Home Recipes Easy Chili Mac (One-Pot Recipe)

Easy Chili Mac (One-Pot Recipe)

Nothing hits the spot on a chilly day like a bowlful of hearty chili mac!

Seasoned ground beef, tender pasta, kidney beans, and more get smothered in cheesy saucy goodness.

It’s like a warm hug for your soul in one pot. And since it’s ready in 30 minutes, it’s perfect for busy weeknights when you need something fast!

Chili Mac in a Sotck Pot, Overhead view
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Homemade Chili Mac 

Is it chili, or is it mac and cheese? It’s both! Chili mac is a comfort food mashup you make in just one pot. 

You get the cheesy goodness of mac and cheese combined with the hearty, meaty boldness of chili. 

It’s the perfect winter warmer and is great for feeding a hungry family after a long day. 

But wait, here’s the best part! It comes together in just 30 minutes, and cleanup is a breeze.

Ingredients 

Don’t let the long list fool you! All of the ingredients here are simple and accessible. Many are probably hiding in your cupboards right now.

Here’s what you need:

  • Olive Oil – For sauteeing the veggies and browning the beef.
  • Onion – I prefer to use yellow onions. White or sweet onions work, too. 
  • Garlic – Fresh garlic makes the chili more aromatic.
  • Bell Pepper – The ideal veggie for chili mac! It adds nutrients, texture, and a complementary flavor.
  • Ground Beef – To make the dish more savory and hearty. For lower fat, use lean ground beef.
  • Spices – Chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper are the seasonings I use. They add more complexity and depth.
  • Crushed Tomatoes – Canned crushed tomatoes make the chili bold and robust.
  • Tomato Sauce – For that saucy goodness! Use any store-bought brand you like. You can also use homemade tomato sauce.
  • Kidney Beans – A convenient and affordable mix-in for ramping up the protein. Black beans or red beans are other alternatives you can use.
  • Beef Broth – For cooking the pasta. It also adds another savory layer for more depth. 
  • Macaroni – I use elbow macaroni. It’s an inexpensive and filling way to increase the servings. Plus, it puts the “mac” in chili mac!
  • Cheddar Cheese – I recommend freshly grated cheddar. It melts more readily than the pre-shredded store-bought stuff. Monterrey and pepper jack are also great substitutes. 
  • Mozzarella Cheese – For more ooey-gooey goodness! Mozzarella makes this dish extra creamy and cheesy. Like cheddar, freshly grated is best.
  • Diced Green Chilis (optional) – The ideal ingredient for a little kick of heat! It makes the dish spicy without being fiery hot. For a milder chili mac, skip it.
  • Sour Cream (Optional) – Add a dollop on top.
Chili Mac in a white bowl

How to Make Chili Mac

In just 30 minutes, you can make this one-pot chili mac recipe! So it’s ideal for weeknights when you have hungry mouths to feed.

Just follow these basic steps:

1. Saute the veggies. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook it until soft. Add the garlic and bell pepper. Cook them until they’re fragrant. 

2. Brown the ground beef and spices. Add the ground beef and cook until it’s browned. Add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Cook it for 1-2 minutes.

3. Add the remaining ingredients (except cheese). Mix in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, beef broth, and elbow macaroni. Bring it to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat. Cook it for 10-12 minutes. 

4. Add the cheeses and chilis. Remove it from the heat. Add the diced green chilies if using. Slowly stir in the cheddar and mozzarella.

5. Season and serve. Season it with salt and pepper. Add extra shredded cheese and sour cream if desired. Enjoy!

Homemade Chili Mac in a red stock pot

Tips for Success

Chili mac is an easy one-pot recipe that hits all the right comfort food notes.

Still, I have some tips to ensure you get the best chili mac!

  • Swap out the beef. You don’t have to stick to ground beef. You can substitute it with ground turkey, ground chicken, or even plant-based meat crumbles.
  • Go for grating greatness! Freshly grated cheese melts much better than the pre-shredded packages that contain additives. It’s an extra step, but it’s worth the effort.
  • Work some al dente magic. As the chili mac sits, the pasta will absorb more of the sauce. So, if you’re not eating right away, make the pasta al dente. It will soften as it sits.
  • Jazz it up with veggies. Chili mac is a great opportunity for sneaking in extra veggies. So add more to the pot, like spinach, mushrooms, or carrots. 
  • Give it a kick. Do you love spicy foods? Then turn up the heat! Add hot sauce, chili pepper flakes, or cayenne powder for more spice.
  • Top it off right. You can’t call anything chili without the toppings! I love a good dollop of sour cream. Avocado, fresh herbs, corn chips, and hot sauce are some other ideas.
Close-Up of Cheesy Chili Mac

How to Store 

Whenever I make chili mac, I always make extra. It freezes well, making it great to have on hand for a quick reheat meal.

Just note the pasta will absorb the sauce and become softer. To make it ahead, I recommend cooking the pasta al dente. 

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Either way, here’s how to store and reheat it:

To Store: Transfer the leftover chili mac to an air-tight container. Refrigerate it for up to 5 days.

To Freeze: Place the chili mac in a freezer-friendly container or bag. Freeze it for up to 3 months.

To Reheat: Warm it on the stove on medium-low heat. Add stock or water if needed. You can also microwave it until warm. Be sure to thaw it in the fridge overnight if frozen.

More One Pot Recipes 

Easy One-Pot Spaghetti and Meatballs
One-Pot Beef Stroganoff
One-Pot American Goulash
No Peek Chicken

Easy Chili Mac (One-Pot Recipe)

Course: DinnerCuisine: American
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes

Chili mac is an easy, one-pot meal no one can resist! It’s loaded with ground beef, macaroni noodles, crushed tomatoes, spices, and more!

Ingredients

  • For the Chili
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 onion, diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 bell pepper, diced

  • 1 pound ground beef

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes

  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce

  • 1 (14 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

  • For the Mac
  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 8 oz uncooked elbow macaroni

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or Monterey Jack)

  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies, optional

Instructions

  • Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the diced onion and cook until it’s soft. Add the garlic and chopped pepper. Cook until fragrant.
  • Add the ground beef and cook until it’s browned, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Turn the heat to medium-high, mix in the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, and beef broth, and bring to a boil. Then, add the uncooked elbow macaroni, stir, and reduce the heat back to medium, letting it simmer. Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the pasta is al dente.
  • When the sauce has thickened and the pasta is cooked, take the pot off the heat. Add the chilies, if using, and the shredded cheeses in small handfuls, stirring well between each addition until melted.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve with extra shredded cheese and sour cream if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Add 1 tablespoon of hot sauce or red pepper flakes to the pot for extra spice.
  • Substitute the ground beef for ground turkey or vegetarian crumbles.
  • Feel free to use other types of beans, like black beans or pinto beans.

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

6 thoughts on “Easy Chili Mac (One-Pot Recipe)”

    • Hi Dale! No, you don’t need to cook the pasta beforehand. It will cook in the liquid (crushed tomatoes and beef broth).
      But if you prefer, you can cook it separately. In that case, make the chili as written, then add the cooked pasta, cheese, and chilies right at the end. You won’t need the beef broth. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  1. I did as the recipe said and the noodles were hard with the above times. I had to let it cool simmer to medium for 25 -30 minutes for the elbows to edible. Suggest boiling elbows before adding.

    Reply
    • Hi Chris, thanks for the feedback. Sorry this didn’t work out the way you hoped. Maybe the liquid in the pot wasn’t quite hot enough before adding the pasta.
      But your tip of cooking the pasta first is great! Just be sure to add it right at the end, so it doesn’t overcook in the sauce 🙂

      Reply

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