This Chili Mac and Cheese recipe is unapologetically cheesy, super satisfying, and (believe it or not) healthy too! Hearty turkey and beans, cheesy pasta, and tons of flavor! The best part? This dreamy meal comes together in ONE pot and in 30 minutes.
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Why You’ll Love This One Pot Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Heartier Take on the Classic. While a good classic mac and cheese recipe will forever have my heart, I will always find pleasure in coming up with fun macaroni and cheese twists (see the FOUR mac and cheese recipes in my cookbook). This variation with ground turkey, beans, and tomatoes is a hearty, one-pot chili mac recipe. It’s filling, oh-so comforting for the soul (and belly), and did I mention cheesy (just like this Homemade Hamburger Helper)?
- It’s the Main Event. From this Italian Mac and Cheese, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, and Gourmet Mac and Cheese, transforming this favorite from a side dish to a complete meal will never get old. If you love mac and cheese, love chili, or are in the market for kid-friendly food that adults will enjoy, this 30-minute recipe is for you! It’s gloriously rich and creamy, and the ground turkey and beans make it incredibly nourishing and filling.
- It’s Easy and Made in ONE POT. Not only is this classic chili mac recipe delicious and nutritious, but it’s also a breeze to make. There are only a few simple steps of prep (the chopping is minimal here), and the recipe comes together quickly. You can have this chili mac and cheese on the table in just 30 minutes. The best part? Everything cooks together in the same pot. That means you’ll only have one pot to wash at the end of the night!
5 Star Review
“The BEST chili mac recipe! I’ve been making this every other week for nearly 4 years now.”— KJ —
How to Make the Best Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Ground Turkey. My choice for a lean meat option that packs plenty of satisfying protein into every serving without the added fat. (It’s also my choice for this Healthy Turkey Chili.)
- Onion. For a little zip and depth of flavor that gives this chili mac recipe that “cooked-all-day” taste.
- Jalapeño. Turns up the heat on this hearty chili mac recipe.
- Spices. A classic blend of chili powder, cumin, coriander, black pepper, and garlic powder gives this dish that signature chili flavor (like in this Vegetarian Chili).
- Chicken Stock. Our primary cooking liquid.
- Black Beans + Kidney Beans. My favorite duo of protein and fiber-packed legumes for just about any chili recipe (including Slow Cooker Turkey Chili with Sweet Potatoes).
- Tomato Sauce. For additional moisture and robust tomato flavor.
- Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilis. Adds another layer of southwest flare thanks to the green chilis.
- Macaroni. The real magic of this dish is that you don’t even have to boil and drain the pasta separately. Just toss it right into the pot with the other ingredients and cook until al dente. (If you love one-pot pasta recipes, check out this Chicken Stroganoff.)
- Cheddar Cheese. It’s not mac and cheese without plenty of cheese. I like to use sharp cheddar. Its more potent flavor means you can get away with using less.
- Green Onions. For a final flourish of color and fresh onion flavor that is the perfect garnish. You could use some fresh parsley or cilantro as well.
- Sauté the Onions. Cook until it begins to soften.
- Brown the Turkey. Add the jalapeño and spices.
- Add Remaining Ingredients. Stir in the tomatoes and sauce, stock, beans, and pasta. Simmer.
- Stir in the Cheese. Serve with toppings of your choice. ENJOY!
Chili Mac and Cheese Toppings
Feel free to add your favorite chili toppings to your spread to finish off your bowl of hearty chili mac to your liking.
- Avocado. Creamy and delicious!
- More Cheese. Because an extra shower of freshly grated cheese is always welcome.
- Pickled Vegetables. Both Pickled Jalapeños and Pickled Onions would be tasty.
- Spice. For some added heat, try a dash of cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.
- Corn Chips. If you’re a corn chips and chili kind of person, then feel free to crush some for the top of this mac and cheese.
- To Store. Leftover chili mac can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Warm gently in the microwave or on the stovetop in a large skillet sprinkled with a small amount of water or chicken broth to keep the pasta from drying out.
- To Freeze. Chili mac can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming.
If you make this easy chili mac and cheese with the intention to freeze all or a portion of it, I would slightly undercook the pasta, so it is less mushy once thawed and reheated.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Can Opener. You know a recipe is easy when the main piece of equipment needed is a can opener. Just push one button on this electric opener. No sharp edges!
- Chef’s Knife. A high-quality steel and carbon everyday chef’s knife is a must for anyone who loves spending time in the kitchen.
- Dutch Oven. Our one-way ticket to this one-pot masterpiece.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Grate Your Own Cheese. Pre-shredded cheese doesn’t melt as smooth or creamily as freshly grated cheese from a block. I highly recommend the extra step here, as the cheese is an important part of this dish.
- Use What’s in Season. Swap the jalapeño for your favorite spicy seasonal chili peppers from your garden or local market. For extra heat, opt for something with more heat, like a serrano. For a milder chili, reduce or omit the jalapeños.
- Sneak in More Veggies. If you’d like to slip a few extra veggies into this meal, you can certainly do so! I think chopped fresh spinach, mushrooms, or green peppers would be tasty.
Chili Mac and Cheese
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- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion diced
- 1 pound extra-lean ground turkey (use an additional can of beans to make vegetarian)
- 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and diced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder plus 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can low-sodium red kidney beans rinsed and drained
- 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilis undrained
- 2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow macaroni noodles about 8 ounces
- 1 cup freshly shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese plus additional for serving
- Sliced green onions for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large, deep Dutch oven or pot over medium-high. Once hot, add the onion and sauté until beginning to soften; about 4 minutes.
- Add the turkey, jalapeño, chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, breaking apart the turkey until the meat is crumbled and cooked through, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the chicken stock, black beans, kidney beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes in their juices, and pasta. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Once simmering, cover the pot and cook until the noodles are al dente, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in the cheese until melted and creamy. Serve warm, topped with additional shredded cheese and green onions.
- TO STORE: Leftover chili mac and cheese can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm gently in the microwave, sprinkled with a small amount of water or chicken stock to keep the pasta from drying out.
- TO FREEZE: Chili mac may be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming. If you plan to freeze, I would slightly undercook the pasta, so it is less mushy once reheated.
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Frequently Asked Questions
If you’d like to make this a vegetarian chili mac and cheese, you may omit the ground turkey from the recipe and swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock. You also could use vegan meat crumbles in place of the turkey.
I like a combination of black beans and red kidney beans best. However, you could also use pinto beans, cannellini beans, or Great Northern beans in chili mac.
Sharp cheddar is my favorite for chili mac because it brings that classic mac and cheese flavor and creaminess to the dish. However, you could also use other melting-style cheeses you enjoy. Fontina, pepper jack, or gouda would all work nicely.
Yes, you can make instant pot chili mac. I have not yet tried this though, so it would be an experiment! You could use my Instant Pot Mac and Cheese as a rough guide on how to make it. If you decide to try it out, I’d love for you to let me know how it goes!