5 from 6 votes
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Easy Crock Pot Chili Mac and Cheese

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Craving comfort? Whip up this crock pot chili mac for a simple dinner to serve up the whole family. A ground beef crockpot recipe paired with tender pasta, beans, and more. Add your favorite toppings and serve a family dinner; even the kids will ask for seconds.

Cheesy chili mac on a grey plate.

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You might love this one if you are a fan of crockpot recipes. It takes minutes to throw together for a hands-off cooking approach on busy weeknights. This slow cooker recipe is one of our favorites.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe…

  • Enjoy the ultimate comfort food by preparing a hearty crock pot chili mac that is perfect for satisfying the entire family.
  • Savor the convenience of a ground beef crockpot meal and the wholesomeness of tender pasta and chili beans.
  • Relish a slow-cooking, delicious chili mac that requires just minutes of prep for a tasty, no-fuss cooking experience.
  • Benefit from a dish that’s family-friendly and great for storing and enjoying as leftovers.

Ingredients For Crock Pot Chili Mac

Ingredients for chili mac sitting on a white countertop.
  • Ground Beef: Flavorful ground beef is the cornerstone of this dish, imparting a rich, savory flavor that serves as the foundation of your chili mac.
  • Onion: Adds a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor; it’s an essential aromatic that enhances the overall taste profile.
  • Minced Garlic: Packs a punch of pungent zest, infusing the dish with an unmistakable garlic essence that perfectly complements the meaty tones.
  • Tomato Sauce: Contributes a tangy, robust base to your chili mac, mingling beautifully with the spices and meat.
  • Beef Broth: Enhances the meaty flavors while giving the chili mac a desirable consistency that’s neither too thick nor too soupy.
  • Red Kidney Beans: Introduce a lovely texture contrast and a hearty feel to the dish, making it more filling and nutritious.
  • Chili Powder: Chili seasoning adds the necessary kick to bring warmth and complexity, elevating the dish from simple to mouth-wateringly irresistible.
  • Cumin: This earthy spice adds a touch of smokiness and has a calming effect on the palate, balancing out the heat from the chili powder.
  • Oregano: An aromatic herb that introduces a slight bitterness and a hint of sweetness, complementing the rich and savory flavors of the chili mac.
  • Elbow Noodles: The best pasta choice for chili mac, offering a tender bite and wonderfully absorbing the flavors of the sauce.

The complete list of ingredients, quantities, and instructions can be found in the printable recipe card below.

Substitutions And Variations

For those looking to tweak the classic crock pot chili mac recipe to suit dietary preferences or simply to spice things up, consider the following adaptations:

  • Turkey or Chicken: Swap out the ground beef for ground turkey or ground chicken for a lighter, leaner protein option.
  • Vegetarian: Omit the meat entirely and add extra beans such as black beans or chickpeas along with veggies like bell peppers or corn to keep it hearty and satisfying.
  • Cheese Variety: Feel free to experiment with different cheeses; pepper jack can add a spicy kick, while cheddar brings a deep richness.
  • Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free elbow noodles if there’s a need to cater to gluten sensitivities.

Remember to adjust cooking times as necessary when making substitutions to ensure all ingredients are cooked through to perfection.

How To Make Crock Pot Chili Mac

Collage of creating chili mac in a crockpot.
  1. Brown the raw ground beef in a skillet over medium heat and drain the excess fat. (Photo 1)
  2. Transfer the cooked beef to the crockpot. Add onions, garlic, beans, broth, tomato sauce, and spices. (Photos 2 & 3)
  3. Stir the mixture, cover the crockpot, and cook on high for 3 hours without lifting the lid. (Photo 4)
Uncooked and cooked chili mac in a crockpot.
  1. In the last 20 minutes of cooking, stir in the uncooked pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is al dente. (Photos 5 & 6)

Serve the chili mac garnished with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, or parsley. 

Chili mac topped with cheese and chopped parsley.

Expert Tips 

  • If you swap out the elbow, make sure to use a smaller pasta. Otherwise, it can alter the texture of the dish. Shells and bowties both work great.
  • The pasta will soak up liquid, so if it is looking too dry, add more broth and finish cooking. You will cook until the pasta is cooked thoroughly.
  • If you don’t want the ground beef, you can substitute turkey or chicken. You can also swap the meat out completely and add an extra can of beans.
  • So you can use kidney or pinto beans for this amazing recipe. Even a white bean can work. It will just be a little different in terms of texture.
  • If you want a cheesy chili mac, add shredded cheese at the very end to let it melt. You can also sprinkle it on the plate when you are done cooking.

Alternative Cooking Methods

You can adapt this easy dinner recipe to other cooking methods. For instance, if you have an Instant Pot, you can make this hearty chili mac in a fraction of the time. 

To cook in an Instant Pot, use the ‘Sauté’ function to brown the meat and onions, then add the rest of the ingredients except for the pasta. Cook on high pressure for a quick 8 minutes, then quick release. 

Finally, add the pasta and use the ‘Sauté’ function again to cook until the pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally. This method is perfect for those wanting a delicious meal without the wait.

