Chili Mac is one of those tried and true comfort meals that always hits the spot! It brings together 2 classic family favorites-beefy, hearty chili and creamy, melty macaroni and cheese to create the ultimate comfort food casserole- Hearty Chili Mac.
Imagine all the warmness of a good bowl of chili with all the melted cheese comfort of velvety macaroni and cheese in one amazing meal that’s both quick and easy! We’re reaching way back into the recipe box for this one, and Homemade Chili Macaroni and Cheese delivers!
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It is cozy, nostalgic, uses simple pantry ingredients you probably already have and is ready in just about 30 minutes. And can we talk about delicious? I might stand over the skillet and just eat it with a fork given the chance. It’s just that good! And stolen bites make it taste even better.
What’s the Difference between Goulash and Chili Mac?
Even though growing up, my family interchangeably referred to this dish as both, Goulash and Chili Mac aren’t really the same thing. Goulash is made with bell pepper and Italian seasonings, while Chili Mac is made with chili seasonings and can include beans.
You might remember Chili Mac from your school cafeteria days. It was a quick and easy Wednesday night/before church favorite for my mom or something special she made when my dad was working late. This dish carries lots of memories and still manages to be perfect for OUR hurried weeknights now! It’s those oldie but goodies that never let us down.
Why We Love This Recipe
There are a lot of Chili Mac recipes out there, but they aren’t all the same! Here are a few reasons we think this recipe is the best.
- It doesn’t boil the ground beef by cooking the pasta in the same pot.
- The cheesy mac and cheese sauce is made with evaporated milk (like real mac and cheese) instead of beef or chicken broth.
- It’s ready to serve in 30 minutes or less.
- It’s feeds a crowd, but it’s also easy to half the recipe for a smaller casserole.
- The DIY chili seasoning mix gives you control over flavor & salt.
- The leftovers might be even better than the first serving.
Chili Mac Ingredients
I’ll walk through an overview of ingredients & steps in this section along with helpful tips!
Look for specifics at the end of the post in the recipe card.
- lean ground beef
- elbow macaroni
- grated sharp cheddar cheese
- canned tomatoes and green chiles
- tomato sauce
- yellow onion
- evaporated milk
- chili seasoning (I use a homemade chili seasoning mix that includes chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, onion & garlic powders, cayenne, salt & pepper. See recipe card.)
How to Make The Best Chili Mac
Make the Mac & Cheese. Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain. Immediately add butter to the hot pasta pot. Return hot pasta to the pot. Toss until the butter melts. Add milk and 2 cups of the cheese. Toss until mostly melted and all of the macaroni is coated.
Make the Chili. Brown the ground beef with the diced onion. Add the chili seasoning. Stir until coated. Add the tomatoes & green chiles and the tomato sauce. Stir and allow to simmer 5-8 minutes.
Combine. Fold the macaroni and cheese (and all the sauce) into the chili.
Top & Serve. Top with the remaining cheddar cheese and place under the broiler until the cheese is hot and melted. Enjoy!
Substitutions & Shortcuts
- In a pinch? Use a store bought chili seasoning mix and your favorite boxed macaroni and cheese. Don’t forget to add the grated cheese on top of the chili mac for that melted comfort goodness.
- Many homemade chili mac recipes include beans. The guys in my family love the addition of beans. Add one can of rinsed and drained black beans, pinto beans, Ranch Style or chili beans, kidney beans or a combo of beans to make this meal stretch even further.
- Grated Colby Jack Cheese is a really delicious substitute for grated cheddar cheese. Throw in a bit of Pepper Jack for a nice kick!
- We also occasionally enjoy ground turkey in this dish instead of ground beef.
Everything is better with toppings! For a little extra pizzazz, try any or all of these toppings on your Chili Macaroni and Cheese.
- sour cream
- green onions
- diced tomatoes
- avocado slices
- sliced jalapenos
- extra grated cheese
- your favorite salsa
What to Serve with Cheesy Chili Mac Casserole
- Easy Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread Muffins
- Easy Sweet Potato Cornbread
- Southern Cornbread Pudding
- Green Salad with Creamy Mayo Vinaigrette
- Broccoli Slaw with Apples & Brussel Sprouts
- Creamy Southern Coleslaw
More Macaroni & Cheese Recipes
More Chili Recipes To Love
Hearty Chili Mac Casserole
- 2 cups elbow macaroni
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided into 2 cups + 1 cup
- 1 cup evaporated milk
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 14 ounce canned tomatoes and green chiles, undrained
- 15 ounce tomato sauce
Homemade Chili Seasoning Mix
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- pinch cayenne pepper
- In a small bowl, mix together the chili seasonings and set aside.
- In a large saucepan on the stove top, bring 4-5 cups of generously salted water to a boil. Add elbow macaroni pasta and cook 5-6 minutes or until al dente. Remove pasta from heat and drain. Immediately add 2 tablespoons of butter to the hot saucepan and add hot pasta back to the sauce pan. Toss to melt butter. Add 2 cups of cheese and 1 cup evaporated milk. Toss until cheese is mostly melted and the macaroni is coated. Set aside.
- While water is coming to a boil and pasta is cooking, brown the ground beef in a large skillet on the stove top over medium high heat. When beef is almost browned, add diced onion and continue to cook until meat is browned throughout. Drain any excess fat from the meat. Return to the skillet and stove top.
- Over medium heat, add the chili seasonings. Stir to evenly coat the browned meat. Add the canned tomatoes & green chiles and tomato sauce to the browned ground beef. Stir until completely mixed and allow to simmer for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Fold macaroni and cheese into the chili. Top with remaining grated cheese. Place skillet under the oven broiler for 3-5 minutes or until the grated cheese is melted over the top. Remove from the oven and serve.