Instant Pot Chili Mac and Cheese — Hearty chili mac made with ground beef, onions, tomatoes, kidney beans, and two types of melted CHEESE! EASY, ready in 20 minutes, and a cheesy comfort food family favorite that’s perfect for busy weeknights! Stovetop directions provided if you don’t have an Instant Pot.
Easy Chili Mac … in an Instant Pot!
When you get hit with a craving for cheesy comfort food, this easy chili mac will hit the spot!
It’s easy to make in an Instant Pot. Elbow macaroni cooks together with onions, ground beef, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, with two types of luscious melted cheeses.
Because the chili mac is made in an Instant Pot, it’s truly a one-pot recipe that’s ready in 20 minutes.
Kids and adults alike adore this hearty and ultra cheesy recipe. The cook in your family will adore how simple it is to make, especially on busy weeknights.
Not to worry if you don’t have an Instant Pot, stovetop directions as well as two similar recipes made on the stovetop are provided.
Ingredients in Instant Pot Chili Mac
To make this comfort food family favorite chili macaroni and cheese, you’ll need the following common and easy to find ingredients including:
- Olive oil
- Ground beef
- Beef broth
- Rotel or canned diced tomatoes
- Elbow macaroni
- Kidney beans
- Chili powder
- Dried oregano
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Velveeta cheese
- Parsley or cilantro, optional for garnishing
How to Make Chili Mac and Cheese in an Instant Pot
This one-pot chili mac is a cinch and very fast! Follow these easy steps:
Step 1: In a 6-quart Instant Pot, saute the onion in olive oil and then add the garlic.
Step 2: Add the ground beef and cook it through.
Step 3: Add the broth, Rotel or tomatoes, macaroni, beans, spices, salt, pepper, secure the lid, and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
Tip: It will take a bit of time to build up the pressure and this is fine because it helps the noodles soften and cook through until tender.
Step 4: Do a quick release, add the cheeses, and stir in until melted.
Step 5: Optionally garnish with parsley or cilantro and serve.
What if My Pasta Isn’t Done After 5 Minutes on High Pressure?
One danger of cooking pasta with other ingredients is that sometimes they absorb some of the liquid intended for the pasta, and it doesn’t soften fully.
Tip: Don’t use more or less than 10 ounces of elbow macaroni.
The amount of liquid used in the recipe is intended to cook through the ten ounces so that it’s not hard yet not soupy with excess liquid leftover.
If after 5 minutes cooking on high pressure, and doing a quick release, that you discover the following, here is what to do:
- The pasta is not done but there is no liquid left — Add another 1 cup beef broth, cook again on high pressure for 2 to 3 minutes, manual release, then stir in the cheeses.
- The pasta is not done and there is still liquid left — Reseal the lid, cook again on high pressure for 2 to 3 minutes, manual release, then stir in the cheeses.
Can I Make Chili Mac on the Stove?
Yes, you can make chili mac on the stove. In fact, I have a similar One-Pot Tex-Mex Beef Mac & Cheese recipe that is made in one pot on the stovetop! No need to even boil the noodles separately.
I also have this Easy 30-Minute Taco Macaroni and Cheese which is a family favorite, made on the stovetop, and ultra cheesy.
To adapt this Instant Pot version of chili mac and cheese for the stove, follow these easy steps:
- In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, saute the onion in olive oil over medium-high heat, add the garlic, then add and brown the ground beef.
- Add the broth, macaroni, beans, spices, cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until the pasta is tender.
- Add the cheeses, stir them until melted before garnishing and serving.
Can I Use Another Type of Pasta?
Experimenting with 10 ounces of another small-shaped pasta like wheels or rotini is probably fine but I haven’t personally tested anything other than elbow macaroni.
What Kind of Ground Beef Is Best in Instant Pot Beef Chili Mac?
You can use something along the lines of 80/20 ground beef or 90/10. The less fat, the less flavor in the final chili macaroni and cheese, which is something to keep in mind.
What Kind of Cheese is Best in Instant Pot Chili Mac?
For Instant Pot homemade chili mac, I use two types of cheeses:
- Shredded cheddar
- Velveeta or “processed cheese” because it melts wonderfully and lends a creaminess you can’t get from cheddar alone
Can the Velveeta Be Substituted?
If you are not into Velveeta, that’s fine. Omit it and use solely cheddar, two cups of it, noting that your chili mac and cheese won’t have the same creaminess.
