Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

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Chili Mac and Cheese on a plate with fork.  This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

This Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe is a no-apologies meal that layers indulgence on top of indulgence and then garnishes with a bit more indulgence.  It has a super creamy and cheesy curly pasta on the bottom that lays a perfect foundation.  Then it’s topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili filled with tomatoes, onions, and carrots for layers of sweet and savory flavors.  Both the mac and cheese and the chili are super easy to make.  They can be made ahead and then reheated, making them great for weeknight dinners. 

This recipe is also a great one to make directly from your freezer and pantry!  The chili can be cooked ahead and frozen to pull out, warm, and add to mac and cheese any time you want!  Click here to get lots more Freezer Hacks to make easy dinners!

Scooping Chili out of pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Substitutes – Because you don’t have time to worry!

With our crazy schedules and limited time, you sometimes have to make do with whatever you have in the house, so here are your swaps and substitutes!

Chili Subs

  • Ground Beef – you can easily sub with ground turkey or chicken here!  I use 90% lean beef, but you can use any fat content.  You can also ADD chorizo or ground pork.
  • Seasonings – Feel free to use a Chili Spice mix you like, just taste for salt and pepper.  Paprika and Cayenne are optional, but I find they really boost the smokiness and give a bit of heat.  You can also add more of both of these!
  • Veggies – I use mirepoix for this recipe – onion, carrot, and celery – which bring the right amount of sugar and flavor.  You could eliminate the carrot and celery, but the onion is a must as it brings so much flavor!  You can also add in green or red pepper!

Mac and Cheese Subs

  • Pasta – I suggest using a short-cut curly pasta, such as Rotini, Fusilli,  or Riccioli.  These will hold the cheese and chili in every nook and cranny.  You can also use tube-cut pastas, such as Penne, Rigatti, or even elbows.  Frankly, any pasta will taste great, if you don’t have any of these!
  • Cheese – I prefer to shred my own aged cheddar for homemade mac and cheese.  I find that a little goes a long way for deep cheesy flavor and it melts perfectly smooth and creamy!  Any cheddar you have on hand can be used for shredding.  You could also use Fontina, Monterey Jack.  You can also use a pre-shredded cheese.

Here are a couple other comforting family dinners to try:  Shell Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and Kale  or Easy Cottage Pie with Beef & Chorizo!

Chili Mac and Cheese on a plate with fork. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Quick note!  This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you purchase from them.  This commission is what helps me keep this blog afloat :).  But, I also share these links because I have used the products, genuinely love them, and want you to know exactly what I used. 

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

You need 2 pots for this recipe, unless you make the Chili a day or more ahead. For the Chili, you need a large (5-6 quart) pot with lid that can go from the stove to the oven. My prized possession dutch oven was perfect for this! Or any good quality enameled cast iron 5-6 quart dutch oven with lid is great. For the pasta, any large pot to boil the water and cook the pasta will work!

PREP-AHEAD FOR YOUR CHILI MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE

We are all extremely busy and making dinner during the week can be overwhelming. Here are the steps you prepare in the day(s) in advance and store in the fridge as your meal Kit… (Full recipe below!) 

For this recipe, you can either just prep the veggies and seasonings or make the Chili entirely ahead, as it reheats perfectly!  In fact, you can make it months ahead and freeze too!

For the veggies…Dice the onion, carrots, and celery. Remove the skin and mince the garlic cloves. 

Diced onion, celery, and carrots Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Measure out your seasonings and spices, Chili Powder, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika.

Spices for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

If your cheese is not shredded, you can also shred that ahead of time.

At this point, you can either make the chili in advance and store it in the fridge/freezer or you can stop for today and pick up cooking in the next couple days! 

COOK YOUR CHILI! 

Preheat your dutch oven or large pot (with lid) on high. Drizzle in a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it apart so that it can all cook evenly. Let it brown without touching it for 4-5 minutes. Once you see the pink starting to disappear, you can stir the meat so that it browns and cooks on all sides.

Beef cooking in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

When the meat is fully browned, add the garlic, carrots, onions, and celery. Stir to combine and start to cook the veggies. Cook for 5 minutes.

Veggies and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Next add the Seasonings, broth, diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Stir again and then cover and simmer for 20-60 minutes stirring every 10-15 minutes. (The longer you cook this, the more the ingredients will meld together and become one amazing chili!)

Diced tomatoes and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Adding tomato paste to chili pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

COOK YOUR MAC AND CHEESE 

For the pasta, I recommend a short curly variety, such as Rotini, Fusilli, or this fun Riccioli.

Boil the pasta until al dente (about 5-10 minutes depending on the pasta). Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer or transfer to a large mixing bowl until the sauce is ready.

