Vegetarian Chili Mac

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Hearty, filling, and total comfort food: this Vegetarian Chili Mac is loaded with pasta, beans, corn, cheese, and saucy tomatoes. You can make this easy weeknight dinner in 30 minutes or less!

Vegetarian Xhili Mac

This Vegetarian Chili Mac is part of our Back-To-School Lifesavers — a series of recipes that are intended to have little (or no) veggie chopping, minimal prep time, around 10 ingredients or less (not including pantry staples), and use kid-friendly ingredients. Click here to see all the recipes in the series!

Vegetarian Chili Mac

Chili mac is such great comfort food. It’s cheesy, hearty, filling, and always a huge hit with the kiddos. Today we’re simplifying everything to make this meal about as easy as it can get. Open a few cans of veggies, throw in some (uncooked) pasta, and top everything with cheese — yum! 

And did we mention it’s all done in just one pot?!

QUICK TIP

Although this meal is vegetarian (which not only keeps ingredients cheaper, but also simplifies the cooking process) it’s still loaded with (plant-based) protein. The black beans and kidney beans offer lots of fiber and protein which helps make this meal satiating and satisfying even without meat!

Ingredient shot-- image of all the ingredients used in this dish

SHORTCUTS

  • Garlic. Choose refrigerated minced garlic or frozen garlic cubes (like Dorot®).
  • Fire-roasted crushed tomatoes. Here’s why we consider using fire-roasted tomatoes a shortcut: This type of tomato is charred over a flame before being crushed and canned. Contact with the flame brings out the tomato’s sweetness and imparts a distinct, smoky flavor. You get more flavor without any extra work or additional ingredients needed — score! (We love the following brands: Cento Marzano®, Carmelina Marzano Italian®, or Muir Glen®.)
  • Chicken or vegetable stock. Here’s another ingredient that cuts down on prep or ingredients needed in this Vegetarian Chili Mac. A high-quality, flavorful stock adds loads of flavor and allows us to cut down on spices or other additions. We highly recommend Swanson’s® vegetable or chicken stock. (Use vegetable stock to keep this a completely vegetarian recipe.) 

Process shots of the vegetarian chili Mac-- oil, garlic, tomato paste, and seasonings being sautéed

VARIATIONS

Adding Meat To Vegetarian Chili Mac

If you’d prefer this recipe to have meat and not be vegetarian, simply brown 1 pound of lean (93/7) ground beef or ground turkey along with the garlic in the beginning. If needed, drain off excess fat before adding in the seasonings and tomato paste. Swap out the vegetable stock with chicken or beef stock.

Process shots-- images of the crushed tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans, corn, macaroni, and vegetable stock added to the pot

Vegetarian Chili Mac Tips

  • Use elbow macaroni. We haven’t tested other types of pasta shapes/sizes in this dish and can’t vouch for how the recipe will work without this specific pasta. Not all pasta shapes/sizes cook at the same rate or absorb the same amount of liquid.
  • Cook in a nonstick pot. While we tested this recipe in a cast-iron pot, we preferred the results of a non-stick pot. There’s a lot less babysitting with nonstick — the pasta sticks fairly frequently on a cast iron pot.
  • Stir often. To ensure even cooking, give the pot a good stir every few minutes.
  • Pull the dish off the stovetop as soon as the pasta is al dente. Al dente means there is still a good bite to the noodles — they shouldn’t be mushy! The pasta will continue to cook and absorb liquid off the stove as we stir in the cheese. It’s better to take the pot off the stove a little early than too late. (under-cooked noodles are easy to fix; mushy pasta can’t be fixed.)
  • Add cheese off the heat. If the cheese is added while the pot is still on the stovetop, it has the potential of becoming grainy. And although this recipe is supposed to be as easy as possible, we do recommend grating the cheese fresh. Pre-shredded cheese has a cellulose coating that doesn’t melt super well in recipes like this one.

Process shots of vegetarian chili Mac-- noodles being cooked and cheese being added to all of it and mixed together

Vegetarian Chili Mac Toppings 

This Vegetarian Chili Mac is truly delicious right off the stovetop, but if you want a bit more complexity, below are a few topping ideas:

  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream (fat-free or lite works great)
  • Ripe avocado
  • Hearty bread for dipping

Images of the cheese being melted on top of the dish

STORAGE

Vegetarian Chili Mac is best eaten right off the stovetop! The pasta continues to absorb the surrounding liquid and bloats as it stands. As it stores it does have a tendency to become a bit mushy.

Vegetarian chili Mac in the pot

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Vegetarian Chili Mac

5 from 1 vote
Hearty, filling, and total comfort food: this Vegetarian Chili Mac is loaded with pasta, beans, corn, cheese, and saucy tomatoes. Make this easy weeknight dinner in 30 minutes or less!
Print Recipe

Vegetarian Chili Mac

5 from 1 vote
Hearty, filling, and total comfort food: this Vegetarian Chili Mac is loaded with pasta, beans, corn, cheese, and saucy tomatoes. Make this easy weeknight dinner in 30 minutes or less!
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Vegetarian Chili Mac
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 480kcal
Cost $7.93

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon each: olive oil, minced garlic
  • 28 ounces, 822g fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons (39g) tomato paste
  • 2-1/2 cups (597g) chicken or vegetable stock Note 1
  • 2 cups (245g) elbow pasta
  • 1 can kidney beans (15oz, 425g)
  • 1 can black beans (15 oz, 432 g)
  • 1 cup (133g) frozen corn
  • 2 cups (170g) grated sharp (or extra-sharp) Cheddar
  • 2 teaspoons each: paprika, cumin, chili powder
  • Fine sea salt & pepper
  • Optional: fresh cilantro, sour cream, sliced avocado (for serving)

Instructions

  • AROMATICS: Heat a large nonstick pot to medium-high heat and add in olive oil and then garlic. Stir constantly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add seasonings, including salt & pepper to taste (I add 1-1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper). Add tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute.
  • TOMATOES: Add in the crushed tomatoes and stir, cooking for 1 more minute. Add in the remaining ingredients except for the cheese. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium. Cover pot with a lid. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until pasta is al dente (firm to the bite, shouldn't be soft/mushy). The mixture will be a little saucy; it will continue to thicken up -- See note 2.
  • CHEESE: Remove pot from heat and stir in 1 cup of cheese. Once mixed through, taste and season with any additional salt/pepper. Then, sprinkle the remaining cup of cheese over everything and cover the pot with a lid. Let stand for 2-3 minutes to melt (liquid will continue to absorb into pasta).
  • SERVE: Remove lid and serve immediately! Add any optional toppings and enjoy.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1Stock: To keep this dish truly vegetarian, use vegetable stock. If you aren't vegetarian, chicken stock works great. A good stock makes a huge difference flavor-wise; we love Swanson's stocks (not sponsored).
Note 2: Pull the dish off the stove-top as soon as the pasta is al dente. Al dente means there is still a good bite to the pasta -- it shouldn't be mushy! The pasta will continue to cook and absorb liquid off the stove as we stir in the cheese. It's better to take the pot off the stove a little early than too late (under-cooked pasta is easy to fix; mushy pasta can't be fixed).

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 480kcal | Carbohydrates: 57.6g | Protein: 23.5g | Fat: 18.7g | Cholesterol: 43.6mg | Sodium: 1010.7mg | Fiber: 10.7g | Sugar: 10.2g | Iron: 8mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    the BEST idea! it’s so good but also! for all other vegetarians! it makes chili so fun and unique!! so easy ive made it 3 times

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