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Easy One-Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

Chili Mac and Cheese combines the best of two beloved dishes for a truly outstanding yet quick-to-make comfort food. Make this one-pot meal on a weeknight for an easy, filling meal in under 30 minutes!

a pan of chili mac and cheese

Chili Mac and Cheese came up in conversation the other day with an old friend of mine the other day. We grew up in Wisconsin where this was not an uncommon dish on many Midwestern dinner tables.

My friend commented that, although she loves Chili Mac and would like to eat it more, she doesn’t make chili that often and, when she does, she doesn’t have enough left over to make Chili Mac and Cheese.

This stopped me in my tracks. It never occurred to me that a fellow Midwestern girl would simply add chili to mac and cheese and call it the same thing. Don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely not opposed to doing that and have done it myself, in fact – but I didn’t want her to miss out because she assumed that was the only way.

a closeup of a bowl of chili mac and cheese

I told her that I have good news for her, and explained that you don’t have to make a big pot of chili first. In fact, it’s such a simple dish to make and it’s ready in under 30 minutes. AND it’s all made in the same pot so less dishes to clean!

Needless to say, she was thrilled, so I scribbled down the recipe before we parted ways so she could make it that same night. Which is exactly what she did, and she called me that night to tell me how much she loved it and that she’ll be making it often from now on.

I immediately decided I needed to post the recipe here just in case there are others out there who need it. Chili Mac and Cheese is such a delicious, easy, and quick recipe that it needs to be in your dinner rotation always!

a pan of chili mac and cheese just off the stove and ready to serve

How do you make Chili Mac from scratch?

Part of the reason that making it from scratch is so simple is because you cook everything in one pan. Cook some onion and garlic in a pot or pan, brown the ground beef, add chili powder and cumin, then tomatoes, beans, and chicken stock. Bring it to a boil, add the pasta, and simmer it until the pasta is cooked. Top it with some cheese, allow a few minutes for it to melt, and serve.

It’s so simple and so filling, tasty, and comforting!

a bowl of chili mac and cheese next to the pan on a black tablecloth

Can you freeze Chili Mac and Cheese?

Yes, you can! I’ll often double the recipe and freeze some in single-serving portions to have for lunch on busy work days. Use air-tight containers and freeze it for up to 3 months. The texture is best if you let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating, but it’s still good if you just can’t wait or have the time.

Chili Mac and Cheese Variations

  • For Keto or Low-Carb: I make this version often as we try to eat as low carb as possible. It’s an easy swap, too: simply substitute the pasta for small bite-sized pieces of cauliflower and omit the beans (I usually use one whole head of cauliflower in place of the pasta). The timing, as well as when you add it to the pot, is the same so it really is a simple substitute. I’ve even made a double batch, then divided it into two pans, adding pasta to one and cauliflower to the other. It’s a simple way to make a meal that pleases everyone in the house.
  • Use black beans and add a can of diced green chiles for a more Southwestern-style flavor.
  • Add 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper if you like it spicy!
  • Add more vegetables, such as corn or chopped red bell pepper.
  • Try serving it with sour cream and chopped green onion for toppings – it’s really good this way!
a closeup of a pan of chili mac and cheese

What can you serve with Chili Mac and Cheese?

I try to keep things pretty simple since you already have pasta and beef in the main dish. If I do serve this with sides, I usually opt for garlic bread and a vegetable, such as garlic snap peas or smashed brussels sprouts.

If you love beef and pasta together, try this Szechuan Gourmet Beef Pasta (it uses ground beef and comes together in just 25 minutes)!

a pan of chili mac and cheese

Easy One-Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

Yield: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Chili Mac and Cheese combines the best of two beloved dishes for a truly outstanding yet quick-to-make comfort food. Make this one-pot meal on a weeknight for an easy, filling meal in under 30 minutes!


  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 14.5-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (can also use regular diced tomatoes)
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans
  • 32 oz low-sodium chicken broth or stock (4 cups)
  • 1 10-oz package elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt (more to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or more!)
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)


  1. Preheat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil and, when it's shimmering, add the onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes until it's starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook one minute more. Add the ground beef, breaking it up as much as possible, and cook until there's no pink remaining, about 5 minutes. Drain the fat from the pan.
  2. Add the chili powder and cumin to the pan and stir well to incorporate.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, and the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil and stir in pasta. Cover the pan and simmer until the pasta is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes (reduce the heat if necessary; the mixture should remain at a very strong simmer or very gentle boil.
  4. Add the salt and pepper, then taste and add more if necessary.
  5. Turn the heat off and sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top. Add the cover back to the pan and allow the cheese to melt for a few minutes..
  6. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 796Total Fat: 37gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 131mgSodium: 1166mgCarbohydrates: 59gFiber: 10gSugar: 10gProtein: 58g

This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix.

Kristy Bernardo
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