In a small pot or in the microwave, warm up the milk (do not boil).

Make your roux by adding 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour to a preheated pan (heated to medium, not high heat). Whisk the butter and flour together as the butter melts.

Butter and flour in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Once they are fully combined, slowly pour in the milk, whisking the entire time to incorporate it into the roux and prevent lumps from forming.  Bring the sauce up to a simmer so that it starts to thicken.  You can test the sauce by coating the back of a spoon and running your finger through it.  If it leaves a trail, you’re set.

Adding slurry to roux for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

sauce with whisk and spoon for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

When the sauce is thickened, stir in the cheese until you have a smooth cheese sauce.

Adding cheese to sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Whisking cheese sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Either add the pasta to the sauce or pour the sauce over the pasta in a bowl and fold it in to coat each pasta.

Pouring Cheese sauce over pasta for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Mixed Mac and Cheese for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

To serve, simply add a heaping scoop of mac and cheese to each plate, then top with an equally heaping scoop of chili! Sprinkle cheese on top and dig in!

ENJOY!  😍 Carrie

Ladling Chili over Mac and Cheese on a plate. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

This Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe is a no-apologies meal that layers indulgence on top of indulgence and then garnishes with a bit more indulgence.  It has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili.  Both the mac and cheese and the chili are super easy to make.  They can be made ahead and then reheated, making them great for weeknight dinners.  #macandcheese #chilirecipes #familydinnerideas #easydinners #comfortfood

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chili, easy dinner, ground beef, Mac and cheese
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

Chili

  • 1 lb ground lean beef, 90% lean raised without antibiotics
  • 1 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1/2 cup celery
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbsp chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 28 oz Diced Tomatoes (whole peeled tomatoes in sauce or crushed tomatoes are fine too.)
  • 1 cup beef or chicken broth (vegetable stock is fine too)

Mac and Cheese

  • 10 oz Dry Curly Pasta
  • 2 tbsp All-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp Salted Butter
  • 1.5 cups Milk warmed
  • 4-6 oz Shredded Cheddar
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Instructions

Prep Ahead Steps

  1. Dice the onion, carrots, and celery. Remove the skin and mince the garlic cloves.

    Diced onion, celery, and carrots Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  2. Measure out your seasonings and spices, Chili Powder, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, and Paprika.

    Spices for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  3. If your cheese is not shredded, you can also shred that ahead of time.

  4. At this point, you can either make the chili in advance and store it in the fridge/freezer or you can stop for today and pick up cooking in the next couple days!

Cook your Chili

  1. Preheat your dutch oven or large pot (with lid) on high. Drizzle in a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it apart so that it can all cook evenly. Let it brown without touching it for 4-5 minutes. Once you see the pink starting to disappear, you can stir the meat so that it browns and cooks on all sides.

    Beef cooking in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  2. When the meat is fully browned, add the garlic, carrots, onions, and celery. Stir to combine and start to cook the veggies. Cook for 5 minutes.

    Veggies and beef in pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  3. Next add the Seasonings, broth, diced tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Stir again and then cover and simmer for 20-60 minutes stirring every 10-15 minutes. (The longer you cook this, the more the ingredients will meld together and become one amazing chili!)

    Adding tomato paste to chili pot for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Cook your Mac and Cheese

  1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Once the pasta water is boiling, add a splash of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and stir so that it's all immersed in the water and doesn't stick it itself. Boil the pasta until al dente (about 5-10 minutes depending on the pasta). Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer or transfer to a large mixing bowl until the sauce is ready.

  2. In a small pot or in the microwave, warm up the milk (do not boil).

  3. Make your roux by adding 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour to a preheated pan (heated to medium, not high heat). Whisk the butter and flour together as the butter melts. Once they are fully combined, slowly pour in the milk, whisking the entire time to incorporate it into the roux and prevent lumps from forming.

    Adding slurry to roux for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  4. Bring the sauce up to a simmer so that it starts to thicken.  You can test the sauce by coating the back of a spoon and running your finger through it.  If it leaves a trail, you're set.

    sauce with whisk and spoon for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  5. When the sauce is thickened, stir in the cheese until you have a smooth cheese sauce.

    Adding cheese to sauce for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes
  6. Either add the pasta to the sauce or pour the sauce over the pasta in a bowl and fold it in to coat each pasta

    Pouring Cheese sauce over pasta for Chili Mac and Cheese. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

Serve!

  1. Simply add a heaping scoop of mac and cheese to each plate, then top with an equally heaping scoop of chili! Sprinkle cheese on top and dig in!

    Ladling Chili over Mac and Cheese on a plate. This Recipe has creamy and cheesy pasta topped with smokey, tangy, savory beef chili! #macandcheese #chilirecipes

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