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Chili Mac

This creamy Chili Mac recipe has thick and flavorful homemade chili combined with classic, creamy macaroni and cheese. This is one meal mashup that your family will want on repeat. It’s perfect for family dinners or for enjoying game day!

Be sure to serve this with a side of cornbread!

A Dutch oven filled with Cheesy Chili Mac.

Chili Mac

When I think of chili mac, my personal preference is to have a full combination of hearty chili, and creamy macaroni and cheese. A lot of recipes add cooked macaroni to a pot of chili and sprinkle cheese on top. This recipe fully combines both meals into one. (And you’ll know it when you taste it!)

Once each pot is ready to go, you can choose just how much chili you want to add to the macaroni, or vice versa. (Or just combine it all, like I do! 😉)

You can even put both pots out for family or friends and let them choose their own ratios and combination preferences!

BONUS: There are also a few make-ahead options below.

How to Make It

See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Cook and crumble the ground beef and onions until cooked through. Drain grease and add the peppers and garlic, cook until softened. Add the seasonings and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the tomato sauce, undrained diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.

Ground beef in a pot with peppers, onions, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce to make Chili.

Mix in the kidney beans about 10 minutes prior to serving. Meanwhile, begin making roux for mac and cheese. Melt butter in a pan and whisk in flour. Add the heavy cream/milk in splashes, stirring continuously.

Chili in a pot next to a pot of roux with milk being added to make a roux.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Add the hot sauce and seasonings. Reduce heat to low and stir in the cheese. Add drained macaroni.

Making cheese sauce and adding cooked macaroni to make macaroni and cheese.

Stir to combine the macaroni with the cheese sauce, then add the chili and stir to combine.

A pot of creamy macaroni and cheese next to a pot of Chili Mac.

Top with cheese and bake at 400° for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Garnish with parsley and serve!

Chili Mac before and after being baked with cheese on top.   

Make-Ahead Methods:

  • Option 1: Make the chili 1-2 days ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready to serve. Reheat on the stove top until heated through, then proceed with cooking the macaroni and combining with the chili as outlined.
  • Option 2: The chili and the macaroni can be assembled without the cheese topping and stored in the fridge until ready to serve. I suggest boiling the macaroni 1 minute shy of al dente in this case. When ready to serve, reheat the chili mac on the stop top until heated through. Top with cheese and bake at 400° for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Pro Tips

  • Shred the cheese from a block as it will melt and taste much better than packaged shredded cheese. I use Cracker Barrel Sharp Yellow Cheese. 
  • The beans in the chili can be omitted if preferred. Drained/rinsed black beans may be used instead of kidney beans as well.
  • Monterey Jack Cheese makes a nice addition to the cheddar as well. 
  • You can’t taste the hot sauce in the mac and cheese, it is used as a flavor enhancer. I usually use Texas Pete Hot Sauce. (Frank’s hot sauce is my trusty backup!)
  •  Cornbread makes an excellent side dish with this!

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • Leftovers can be frozen and do reheat well, be extra careful not to overcook the macaroni so that it’s not mushy when reheated. (I always use a timer.)

A bowl of Cheesy Chili Mac with a fork on the side.

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A pot filled with Chili Mac topped with melted cheese.

Chili Mac

5 from 15 ratings
This Chili Mac and Cheese recipe has hearty homemade chili combined with creamy macaroni and cheese. This meal mashup that makes a great dinner idea, potluck recipe, or game day food!

Ingredients

Chili

  • 1 lbs. ground beef, 80% lean
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • ½ cup bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1.25 oz. packet chili seasoning mix, see notes for homemade seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 14.4 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • ½ cup chicken broth, can sub beef broth
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained

Mac and Cheese

  • 2 cups macaroni, uncooked
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon each: salt/pepper
  • ½ teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded

For Baking

  • 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Fresh Parsley, to garnish

Instructions

Make the Chili

  • Cook and crumble the ground beef in a large pot over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the onions and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the beef is brown and the onions are softened. Drain grease.
  • Add the bell peppers and the garlic and cook until the peppers are softened, about 4 minutes. Add the seasoning and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Add the tomato sauce, undrained diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce so that it’s bubbling gently. Cover partially and let it simmer while you prepare the macaroni and cheese. The longer it simmers, the thicker and more concentrated it will get. Add the drained kidney beans during the last 10 minutes or so.

