Chili Mac Recipe

This easy chili mac and cheese recipe is the ultimate comfort food dinner. Combine tender noodles with savory beef chili, and bake it all together with plenty of melty cheese! It’s a satisfying Tex-Mex casserole packed with flavor.

Love cheesy Tex-Mex-inspired recipes? Make sure to try my Frito pie casserole and this easy Doritos casserole, too.

Why You’ll Love This Chili Mac Recipe

This cheesy chili mac recipe is a super satisfying ground beef dinner that’s ready in under one hour. It combines your favorite chili with gooey, melty mac and cheese! This baked version is exactly what your next weeknight needs. Here’s why:

  • Baked like a casserole. Take your classic one-pot chili mac to a whole ‘nother level by finishing it off in the oven under a layer of melty cheese. If you love easy casserole-style dinners like baked mostaccioli and my pizza casserole, you’ll love this recipe.
  • Cozy and cheesy. Every bite is filled with warm, gooey cheese, savory chili, and hearty elbow macaroni. On a chilly day, there’s nothing better.
  • Weeknight-friendly. You probably have most of the ingredients you need to make this chili mac recipe in your kitchen already! It’s quick to make with zero fussing. You can even prep this casserole ahead to pop into the oven for last-minute meals.
  • Customizable. Adapt the chili in this chili mac to taste. Not a fan of black beans? Use another kind, or skip them. Prefer something leaner than beef? Try turkey chili instead. Or, make vegetarian chili mac for Meatless Monday. There are plenty of ways to get creative!
Baked chili mac and cheese in a black casserole dish with a spoon tucked into the corner.

Chili Mac Ingredients

This chili mac and cheese packs a TON of flavor into a 9×13” casserole dish. Below is a quick round-up of the simple ingredients you’ll need. Scroll to the recipe card for a printable ingredients list.

  • Olive Oil – Choose a good quality extra virgin olive oil, for sautéing the meat and onions.
  • Onion and Garlic – Diced yellow onion and freshly minced garlic add flavor to the chili.
  • Ground Beef – Lean ground beef, or you can use ground chicken or ground turkey.
  • Tomatoes – You’ll need canned diced tomatoes (I like to use fire-roasted for a smokier flavor), tomato sauce, as well as tomato paste.
  • Green Chilies – Chopped green chilies, like jalapeños, give the chili some kick. Feel free to use either spicy or milder chilies depending on what you and your family like.
  • Spices – Chili powder, cumin, sweet or smoked paprika, and salt.
  • Canned Mexicorn – This is a canned blend of whole-kernel sweet corn with diced red and green bell peppers. If you can’t find it in cans, use a can of regular sweet corn and dice up fresh bell peppers (½ in each color, or 1 whole pepper).
  • Black Beans – Remember to drain and rinse your canned corn and black beans. If you’d prefer to use another type of bean, good options are pinto beans, white beans, or kidney beans.
  • Elbow Macaroni – The pasta of choice for classic mac and cheese. That being said, this chili mac recipe works with just about any pasta you have in the pantry (see below). 
  • Cheese – I love a grated Mexican cheese blend in this recipe. You can buy a pre-grated blend from the store for extra convenience, but grating a combination of Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese yourself will yield the meltiest results.
  • Garnishes – Fresh cilantro, sour cream, green onions, or any of your favorite toppings. See further down in the post for ideas.

What Pasta Can You Use Instead of Macaroni?

While technically any noodle works here, the best pasta for mac and cheese is short-cut pasta shapes. Small shells, ziti, penne, rigatoni, and fusilli are all good choices. I wouldn’t use long pasta shapes, or jumbo ones, as they won’t hold the sauce and cheese as well.

How to Make Chili Mac and Cheese

Ready to make the best-ever chili mac to ever grace your plates? Check out the easy steps below. Scroll down to the recipe card for printable recipe instructions.

  • Cook the beef and onions. First, you’ll sauté the onions in a bit of oil on the stovetop. Add the ground beef, and continue to cook until the meat is broken up and cooked through. Finally, stir in the garlic.
  • Add the chili ingredients. Next, add your canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and green chilis. Follow this up with your seasonings, corn, and black beans. Stir your chili and let it come to a simmer.
  • Cook the macaroni. Meanwhile, boil the pasta al dente (firm with bite) according to the directions on the package. 
  • Combine. Drain the noodles and stir them into the chili. Transfer everything to a greased 9×13” casserole dish and top with a generous layer of shredded cheese.
  • Bake. Bake your chili mac at 375ºF for 25 minutes until the cheese is deliciously melted and bubbling. Serve with your favorite toppings and a side of cornbread. See below for more serving ideas.

