This Chili Mac and Cheese recipe is unapologetically cheesy, super satisfying, and (believe it or not) healthy too! The best part? This dreamy meal comes together in ONE pot and in 30 minutes.
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. (As evident from the FOUR mac and cheese recipes featured in my cookbook).
Today, we’re pumping up classic cheddar mac with ground turkey, beans, and tomatoes to make transform it into a hearty, one-pot chili mac and cheese.
It’s filling, oh-so comforting for the soul (and belly), and did I mention cheesy (like this Homemade Hamburger Helper)?
If you love mac and cheese, love chili, or are in the market for some kid-friendly food that adults will enjoy too, then this 30-minute recipe is for you!
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 Chili Mac and Cheese in One Pot
For all of my chili mac and cheese daydreaming, I am pleased to report that this chili recipe exceeded my every expectation (as does this Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese).
It’s gloriously rich and creamy and the ground turkey and beans make it especially hearty and filling. The best comfort food!
- 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 and cheese 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 that provides seasoning too.
- Black Beans + Kidney Beans. My favorite duo of protein and fiber-packed legumes for just about any chili recipe (like this Slow Cooker Turkey Chili with Sweet Potatoes).
- Tomato Sauce. For additional moisture and robust tomato flavor.
- Diced Tomatoes with Green Chilis. Adds plump pieces of tomato throughout the chili mac and cheese and 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 the pasta separately. Just toss it right into the pot with the other ingredients and cook until al dente. (If you love one-pot pastas, be sure to check out Chicken Stroganoff.)
- Cheddar Cheese. It’s not mac and cheese without plenty of cheese. I like to use a sharp-cheddar. It’s 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. Could use some fresh parsley as well.
Chili Mac and Cheese Toppings
Feel free to add more favorite chili fixin’s to your spread to finish off your bowl of chili mac and cheese to your liking.
Diced avocado, chopped cilantro, additional grated cheddar cheese, monterey jack cheese, pickled jalapeños, a dash of cayenne pepper for some more heat or minced red onion (or Pickled Onions) would all be fabulous.
- Saute the onions in large saucepan like a dutch oven with olive oil (or butter).
- Brown the turkey with the jalapeno and spices, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon.
- Stir in the tomatoes and sauce, stock, beans, and pasta. Simmer until the noodles are al dente.
- Stir in the cheese until melted and creamy. Serve with toppings of your choice. ENJOY!
- To Store. Leftover chili mac and cheese can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 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 and cheese may be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge before warming.
If you make this 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.
So much flavor, so much satisfaction, and there’s only one pot to wash at the end.
I vote chili mac and cheese for dinner of the year!
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.
Sharp cheddar is my favorite for chili mac and cheese 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. NOTE: I have not yet tried this, so it would be an experiment! You could use my instant pot cauliflower 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!
Chili Mac and Cheese
- 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 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 can low-sodium black beans (15 ounces) rinsed and drained
- 1 can low-sodium red kidney beans (15 ounces) rinsed and drained
- 1 can tomato sauce (15 ounces)
- 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis (10 ounces) 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, jalapeno, chili powder, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently and 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 and cheese 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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