Cheesy, comforting, and packed with plant-based protein and veggies, this family-friendly Chili Mac is a super yummy dinner for everyone at the table. (Bonus: Leftovers reheat so well!)
Easy Chili Mac
I’m always looking for new pasta dishes to make for my family—because pasta is one ingredient my whole crew loves—and this Chili Mac builds on that familiar food and adds veggies, beans, cheese, and subtle Mexican flavor. You can take a few shortcuts to make this super easy and play around with which veggies your family likes best.
Ingredients You Need
To make this recipe, you’ll need:
- Veggies including carrots, sweet potato, butternut squash, and/or bell pepper
- Beans (I like pinto and kidney beans)
- Tomato sauce
- Water or broth
- Cumin, chili powder, paprika
- Optional: corn, sour cream, shredded lettuce, or any other taco-type toppings you like
TIP: Any mix of veggies work, so you can pick which to use based on what your kids prefer.
Here’s a look at how to make this recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full info!
- Chop your veggies (or buy them precut).
- Rinse and drain the beans.
- Sautee the veggies.
- Add water or broth and tomato sauce.
- Prepare the pasta and drain.
- Stir everything together with cheese and toppings and serve!
TIP: I like cheddar cheese in this, but you could also use Monterrey Jack or a Mexican cheese blend.
How do you make Chili Mac from scratch?
Essentially, you make pasta and combine it with beans, cheese, and in this case, veggies. Fairly straight forward!
What’s the best sauce for this pasta dish?
I like to use canned tomato sauce since it’s the right consistency and is easy! (The one I used for testing was Hunt’s, which doesn’t have any strong Italian herbs so it works well here.)
Which beans are best for this?
I usually use pinto beans and red kidney beans since those are the ones my girls like, but black beans will also work!
Can I add meat to this recipe?
You can totally start by browning a half pound or pound of ground beef or turkey, then proceed with the recipe.
Tips for Making the Best Veggie-Loaded Chili Mac
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the fridge. Reheat to serve.
- To make a smaller amount, cut everything in half. (Or just use ½ of the pasta! That way will be saucier than the photos shown here but that’s an open to lower the overall final volume.)
- Use 4 cups total veggies. Any one veggie or combo will work. (I prefer either butternut squash and sweet potato in the mix though.)
- I like to use short shapes of pasta like mini shells, farfalle, ditalini, or penne.
- This is not super saucy, but if you want more sauce, either decrease the volume of pasta slightly (as in, use less than a full 1 pound box) or add up to an additional ½ cup water or broth.
- Stir in a cup of frozen corn at the end of cooking if desired.
- Top with taco-type toppings such as sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, and/or guacamole. You could even crush tortilla chips on top!
I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe, so please comment below to share!Print
You can use precut butternut squash or sweet potato and shredded carrots to cut down on the prep time if desired. This isn’t super saucy, but you can increase the liquid if desired. See the Notes for details.
- 16 ounces pasta (I prefer small shapes like mini shells, farfalle, or ditalini)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
- 4 cups finely chopped sweet potato, butternut squash, carrot, onion, and/or bell peppers
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon Spanish paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup water or reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 14.5-ounce cans kidney, pinto beans, or black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup frozen corn, optional
- Cilantro, shredded lettuce, sour cream, and/or any other desired taco toppings, optional
- Prepare the veggies.
- Set a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, set a medium skillet over medium heat and add the oil. When warmed, add the veggies, garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and salt. Stir, cover, and cook for 8-10 minute or until the veggies are soft. Add the water (or broth) and tomato sauce and stir to combine.
- Drain the beans in a colander and rinse with water.
- Stir the beans into the veggie mixture.
- Drain the pasta.
- Add the pasta to the skillet with the veggies (or to a big bowl if the skillet isn’t big enough). Stir in the cheese. Serve warm topped with desired toppings.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-5 days in the fridge. Reheat to serve, adding a few drops of water if the mixture seems dry.
To make a smaller amount, cut everything in half. (Or just use ½ of the pasta! That way will be saucier than the photos shown here but that’s an open to lower the overall final volume.)
Use 4 cups total veggies. Any one veggie or combo will work. (I prefer either butternut squash and sweet potato in the mix though.)
Use precut veggies to make this easier if you like.
I like to use short shapes of pasta like mini shells, farfalle, ditalini, or penne.
This is not super saucy, but if you want more sauce, either decrease the volume of pasta slightly (as in, use less than a full 1 pound box) or add up to an additional ½ cup water or broth.
Stir in a cup of frozen corn at the end of cooking if desired.
Top with taco-type toppings such as sour cream, shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, and/or guacamole. You could even crush tortilla chips on top!
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