Chili Mac and Cheese

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Chili mac and cheese! Take two comfort food favorites and combine them into one cheesy skillet. Not too spicy, so perfect for a family meal (add hot sauce if you like heat!).

Photography Credit: Aaron Hutcherson

Mac and Cheese + Chili

Who can resist two favorite comfort foods combined into one?

This recipe pairs cheesy goodness of macaroni and cheese with the onions, tomatoes, and spiced ground beef of a pot of beef chili. The result is the ideal meal to keep you warm on a chilly night.

Video! How to Make Chili Mac and Cheese

The Chili Mac Sauce

For the sauce, I used a Mexican cheese blend that consists of Monterey jack, cheddar, asadero, and queso quesadilla cheeses, but a sauce made with just cheddar cheese would work just as well in this recipe.

The chili mixture is mild in terms of the spice level, so heat seekers might want to add in some crushed red pepper flakes or a diced jalapeño.

Spoon in Chili Mac DishTasty Skillet Recipe

I’d also recommend using a large skillet to cook the beef and vegetables. That way, you can also use it to bake the macaroni and save yourself from dirtying one more dish. Score! 

Just before it goes in the oven, top the macaroni with buttery, spiced breadcrumbs and bake until golden and bubbling. The sizzling cheese will work better than any dinner bell to bring friends and family to the table.


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Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings

I used a Mexican cheese blend with Monterey jack, cheddar, asadero, and queso quesadilla cheeses.


  • 2 cups uncooked elbow pasta
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced (or 1 15-oz can whole tomatoes, drained and diced)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded cheese, either a Mexican cheese blend (see Recipe Note) or cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard

For the breadcrumbs:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Special equipment:


1 Heat the oven to 400°F. 

2 Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside.

3 Make the chili: Heat the oil in a large (12-inch) oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they have broken down slightly and some of the liquid has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes more.

Add the ground beef, black pepper, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1 tablespoon salt to the onion-tomato mixture. Cook, breaking up the ground beef with a wooden spoon, until brown and fully cooked, 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Beef Chili Mac and Cheese

4 Make the cheese sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, until bubbly and slightly golden, 1 to 2 minutes.

Slowly whisk the milk into the butter-flour mixture. At first, the mixture will seize up and look crumbly, but will smooth out as you keep adding milk and whisking.

Once all the milk is added, bring to a simmer. Whisk frequently and scrape along the bottom of the pan, so it doesn't burn.

Cook until the sauce has thickened slightly and seems creamy, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add the shredded cheese and mustard. Stir until the cheese has melted. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Beef Chili Mac and Cheese

5 Assemble the mac and cheese: Combine the cooked pasta, chili mixture, and cheese sauce – you can do this in your skillet if it's big enough, otherwise use a large bowl. Mix until evenly combine, then transfer back to the skillet used to cook the chili. (Or transfer to a baking dish if your skillet isn't big enough.)

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese Beef Chili Mac and Cheese

6 Top with toasted breadcrumbs: Melt the 2 tablespoons of butter and mix with the breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle evenly over top the chili mac and cheese.

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese

7 Bake the mac and cheese: Place the chili mac and cheese in the oven and bake until golden on top and the cheese sauce is bubbling, about 20 minutes.

Leftovers can be kept refrigerated for about a week. Reheat individual portions in the microwave, or larger amounts in a low oven. Leftovers can also be frozen in individual portions for up to 3 months; reheat in the microwave or in a low oven.

Beef Chili Mac and Cheese

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Aaron Hutcherson

Aaron or “Hutch” is the blogger behind The Hungry Hutch, which features a delicious variety of savory and sweet recipes. He grew up in the Midwest, but has called New York City home for nearly a decade.

More from Aaron

22 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Lauren

    Making this tonight! Just want to clarify…it’s 1 tablespoon of salt and not teaspoon?
    Thank you, love all of your recipes!

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Rose

    Yummy, have made it a few times, comfort food.


  3. Rose

    My husband, myself and my family loved the dish. I added fine diced celery and carrots as I wanted them to have veggies. Will make again and again.


  4. Kuster

    Not the most healthy recipe, but one of my family’s favourites! We make this a bit spicy with some chili flakes and jalapenos if we have those on hand. For the cheese mixture, again we just use whatever we’ve got in the fridge and it’s always turned out great!


  5. Kim Henderson

    Can I use Almond Milk instead of whole milk?

    Show Replies (1)
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