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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.

Easy Chili Mac and Cheese in a dutch oven with a spoon

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!
The best chili mac and cheese recipe in a pot

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

The Ingredients

  • 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.)

Substitution Tip

If you don’t enjoy ground turkey, you could swap for an equal amount of ground chicken or lean ground beef.

  • 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.

Dietary Note

To sneak in a little extra fiber into every serving, I always opt for whole wheat pasta.

For a gluten free chili mac, choose your favorite lentil, chickpea, or other gluten-free pasta. Be sure to check the labels of the other ingredients while at the store to ensure they’re certified gluten free too!

NOTE: Gluten-free pasta cooking times vary from regular pasta, so adjust the recipe accordingly.

The Directions

sautéed onions in a dutch oven
  1. Sauté the Onions. Cook until it begins to soften.
browning ground turkey in a dutch oven for chili mac
  1. Brown the Turkey. Add the jalapeño and spices.
adding pasta, tomato sauce, and beans to a dutch oven full of onions and cooked ground turkey
  1. Add Remaining Ingredients. Stir in the tomatoes and sauce, stock, beans, and pasta. Simmer.
Chili mac casserole in a Dutch oven
  1. 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.
A classic chili mac recipe in a Dutch oven

Storage Tips

  • 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.

Storage Tips

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.

Easy chili mac and cheese being stirred with a spoon

What to Serve with Chili Mac and Cheese

  • 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.
One pot chili mac and cheese served on a plate

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

4.94 from 45 votes
An easy chili mac and cheese recipe with ground turkey, beans, and plenty of melty cheddar cheese. Cooks in ONE pot and ready in 30 minutes!

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes

Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6), about 2 cupsCalories: 504kcalCarbohydrates: 67gProtein: 37gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 60mgPotassium: 1142mgFiber: 11gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 889IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 204mgIron: 7mg

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Make Chili Mac Vegetarian?

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.

What Beans Are Good for Chili?

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.

What Cheese is Best for 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.

Can You Make This In The Instant Pot?

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!

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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64 Comments

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  1. Mmm, so good. I made this tonight and it is delish. There is very little prep so it comes together fast.  I bet I could even premix the spices in little containers to make it even faster! I don’t usually cook with whole wheat pasta, but I like it here because it holds up in the cooking process without getting mushy and has almost a creamy bite to it. Thanks Erin!5 stars

    1. Deborah, I’m so excited to hear how much you enjoyed this and that the prep was quick and easy for you too. Thanks so much for trying out the recipe and taking time to leave this review!

  2. I wanted to share that we enjoyed your healthy Chili Mac and Cheese for Valentine’s Day dinner Sunday evening at our house! My boyfriend was pleased and so was I, especially with comforting leftovers last night after a long day. Of course, I did not want to decide between the two recipes, so I also bought ingredients to make Sun Dried Tomato Pasta later this week! Tee hee. 5 stars

    1. Amy, I’m so soooo happy to hear you guys loved this, and I’m honored it was your V-Day dinner! And the sun dried tomato pasta is such a winner too. You’ll have to tell me which one ends up being your favorite :)

  3. This was SO good and easy to make- my husband already wants me to make it again this week! Thank you for the recipe and your quick response! :)5 stars

  4. This recipe was another winner! Made enough to have leftovers all week for my husband and I, and I’m not mad about it!  Your blog has become one of my faves!! 5 stars

    1. Thank you so much, Nikki! I truly appreciate your kind words about my blog, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks for leaving this awesome review.

  5. So tasty, easy and inexpensive! Made this tonight for my husband and it was one of the most pleasing new recipes I’ve tried in a while. I made a number of adaptations: first, I swapped the turkey for extra lean ground beef. I omitted the oil and just used cooking spray and once the meat was done I mixed in the veggies. I added some diced celery and an orange pepper for extra nutrition and color. My pot wasn’t quite big enough so I only used kidney beans, which was plenty with an extra 2 oz of pasta. Lastly, we used freshly grated pepper jack. Topped with a squeeze of lime, a dollop of Greek yogurt and a little avocado.5 stars

    1. Alison, I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you so much for taking the time to share all your tweaks—it sounds delicious!

  6. Wonderful recipe! My husband, who 9/10 times will not eat ground turkey as a beef substitute, ate his whole plate. Thank you for another great healthy recipe! 5 stars

  7. Easy to follow and like the recipe said one pot. My husband said “Really, really, good” that was after moaning his approval. Definitely will make again.5 stars

  8. Must make recipe!!! It really is quick, easy and it freezes very well. I like crumbling up tortilla chips too for some added texture. I’ve made it with both ground turkey and beef, both are good. This last time around I used the red lentil pasta for the added protein. Some other modifications, I don’t do jalapeno and in a pinch I’ve used dehydrated onions vs fresh. Hope you get a chance to make it.5 stars

