meals.
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Other Easy Mac and Cheese Recipes
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 32 ounces beef stock
- 3 cups dry elbow macaroni
- 29 ounce can tomato sauce
- 30 ounce can pinto beans , drained and rinsed
- 14.5 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Add the ground beef to a large pot or Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until all the meat is browned, approximately 7 minutes.
- Line a plate with paper towels and drain the beef onto the plate.
- Add the oil and onions, cook over medium until the onions have become translucent, about three minutes. They will continue to soften as they cook. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Pour in the broth, pasta, tomato sauce, beans, diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.
- Bring the mixture up to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Uncover and cook for an additional 3 minutes until some of the liquid has been reduced.
- Stir in the cheese and serve warm.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published July 2022, updated and republished November 2023
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