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!
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.
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.