  9. I made this the night of the 2019 Super Bowl and it was exactly as easy and delicious as you’d described. It was a big hit with my family and we’ll definitely make it again. (Modifications: lean ground beef, because my local market was out of ground turkey, and not quite as much chili powder because I ran out.)5 stars

  10. Thee BEST chili mac recipe! I’ve been make this every other week for nearly 4 years now. I’m a single mom and quick/delicious dinners are a must at my house!5 stars

  11. So simple and unbelievably delicious. Kicking myself for not trying it sooner! Thank you for yet *another* go-to recipe, Erin!!5 stars

  12. Delicious! My husband is obsessed. Followed the recipe exactly. Will become a new staple recipe in our house!5 stars

  13. This was delicious! Came together quickly with a nice balance of chili flavor and macaroni and cheese. Even my kids liked it!5 stars

  14. This recipe is definitely a keeper. Only changes I made was regular pasta and halving the chili powder (I’m a wuss). We will definitely be making this again (and it’s so easy!!!).5 stars

  15. I made this for the first time last week. My husband and I both loved it. That speaks highly of this recipe because my husband is not fond of chili, kidney beans and similar foods. But he thought this was great.
    I always follow a recipe exactly or as close as possible the first time I make it. I did make the following changes due to what I had on hand. I used ground chicken instead of ground turkey, left out coriander, added some green pepper because I had some I wanted to use and used minced garlic instead of garlic powder. The only reason I did not use coriander is because I did not have any and did not want to buy it since it is a spice that I may not use again.
    Very good recipe. It was good leftover.
    At this again.
    Oh , and I should mention that this is a recipe that comes together very quickly.5 stars

  16. My husband loves Hamburger Helper chili Mac from his childhood but I refuse to let him eat such disgusting food (if you can even call it food) so this is the bomb! I used bison for more authentic taste and didn’t add beans. So good and so easy!5 stars

  17. Hi Erin, I normally prepare food for our group’s (approx 20) nosh after Saturday shabbat. I completely prepare the food and then it is either placed on a hot plate or slow cooker for approx 1-1/2 hrs during our service.

    This recipe sounds great but curious how would you adjust the cooking for this so the macaroni doesn’t turn to mush or the dish becoming too dry????

    No rating yet because I haven’t made….but it sounds delish.

    1. Hi Sharon, I’ve only tested the recipe as is but typically with pasta dishes if you want them to remain firm and not get mushy is to make sure you cook it al dente or even less. If you decide to experiment, let me know how it goes!

  18. OMG 😋 I just made this for dinner and I USUALLY NEVER POST BUT HAD TO 😋
    I think the only thing I did different was I simmered it for 2 hours cuz I had time today
    This is AWESOME 😋😋😋
    THANK YOU for this recipe 🥰
    I forgot to say I made this with Gluten free Pasta 😋😋 after we simmered for 2 hours 😋😋😋😋😋😋😋5 stars

  19. This is a absolutely delicious and quick to make, which makes it a keeper. However, I have to go dairy free for the foreseeable future and wanted to ask if omitting the cheese will be okay? Thank you!5 stars

    1. Hi Dani! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review and it should be find to omit the cheese!

  20. My son is going to college in the fall and is asking me to teach him how to cook. We made this last night and loved it! It’s easy and delicious!5 stars

  21. My family really enjoyed this dish! I cut down on the spice by omitting the jalepeno and reducing the chili powder, but it was delicious and flavorful and everyone liked.5 stars

  22. I made this for our Meatless Monday Meal and it was very good! Replaced the ground turkey with Beyond Meat. Used 1 tablespoon of chili powder and added an extra teaspoon of garlic powder, and a teaspoon each of smoked paprika and dried chopped chives. Topped with shredded cheddar and green onion. Oh, I did substitute the chicken broth with beef broth for added flavor (and because we aren’t quite vegetarian 😁), but you could use vegetable broth. Great recipe and very filling!5 stars

  23. This came together so quickly. I literally have been home from work for less than an hour. We already made it and had dinner, and everybody loved it! I had some leftover bacon that we crumbled and served on top! Great comfort food! Thank you, Erin .5 stars

  24. My six year old son loved this, which almost never happens when I make dinner, so it was a happy win! He said he liked the noodles and the cheese in the chili, so I will be making it again. Great recipe!5 stars

  25. Hi, if I am out of tomato sauce do you think condensed tomato soup would work as a substitute? Would I need to reduce the amount of chicken broth used? Thanks!!

    1. Hi Megan! I’ve never tested this substitute so it would be really hard for me to say if it would work. If you decide to experiment, I’d love to know how it goes!

  26. So darn good! I doubled it, and I had a cpl zucchini that I shredded and added in. Yummy! Will definitely be making again!!5 stars

  27. Amazing, as are the other two (of yours) I’ve tried recently. This is the perfect game-day meal though my husband and son want it in the rotation. Thank you!
    Looking forward to trying more of your recipes!5 stars