Make the Mac and Cheese

  • Preheat oven to 400° F.
  • Begin boiling salted pasta water for the macaroni. Proceed with preparing the cheese sauce while it comes up to a boil. Once boiling, add the macaroni and cook according to package instructions, until just al dente. (Don’t overcook it.) Drain once cooked.
  • Melt the butter in a 4 ½ quart Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat and wait for it to begin to foam slightly. Whisk in the flour and stir continuously for 2 minutes. Add the heavy cream in splashes, stirring continuously. Add the milk in the same manner.
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the hot sauce and seasonings and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low.
  • Gradually sprinkle in the shredded cheese, stirring continuously, until well-combined and smooth.
  • Add the drained macaroni and stir to combine. (For extra cheesy macaroni, add slightly less pasta as the noodles will continue to absorb the cheese sauce. My images show it with the full amount being added.)

Combine the Chili & Macaroni

  • Add the chili to the macaroni and use a silicone spatula to gently stir to combine. You may choose to add all of it, (as shown in the images), or some of it, the ratio of mac and cheese to chili is up to you! You can always freeze any excess chili.

Bake

  • Once combined, top with 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese and bake uncovered for 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Garnish with parsley if desired and serve!

Notes

Pro Tips:
  • Shred the cheese from a block as it will melt and taste much better than packaged shredded cheese. I use Cracker Barrel Sharp Yellow Cheese. 
  • Monterey Jack Cheese makes a nice addition to the cheddar as well.
  • The beans in the chili can be omitted if preferred. Drained/rinsed black beans may be used instead of kidney beans as well.
  • You can't taste the hot sauce in the mac and cheese, it is used as a flavor enhancer. I usually use Texas Pete Hot Sauce. (Frank's hot sauce is my trusty backup!)
  •  Cornbread makes an excellent side dish with this!

Homemade Chili Seasoning (What I usually use for this recipe)
• 2 teaspoons chili powder
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1 teaspoon dried oregano
• ½ teaspoon paprika
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon pepper
• 1 pinch cayenne

Make-Ahead Methods:
  • Option 1: Make the chili 1-2 days ahead of time and store in the fridge until ready to serve. Reheat on the stove top until heated through, then proceed with cooking the macaroni and combining with the chili as outlined.
  • Option 2: The entire recipe can be assembled without the cheese topping and stored in the fridge until ready to serve. I suggest boiling the macaroni 1 minute shy of al dente in this case. When ready to serve, reheat the chili mac on the stop top until heated through. Top with cheese and bake at 400 ° for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Storage
  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  • Leftovers can be frozen and do reheat well, be extra careful not to overcook the macaroni so that it's not mushy when reheated. (I always use a timer.)

Nutrition

Calories: 247kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Sodium: 321mg, Potassium: 415mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 1541IU, Vitamin C: 10mg, Calcium: 184mg, Iron: 2mg
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32 comments on “Chili Mac”

  1. Delicious! We don’t like kidney beans so we substituted black beans. Great comfort food.

  2. I made this for my family and they LOVED it. Perfect for the 60 degree weather here in Tennessee! Thank you 

    • Hey Christina! I am sooo happy to hear that you loved the Chili Mac, this is definitely one of my favorite recipes for the chilly weather, I’m excited that cozy season is here! 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a review, I really appreciate it! -Stephanie

  3. Wonderful! I don’t like peppers so I didn’t add them but I followed everything else exactly how the recipe states and it was absolutely delicious. My pregnant self was craving chili Mac and this went above and beyond to fulfill the craving. 

  4. SERIOUSLY SOOOO GOOD!!! Just make it! I skipped the baking part because we were hungry and my bf is trying to do less cheese and it was phenomenal, can’t imagine how good it would’ve been with that extra step!!

  5. This was phenomenal! Sooo good!

  6. This was delicious!  I’ve never been able to find a really good chili Mac recipe that the whole family plus myself loves. I must say, I finally found THE ONE! Yay! Will be adding this to our rotation! I served it with crunched up tortilla chips and a teaspoon of sour cream on top. The kids all loved it and so did I! 

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