This easy dinner recipe only requires one pot to make, plus it features nutritious beans, of course. This Chili Mac Recipe is highly requested in my house. My kids call it chili mac and cheese, and I'm happy to include this on the weekly meal rotation.
This chili Mac recipe is so special to me. The main reason is because both of my kids eat it willingly and happily. Two, it features beans, specifically kidney beans! Check out all of my kidney bean recipes here.
You will love this Homemade Chili Mac
I have even made this recipe at the end of a playdate and had other people's kids beg to stay and eat dinner. If neighborhood kids vying for a seat at your dinner table isn't enough to convince you to try this recipe, I'll keep going.
My kids call this chili mac and cheese because it is super cheesy. The cheese melting is what pulls the whole dish together into a creamy delicious bowl. I also love that this recipe stretches half a pound of ground meat into a meal that serves 6 people!
Chili Mac Recipe Ingredients
This meal mainly relies on pantry staples, which is another reason I love it so much! If you have a can of kidney beans, canned tomatoes, macaroni noodles, some spices, broth, and half a pound of any type of ground meat, you can make this chili mac in less than 30 minutes!
- Olive Oil. Just a small amount to saute the onions and garlic. It does not need to be extra virgin olive oil, since we will be cooking this recipe. I reserve extra virgin olive oil for salad recipes, like my White Bean Tuna Salad.
- Onion. One medium regular white or yellow onion, diced.
- Garlic. Four cloves of garlic sounds like a lot, but it's the perfect amount.
- Ground Meat. You can use half a pound of ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken, or even Impossible Meat for this recipe. I've used all of them, and they're all great.
- Spices. You need one tablespoon of chili powder, which is a spice blend that contains smoked paprika, cayenne, garlic and onion powder. You also need an additional teaspoon of ground cumin for extra smokiness. Of course you also need salt and pepper for this chili mac recipe.
- Broth. The type of broth I use is dependent upon the type of ground meat I use. If I use beef, I reach for beef broth. If I use Impossible Meat, I use vegetable broth to keep it vegetarian. If I use ground turkey or chicken, I use chicken broth.
- Crushed Tomatoes. The smaller 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes is what we're looking for here. If you can only find the 28-ounce can, use the rest of the can for my Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers.
- Kidney Beans. One 15-ounce can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed. You could also use a can of red beans or black beans here.
- Macaroni Pasta. I'm using macaroni or elbow-shaped pasta in this chili mac, but any short-cut small pasta technically works.
- Shredded Cheese. One cup of shredded cheese. You can use cheddar cheese, or a bag that says 'Mexican cheese blend.' I like the Mexican cheese blend because it contains soft melting cheeses, like Monterey Jack, asadero cheese, and cheddar cheese.
See recipe card by scrolling down for exact quantities of ingredients.
Equipment you'll need for Easy Chili Mac
When it comes to one pan meals, you want the pan to be heavy and sturdy. Heavy pans with a thick bottom promote even cooking. They also retain more heat and help liquid ingredients come to a boil more quickly, resulting in faster cook times!
This mid-size Dutch oven pan with a lid is my go-to for making one pot easy dinners.
How to Make Chili Mac
We only need one pot to make this easy dinner, plus less than 30 minutes of work. I like to use a medium-sized Dutch oven pan or a deep skillet with straight sides for this. A heavy pan browns meat evenly and then retains heat to help the mixture come up to a boil and cook faster.
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When it is shimmering, add the onion. Cook the onion until softens, while stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Finally, add the ground meat.
Cook the ground meat while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. If the meat has excess fat, use the edge of a paper towel to absorb some of it before adding the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Saute the spices for 30 seconds.
Next, it's time to add the broth, crushed tomatoes, beans and pasta. Bring this mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done. Refer to the pasta box for the best cooking time.
Finally, before serving, stir in the cheese until it melts evenly. Divide into 6 bowls, and serve immediately.
Tips for making Chili Mac and Cheese
Use leftover chili for this Easy Chili Mac
Let's say you made my amazing sweet potato black bean chili, and you want to stretch the leftovers by adding pasta! Simply boil the pasta separately and add it to the bowl of chili. You might need to add an extra splash of broth to bring everything together. You can do this with my crockpot chili with beans, also!
Chili Mac Recipe Variations
This chili mac recipe is so adaptable for your pantry's contents, or for any particular diet.
- Vegetarian - As mentioned, I have made this using Impossible meat and vegetable broth to make it vegetarian.
- Vegan - Similarly, I have made this using a vegan shredded 'cheese' and Impossible meat for my vegan husband. It was great, and it would probably fool most meat eaters!
- Gluten Free - When I have gluten free friends over, I reach for a rice-based gluten free pasta. Rice pasta is soft enough to cook in the acidic cooking liquid here, but also does not fall apart. Refer to the directions on the bag for appropriate cooking time.
- Beans - This chili mac recipe uses kidney beans, but a can of red beans or black beans would also work here. Use whatever you have in your pantry!
What to serve with Chili Macaroni
The best side dishes to serve with chili mac are: bagged salad mix, any type of coleslaw, roasted green beans, or cornbread. Truthfully, chili mac and cheese is so hearty and filling, you don't have to serve anything with it, if you don't want to.
How to store Chili Macaroni
This chili Mac recipe with kidney beans is so great leftover. I store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
You can freeze it, too. Transfer the cooled mixture to freezer-safe containers, and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, let thaw in fridge overnight, pour into saucepan and add extra broth until it's fully defrosted and ready to eat.
Homemade Chili Mac FAQs
This is a great question, and it depends on which type of ground meat you decide to add to this recipe. Scroll to the bottom of the recipe card below for all of the nutritional information.
More Favorites from Bean Recipes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic
- ½ pound (8 ounces) lean ground beef
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 cups beef broth
- 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 8 ounces elbow pasta
- 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend
- In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When shimmering, add the onion. Cook while stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the ground beef, and cook while breaking it up with a wooden spoon. If the beef has an excess fat, gentle dip a paper towel in the pot to absorb it and wick it away.
- Next, add the chili powder, cumin, salt and black pepper. Saute for 30 seconds while stirring to awaken the spices.
- Finally, stir in the beef broth, crushed tomatoes, kidney beans and pasta.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the pasta is done. If the mixture seems like it has too much liquid, cook it while stirring for another few minutes to evaporate some liquid. On the other hand, if it seems too dry, add an extra splash of broth.
- Before serving, stir in the cheese.
To make this vegetarian, use Impossible Meat and vegetable broth. To make it vegan, use Impossible meat, vegetable broth and a vegan shredded cheese product.
To make this gluten free, use a rice-based gluten free pasta. Refer to the directions on the bag for appropriate cooking time.
Beans - This chili Mac recipe uses kidney beans, but a can of red beans or black beans would also work here.
Storage: Store any leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. To freeze, transfer the cooled mixture to freezer-safe containers, and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, let thaw in fridge overnight, pour into saucepan and add extra broth until it's fully defrosted and ready to eat.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 243Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 960mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 6gSugar: 4gProtein: 14g