Instant Pot chili mac is a cross between a hearty bowl of chili and cheesy macaroni and cheese. Two of our family's favorite classic comfort dishes in a one-pot meal!
If you've ever had the popular American goulash, you may find this to be quite similar. Although Goulash isn't exactly chili-based and doesn't use any beans, it still has that same saucy, cheesy, beefy taste and texture we all love.
Chili mac made in the Instant Pot makes this easy dinner idea even easier with just one pot and a cook time of 4 minutes! This is a perfect weeknight or back-to-school meal. It's hearty, filling, and wholesome and the kids just love it!
Make a big pot of it and have tons of leftovers throughout the week, and because it's budget-friendly, it's a great way to food prep while saving money. When beef is on sale, I stock up and keep this recipe in mind for quick dinner ideas on busy weeknights and simple comfort meals on cool weather weekends!
Why This Easy Chili Mac Recipe Works
- Anytime I can make a 2-in-1 meal that I know my kid will eat without fussing, that's a win for me! It's filling, healthy, and delicious which means full bellies and hearts!
- It's a super easy dish that comes together with little time and effort. Brown the meat, deglaze the pot, add in your ingredients and you're set! It's virtually hands-off with easy clean-up to boot!
- Most of the ingredients are what you carry on hand anyway. There's nothing fancy in this recipe, and what you don't have you can probably tweak to suit what you do have!
- Olive Oil - I like using olive oil for browning meat because of its neutral flavor and high smoke point. You can use others like avocado oil or canola oil if you prefer.
- Aromatics – Onions and garlic are the base flavors of the entire dish. Everything else gets layered on top!
- Bell pepper - A sweet, tender added veggie that is a nice addition to the chili part of this chili mac.
- Ground beef - I use lean ground beef which doesn't produce as much excess grease as ground beef with a higher percentage of fat. If you use anything else, you may want to drain some of the extra oil once the beef is cooked.
- Beef broth – The pressure cooker needs liquid to create steam and cook what's inside, but we also need liquid to cook the pasta. The beef broth has a robust flavor and just makes sense with beef chili, but you can also use chicken broth.
- Tomato flavor - This comes from crushed tomatoes as well as the diced tomatoes and their juices.
- Kidney beans - This is my favorite type of bean to use when I make all kinds of tomato-based chili. You can swap with another type of bean if you prefer.
- Elbow macaroni - The classic choice for macaroni and cheese! It's small enough so that it doesn't overpower the dish and you can still appreciate the textures of the chili.
- Seasoning – Chili powder, smoked paprika, ground cumin, salt, and pepper. Earthy, smoky, and deep spices give us the familiar elements of chili.
- Shredded cheese – Cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Colby Jack, or your favorite melty cheese. Any of them are great flavor pairings with the sauce in this recipe.
- Parsley - An optional garnish!
How to Make Chili Mac in Instant Pot
Start by gathering all your ingredients and dicing the green bell peppers and onions and mincing the garlic.
Step 1: Press SAUTE on the Instant pot and wait until it says HOT. Then, add the olive oil, onion, garlic, and bell pepper to cook and soften for about 2-3 minutes.
Step 2: Add the beef to the pot and cook until no longer pink. Break it up as it cooks. Drain any excess fat, if necessary. Press CANCEL.
Step 3: Add the beef broth to the pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot. This is called deglazing and it's how we get all the extra flavor.
Step 4: Toss in the rest of the ingredients and close the lid. Set the valve to SEALING and pressure cook on HIGH/MANUAL for 4 minutes.
Step 5: Once the cooking time is up, it will beep. At this point, move the valve to VENTING for a quick release of the pressure.
Step 6: Open the lid and stir everything together. Sprinkle in the cheese and stir to combine.
Serve immediately with a bit of parsley for garnish and a bit of extra cheese, if desired. We also like to have a basket of fresh bread and a simple tossed salad on the side when we're feeling extra hungry!
- There's something so great about a one-pot meal that you can just "dump" extra ingredients into. If you'd like to toss in some hidden veggies, have at it. Little broccoli florets, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, or other colors of bell pepper all work. Corn kernels would be great too!
- Since the cooking time is just to ensure you're cooking the pasta, you may find even 2-3 minutes plenty for elbow macaroni. It will continue cooking in the heat even after you've opened the lid. If you find the pasta too mushy for your liking, next time try cutting down the cooking time by a minute or two.
- This recipe works with ground chicken or turkey if you'd like leaner meat and a lighter version.
- For a vegetarian version, omit the beef and use a cross between a veggie chili and macaroni and cheese. So good!
- If your crew isn't ready to eat yet, keep it on the warm setting function so that it doesn't thicken too much as it cools and still be easy to scoop and serve.
You can! It's very similar to using the Instant Pot except you'll cook your pasta separately. In the other pot, brown the beef, add the ingredients, and then toss in the cooked pasta.
Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Lots of leftovers for the week!
Sure! Just be sure to find gluten-free macaroni noodles. Gluten-free pasta (as with whole wheat pasta) will have a slightly different cook time. Make sure to read the package directions to avoid mushy pasta.
I love this recipe for exactly this reason. Not only is it easy to whip up on the spot but because it's freezer-friendly and will keep frozen for up to 3 months, it's great to have on hand for those nights when you feel like doing absolutely nothing! Just pull it out of the freezer, let it thaw, heat it, and bam. Dinner is served!
Instant Pot Chili Mac
- Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 ½ beef broth (or chicken broth)
- 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14 oz) can of diced tomatoes, and juices
- 1 (14 oz) can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups elbow macaroni pasta
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby jack, or your favorite melty cheese)
- freshly chopped parsley, for garnishing
- To the Instant Pot, press [Sauté]. Wait until the pot is hot; then, add olive oil, onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes until softened.
- Add beef and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until brown, breaking it up as it cooks. Then, press [Cancel]. Drain any excess fat.
- Deglaze the pot with beef broth, using a wooden spoon, scrape any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Then, add the remaining ingredients: crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, elbow pasta, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper.
- Place the lid back on, making sure the pressure release valve is in the sealing position. Press [Pressure Cook/Manual] and set it for 4 minutes on High Pressure.
- Once done cooking, quickly release the pressure by carefully turning the pressure release valve to the venting position. Open the lid and stir everything together. Add in the cheese.
- Serve immediately, garnish with extra shredded cheese and parsley, if desired.