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.
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.
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!
Of course, keeping a well-stocked pantry is key to enjoying family favorites without spending a lot of money or time in the kitchen and it helps to reduce waste on unused fresh produce.
Here are some of my must-have canned items that make whipping up meals a breeze:
- Beans, all varieties
- Vegetables, corn, green beans, peas, carrots, etc.
- Tomatoes, diced, crushed, sauce, paste
- Green chilies and adobo peppers (for Mexican recipes)
- Canned Pumpkin for soups (and baking)
- Stock or broth
- Tuna, salmon, chicken
- Canned fruit for salads
What kinds of other meals can you make with canned foods?
Many lunches can be made with pantry staples. I love a good tuna or salmon salad sandwich, chicken salad inside a pita, black bean salad, a corn salsa, and more.
For dinner, I can easily whip up a quick homemade marinara sauce, skillet lasagna, vegetarian burrito bowls, black bean burgers, chicken noodle soup, and most definitely, Chili Mac.
Can this recipe be made in a slow cooker?
So glad you asked because yes! You will need to 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.
How to make vegetarian chili mac
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.
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 recipe makes a terrific thermos meal for lunch too.
Can you make this chili mac recipe in the stove top?
Sure, but set aside 30 active minutes to make this meal. Unlike the Instant Pot (or pressure cooker) you’ll need to watch the stove.
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.
Aren’t some of these easy recipes with pantry staples the best? What are some of your favorite ways to cook up your canned goods?