Chili Mac and Cheese – Jo Cooks

Georgann Dolfay

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This Chili Mac and Cheese is two great comfort foods all in one! Delicious and hearty, quick and comforting, perfect dinner for back to school and ready in under 30 minutes and in just one pot.

freshly made chili mac and cheese in a Dutch oven.

The Best One Pot Chili Mac And Cheese Recipe

This dish is perfect in many ways. It’s made in one pot, it’s done in 30 minutes which makes it the perfect for back to school dinners, and most importantly it’s the epitome of comfort food. It’s one of those dishes that you wish to keep eating once you start. It really is a one pot wonder!

I love dishes like these because they’re great pantry cleaners, so if you don’t have some of the ingredients I used today have fun with the substitutes! It’s such a sneaky way to incorporate some veggies into your dinner, and since it’s so good it’s one of those dishes you won’t be able to stop eating once you start.

a serving of chili mac and cheese in a white bowl.
ingredients needed to make chili mac and cheese.
  • Olive Oil – My oil of choice for browning meats.
  • Ground beef – I use extra lean, the excess fat would be unnecessary in this recipe otherwise.
  • OnionWhite or yellow is fine, something that can hold up to cooking.
  • GarlicI used fresh but minced is fine if you prefer, remember 1½ teaspoon is equal to one fresh clove.
  • Spices – For this recipe I used cumin, cayenne, chili powder, black pepper, and salt. A good quality chili powder will make all the difference in the world!
  • Beans I used black beans and kidney beans, both out of the can and drained and rinsed. If using dried beans, please refer to this guide for black beans and this guide for kidney beans to ensure your beans are suitable to eat.
  • Diced Tomatoes – The perfect way to use up that can you’ve had sitting around a while. This will add brightness and acidity to the dish.
  • Chicken broth – Low sodium is preferred, if you are soaking your beans in a salt mixture I recommend no sodium broth. You can also use beef broth or vegetable broth.
  • Elbow pasta – This can be replaced with any shape pasta.
  • Parsley – My favorite fresh garnish for both color and flavor!
  • Cheese – I used cheddar cheese for this one pot chili mac and cheese recipe but any sharp cheese will do. A blend of cheddar and mozzarella, or Monterrey jack would work perfectly well.

This recipe takes the work out of making both chili and mac and cheese! The beef chili, macaroni, and cheesy part all cook in the same pot.

process shots showing how to make chili mac and cheese.

To begin, you need to cook the ground beef for the chili part of this recipe. So heat the olive oil over medium-high in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Then add the ground beef and cook it for about 3 minutes while breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it’s no longer pink. If you are using fattier ground beef you will need to drain the excess fat before moving on to the next step.

process shots showing how to make chili mac and cheese.

Once the beef is crumbly and no longer pink, stir in the onion and garlic and cook over medium heat for another 2 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.

process shots showing how to make chili mac and cheese.

Now, let’s really add some flavor into the dish and get the chili going! First, stir the cayenne pepper, cumin, chili powder, salt, and black pepper into the ground beef mixture.

process shots showing how to make chili mac and cheese.

Next, add the black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, and elbow pasta. Then stir all the ingredients together and bring them to a boil. Now, reduce the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot with a lid, and cook for about 9 to 12 minutes or until the macaroni is done.

process shots showing how to make chili mac and cheese.

The best part! To finish the dish, stir in 1 cup of the shredded cheddar cheese. Do this gently so you don’t squish the macaroni, but it does need to be well incorporated and evenly distributed. Then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Now, cover the pot with the lid and let it sit for about 1 minute or until the cheese is fully melted.

When the chili mac and cheese is done, garnish it with fresh chopped parsley. Then serve it warm with some hot sauce, homemade cornbread, and yummy coleslaw if you like.

freshly made chili mac and cheese in a pot with a wooden ladle in it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Make Vegetarian Chili Mac And Cheese?

Yes! All you have to do is replace the ground beef with plant-based soy crumbles or just use more beans. Then just use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth and the recipe is now a yummy vegetarian option.

What Can I Add To The Recipe?

Pretty much anything you like! However, you need to keep the ratios in mind. For example, if you want to add corn or green or red bell pepper, you may need to use fewer beans to ensure that the dish doesn’t dry out. The same goes for the meat. You can add more meat or beans, but you need to balance out the amounts using the recipe as a template. 

a serving of chili mac and cheese in a white bowl.

Cook the beef, onions, and garlic according to the directions above. Then combine all ingredients in the slow cooker, save for the cheese, and cook on high for 2 hours. Check if the pasta has cooked to al dente perfection every 20 minutes after, don’t worry sometimes it can take up to an additional hour. Follow the above directions in regards to cheese and garnish.

Making chili mac and cheese in the Instant Pot is incredibly easy and I have just the recipe for you. So check out my Instant Pot Chili Mac recipe to learn how to make it!

freshly made chili mac and cheese in a pot with a wooden ladle in it.

This recipe will make quite a bit of chili mac and cheese, so there will be plenty of leftovers to take to work the next day. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 4 days. If freezing allow the dish to fully cool in a shallow container before placing in the freezer for up to 3 months.

a serving of chili mac and cheese in a white bowl.

Chili Mac and Cheese

Prep 10 minutes

Cook 20 minutes

Total 30 minutes

This Chili Mac and Cheese is two great comfort foods all in one! Delicious and hearty, quick and comforting, perfect dinner for back to school and ready in under 30 minutes and in just one pot.

Instructions 

  • In a large sauce pan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Since I’m using extra lean ground beef there’s no need to drain the fat, but if you’re using fatter ground beef, drain whatever fat there is. 

  • Stir in the onion and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes or until the onion softens and becomes translucent and the garlic is aromatic.

  • Add the cayenne pepper, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and stir. Add the black beans, kidney beans, tomatoes, chicken broth and elbow pasta. Stir everything together and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 9 to 12 minutes or until the elbow macaroni is cooked.

  • Stir in 1 cup of the shredded cheese then sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the top. Cover the pot for about 1 minute just until the cheese melts. 

  • Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

Notes

  1. Drain the fat. If you are using ground meat with a higher fat content you need to drain the fat once the beef is browned to prevent the dish from having a greasy taste and texture.
  2. Don’t overcook the macaroni. Check the elbow macaroni after 9 minutes of cooking. You want the pasta to be cooked but not turn to mush when you stir in the cheese.
  3. Make it spicier. If you want to up the level of heat add some diced jalapeños or chipotles in adobo when you sauté the onions with the ground beef.
  4. Pasta: The elbow macaroni can be replaced with any shape pasta.
  5. Leftovers: Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 4 days. If freezing allow the dish to fully cool in a shallow container before placing in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1servingCalories: 496kcal (25%)Carbohydrates: 44g (15%)Protein: 26g (52%)Fat: 23g (35%)Saturated Fat: 10g (63%)Cholesterol: 69mg (23%)Sodium: 964mg (42%)Potassium: 753mg (22%)Fiber: 6g (25%)Sugar: 4g (4%)Vitamin A: 790IU (16%)Vitamin C: 20mg (24%)Calcium: 282mg (28%)Iron: 4.4mg (24%)

Notice: Nutrition is auto-calculated for your convenience. Where relevant, we recommend using your own nutrition calculations.

freshly made chili mac and cheese in a Dutch oven.

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