Delicious and hearty, this Instant Pot Chili Mac recipe is a perfect quick and easy mid-week meal for nights you don’t have much time to cook!
My family loves comfort foods and I love when comforts foods come together fast with ingredients that are already in my pantry; practically waiting for me to use them. Enter this Chili Mac. You guys, it doesn’t take any more than a piping hot bowl of cheesy chili-flavored pasta to hug you from the inside. It is THE definition of comfort food.
Cheesy Instant Pot Chili Mac
On any school night, especially after karate practice, it’s at least 6:30 pm by the time we arrive home. Everyone is tired and hungry which means I need to have dinner on the table stat. Most of the time, I have some sort of food prepped; but the reality is that there are many days I don’t come home from the office and head straight to practice leaving me dinner-less when I get home.
Protein and fiber from beans? Check. Vitamins and fiber from the tomatoes? Check. Did you know that fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested at the peak of ripeness and canned within only four hours, sealing in their nutrition and flavor?
Now, let me give credit where it’s due, the Instant Pot (or pressure cooker) cuts down cook time while the items from my pantry, like canned foods and pasta, cut down on prep-time. This means less time in the kitchen and a meal that’s ready fast.
What is the Difference Between Goulash and Chili Mac?
While this chili mac recipe and the American Goulash are both made with ground meat, pasta, and tomatoes, the two are slightly different. Goulash has no beans and uses smoked paprika instead of chili spices.
Other than that, it’s basically the same dish.
Here’s a quick run-through of what you’ll need from the fridge and pantry:
- Ground meat: lean turkey or beef- whichever you have defrosted.
- Onion: to sauté with the ground meat.
- Spices: chili powder, cumin, and dried oregano.
- Salt: adds savory flavor.
- Garlic: similar to onion in that it adds depth of flavor and aroma.
- Chicken broth: or beef broth.
- Green chilis: add a little kick of spice without the heat.
- Beans: I used red kidney and black beans, but use ANY variety you have available.
- Macaroni: or another shelled pasta.
- Tomatoes: your regular canned diced tomatoes.
- Tomato sauce: gives every bite that rich chili flavor.
- Cheese: for stirring into the mixture and topping.
Check the printable recipe card for the ingredient measurements and more detailed cooking directions!
How to Make Chili Mac in the Instant Pot
Here’s how to make a cozy and hearty chili mac in 20 minutes!
Chop the onions and garlic. Drain and rinse the canned beans.
Select the sauté option on the instant pot; add the ground meat and cook until browned, stirring occasionally.
- Stir it all together
Add the onions directly into the instant pot and cook until fragrant. Toss in the spices, broth, chilis, beans, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and add the pasta.
- Pressure cook
Press the cancel button, and add the tomatoes and tomato sauce, but don’t stir. Secure the lid and press the manual button. Pressure cook on high for 4 minutes.
Once done, do a quick release of the steam and wait until the pressure gauge drops back down before removing the lid.
- Finishing touches
Stir half the cheese into the chili mixture, then add the remaining over the top. Cover with the lid and allow the cheese to melt before serving.
Watch this recipe video to see the magic happen right before your eyes!
Recipe Tweaks & Variations
Want to make this Instant Pot Chili Mac recipe vegetarian and fully cook out of your pantry? Easy! Simply omit the meat, add an extra can of beans (rinsed and drained) and cook as directed after the meat step. Making this recipe vegetarian cuts down the cooking time even more.
As mentioned above, you can enjoy a bean-free version of this recipe by whipping up a pot of this beloved American Goulash.
Stovetop It’s quick and easy to make chili mac on the stove, but set aside and active 30 minutes, becuase it needs to be monitored the whole time.
First brown the beef in a skillet with the onions, garlic, and spices. Then add the tomatoes, sauce, chilis, beans, macaroni, broth, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the macaroni is al dente.
Once the pasta is cooked, remove from heat, add in 1 cup of cheese, mix, and serve.
This is another easy way to prep this recipe ahead of time. Simply brown the meat as directed. Add all the ingredients except for the pasta and cheese, and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 8. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the pasta and continue to cook until tender. 5 minutes before serving, stir in the cheese until melted.
Can you prep this recipe ahead of time?
Of course, if you meal prep for the week, this is the type of recipe you can make a couple of days ahead of time (about 3) and store it in the fridge. Like a good chili, this chili mac tastes much better the next day and all you have to do is heat it up.
Sure. You can place all the ingredients inside your Instant Pot, cover it with plastic wrap, and keep the bowl inside the fridge. Then, simply cook and dinner is ready!
How to Freeze Leftover Chili Mac
This recipe yields 6 to 8 servings; and while leftovers are usually enjoyed the next day or two at my house, this is a great meal to freeze for later.
I like to freeze leftovers in 1 to 1 ½ cup servings inside individual airtight containers or freezer bags for up to 2 months. To eat, thaw in the fridge overnight and heat when ready to eat for best texture. Or, you can microwave it frozen to heat up. This chili mac makes a terrific thermos meal for lunch too.Print