This one pot chili mac is a blend of ground beef, macaroni, beans, tomatoes and spices, all topped off with plenty of melted cheese. An easy dinner option that’s family friendly and on the table in 30 minutes!
I love a good one pot meal on a busy day, my family’s favorites include jambalaya, pizza pasta and this cheesy chili mac. It’s the perfect comfort food option that will please any crowd.
Doing dishes is my least favorite part about cooking, which is why I turn to one pot meals whenever possible. My kids request this chili mac constantly, and for good reason – it’s loaded with flavor, texture and of course, plenty of cheese!
How do you make chili mac?
This recipe starts with ground beef, which is browned in a skillet with onions and garlic. The cooked beef is mixed with canned tomatoes, kidney beans, spices, beef broth and macaroni. Everything simmers together until the pasta is tender. The final step is to add a layer of shredded cheese. Let the cheese melt, then add a few toppings and you’ll be ready to eat!
Tips for chili mac
- Make sure you use a large enough pan to contain all the ingredients, as the pasta will expand as it cooks.
- You can use any type of short pasta, just be sure to adjust the cook time accordingly. You can check the cook time on your pasta box for guidance. If you’re using a large shape pasta that will absorb more liquid than traditional macaroni, you can add 1/2 cup more broth if needed.
- I typically use cheddar cheese in this recipe, but pepper jack is great if you like a little more heat.
- I recommend grating your own cheese if possible – store bought pre-shredded cheese is often coating with anti-caking agents and the cheese doesn’t melt as smoothly.
- I use 90% lean ground beef – it’s got plenty of flavor without being overly greasy.
- Instead of using the spices listed here, you can also make a batch of my chili seasoning recipe to use in your chili mac.
Chili mac variations
There are so many different ways to customize this recipe to your tastes!
- Meat: Instead of ground beef, try ground turkey, smoked sausage or even diced cooked chicken. You can also make this a meatless dish by adding a second can of beans.
- Veggies: You can add more vegetables to this dish such as diced bell peppers or corn.
- Toppings: I typically keep my toppings simple with a sprinkle of cilantro, diced tomato and red onion. Other great toppings include sour cream, sliced green onions, avocado, diced jalapeno, olives and tortilla strips.
- Spice: If you’re into spicy food, try adding some hot sauce or crushed red pepper flakes to your pasta.
I make this chili mac almost every week – my family happily devours it, the leftovers are fabulous the next day, and it’s just so easy! How can you go wrong?
More great pasta dishes
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef I use 90% lean
- 1/2 cup onion finely diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes do not drain
- 4 cups beef broth
- 8 ounce can tomato sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 15 ounce can dark red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 10 ounces elbow macaroni
- 1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese grated
- Toppings such as chopped cilantro, diced tomato and minced red onion optional
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking up the meat with a spatula.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, tomatoes, beef broth, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, kidney beans and macaroni to the pot. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and cook for 12-13 minutes or until pasta is tender. Uncover the pot and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
- Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the pasta. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes or until cheese is melted. You can cover the pot if needed to help the cheese melt.
- Top with cilantro, tomatoes and onion if desired, then serve.
I use a whole 16 oz of macaroni and use a whole 15 oz of tomato sauce (since I’m increasing the mac). My kids like it best when I also add corn. Next time I may increase the chili powder since I do have more noodles in there. Love a one pot meal!
My GO TO Chili Mac Recipe!
Love the use of broth instead of water. So much more flavor. I always have to go through my “friends list” before making it so I know how many times to multiply the recipe. A++
We really enjoyed this recipe. I used a nonstick pot, so I did not use the olive oil. I drained the hamburger before I added the onions. I didn’t have any kidney beans, but I had chili beans so I used those sauce and all. I also added more chili powder because that is how we like our chili. Thank you so much for the recipe. It is in my make again file.
I admit, I’m a foodie. I get it from my mother.
That said; this is a GOOD recipe. The only thing I will do differently next time (and there will definitely be a next time) is to cook the noodles separately. But, only because I had to prepare it in advance to keep for later.
I agree about cooking noodles separarately cooked also. COOKED ALDENTE. If using the noodles mixed in later, I sometimes will pulse a can of Rotel tomatoes ( 10 ozsmooth and stir into noodles & store till I am ready to use .
Fun, amazing recipe that my whole family enjoyed!
Can this be made in the InstaPot?
I think it would be ok but I haven’t tested it this way!
Made this last night for supper, my husband loved it . I thought it was great too. Didn’t add the tomato sauce. Macaroni was nice and soft cooked very nicely. We ate with a spoon and had left over’s for the next night. Will make again
Can this be frozen. We really enjoyed it but made a lot of food for two people. I cut down on the beef and pasta but can’t cut down on the rest.I devided it in thirds after cooking hope pasta doesn’t get mushy.
Yes that should be fine, the pasta may soften in the freezer!
Made this today for lunch and it was delicious! Even my picky eater loved it! This will be my go to chili Mac recipe. Thank you for sharing.
Crazy delicious and SO easy!!! Everyone in my house loved it. Definitely will be making this again!!!
This was a perfect one pot meal. I wished I’d doubled the ingredients so I can have leftovers. The kids absolutely loved it.
This was really yummy and it made a large portion. I was delighted to have it for lunch the next day!
I made this tonight, but I veganized it and used vegan chorizo crumbles for the ground beef, vegan beef style broth and vegan cheese shreds. BEST chili mac recipe I’ve made yet! Thank you so much for sharing!
Came out great! I think this will become a staple for us.
Forget every other Chili Mac recipe….this is the one! I made this last night and it came out sooo delicious! My husband loved hamburger helper growing up, I didn’t because my mother always cook from scratch and very seldom used boxes, so I can pick up those funny chemical flavors easily. I’ll definitely be checking out more of your recipes. Bravo!
Side note to all of my Louisiana spice and Tex Mex loving friends. Forgo the salt and pepper, season meat with Tony’s, Tex Joy Steak season and red pepper while browning it. Yeah good stuff! And the only other thing I did differently was splurge on some good Smoked Cheddar cheese (I bought mine at the H-E-B deli).
Oops and my personal preference are black beans so I subbed out the red beans for black.
Although I made some changes to use up leftovers and use what we had it was still very tasty and healthy. I will make this again.
Beef ->Vegetable broth
1lb ->1/2 Ground beef
canned tomatoes->fresh tomatoes (a lot less)
canned sauce->canned tomato paste
leftover fresh vegetables
more chili powder
This is my new favorite quick meal! We three adults have enjoyed it several times over the past six weeks. This is a great “what’s for dinner” recipe when I run out of time or want a break from cooking. It is also good with black beans instead of kidney, and I add an additional half cup of cheese at the end, blending it in to make a beefy,cheesy sauce. Thanks, Sara, for posting this recipe!
The flavor was great but I had a lot of liquid left over. Any ideas?
It sounds like maybe it needed to simmer for a few more minutes so that the pasta absorbed more liquid!
I did too I used a slotted spoon to
Serve. Still tasty ! Topped with green onion and cilantro!!
My husband loves chili mac and I have always made the one with V8 juice but he really enjoyed this one. Simple and very tasty
one pot meal to make with ingredients I normally have on hand. I like the idea of adding corn and diced bell pepper so will give that a try next time I make this dish. Made and reviewed for the Alphabet Tag game.
Love it! Will substitute red kidney beans for black next time or drop the beans. Excellent. Thank you