This One Pot Chili Mac & Cheese recipe is an easy way to use what you already have in your pantry and fridge. If you’re wondering what to make for dinner tonight, this simple weeknight meal is for you!
Two things I really try to avoid? Chaos in the kitchen and food waste. It’s just not worth it to be so stressed over getting dinner on the table. But you know what they say…easier said than done. Here’s a recipe for One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese that can solve the question of “What should I make for dinner tonight?”
Shop Your Pantry for Simple Weeknight Meals
In all likelihood, you have some or all of the ingredients needed to make this basic one pot recipe in your pantry already. And the beauty of a recipe like this is that you can make substitutions or leave some ingredients out and it won’t matter!
I talk a lot about “shopping your pantry” and it’s pretty much exactly like it sounds. It’s your chance to take inventory of what you already have on hand and make a plan for how to use. It’s not limited to just your pantry; you can repeat this planning step with items from your fridge or freezer, too. If you notice that you’re consistently scrambling house fresh produce or always throwing away freezer-burned meat or poultry, it might be an opportunity to look at your shopping habits and make adjustments.
After all, wasted food is wasted money!
Thinking About What To Make For Dinner Tonight?
If it’s already dinner time when you’re reading this, I hope you’re not still asking that question!
But if you are, this One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese recipe can be made in about 20 minutes. Since it’s all made in a heavy bottomed skillet or Dutch oven, there’s no need to turn on multiple burners on your stovetop. If you don’t have an enameled Dutch oven like the one I’m using, don’t worry! It’s just that your “one pot” might look more like a large saucepan or stock pot instead.
I was raised in a Hamburger Helper family and these skillet and one-pot meals were always a quick and easy option. Between after school activities, chores, and everything else, sometimes 20-30 minutes was all we had for dinner. Never did I ever think I’d be relying on the same thing when I went out on my own.
But here we are, and I’m actually not mad about it. I’m at the point in life where “adulting” just means I’m self-aware enough to know that cooking dinner can’t be my top priority. This One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese is perfect for getting the job done so I can move on to other important things.
One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
Here’s the thing. Depending on what you imagine when you hear “chili mac and cheese” this recipe might be a little different. I personally prefer mine to be less soup-y and more like a chili-flavored pasta dish. I like the flavor elements that get borrowed from chili. Plus the beans and veggies make it a really simple complete meal-in-a-bowl.
If you’re more in favor of a stew-like consistency, try using less dried pasta or adding more stock. You can also use an extra can of diced or stewed tomatoes to add more liquid to your pot. In the vein of sticking to a pantry clean out, there really are no rules with this recipe. If your goal is to figure out what’s for dinner while minimizing food waste, just use what you already have!
Here’s the recipe for One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
One Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 lb ground beef
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 can diced tomatoes, 28 oz
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 1/2 tsp cumin
- Fine sea salt and pepper to taste
- 12 oz elbow or rotini pasta, uncooked
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley or cilantro, optional
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the garlic, onions, and ground beef and cook until browned (about 3 to 5 minutes).
- Stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes, chili powder, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper to adjust flavor. Quickly bring to a simmer and add the uncooked pasta. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until pasta is cooked through, about 12 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Add the beans, carefully folding them in until evenly combined. Stir in two cups of the shredded cheddar cheese then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cover and allow to sit for 2-3 minutes or until cheese melts.
- Garnish with chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (if using). Serve immediately.
While you’re here, check out other recipes that can help you clear out pantry items without running to the store. The Recipe ReDux is the first and only recipe challenge created by dietitians. You can be sure these recipes deliver on both flavor and nutrition!