June 14, 2024


Food never sleeps.

Chili Mac and Cheese {30-Minute One Pot Meal} – WellPlated.com

7 min read
white soup crock filled with Instant Pot Turkey Chili

This Chili Mac 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.

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

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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).

From this Italian Mac and Cheese to Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, transforming this kid-friendly favorite from a side dish to a complete meal will never get old.

Today, we’re pumping up classic cheddar mac with ground turkey, beans, and tomatoes to transform it into 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)?

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!

Healthy Chili Mac and Cheese recipe in a white dutch oven topped with green onions

How to Make Chili Mac in One Pot

For all of my chili mac daydreaming, I am pleased to report that this chili recipe exceeded my every expectation.

It’s gloriously rich and creamy, and the ground turkey and beans make it incredibly hearty and filling. The best comfort food!

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.

Market Swap

Feel free to 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.

  • 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.)
One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese recipe with a spoon

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.

  • 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.

Chili Mac and Cheese Toppings

Feel free to add more favorite chili fixin’s to your spread to finish off your bowl of hearty chili mac to your liking.

Diced avocado, 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.

The Directions

sautéed onions in a dutch oven
  1. Sauté the onions.
browning ground turkey in a dutch oven for chili mac
  1. Brown the turkey with the jalapeño and spices.
adding pasta, tomato sauce, and beans to a dutch oven full of onions and cooked ground turkey
  1. Stir in the tomatoes and sauce, stock, beans, and pasta. Simmer until the noodles are al dente.
a dutch oven full of cheesy chili mac and cheese with ground turkey
  1. Stir in the cheese until melted and creamy. Serve with toppings of your choice. ENJOY!

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 may 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.

Kid friendly chili mac and cheese with beans and turkey

What to Serve with Chili Mac

Slices of cheesy jalapeno cornbread with honey on parchment paper

Jalapeno Cornbread

55 mins

Easy beer bread in slices

Beer Bread

1 hr

Cornbread sliced into pieces

Mexican Cornbread

45 mins

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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.

The Best Dutch Oven

This Le Creuset 5.5-quart Dutch oven made from long-lasting enameled cast iron has superior even heat distribution and retention. It’s oven-safe too.

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

Did you make this recipe?

Let me know what you thought!

Leave a rating below in the comments and let me know how you liked the recipe.

a plate of easy Chili Mac and Cheese with ground turkey on a plate

So much flavor, so much satisfaction, and there’s only one pot to wash at the end.

I vote chili mac for dinner of the year!

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!

  • 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 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, 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 ma 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.

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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My love of mac and cheese and chili runs deep if you can’t tell from my extensive collection of easy chili and mac and cheese one-pot recipes.

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