This Easy Chili Mac recipe is one-pot comfort food with tender noodles, tasty ground beef chili, and creamy cheese in 30 minutes with pantry ingredients.
It's time to break the boring mac and cheese habit with the lunchroom classic from the 1950s. Chili mac is also chili macaroni and cheese. This is a classic Midwest lunchroom dish that is economical and easy to make at home with pantry ingredients.
Most chili mac recipes make a simple chili and add cooked pasta. But this recipe for chili mac simmers the chili ingredients with milk and the uncooked pasta to cook both simultaneously. Then, add the cheese at the end for maximum creaminess.
- Ground meat—standard 80/20 ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken
- Dry pasta—bit size standard pasta like elbow or shells
- Dice tomatoes—or RoTel (diced tomatoes with green chilis)
- Cheese—cheddar cheese, Monterey jack, or Mexican blend
- Pantry ingredients—chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, salt, and black pepper. Drained kidney beans are optional for more of a chili taste.
👨🍳How to Make This Chili Mac Recipe
- Brown ground meat with chopped onion and spices until brown and onion clearing.
- Drain the meat, add milk and diced tomatoes, bring to a boil, add uncooked pasta, then decrease to simmer and cover.
- Cook until pasta is tender. This will vary by pasta type but usually 12-15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add two cups of cheese of your choice. Mix in well and serve.
✔️Tips and variations
- You can use a can of drained diced tomatoes. With the drained tomatoes, this chili mac will be a bit bland, and you might want to up the chili powder by a teaspoon or a touch of cayenne pepper.
- With RoTel™, the spiciness is 5/10—most of the heat is from the RoTel™.
- Drained kidney beans may be added with the pasta if you want more of a chili dish but don't overdo it.
- Be sure to stir occasionally during simmering since things stick to the pot without using a non-stick pan.
- The cooking time of the pasta will tend to be a little longer than the recommended time on the package but check with each stir.
They are very similar, but chili mac strives for a cheese sauce like mac and cheese, while goulash will lack the cheesy sauce and will have more of a paprika spicing true to its mid-European roots.
Good stored in an airtight container for 4 days in the refrigerator or frozen for 3 months.
Reheats well in the microwave or on the stovetop on medium heat. Thaw before reheating if frozen.
This recipe is listed in these categories. See them for more similar recipes.
Have you tried this recipe, or have a question? Join the community discussion in the comments.
Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Chop one small onion.
Start browning meat over medium-high heat in a large pan—non-stick preferred.
Add 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
After the meat is browned and the onion translucent, drain the fat.
Add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes drained or a can of Rotel undrained. Stir in 2 ½ cup milk, bring to a boil, and add two cups of uncooked dry pasta.
Lower to simmer and cover. Cook until pasta is tender. This will vary by pasta type but will generally be 12-15 minutes.
Remove from heat and add 2 cups of cheese of your choice. Mix well and serve.
Easy Chili Mac
- 1 pound ground beef - ground turkey or chicken will work
- 1 onion - small
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 14 oz diced tomatoes - drained or substitute 1 can of RoTel™
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 2 cups smaller dry pasta - elbow macaroni or shells
- 2 cups cheese of your choice - usually mild cheddar
- Chop one small onion.
- Start browning meat over medium-high heat in a large pan—non-stick preferred.
- Add 2 teaspoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.
- After the meat is browned and the onion translucent, drain the fat.
- Add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes drained or a can of Rotel undrained. Stir in 2 ½ cup milk, bring to a boil, and add two cups of uncooked dry pasta.
- Lower to simmer and cover. Cook until pasta is tender. This will vary by pasta type but will generally be 12-15 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add 2 cups of cheese of your choice. Mix well and serve.
Your Own Private Notes
- You can use ground turkey or chicken if you want.
- If you want more of a chili feel, add some drained kidney beans with the uncooked pasta.
- The RoTel will kick the heat up some. It is optional. The dish with drained diced tomatoes is a bit bland, and consider adding 1 teaspoon more of chili powder.
- If you want more of a baked casserole dish, cover the top with some cheese at the end and place it under a broiler for a few minutes.
- Good refrigerated for 4 days and frozen for 3 months.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
© 101 Cooking for Two, LLC. All content and photographs are copyright protected by us or our vendors. While we appreciate your sharing our recipes, please realize copying, pasting, or duplicating full recipes to any social media, website, or electronic/printed media is strictly prohibited and a violation of our copyrights.
Editor's Note: Originally Published September 28, 2015. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.