This one-pot chili mac and cheese is a lightened version of a beloved comfort food. It's quick to make, absolutely delicious, and the perfect family-friendly dinner for a busy weeknight!
Chili mac and cheese is a delicious casserole-style meal that's easy to make, budget-friendly and comforting. It's the ultimate homey meal and can be on the table in 30 minutes.
Bonus - it's all cooked in one pot, so there's less washing up to worry about!
My version of one pot chili mac is skinnier and friendlier on the waistline. I make it with lean ground beef with just 5% fat and low-fat cheddar cheese.
It's still creamy, flavorful and extra tasty, just a bit lower in calories and fat.
Since it has pasta in it, this is a complete meal in itself, but you can also serve it with your favorite cornbread or a side salad.
Why you'll love this chili mac and cheese
- It's a flavor-packed yet light recipe the entire family will love.
- It's made from scratch with wholesome ingredients - absolutely no boxed stuff here!
- You can have it on the table in just 30 minutes, just perfect for a busy weeknight!
What goes into this chili mac recipe
Olive oil - You only need a splash of extra virgin olive oil to saute the onion in.
Onion - I like to dice the onion quite finely here, so it cooks quickly.
Garlic - There's no such thing as too much garlic in a chili mac and cheese, so feel free to use as much as you like.
Red bell pepper - I prefer red peppers in this chili mac, but you can definitely use whatever color you have on hand.
Ground beef - My ground beef of choice for this easy chili mac and cheese is the leanest one available, with 5% fat.
You can use your favorite here or substitute with ground turkey for an even healthier dish.
Crushed tomatoes - I like crushed tomatoes in this chili mac and cheese, but if you don't mind chunky bits, you can use diced tomatoes instead. Tomato sauce is also a good choice if you want a smooth sauce.
Beef stock - Use low-sodium beef broth as needed or substitute with chicken broth.
Low-fat cheddar cheese - A low-fat sharp cheddar cheese is a good option here because its potent flavor means you don't have to use too much.
How to make chili mac and cheese
Next, add the garlic and sliced red pepper and continue to cook for 1 minute.
Add the ground beef and cook for 5-6 minutes until browned, breaking it down with your spoon as you go.
Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. You should still have some liquid left in the pot.
Stir in the shredded cheese, season to taste and serve immediately.
Leftovers and storage
- You can store leftover chili mac and cheese in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
- Reheat gently on the stovetop or in the microwave. Since the macaroni will soak up a lot of the liquid, you may need to add a splash of broth or water when reheating.
- Freeze this chili mac and cheese for up to 3 months and defrost it overnight in the fridge before reheating.
Recipe notes and tips
- Some of the toppings you can serve with this chili mac and cheese include freshly chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, sour cream, extra grated cheddar cheese or chopped red onion.
- Only cook the pasta al dente because it will continue to absorb liquid even after you finish cooking the chili mac and cheese.
- To make this dish even cheesier, stir in some grated low-fat mozzarella as well.
If you liked this chili mac and cheese recipe, you might also like some of my other quick and easy one-pot recipes:
- Easy Pasta with Lentils (Pasta e Lenticchie)
- Risi e Bisi (Italian Rice and Peas)
- Kielbasa Potato Soup
- One-Pot Veggie Pasta
- Chunky White Bean and Pancetta Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 lb (450 g) lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 x 14 oz (400 g) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 x 14 oz (400 g) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cup (225 g) uncooked elbow macaroni
- 4 cups (1 liter) beef stock
- 1 ½ cup (150 g) low fat cheddar cheese
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot like a Dutch oven and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes over medium heat until slightly softened.
- Next, add the garlic and sliced red pepper and continue to cook for 1 minute.
- Add the ground beef and cook for 5-6 minutes until browned, breaking it down with your spoon as you go.
- Stir in the chili powder, ground cumin and dried oregano, then add the crushed tomatoes, beans, macaroni and beef stock.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. You should still have some liquid left in the pot.
- Stir in the shredded cheddar cheese, season to taste and serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 446Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 603mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 7gSugar: 8gProtein: 41g
Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator.