This easy Chili Mac Skillet recipe combines macaroni, ground beef, pinto beans, chili, and cheese to make up a quick and inexpensive meal ideal for those busy weeknights. I love easy weeknight meals, don’t you? Especially ones my kids gobble up, like this Chili Mac, a true childhood family favorite! I guarantee even the pickiest eaters will love this tasty meal.
This chili mac skillet recipe is a true family favorite combining two tried and true classics; chili and macaroni and cheese. It’s definitely a mom favorite too as it comes together quickly and quite easily with minimal cleanup. An economical meal that is a definite win in my books!
Childhood Favorite Chili Mac
My mom always made Chili Macaroni when we were kids. I made it for years until Campbell’s discontinued the soup we always used in it called Chili Beef Soup. I figured there was no way the cheesy chili mac recipe could possibly taste the same without it… so why bother?
Then Mom told me she had been making chili mac and cheese using canned chili. I make chili all of the time, but I can honestly tell you I have never in my life purchased a can of chili. What the heck, I figured I would give it a go!
I doctored the canned chili a bit to our taste and added some cayenne pepper and chili seasoning and when the kids rushed in for dinner, they said “This stuff? I REMEMBER THIS! – You haven’t made this in a long time!”
Big Mama Grins.
Homemade Chili Macaroni
Most often, I skip the canned chili and use my own homemade chili in this recipe. My Chili Recipe gets rave reviews, made with my own Homemade Chili Seasoning. Either way – you will enjoy this recipe.
USES FOR LEFTOVER CHILI
Whenever I make a batch of chili, I always make a big batch of chili so I have plenty of leftovers. I have found lots of ways to repurpose leftover chili over the years. Some of my favorite ways, aside from Chili Macaroni are listed here:
- Copy Cat Wendy’s Original Taco Salad
- The Best Chili Cheese Dogs
- Chili Cheese Bean Dip (pictured above)
- Spicy Grilled Cheese Chili Dogs
- Smokey Chili Potato Bites
Ingredients Needed To Make Chili Macaroni
Find the full ingredients and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Ground beef – I used lean ground beef but ground turkey works too.
- Onion – I used a white onion, diced, but any kind of onion will work, chopped small.
- Chili powder
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- Tomato soup + 1/2 soup can of water
- Chili with beans – Any kind, with or without beef will both work.
- Pinto beans – Canned, rinsed, and drained. Kidney beans or black beans will also work.
- Elbow macaroni – Make sure to cook the macaroni noodles al dente.
- American cheese – Cheddar cheese or pepper jack cheese make good substitutes or vegan cheese is an option if there is a dairy allergy.
How to cook this chili mac casserole
Prepare the pasta according to package instructions, rinse, and set aside.
Meanwhile, cook ground beef with onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drain any excess drippings.
Add chili powder, soup, water, chili, and beans. Stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Next, fold in macaroni.
Turn the heat down to low and top with slices of American cheese, place the lid on the skillet, and allow the cheese to melt.
Mix the cheese into the noodles and serve hot right from the skillet.
Garnishing is optional. You can garnish with green onions, scallions or chives.
Cilantro is also a nice topping! But honestly – it’s great plain!
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Don’t forget where you found this simple recipe for easy chili mac! Pin it to your favorite Pinterest recipe board before you go!
Chili Mac FAQs
- What is Chili Mac? Chili Mac is a dish that combines chili and macaroni. This basic recipe includes ground beef, tomatoes, macaroni, and cheese. It can include homemade or prepared both macaroni and cheese and chili.
- What is the difference between chili and goulash? Though both chili and goulash have ground beef and pasta, chili has Mexican flavors and beans while goulash does not.
- Is chili mac a Midwest thing? Yes, chili mac is popular in the midwest US.
Substitutions and Variations
Any kind of bean will work or even without beans, it will be a hearty meal.
If you don’t have elbow macaroni the great thing is any pasta shape will work. Just stay away from long shapes like spaghetti or fettucini.
Instead of tomato soup, you can also use tomato sauce. Or a combination of sauce, water, and tomato paste. The taste will be different though.
Add some whole-kernel corn to the chili, fresh, frozen, or canned will all work.
Tips & Tricks
Use leftover chili or canned chili whatever is easier for you. Next time you make some chili make a double batch and store half in the freezer so you can whip up this chili macaroni when the mood hits.
If you want an even heartier, chunkier chili add extra beans.
For an extra veggie boost throw in red bell peppers.
Of course, the BEST thing about this chili mac recipe is how good it tastes. But as a busy parent, I love that it’s an easy recipe, too. I already mentioned, it can be as easy as just opening a couple of cans, or using up some leftovers. But the complete meal comes together in less than 30 minutes.
30-minute meals are my favorite!! I can’t call this a one-pan meal, because you do have to prepare the pasta separately. But once it’s all mixed together, you can serve it right out of the skillet. Plus the leftovers are incredible the next day!
Skillet Meals are weeknight saviors, my go-to weeknight dinners! What are your go-tos? Here are mine, in addition to this Chili Mac!
- Unstuffed Cabbage Roll Skillet
- Skillet Lasagna (pictured above)
- Stuffed Pepper Skillet
- Kielbasa Fried Rice
- Skillet Red Beans and Rice
- Beef & Rice Skillet Meal
Of course, the BEST thing about this is how good it tastes. But as a busy parent, I love that it’s easy, too. I already mentioned, it can be as easy as just opening a couple of cans, or using up some leftovers. But the whole thing comes together in less than 30 minutes.
Let’s make some Chili Macaroni!!
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped small
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Salt & Pepper, to taste
- 1 (10.75 oz) can tomato soup + 1/2 soup can water
- 1 (15 oz) can of chili with beans
- 1 (15 oz) can of Pinto beans, drained
- 1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
- 8 slices of American cheese
- Prepare pasta according to package instructions, rinse and set aside.
- Meanwhile, brown ground beef with onion over medium-high heat. Drain any excess drippings.
- Add chili powder, soup, water, chili, and beans. Stir. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Fold in macaroni.
- Turn heat down to low. Top with slices of American cheese, place lid on skillet until cheese melts. Serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 384Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 72mgSodium: 693mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 5gSugar: 6gProtein: 28g
Nutrition isn't guaranteed accurate.
This recipe was originally posted on May 18, 2015. It has been updated to improve user experience and re-shared on April 13, 2023.