This One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese is mash up of my easy beef chili recipe and everyones favorite mac and cheese. A cozy comfort meal for any occasion. Serves 8 in about 1 hour.
Years ago, I decided to combine my easy beef chili recipe with Mac and cheese, turning it into a chili meets mac and cheese situation.
The results? Heavenly.
The beef chili combined with the cheese and tender macaroni noodles is beyond comforting. This is great for feeding a small crowd on football Sunday, or to have leftovers throughout the week, but I especially love it on nights when I need something easy and satisfying.
This chili Mac and cheese checks all the boxes.
To make This One Pot Chili Mac & Cheese You Will Need:
- extra light olive oil – Or any oil safe for sautéing.
- white or yellow onion – Adds a subtle onion flavor.
- garlic (fresh) – For that distinct punchy flavor
- lean ground beef – I like to use 90% lean and 10% fat for this recipe.
- chili powder – Adds flavor and can be mild to moderately spicy.
- kosher salt – This will draw out flavor and season the dish.
- sugar – This offsets the acidity of the tomato sauce.
- cumin (ground) – Lends earthiness and warmth, with an edge of citrus.
- celery salt – This adds subtle flavor, but can be omitted as not everyone will have it on hand.
- cayenne pepper (ground) – For a very subtle touch of heat.
- kidney beans – Light or dark red kidney beans can be used.
- pinto beans – drained and rinsed
- crushed fire-roasted tomatoes – Fire-roasted tomatoes adds additional flavor to this recipe, however, regular can be substituted.
- tomato sauce – Makes this recipe extra saucy.
- low-sodium chicken broth – Is needed in order for the pasta to cook.
- elbow macaroni – For this recipe I use 1-1/2 cups or 8 ounces.
- sharp cheddar cheese – Lends that distinct cheddar flavor.
- cheddar jack cheese – Colby jack cheese can also be substituted.
- parsley – Adds a pop of green and freshness when serving.
- sliced green onions – Adds delicate fresh onion flavor when serving.
- sour cream or plain nonfat greek yogurt
- hot sauce
- diced avocado
- crushed tortilla chips
Make The Chili Mac:
Start by adding 2 teaspoons extra light olive oil, 1 medium diced white onion (or about 1 cup) and 2 minced garlic cloves with a pinch of salt to a dutch oven. Heat over medium to medium-low, stirring until softened.
Drop in the 1-1/2 pounds of lean ground beef (I use 90/10) and use a wooden spatula to break it up into crumbles.
Once fully cooked, discard the fat and add in 1 tablespoon of chili powder, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of both sugar and cumin, and an 1/8 a teaspoon of both celery salt and cayenne pepper. The celery salt can be optional.
Stir and cook for a minute or two.
Add in 1 (15 ounce) can of both pinto and red kidney beans that have been drained and rinsed.
Add in 1 (28-ounce) can of crushed fire roasted tomatoes.
One 8-ounce can of tomato sauce.
Pour in 3 cups of low-sodium chicken broth.
I add a little of the broth to the cans and swirl them around to get any extra tomato goodness out and into the chili.
Stir to combine.
Cover and bring the chili to a boil and add in 1-1/2 cups (8 ounces) of elbow macaroni. Reduce temperature to medium / medium-high and cook uncovered for about 14 to 16 minutes or until the noodles are al dente.
Stir often as the noodles like to sink and stick to the bottom of the pot.
Once the noodles are tender, turn off the heat.
Add in a heaping 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and stir to combine.
Lastly, sprinkle 1-1/2 cups of freshly grated cheddar jack or colby jack cheese over top of the chili mac.
Cover and wait a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted.
Sprinkle the top with minced fresh parsley and sliced green onions for a burst of freshness and a pop of green.
Ps. This smells amazing!
We all like this with a dollop of sour cream and extra green onion on top. I also like mine with diced avocado and Pat adds dashes of Frank’s Red Hot on his. Really, it’s a choose your own adventure sort of situation.
With that said, what it doesn’t need is cheese. It’s got plenty of that.😍
How To Freeze Chili Mac and Cheese Leftovers:
- COOL: make sure the chili is completely cool before freezing. Never place hot or very warm items in the freezer (or fridge!) as it can thaw and negatively affect the nearby food.
- PORTION: when cool, divide chili into portions. Whether it’s a single serving, two or four, portion the cooled chili into either freezer safe bags or air-tight containers. I prefer using freezer safe bags and removing as much air as possible, this helps with storing.
- FLATTEN: once portioned, lay flat on a rimmed baking sheet and freeze for a few hours. Like in this post.
- STORE: stack the flat frozen chili portions vertically or horizontally saving so much freezer space. Store chili in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- REHEAT: I prefer to thaw frozen chili overnight in the fridge. However you can soak in a sink of lukewarm water for 20 to 30 minutes – flip every so often and change out the water at least once or twice. You can also defrost in the microwave until thawed. For chili Mac and cheese, I like to reheat in the microwave until thoroughly heated throughout.
For Make Ahead Chili Mac and Cheese:
- Prepare the recipe as directed, however cook the pasta just short of al dente. It should be saucy. Let it cool before topping with cheese. Cover and freeze.
- Reheat by thawing overnight and then microwave to reheat for best results. The pasta will overly expand if heated up slowly on the stove top.
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Enjoy! And if you give this One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese recipe a try, let me know! Snap a photo and tag me on twitter or instagram!