One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

ONE POT Chili Mac and Cheese is super quick and easy, hearty, comforting and just plain DELICIOUS and on your table in under 30 Minutes! 

Chili Mac and Cheese is your grown-up version of hamburger helper that tastes 1000X better!  It’s Chili Con Carne + Macaroni and Cheese = comforting new family favorite that can’t be beat in taste, comfort or convenience!  And did I say one pot already? 

One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese.

Can all my Macaroni and Cheese lovers raise their hands?  I know your out there as my Million Dollar Macaroni and Cheese has been one of my most popular recipes since I posted it!  The only other meal I can think of to rival Macaroni and Cheese in comfort is a warm bowl of hearty chili – and when you combine our homemade, easy chili recipe with pasta and cheese into ONE POT – magic happens.

The magic of pure comfort food that’s decadently delicious.  The magic of your two favorite foods in ONE bowl and made in ONE pot.  The magic of using pantry friendly ingredients that are inexpensive so you can make this Chili Mac and Cheese recipe at a second’s notice.  The magic of fabulous leftovers.  The magic of a meal your whole family will devour and become a new family favorite.  The magic of a back-pocket meal that everyone loves!

This Chili Mac and Cheese is a long time favorite at our house.  I would claim we have somewhat distinguished taste buds at our house.  Patrick is my biggest foodie critic and always tells me “its so you don’t get any mean comments.”  LOL!  But you know one of his all time favorite foods?  This One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese!  And I adore it too.  It’s one of those rich, satisfyingly delicious meals that you crave and crave and crave.  So it’s a good thing it’s so quick and easy!

A wood spoon of One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese.

How to Make Chili Mac and Cheese

First, heat a Dutch oven medium high heat. Add meat and onions, season with salt and pepper then cook until the meat is browned, breaking up meat as it cooks.  Next, we add our chopped red bell pepper which is optional and plenty of garlic and sauté for one minute then stir in our in our crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, liquid smoke, sugar, and all our seasonings…

Showing how to make One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese.

Followed by our chicken broth and pasta.  The addition of liquid smoke is purely optional but I love the additional smokiness it adds.  If you aren’t familiar with liquid smoke, it is located near the barbecue sauces at your grocery store.  I use it in all sorts of recipes so you won’t just use it once!

Cooking the One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese in a white pot.

Next, we cover our pot and bring it to a simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally and replacing the lid.  After 8 minutes, remove the lid and continue to simmer approximately 5 minutes, stirring often, just until the pasta is al dente.  Every stove cooks differently and there are several factors in cooking time such as the type of pot, how vigorous a simmer, how often the lid is opened, etc., so you are going to want to take care to taste the pasta often as it reaches the end of cooking to ensure you don’t overcook your pasta because soggy pasta is NO BUENO!

Cooking the pasta without the lid the last few minutes does it few things: 1) allows you to taste the pasta 2) evaporates more water 3) allows you to stir constantly so the pasta doesn’t stick to the bottom as most of the water will be evaporated at this point.

As soon as your pasta is cooked, be sure to turn off your stove so the pasta doesn’t keep cooking!  I this point, your Chili Mac should still be a little “saucy.”  This creates the perfect base to stir in our cream cheese for extra creaminess followed by our cheese for extra cheeeeesiness.  As far as the cheese goes, feel free to add more or less cheese.  This Chili Mac and Cheese can be as decadently cheesy as you wish or as minimal – totally up to you!

Adding cheese to One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese.

Lastly, top the Chili Mac and Cheese with 1 cup sharp cheddar and replace the lid until melted, approximately 2 minutes.  Garnish with parsley if desired.  You can serve your Chili Mac and Cheese with crackers, chips or just a spoon.  I personally love serving mine with a big dollop of sour cream.  The cool luscious sour cream against the multi-dimensional chili spiced beef, tomatoes, onions and macaroni is the perfect palate pleasing juxtaposition.

Showing a ladle scoop of One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese.

One Pot Chili Mac – magically delicious.

A bowl of One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese with sour cream.

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ONE POT Chili Mac and Cheese is on your table in under 30 Minutes!  It's Chili Con Corne + Macaroni and Cheese = crazy delicious, comforting new family favorite! 

