Chili Mac and Cheese

chili mac

Chili Mac and Cheese is the ultimate fall comfort food, perfect for feeding the family or a hungry game day crowd. Comfort food lovers will appreciate the epic combo of meaty chili, pasta, and lots of gooey cheese.

chili mac and cheese in a large pot

Quick ~ when you think comfort food, what comes to mind? For me it’s something that looks a lot like this big pot of cheesy chili mac, it’s got everything a hungry girl could want, and more! The chili is extra meaty with 2 pounds of beef (half ground and half chunks) so even before you add the mac and cheese it’s a winner. It’s got game day written all over it, just set the pot on the stove, provide a ladle, some bowls, lots of napkins, and let your hungry hoard at it.

A large white pot of chili mac and cheese with snipped chives

Of all the comforting fall soups and stews, chili is  up there on the list for me. I love how relaxing it is to make, there’s nothing fussy about it, and the flavor payoff is so big for such little effort. I especially like to double the meat in my chilis, which makes them all that much more satisfying.

Ladling out chili mac from a white pot


a large stock pot filled with chili mac and cheese


a white pot with chili mac dripping down the sides

How to make this chili mac ahead of time

Assemble the chili itself up to 2 days ahead. But don’t add the pasta or the cheese until just before you’re ready to serve. If you add the macaroni ahead of time it will continue to swell and absorb liquid from the chili.

The finished chili can also be frozen, but again, it would be wise to add the pasta and cheese just before serving.

a large pot of chili mac and cheese with ladle

 Make this chili mac gluten free

Use your favorite gluten free pasta. I use Barilla regular elbows in this recipe, so their gluten free elbows would be a good choice.

Make this chili mac lower carb

There are lots of lower carb pastas out there, but again, since I used Barilla in my recipe, here’s their alternative.

Omit the beer and replace with more beef broth. Omit the beans entirely. No problem, there’s plenty else going on in this chili 🙂

Make this chili mac paleo and Whole 30 friendly

You could use a paleo friendly elbow pasta, such as one made with sweet potatoes, here, and a dairy free cheese, here, but they are highly processed foods, so your best bet would be to eliminate the pasta, cheese, beans, and beer. Not exactly chili mac, but still good 🙂

You might want to add some additional veggies like carrots and extra peppers, and add some sliced avocado to garnish. Use some sour cream if your diet allows.

Since your chili won’t have pasta to help with thickening, try cooking it down longer with the cover off the pot. You can also add additional tomato paste, or even some almond flour to thicken.

chili mac
3.87 from 38 votes

Chili Mac and Cheese

Chili Mac and Cheese is the ultimate fall comfort food, perfect for feeding the family or a hungry game day crowd.  Comfort food lovers will appreciate the epic combo of meaty chili, pasta, and lots of gooey cheese.
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Yield 10
Author Sue Moran


  • a large stock pot


  • 28 ounce can whole Italian tomatoes
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce more to taste
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion cut in small dice
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 pound lean beef cut in cubes
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 8 ounces beer
  • 8 ounces beef broth
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder or cayenne to taste
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 4 ounces uncooked elbow pasta
  • 1 bell pepper cut into small dice
  • 15 ounce can pinto beans drained
  • 2 cups of your favorite shredded cheese


  • 8 green onions finely sliced
  • 3 Tbsp snipped chives


  • Process the canned tomatoes and chipotle pepper in a food processor until crushed, about 7 good pulses. Set aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron pot and sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until softened. Toward the end of cooking, add the garlic. Remove to a plate.
  • Turn the heat up and brown the cubed beef on all sides. Try to get a good bit of browning here because it will provide flavor for the chili. Remove the beef to the plate with the onions.
  • Brown the ground beef in the pan, breaking it apart as you cook. When the ground beef is browned, add the onions and cubed beef back into the pot. Stir to loosen any browned bits at the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the crushed tomatoes, broth, beer, and spices. Season with salt, start with 1/2 teaspoon, and fresh cracked pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes, covered. (Make sure that the chili is simmering.)
  • Meanwhile cook the elbow pasta in salted boiling water about 3 minutes less than the box directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
  • Uncover the chili, add the bell peppers and beans, and continue to gently cook with the cover off. Taste and adjust the seasonings. I usually add more salt at this point.
  • Add the pasta to the pot and stir to combine. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and cover to let it melt.
  • When the cheese has melted, sprinkle the chili with the green onions and chives and serve.
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
chili mac and cheese pin

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    Leave a Reply

    Please rate this recipe!

  • Reply
    May 25, 2022 at 1:27 pm

    Could I sub something out for the beans? Any recommendations? Or just skip them? Wife’s GI & beans don’t mix, but otherwise this sounds amazing

  • Reply
    December 9, 2021 at 9:07 am

    Since there is only two of us,would it be possible to refrigerate the pasta then use as needed for re-heating leftovers as well as broiling the cheese? Thanks.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      December 9, 2021 at 9:47 am

      Yes, that should work nicely!

      • Reply
        December 9, 2021 at 4:26 pm

        OK great,making this now and opted for the fire roasted tomatoes.

        • Reply
          December 10, 2021 at 7:43 am

          5 stars
          This is delicious and the spice (heat) level was just right for my wife.Made a couple of additions with the spices that we like such as cumin,coriander and Mex. oregano,subbed a poblano for the bell pepper leftover from another dish and added our own cooked beans.Also had the butcher use the coarse(chili grind) for the 2lbs. of chuck. Looking forward to enjoying again tonight! Total do again file,thanks for another great recipe.

  • Reply
    August 29, 2020 at 8:58 am

    Hi Sue
    I’m making this tonight and the amount of pasta sort of threw me. I have to convert from oz. to grams as that is the measurements everything is packaged here. Then I convert to cups…does this really need just 1/2 cup of elbow macaroni?

    • Reply
      August 29, 2020 at 9:09 am

      4 ounces of dry elbow macaroni is more like one cup, Tanis.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2020 at 8:42 am

    5 stars
    What lean beef do you recommend? Any particular cut? Ive got some sirloin tip but i normally cook low and slow several hours for tenderness. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Kim jacob
    March 7, 2020 at 2:47 pm

    5 stars
    OH MY GOODNESS just finished a bowl of this! I am in love. Just the perfect amount of heat! This will be made again!!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!

  • Reply
    September 28, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    5 stars
    Made this today, celebrating the arrival of cooler weather – delicious! Easy to make too. So looking forward to the leftovers to warm up too! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Reply
    September 20, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    This sounds absolutely delicious. I will try it soon.

  • Reply
    Tricia B
    September 20, 2019 at 4:36 am

    My goodness this looks incredible! I could eat this all week long. Pinned 🙂

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