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!)
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:
- 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.
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!
- Chop your veggies (or buy them precut).
- Rinse and drain the beans.
- Sautee the veggies.
- Add water or broth and tomato sauce.
- Prepare the pasta and drain.
- 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.
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!