This Chili Mac recipe is an incredible marriage of two classic comfort foods – macaroni and cheese and chili! This extra easy and flavor packed recipe is kid approved, only uses 6 ingredients, and is ready in under 20 minutes!
Why You’ll Love This Chili Mac Recipe
Do you ever have one of those days? You know, when the one of the kids are teething, you got a flat tire, everyone was late to school, you stained your favorite shirt, and it’s cold outside?! Next time life treats you less than friendly, make it all better with a big warm and cozy bowl of chili mac! It’s the ultimate comfort food!
- All That Flavor: Each cheesy bite of this delicious dinner is better than the last. Made with ingredients like chili seasoning and boxed mac and cheese, it’s impossible to resist this comforting dish! What elevates this entree from tasty to downright mouthwatering is that it isn’t just macaroni and meat. The chili seasoning, beans, and sauce make this meal better than you could ever imagine!
- Kids Love It: Prepare for your kids to fall head over heels in love with this chili mac recipe! Even the pickiest eaters will be heading back into the kitchen for seconds. Or thirds. Who’s counting? Or if it’s just for adults and you like it spicy, use the hot version of Rotel and enjoy that chili burn!
- So Easy: This fast and easy chili mac is seriously exploding with flavor, but comes together in 20 minutes from start to finish. It is a family favorite dinner that fills you up and doesn’t take much effort or planning!
Craving more comfort food after a bowl of chili mac and cheese? You’re not alone! Check out our other easy comfort food recipes to help make your weeknight dinners more delicious. We’re big fans of our cheesy one pot pasta, creamy potato soup, and classic crockpot French onion chicken.
What You’ll Need
You only need 6 simple ingredients to whip up a big batch of your new go-to weeknight dinner. It doesn’t get much better than that! Scroll down to the recipe card for exact amounts.
- Boxed Mac and Cheese: You’ll need the 24 oz family size.
- Ground Meat: Ground turkey or beef works great.
- Diced Rotel: We use mild for the kids, but original or hot is also delicious.
- Chili Beans in Chili Sauce
- Chili Seasoning Mix
How to Make Chili Mac and Cheese
Chili mac and cheese recipes are meant to be easy and quick so you can dive into that first bite as soon as possible! Check out the recipe card for detailed instructions.
- Pasta: Cook the pasta according to the box directions.
- Saute: While the pasta is cooking, brown the ground meat and onion. You’ll know it’s done when you don’t see any more pink in the meat. We highly recommend draining any excess grease from the pan at this stage.
- Mix: Add the cooked noodles and the remaining ingredients to the hot pan and cook for another few minutes. Add the cheese from the mac and cheese box and stir it all together. This is a great step to let your kids help! Serve and enjoy!
Tips and Variation Ideas
Here are a few tips from our kitchen and ideas to change things up a bit if you’d like.
- Drain the Grease: If you are using ground beef, you will want to make sure and drain the excess grease out of your pan while cooking. Otherwise your final dish can wind up greasy.
- 24 oz size Mac and Cheese: We tested this recipe with a couple of different boxed mac & cheeses. You want to make sure you have enough noodles and cheese, so make sure you grab the family sized box! We prefer the Kraft Deluxe 24ox Family Size (shown in the photo).
- Chili Seasoning Packet: Don’t forget to add the seasoning! Without it, this dish tastes more like hamburger helper. The chili powder and chili beans are really what makes it chili mac!
- Make It Spicy: We use the mild Rotel so our chili mac is kid friendly. However, if you like it spicy, try using medium or even hot Rotel! One single can of hot Rotel will crank up the heat by about 100%! It’s surprisingly hot! You can also sprinkle in some red chili flakes and cayenne powder for some extra heat if you happened to already grab a can of mild Rotel.
What to Serve With Chili Mac
Contrary to what the Kindergartners in our lives think, the best way to eat this cheesy dinner isn’t directly out of the pot, with a fork, as quickly as possible. (Even if you’re like them and you don’t think anyone’s watching you.)
If you’re looking for a good side dish to serve with this, we usually opt for a side salad. It’s quick, easy, and lightens things up a bit. The lettuce cancels out everything else… right? But honestly, we usually serve this chili mac in a big bowl all on its own. It really doesn’t need any other sides or toppings, it’s a full meal! You have meat, pasta and beans all in one big cheesy bowl!
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
This chili mac and cheese recipe makes a ton of food, which is great for those of us who love leftovers! Here’s how to handle them.
- Refrigerate: You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Reheat: We usually just reheat chili mac in the microwave. But if you’re reheating a larger amount, the oven will work great as well.
- Freeze: Feel free to make a double batch to freeze for meal prep! It’ll stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
More Easy Pasta Recipes
- 1 box, 24 oz family size Mac and cheese
- 1 lb lean ground meat*
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 10 oz can diced Rotel, do not drain
- 1 16 oz can chili beans in chili sauce, do not drain
- 1 1.25 oz package chili seasoning mix, **or our homemade chili seasoning
- Boil pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is boiling, brown the ground meat in a medium to large skillet, for 5 minutes. Add onion to ground meat continue cooking until meat is no longer pink and thoroughly cooked.
- Make sure to separate meat while it’s cooking so that it is in small pieces. I use a potato masher to easily break apart meat. Drain any excess grease from pan, if needed.
- Add the cooked pasta, rotel, chili beans and chili seasoning and stir well to combine.
- Cook for 3 more minutes and then add the cheese from Mac & cheese box and stir well.
- Serve immediately.