Tips and Variations

It all comes down to the chili recipe. I share all of my secrets in my post on how to make the best chili. In the meantime, follow these tips for the best chili mac and cheese:

  • Don’t overcook the macaroni. Cook the pasta until it’s just al dente. Since the pasta goes into the oven afterward, you don’t want to overcook it or else the casserole may turn out mushy.
  • Don’t go too heavy on the seasonings. Adjust the seasonings to taste, and add a little at a time to get the chili to the right spiciness. It’s good to remember that you can always add more, but you can’t take away.
  • Change up the chili recipe. If you have a family-favorite chili recipe, go ahead and use it! This turkey chili is a tasty leaner option, or you can try my taco truck chili made with shredded beef. 
  • Vegetarian. Make this chili mac vegetarian by leaving out the ground beef and replacing it with an extra can of black beans, lentils, or chickpeas. You can also bulk up the chili with mushrooms or diced sweet potatoes.
  • Use rice instead of pasta. I grew up eating chili over rice (anyone else?), so rice is a great alternative to pasta in this homemade chili mac, IMO. I’d recommend replacing the macaroni noodles with 1 ½ cups of cooked rice.

What to Serve With Chili Mac and Cheese

Anything you’d add to a taco, you can add to this Tex-Mex-style mac and cheese. We love our chili mac topped with fresh cilantro, a dollop of sour cream, sliced green onions, avocado, and tortilla chips for crunch. Serve bowlfuls with fluffy hot water cornbread or slices of beer bread and a side of creamy coleslaw. This Frito corn salad is another easy side dish, or try a family-size Southwestern Cobb salad.

Baked chili mac and cheese in a black casserole dish with a spoon tucked into the corner.

What’s the Difference Between Chili Mac and Goulash? 

Chili mac and American goulash are very similar. Both are traditionally a one-pot meal that combines ground beef with pasta, tomato sauce, and melted cheese. I like to think of chili mac as goulash’s Tex-Mex cousin. Unlike goulash, it contains beans and chili seasonings.

Can I Make This Chili Mac Recipe Ahead?

Absolutely! Prepare the chili and assemble the casserole as directed, then cover and refrigerate it overnight. You’ll need to add a few minutes to the baking time if you’re cooking this chili mac straight from the fridge.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

  • Refrigerate. Store any leftover chili mac in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. 
  • Reheat. Reheat portions in the microwave or a saucepan on the stovetop until hot throughout. Stir often so that everything gets evenly warmed through.
  • Freeze. Cool the baked chili mac and then freeze it airtight for up to 3 months. Defrost the casserole in the fridge overnight before reheating it in the oven, or warm it in the microwave in portions.

More Cheesy Dinner Recipes

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A spoon lifting a serving of chili mac and cheese from a black casserole dish.

Chili Mac Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Shelly
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: serves 10 1x
  • Category: Casserole
  • Method: Oven/Stove Top
  • Cuisine: Dinner


This easy chili mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food dinner. Combine tender noodles with savory beef chili, and bake it all together with plenty of melty cheese!


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion (1 small onion)
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15- ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15- ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (6- ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (4- ounce) can chopped green chilis
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 (7- ounce) can Mexicorn, drained
  • 1 (15- ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups uncooked large elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Mexican cheese blend


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. In a large, deep skillet or Dutch Oven heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium-high and add in the ground beef. Cook until no longer pink. Add in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain excess liquid in pan if necessary.
  3. Add in the fire roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, green chilis, salt, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, corn, and black beans. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil and then turn heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally.
  4. Bring a pot water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and add the pasta to the chili mixture, stirring to combine.
  5. Transfer mixture to your prepared baking dish and top with the grated cheese.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly.
  7. Serve immediately.


  • Optional garnishes: Fresh cilantro, sour cream, green onions, avocado, and tortilla chips.
  • Storage: Store airtight in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 361
  • Sugar: 7.5 g
  • Sodium: 1001.7 mg
  • Fat: 8.7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 39.2 g
  • Protein: 32.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 62.9 mg

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7 comments on “Chili Mac Recipe”

  1. Shirley Hughes

    I’ve never even eaten chili Mac n cheese before. I made this casserole for a funeral dinner at our church this week. It was wonderful! I followed all of the directions except that I didn’t hand the canned fire roasted tomatoes and used Rotel instead. I don’t believe in posting reviews of a recipe unless I’m reviewing the exact recipe and not one that has had changes made. But in sure that the recipe would turn out great even if I hadn’t made the substitution. I will make sure next time to use the fire roasted tomatoes! I think I will also try two of the suggestions for extras. I think being topped with fresh cilantro and scallions would be great!

  2. We are vegetarians, so instead of the ground beef I cooked a bunch of chopped mushrooms with the onions and garlic. Very good, and so easy.

  3. ColleenB.-Tx.

    To your list of ingredients, I also added 1 can of Ro-Tel; undrained. For our son-in-law I also added some chopped up jalapeno peppers; some mixed in with the mixture & some for him to sprinkle on top. The more heat it has, the better he likes it, so bottle of hot sauce is put on the table.

    1. ha! i’d love a little more heat (not sure about my kids though lol). I’ll try your additions next time!

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