One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

ONE POT Chili Mac and Cheese is super quick and easy, hearty, comforting and just plain DELICIOUS and on your table in under 30 Minutes!  Chili Mac & Cheese is your grown-up version of hamburger helper that tastes 1000X better! It’s a comforting new family favorite that can’t be beat in taste, comfort or convenience!  And did I say one pot already?!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 15 oz. can kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups uncooked elbow macaroni (about 12 oz)

ADD LATER

  • 2 oz. softened cream cheese, cubed I use low fat
  • 1-2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese to taste

Garnish

  • sour cream
  • fresh parsley

Instructions

  • Heat a Dutch oven medium high heat. Add meat and onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook until meat is browned, breaking up meat as it cooks.
  • Add bell pepper and garlic and sauté 1 minute. Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, liquid smoke, sugar, and all seasonings. Stir in chicken broth and pasta.
  • Cover, and bring to a simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally and replacing the lid. After 8 minutes, remove lid and continue to simmer approximately 5 minutes, stirring often, just until the pasta is al dente. Taste pasta often as reaches the end of cooking to ensure you don’t overcook your pasta.
  • Turn stove off but leave pot on the burner. Stir in the cream cheese until melted followed by 1 cup cheddar until melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste (I like more salt). You can add more cheese if you wish – it can be as cheesy or as minimal as you choose!
  • Top the pasta evenly with remaining ½ cup cheddar. Replace lid until cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with sour cream. if desired.

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16 Comments

  1. Wendy says

    Oh my!! Several months ago I was looking for a Chili Mac and Cheese recipe and while there were plenty of recipes, none of them had that special taste I was looking for. Until now!! Love this recipe and I bet the flavor is spot on. I am making your tomato soup recipe today, but guess what’s for dinner tomorrow?? Thanks Jen

    • Jen says

      Awesome Wendy! I hope your hunt stops here for your favorite Chili Mac! Can’t wait to hear how you liked it! Meanwhile, I hope you love the tomato soup!

  2. patti leal says

    thank you for sharing your cooking web site. i love so many of the recipes we have tried. on monday i made your one pot chili mac and cheese. since there are two of us, i have plenty for leftovers. not being a very creative cook, i would love it if you would add a short one or two line blurb on how to reheat this food. i ate so much of this as it was soo good. but i need help with reheating. thanks for all you share with us, patti in florida

    • Jen says

      Hi Patti! I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe and so many others – that makes me so happy! As far as reheating goes, I would add a drizzle of water to your serving and then microwave it until warm.

  3. MoniqueDC says

    Jen, I understand why you put the pasta in before everything is cooked. Since we are very particular about our pasta (al dente is a bit too done for us), I assume there would be no problem partially cooking the pasta (4 minutes) and then adding it in at the end…. reheating just enough to bring it closer to done. I’d appreciate your thoughts before I potentially ruin an entire meal. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      Hi Monique, when the pasta cooks in the sauce it absorbs a lot of the chicken broth. If you want to add the pasta at the end then I would eliminate the chicken broth and just add what is needed to reach the desired consistency. I hope this helps!

  4. Laura says

    This was SO GOOD. I used low fat cream cheese and only one cup of shredded cheese and it still tasted like a decadent meal. Your recipes are so flavourful!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m thrilled you loved this recipe Laura! I love flavor and seasonings so I’m glad you do too!

  5. Karyn says

    So good and so flipping quick! Made this while my twins were napping- easy! I seriously cook your recipes at least once a week. Would definitely suggest using the liquid smoke. What a great flavor with the smoked paprika and all the other cheesy goodness! Just my opinion! You’re awesome! Thanks again and happy cooking 🙂

    • Jen says

      YAY! We love good and quick in one recipe! I’m so happy you loved this recipe and found it so easy! That is awesome you make make a recipe of mine at least once a week, thank you! You sound like wonder woman with your twins, cooking and everything else you must have going on! Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  6. judy says

    Have just come across your website of deliciousness after a google search for roasted cauliflower, which I have now done with great success. Your journey has been very inspiring. My son also has CF with the diabetes element. He finds weight gain incredibly difficult so I always pack the fat in. I can’t wait to try this chilli recipe and I look forward to trying many more recipes. We love coming over to America when my son is well enough, he especially loves the American diet!

    • Jen says

      Hi Judy, thanks so much for taking the time to comment. I feel like I know you already because you are a CF mom – a true angel on this earth!!! Thank you for all you do for your son – and for your incredible example of selfless service. I hope your son loves this recipe and you enjoy exploring my other recipes. Sending hugs and prayers your way! xo

  7. Marci says

    Definitely a keeper, this was a thumbs up by all. Makes quite a large pot, good simple yummy meal to make for dinner guests. Thank you for another fabulous recipe Jen.

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Marci! I love hearing it’s a keeper, thank you!

  8. Kathie says

    I don’t like cream cheese….is there anything else I could use in its place?

    • Jen says

      Hi Kathie, I would add one cup freshly grated Monterrey Jack cheese. Enjoy!