30 Minutes or Less/ Beef and Pork/ Field Friendly Meal/ Kids Love This/ Main Dish/ Pasta & Rice

One Pot Chili Mac n Cheese

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One Pot Chili Mac n Cheese is a ground beef skillet meal the whole family enjoys! Even better, this easy chili mac skillet recipe is ready in 30 minutes.

That’s right my friends, this is ONE POT chili mac which means a skillet loaded with flavor plus less dishes for you to wash. #winning

I know how challenging it can be to feed picky eaters. Sometimes, we get into a dinner rut, especially with a five year old who only wants to eat mac and cheese for dinner. Or maybe a hot dog. If she’s feeling REALLY adventurous she’ll go for a chicken patty.

So parents out there, I get your struggles. I’m right there with you!

Let me tell you about this dish that converts even the pickiest of eaters.

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WHAT IS ONE POT CHILI MAC N CHEESE?

In a word, heaven. But seriously, this is a kid-approved recipe our entire family gobbles up. It’s a cross between chili and mac and cheese. Obviously.

There’s a mixture of ground beef with just a little bit of onion. We gotta keep it on the down low, I get that. And of course, you can omit that if it doesn’t fly with your family.

Then we add all the other ingredients – diced tomatoes with green chilies, elbow macaroni (the mac), chili powder, cumin, salt, onion and garlic powder, black and cayenne pepper go into the pot.

macaroni noodles with ground beef and tomatoes and a fork

HOW TO MAKE CHILI MAC

I don’t think there’s a recipe much easier than this one. This is one of our family go-to’s and the older kids know where to find this recipe and how to make it.

Basically, here’s how you make one pot chili mac.

Brown ground beef and onion in a large skillet.

Dump everything else, except the cheese, into the skillet. They’ll hang out a bit, come to a boil and then simmer on low.

This gives the flavors time to combine and cooks the pasta in the pan, which is seriously one of the best inventions ever.

Once the noodles are cooked through, add some cheese and stir it in.

That’s it. You’ve got homemade, cheesy chili mac and you are crushing this dinnertime gig!

WHO INVENTED CHILI MAC ANYWAY?

That’s a good question. According to Wikapedia, chili mac is a common dish in the Midwestern United States which makes sense since I’m sitting here in Illinois.

Wikapedia goes on to say it can be an inexpensive dish to prepare (true) and has been described as a comfort food (again, agreed).

Several variations of the dish exist, and prepared canned and boxed versions also exist.

Yes, several variations exist. My neighbors is probably different than mine.

I have also seen chili mac casserole versions, but if you don’t have to heat up the oven, why go through the trouble?

There’s also a boxed version available. I think we all know it as Hamburger Helper at the grocery store. Honestly, this one is better.

Seriously, it has to be or I wouldn’t be putting in the time to share it with you, would I??

WHAT ARE GOOD SIDE DISHES FOR CHILI MAC N CHEESE?

This chili mac and cheese recipe is ALMOST a meal in one minus the vegetable. So think about serving it with easy side dishes like…

  • Peas (always a kid favorite)
  • Salad
  • Corn
  • Rolls (because kids can eat all the carbs they want and not have a care in the world)
macaroni noodles, ground beef, tomatoes

RECIPE VARIATIONS

Here’s what I have to say about the chili mac and cheese recipe….

  • Don’t let the long list of ingredients intimidate you. Mot of these are spices and they’re already in your pantry. You can measure them – or not.
  • Don’t have one of the spices? Don’t sweat it, it’s not the end of the world. Just leave it out.
  • There is a little bit of kick from the cayenne so you can omit that if you like.
  • Change up the diced tomatoes with green chilis for regular diced tomatoes
  • Switch up your type of pasta from macaroni to another small pasta shape, like shells or bow tie pasta.
  • Different melty cheeses will work – cheese like cheddar, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, and Colby Jack are great.

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Recipe updated September 2019.

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2.34 from 3 votes

One Pan Chili Mac and Cheese

One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese is a ground beef skillet meal the whole family enjoys! Even better, this easy chili mac skillet recipe is ready in 30 minutes.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: one pot chili mac
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 417kcal
Author: Deanne Frieders

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 14.5 ounce Rotel style tomatoes with green chilis
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 2 1/3 cup water
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • Cook the ground beef with the onions in a large skillet over medium heat until meat is cooked through, breaking up with a spoon. Drain.
  • Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT CHEESE, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer on low.
  • Cover and cook 15-17 minutes, stirring occasionally, until macaroni is cooked through.
  • Add cheddar cheese, stir to combine, and allow to sit 2-3 minutes before serving.

TO MAKE AS A FREEZER MEAL

  • Label a gallon sized freezer bag. Cook ground beef, breaking up with a spoon, until cooked through. Drain fat and allow to cool. Add the ground beef to the freezer bag.
    Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT CHEESE AND MACARONI. Mix to combine. Remove excess air and lay flat to freeze.

TO COOK FROM A FREEZER MEAL

  • Thaw. Add contents of bag to a large skillet. Add the macaroni. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer on low. Cover and cook 15-17 minutes, stirring occasionally, until macaroni is cooked through.
    Add cheddar cheese, stir to combine, and allow to sit 2-3 minutes before serving.

As seen on Meal Plan Monday and Weekend Potluck!

one pot chili mac and cheese on a plate with a fork.
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4 Comments

  • Reply
    C Scott
    August 29, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    1 star
    What a flop of a recipe..so little flavor..noodles weren’t cooked. Followed the recipe to a T 👎🏻👍🏻

    • Reply
      S Blair
      September 28, 2019 at 5:16 pm

      5 stars
      I loved this recipe! So easy and cheesy.
      I added a little extra water until the noodles were ready and stirred it to make sure it didn’t stick .

  • Reply
    HungryMomma
    September 18, 2019 at 6:04 pm

    1 star
    The noodles were hard! Followed the recipe as is.

    • Reply
      Deanne Frieders
      September 18, 2019 at 6:41 pm

      Thanks for the feedback.I’m sorry the noodles were hard when you made this. It’s on our meal plan tomorrow, so I’ll check it out and make an adjustment accordingly.

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