This easy slow cooker chili mac and cheese has everything you love about two classic comfort dishes! Loads of beefy chili, tender noodles and melted cheese, coated in a rich, flavorful tomato sauce. It’s easy to make in the crockpot and the perfect meal to come home to!
Homemade chili made with juicy beef, Rotel, green chilis, and two kinds of beans cooked low and slow until it’s time to add the noodles and handfuls of cheese!
I like to brown the meat first to drain any excess grease and give it that extra bit of flavor, but once it’s added to the pot you can walk away for a while.
Talk about an easy, fuss-free dinner idea any day of the week, bu especially busy weeknights.
Why you’ll love this crock pot chili mac recipe
Simple, Budget-Friendly Ingredients – There’s nothing fussy about this recipe. Grab ground beef when it’s on sale, or use what’s been thawed from your freezer. The rest are simple pantry ingredients!
Kids Love It – Whether they think it’s a twist on mac and cheese or a twist on chili, the entire family should love this one.
Feeds a Crowd – This recipe serves 8, but you could easily double it for more. It’s great for game days, potlucks, and cookouts!
Comfort Food – It’s a hearty, flavorful, and delicious meal loaded with ingredients that will keep you coming back for more even after you’re full.
Equipment you’ll need
Below is a list of the ingredients you’ll need to gather to make this recipe, why you need them, and possible substitutions. Scroll all the way down for the full recipe card with measurements.
- Lean Ground Beef – I use 90/10 lean ground sirloin for the best flavor, but ground chuck or round will work, just make sure to drain off any excess grease.
- Frozen Peppers and Onions – This is just a shortcut I use to make life a little easier. You can choose to cut frozen bell peppers and dice onions if you prefer.
- Chili Seasoning – You’ll need about 4 Tablespoons of chili seasoning, which is the same as a 1.25-ounce packet. If you don’t have either you can get away with using a homemade taco seasoning blend, or use a combination of chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, and smoked paprika.
- Minced Garlic – Always adds incredible flavor. We’re using frozen peppers and onions, so fresh garlic is a great complement.
- Diced Green Chiles – These do have a little kick to them, although they’re not spicy for most people who enjoy spice.
- Tomatoes with Chiles – I usually use Rotel for this combination. You can buy it mild, medium, or hot depending on how spicy you like yours. If the diced green chiles on their own are enough for you, feel free to use just a can of diced tomatoes.
- Red Kidney Beans and Black Beans – You’re going to keep the liquid from the kidney beans and add them to the pot. However, drain and rinse the black beans. You don’t need the liquid from both cans.
- Tomato Paste – Gives the chili its intense tomato flavor and helps to thicken up the liquid.
- Sugar – This helps to cut the acid and mellow out the intense tomato flavor giving it a nice balance.
- Water or Beef Broth – Beef broth of course adds a bit more flavor, but it will still have plenty if you choose to use water instead. Chicken stock or chicken broth also works here.
- Uncooked Elbow Macaroni – Uncooked pasta is added in the last 20 minutes of the cooking time so that they cook until tender and don’t absorb too much of the liquid and become mushy.
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese – Freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese is highly recommended here. It melts much better than the pre-shredded stuff. It tastes better too.
- Scallions – A nice pop of green for garnish!
How to make Slow Cooker Chili Mac
This section shows you how to make this recipe, with process photos showing the steps to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Step One: Brown the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. Break it apart with a meat masher or a wooden spoon as it cooks. Once it is no longer pink, drain the grease then add the ground beef to the basin of the slow cooker.
- Step Two: Over the ground beef, toss in the onions and bell peppers, garlic, green chiles, tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, sugar, and broth (or water). Sprinkle with the chili seasoning evenly over everything and stir to combine.
- Step Three: Cover and cook on LOW for 3-4 hours. Add the elbow macaroni 20 minutes before serving. Stir to distribute and then replace the cover and cook until tender.
- Step Four: Finally, 5 minute before serving, you’re going to stir in half the shredded cheese and then top with the remaining cheese. Let it sit covered until the cheese melts and then serve with your favorite toppings!
What to serve with Slow Cooker Chili Mac
- Sour cream/Greek yogurt
- Extra cheese
- Pickled jalapenos
- Oyster crackers
- Crushed tortilla chips
- Scallions/Green onions
Tips & Suggestions
- To up the spice level in your crockpot chili mac you can either use a spicy Rotel, or add diced jalapenos into the mix.
- If you don’t have elbow macaroni, any short pasta will do. Shells or fusilli are great options.
- For a different cheese, you can use Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, or Colby Jack instead. However, I do love the sharpness of aged cheddar, so a combination blend would be great!
- To make this on the stovetop, brown the beef, add the remaining ingredients to cook, and simmer for 30 minutes. You can cook the noodles at the same time, or cook them separately and add them in after. Just before serving stir in the cheese to melt.
How to reheat and store Slow Cooker Chili Mac
How to store leftovers
Transfer leftovers to an airtight container and allow it to cool completely before covering it. If you plan to freeze it, don’t add the noodles!
How long will chili mac last in the fridge?
Keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat it for lunch or a quick dinner the next day.
Can I freeze chili with noodles?
Technically yes, if you have already assembled it and you want to freeze what’s left. You can do so for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container (I love Souper Cubes).
I do recommend freezing the chili on its own if you know ahead of time you’ll be freezing it. Sometimes, once the pasta is thawed, the texture changes and can become quite mushy.
Allow it to thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
How to reheat crockpot chili mac
For a single serving, reheat it in the microwave. You can also reheat larger portions on the stovetop.
Is it safe to put raw ground beef in slow cooker?
Yes, it’s safe to put ground beef in the slow cooker. However, I don’t recommend it.
Browning the meat, even partially, before adding to the slow cooker will leave you with much more flavor because the meat caramelizes.
Do I have to brown the meat first?
I highly recommend it, but you don’t have to. I find it’s not as flavorful and can be greasy depending on which type of beef you’re using, but for a shortcut sometimes it’s needed.
If you don’t have time to brown it, add the raw ground beef to the crockpot and break it up in the basin. Then continue with instructions as directed.
Can I use a different type of ground meat?
Certainly! Try it with ground chicken or ground turkey instead.
You can even make it vegetarian by bulking it up with extra beans and veggies.
How long can you keep chili in the slow cooker?
You shouldn’t keep it on WARM all day. When serving it, 2-4 hours is the max that it should sit on WARM.
Otherwise, let it cool and move it to the fridge.
Is it possible to overcook chili in a slow cooker?
Possible? Yes. Likely? No. Unless you forget about it and leave it cooking for far too long, then the sugars will caramelize and burn, and everything else will eventually catch up.
However, it takes a lot of effort to forget about it for that long. I’d say as long as you’re under the 8-hour mark, you should be fine.
Chili with Noodles
Need more chili recipes? Try these:
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