Pasta recipes like chili mac are perfect when you need a satisfying meal without a lot of fuss. Our chili mac fits the bill every time. A hearty variation on mac and cheese, chili mac uses pantry ingredients to spice up a beloved, classic meal. Once your family tries our chili mac recipe, you’ll be making it on repeat!
Oh, and it’s quick to make so it’s fabulous for a weeknight meal. This recipe for One-Skillet Cheesy Chili Mac recipe is really a dream come true!
Let’s get started!
Loaded with pasta, meat and cheese, this recipe will satisfy every appetite. Here are just a few of the things that make our chili mac recipe a keeper:
- Rich, savory flavor
- Cooks in under an hour
- One skillet for easy cleanup
Chili mac recipe is full of flavor in every bite, thanks to a rich chili sauce that comes together in well under an hour. Chili mac is an easy one-pot meal that you’ll appreciate on busy evenings.
Stovetop Mac and Cheese Ingredient Notes
Stovetop mac and cheese is a favorite in so many homes because it’s easy and delicious. Here are some tips to help you make the best chili mac recipe.
Noodles: We use elbow macaroni because the hollow shape allows the sauce to nestle inside each noodle. Any short pasta with ridges will work, though. Be sure to keep the same ratio of noodles to the sauce if you’re adjusting the recipe. You want to be sure the pasta has enough liquid to cook properly.
Tomato Sauce: When choosing a tomato sauce for chili mac recipe, be sure to check the label. Many varieties have added salt, so you may want to decrease the amount of salt you add. Adjust the seasoning after you’ve tasted it.
Some types of tomato sauce also have added herbs like basil. We recommend the plain sauce so you can control which flavors go into the dish.
Cheese: If you don’t have a Mexican cheese blend on hand, shredded cheddar or Colby are great substitutes. If your family likes spicier chili, pepper jack cheese would be a fun addition too.
Meat: Because chili mac is so flavorful, ground turkey or a plant-based substitute will be just as delicious as ground beef.
Onion: Yellow onions have a mild flavor that most kids don’t mind. If you like a more pronounced onion flavor, red or white varieties will work nicely here.
Chili Powder: Most pre-mixed chili powders have added salt as one of the first ingredients. However, there are a few brands on the market that don’t contain any salt. Be sure to check the label so you can adjust your added salt accordingly.
Toasting the Spices: Don’t forget to add the spices while you’re cooking the onion. Doing it at this point reduces the harshness of the chili powder.
Generally, when you’re making a big pot of chili, you don’t need to do this because you cook the chili for quite a bit longer than this dish is cooked. The longer cooking process does the same thing.
As with most leftover food, be sure to cover the chili mac tightly so it doesn’t dry out in the fridge. A plastic or glass container with a tightly-fitting lid works best here.
Can You Freeze This?
Most chefs agree that freezing pasta can lead to soggy noodles when they’re reheated. You can avoid this by undercooking the elbow macaroni if you plan to freeze the whole batch.
Try cooking the noodles for just 5 minutes. They will finish cooking when you thaw the chili mac recipe.
Another option is to freeze the meat sauce by itself and add the noodles and cheese after you’ve defrosted it. If you’re making this recipe as part of your meal prep, either method will work to ensure that your chili mac comes out delicious every time.
One Pot Mac And Cheese Make Ahead Tips
If you’re short on time and would like to make one pot mac and cheese in advance, you can brown the meat and make the sauce ahead of time. Cook the noodles in the sauce right before you’re ready to serve your chili mac recipe.
Cooking the noodles too far in advance could lead to them getting mushy when you reheat them. Don’t forget to add the cheese – it brings the dish together.
How Long Can You Keep This In The Fridge?
According to USDA guidelines, dishes such as noodle casseroles (like chili mac recipe) can safely last in the refrigerator for 3-5 days once cooked.
Chili mac is a great dish because it’s so adaptable. Try one of our suggested variations, or make it your own by substituting ingredients your family loves.
Can I Make It Into A Chili Mac Casserole?
To convert chili mac to a tasty baked dish, try our mac and cheese casserole recipe.
What Other Ways Can I Cook This Recipe?
If you need dinner right away, check out instant pot mac and cheese. It’s ready in a snap using your instant pot or pressure cooker. Try our crock pot mac and cheese if you have more time until dinner and need a more hands-off cooking method.
Can I Make This Recipe Cheesier?
You can’t go wrong with more cheese! Our 3 cheese mac and cheese recipe is sure to hit the spot. For the ultimate cheese lover, try this incredible 5 cheese mac and cheese.
What Other Types of Cheeses I Can Use For This Recipe?
For a creamy treat, mac and cheese with cream cheese is a great choice. Do you have picky eaters in the family? Smooth Velveeta mac and cheese will be a hit with everyone.
Can I Add Other Ingredients To This Recipe?
Mac and cheese is perfect for trying different add-ins. Lobster mac and cheese is a decadent alternative to this traditional favorite. If you’re feeling adventurous and like some heat in your meals, try jalapeno mac and cheese.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 cups water
- 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 8 ounces about 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 1-8 ounce package shredded Mexican cheese blend
- black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped
- In a 12 inch nonstick skillet, add oil and heat until it's shimmering. Add onion, chili powder, cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat until onion is soft, stirring often so spices don't burn, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and brown sugar and cook, continuing to stir, so garlic doesn't burn, for about 30 seconds. Add the ground beef and brown lightly, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon as it cooks, until there is no pink in the meat.
- Add the water, 3/4 teaspoon salt and tomato sauce to the skillet and stir to mix. Stir in the pasta and cover, increasing the heat to medium-high. Cook the mixture, stirring often and adjusting the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer. Continue to cook until the pasta is tender, about 9-12 minutes.
- Take the skillet off the heat and add 1 cup of the cheese mixture. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Top the skillet with remaining cheese and rest the mixture off the heat a few minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve.
One of the best things about mac and cheese is that there are countless variations. For more delicious mac and cheese ideas, try:
- Fried Mac and Cheese
- Southern Mac and Cheese
- Paula Deen Mac and Cheese
- Mac and Cheese Bites
- Macaroni Soup
Chili mac is tasty and so satisfying. This savory, spicy variation on stovetop mac and cheese is easy to make and doesn’t leave you with a sink full of dirty dishes. Our chili mac recipe is sure to be popular with your whole family.