Easy Chili Mac Recipe


Cheesy, comforting, and packed with plant-based protein and veggies, this family-friendly Chili Mac is a super yummy dinner for everyone at the table. (Bonus: Leftovers reheat so well!)

chili-mac-in-white-and-stainless-bowl

Easy Chili Mac

I’m always looking for new pasta dishes to make for my family—because pasta is one ingredient my whole crew loves—and this Chili Mac builds on that familiar food and adds veggies, beans, cheese, and subtle Mexican flavor.

You can take a few shortcuts to make this super easy and play around with which veggies your family likes best.

We love this as a vegetarian meal, but you can check the Notes at the end of the recipe for an option to make this with ground beef or turkey.

Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe, you’ll need the following ingredients:

ingredients-in-chili-mac-with-veggies
  • Veggies: You can use carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, and/or bell pepper according to what you prefer.
  • Garlic: Start with whole garlic cloves or a jar of minced garlic.
  • Beans: I like pinto and kidney beans in this recipe.
  • Tomato sauce: I use a can of tomato sauce for flavor and ease here.
  • Water or broth: Both of these work, so use what you have. It can be chicken or vegetable stock.
  • Pasta: I prefer elbows, but you can use any shape your family likes.
  • Cumin, chili powder, paprika for ample flavor.
  • Cheese: Mexican shredded cheese blend, cheddar, or Monterrey Jack will all work here.
  • Optional: corn, sour cream, shredded lettuce, or any other taco-type toppings you like

TIP: Any mix of veggies work, so you can pick which to use based on what your kids prefer.

Step-by-Step Directions

Here’s a look at how to make this recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full info!

how-to-make-chili-mac-step-by-step
  1. Chop your veggies (or buy them precut).
  2. Rinse and drain the beans.
  3. Sautee the veggies.
  4. Add water or broth and tomato sauce.
  5. Prepare the pasta and drain.
  6. Stir everything together with cheese and toppings and serve!

TIP: I like cheddar cheese in this, but you could also use Monterrey Jack or a Mexican cheese blend.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you. make chili mac from scratch?

Essentially, you make pasta and combine it with beans, cheese, and in this case, veggies. Fairly straight forward!

What’s the best sauce for chili mac?

I like to use canned tomato sauce since it’s the right consistency and is easy! (The one I used for testing was Hunt’s, which doesn’t have any strong Italian herbs so it works well here.)

Can I add meat to chili mac?

You can totally start by browning a half pound or pound of ground beef or turkey, then proceed with the recipe.

chili-mac-in-adult-and-kids-bowl

How to Store

Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the fridge. Reheat to serve.

Best Tips for Success

  • Start this by sauteing a pound of ground beef or turkey if you prefer.
  • To make a smaller amount, cut everything in half. (Or just use ½ of the pasta! That way will be saucier than the photos shown here but that’s an open to lower the overall final volume.)
  • Use 4 cups total veggies. Any one veggie or combo will work. (I prefer either butternut squash and sweet potato in the mix though.)
  • I like to use short shapes of pasta like mini shells, farfalle, ditalini, or penne.
  • This is not super saucy, but if you want more sauce, either decrease the volume of pasta slightly (as in, use less than a full 1 pound box) or add up to an additional ½ cup water or broth.
  • Stir in a cup of frozen corn at the end of cooking if desired.
  • Top with taco-type toppings such as sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, and/or guacamole. You could even crush tortilla chips on top!

Related Recipes


I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe, so please comment below to share!

chili-mac-in-white-and-stainless-bowl

  • 16 ounces pasta (I prefer small shapes like mini shells, farfalle, or ditalini)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or unsalted butter)
  • 4 cups very finely chopped or shredded veggies (such as sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, onion, and/or bell peppers)
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled and minced)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water or reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 14.5- ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 14.5- ounce cans beans (such as kidney beans, pinto beans, or black beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup frozen corn (optional)
  • Cilantro, shredded lettuce, sour cream, and/or any other desired taco toppings (optional)
  • Prepare the veggies.

  • Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Prepare pasta according to package directions.

  • Meanwhile, set a medium skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When warmed, add the veggies, garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and salt. Stir, cover, and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the veggies are soft.

  • Add the water (or broth) and tomato sauce and stir to combine.

  • Drain the beans in a colander and rinse with water.

  • Stir the beans into the veggie mixture and warm through for about 5 minutes.

  • Drain the pasta.

  • Add the pasta to the skillet with the veggies (or to a big bowl if the skillet isn’t big enough). Stir in the cheese. Serve warm topped with desired toppings.

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the fridge. Reheat to serve, adding a few drops of water if the mixture seems dry.
  • To make a smaller amount, cut everything in half. (Or just use ½ of the pasta! That way will be saucier than the photos shown here but that’s an open to lower the overall final volume.)
  • Use 4 cups total veggies. Any one veggie or combo will work. (I prefer either butternut squash and sweet potato in the mix though.)
  • Use precut veggies to make this easier if you like.
  • I like to use short shapes of pasta like mini shells, farfalle, ditalini, or penne.
  • This is not super saucy, but if you want more sauce, either decrease the volume of pasta slightly (as in, use less than a full 1 pound box) or add up to an additional ½ cup water or broth.
  • Stir in a cup of frozen corn at the end of cooking if desired.
  • Top with taco-type toppings such as sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, and/or guacamole. You could even crush tortilla chips on top!

Calories: 303kcal, Carbohydrates: 39g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 22mg, Sodium: 889mg, Potassium: 940mg, Fiber: 9g, Sugar: 8g, Vitamin A: 10213IU, Vitamin C: 12mg, Calcium: 223mg, Iron: 5mg

This post was first published February 2020.



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