Storing Tips 

You can refrigerate leftover chili mac you don’t eat. It will store for around 2-3 days in the fridge in an airtight container. Then warm it up in the microwave for a refresher on the pasta. If the pasta is a bit too dry, add a splash of broth or water to help moisten up the dish when reheating.

It can be frozen in a freezer-safe container, but the pasta will become much softer once it thaws. You can freeze it for 2-3 months and then thaw it in the fridge for 24 hours before warming.

What To Serve With Crock Pot Chili Mac

When it comes to complementing your crock pot chili mac, consider serving it alongside a refreshing side of veggies like a bright tomato salad, and warm dinner rolls, or to really round out your perfect meal, some aromatic Garlic Bread—a favorite for us. These side dishes not only add a variety of textures and flavors but also transform your chili mac into a complete, satisfying meal.

Chili mac on a crockpot and on a grey plate.

Recipe FAQs

What is the difference between goulash and chili mac?

The beans are a big factor in the difference between the two. I find that American goulash and chili mac are similar. But the chili spices and beans are the biggest difference.

Why is it called chili mac?

Chili was first served on top of pasta in 1922, and the name was chili mac. Since then, this famous dish has changed a bit, but one thing that has remained the same is its deliciousness.

Can I make crock pot chili mac on the stovetop instead?

Yes, it’s possible to prepare the chili mac on the stove. Begin by browning the ground beef, onions, and garlic in a large pot. After draining excess fat, add beans, broth, tomato sauce, and spices, and let the mixture simmer. Once the flavors are well combined, stir in the pasta and cook until al dente, making sure to keep an eye on the liquid levels and add more as needed.

How can I thicken my crock pot chili mac if it’s too runny?

If your chili mac is too liquidy, you can thicken it by simmering it with the lid off to allow some of the excess moisture to evaporate. Alternatively, you can mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with equal water and stir this into the chili mac, allowing it to cook and thicken.

Can I use fresh tomatoes instead of tomato sauce for the crock pot chili mac?

You can use fresh tomatoes while tomato sauce is recommended for its rich, concentrated flavor. If doing so, peel and seed the tomatoes and cook them down to the desired consistency. Be aware that fresh tomatoes may yield a thinner sauce, so adjust thickening methods accordingly.

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A plate of Chili Mac topped with shredded cheese.
5 from 6 votes

Easy Crock Pot Chili Mac and Cheese


Author: Kim Schob
Course: Main Dishes, Slow Cooker & Crockpot
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Add Elbow Noodles last 20 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
Yields 6 Servings
Whip up this crock pot chili mac for a simple dinner to serve up the whole family. A ground beef crockpot recipe paired with tender pasta, beans, and more. Add on your favorite toppings and serve up a family dinner; even the kids will ask for seconds.

Ingredients 

  • 1 lb (453 ⅗ g) ground beef
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • cups (223 ½ g) tomato suace
  • cup (354 ⅞ ml) beef broth
  • 1 can kidney beans 14 oz or beans of choice
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Oregano
  • 2 cups (280 g) elbow noodles uncooked

Instructions

  • Brown the raw ground beef in a skillet over medium heat and drain the excess fat.
    1 lb ground beef
  • Transfer the cooked beef to the crockpot. Add onions, garlic, beans, broth, tomato sauce, and spices.
    1 onion,2 teaspoons minced garlic,1½ cups tomato suace,1½ cup beef broth,1 can kidney beans,1 teaspoon Chili Powder,1 teaspoon Cumin,1 teaspoon Oregano
  • Stir the mixture, cover the crockpot, and cook on high for 3 hours without lifting the lid.
  • In the last 20 minutes of cooking, stir in the uncooked pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is al dente.
    2 cups elbow noodles
  • Serve the chili mac garnished with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, or parsley.

Notes

  • If you swap out the elbow, make sure to use a smaller pasta. Otherwise, it can alter the texture of the dish. Shells and bowties both work great.
  • The pasta will soak up liquid, so if it is looking too dry, add more broth and finish cooking. You will cook until the pasta is cooked thoroughly.
  • If you don’t want the ground beef, you can substitute turkey or chicken. You can also swap the meat out completely and add an extra can of beans.
  • So you can use kidney or pinto beans for this amazing recipe. Even a white bean can work. It will just be a little different in terms of texture.
  • If you want a cheesy chili mac, add shredded cheese at the very end to let it melt. You can also sprinkle it on the plate when you are done cooking.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 434kcal (22%) Carbohydrates: 47g (16%) Protein: 24g (48%) Fat: 16g (25%) Saturated Fat: 6g (38%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 7g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 54mg (18%) Sodium: 284mg (12%) Potassium: 556mg (16%) Fiber: 5g (21%) Sugar: 2g (2%) Vitamin A: 109IU (2%) Vitamin C: 2mg (2%) Vitamin D: 0.1µg (1%) Calcium: 54mg (5%) Iron: 4mg (22%)

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5 from 6 votes (1 rating without comment)

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