I haven’t tried substituting with other types of cheese so I can’t offer suggestions of what will and won’t melt well.
Can the Ground Beef Be Substituted?
For those trying to cut out some fat and calories, instead of ground beef, you can use ground turkey or ground chicken instead of ground beef in the Instant Pot chili mac and cheese.
Poultry is inherently much leaner than beef and has a tendency to dry out and is easily overcooked so take care when browning it you don’t overdo it.
Is Instant Pot Chili Mac Spicy?
No, my recipe for chili mac and cheese isn’t spicy.
There is only 1 tablespoon of chili powder in the whole batch of chili mac & cheese.
However, if you’d like to make it spicier my recommendations are as follows:
- Add 2 to 4 tablespoons chili powder
- Add a (generous) pinch cayenne pepper when you add the other spices
- Use Hot Rotel in place of Original Rotel or canned diced tomatoes
Serving and Storage Suggestions for Chili Mac and Cheese
There is nothing better than fresh and hot mac and cheese, or in this case, beef chili mac and cheese. For me personally it’s always best warm and fresh because the cheese is at its best.
However, extra will keep airtight for up to 5 days in the fridge or for up to 4 months in the freezer. Reheat it gently in a microwave-safe container when it comes to warming up the leftovers.
Tips for the Best Instant Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
This is such a fast and easy recipe but a few tips to point out include making sure to use caution when you do a quick release on your Instant Pot.
Make sure to use a hot mitt or something to protect your hands and keep your face out of the way, too. The steam is incredibly hot and can burn you.
If you’re new to using an Instant Pot, brush up on your owners manual how to do this. Or watch a few videos online demonstrating what a quick release looks like.
Rotel tends to come in 10-ounce cans. If you opt for it rather than canned tomatoes which tend to come in 14.5 to 15-ounce cans, you will need one and a half cans of Rotel to get to the 15-ounce range.
You don’t want to drain the Rotel or canned tomatoes. That moisture is needed to help soften the elbow macaroni.
As I already mentioned, Velveeta isn’t obligatory and you can use all shredded cheddar cheese instead if you can’t get past the processed aspect.
One tip though is to steer clear of lite or low fat cheeses. They don’t melt well at all can would not be a good idea in your chili mac & cheese.
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Instant Pot Chili Mac and Cheese
Hearty chili mac made with ground beef, onions, tomatoes, kidney beans, and two types of melted CHEESE! EASY, ready in 20 minutes, and a cheesy comfort food family favorite that's perfect for busy weeknights! Stovetop directions provided if you don't have an Instant Pot.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small white or yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 pound lean or extra-lean ground beef (such as 80/20 or 90/10)
- 4 cups beef broth
- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes OR 15 ounces Rotel (1 ½ cans if using 10-ounce cans), do not drain
- 10 ounces elbow macaroni
- one 15.5-ounce canned kidney beans (light or dark, or another favorite bean), drained and rinsed
- 1 tablespoon chili powder*
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 cup cubed Velveeta (if desired, omit and use 2 cups of shredded cheddar instead)
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or cilantro, finely minced for garnishing; optional
- To a 6-quart Instant Pot (**See Notes for Stovetop Directions) add the olive oil, onion, and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until onion is becoming translucent; stir frequently.
- Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute; stir constantly.
- Add the ground beef and cook for about 5 minutes, or until no longer pink. Stir and crumble beef as it cooks to ensure even cooking.
- Add the beef broth, diced tomatoes or Rotel, elbow macaroni, kidney beans, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, secure the lid and seal it, turn onto high pressure, and set the timer for 5 minutes. Note - It will take a bit of time to build up the pressure and this is fine because it helps the noodles soften and cook through until tender.
- After 5 minutes, do a quick release. Tips - Take caution to cover your hands with a hot mitt and keep your face away from where the steam will vent. For those new to Instant Pot cooking, read your owners manual or watch videos on the internet how to do a quick release if you're unsure.
- Add the cheeses and stir until melted and combined.
- Optionally garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro and serve immediately. Extra chili mac and cheese will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Reheat leftovers gently in the microwave.
*Chili mac is not spicy as written. If you'd like to make it spicier, do the following:
Add 2 to 4 tablespoons chili powder
Add a (generous) pinch cayenne pepper when you add the other spices
- Use Hot Rotel in place of Miild Rotel or canned diced tomatoes
**To adapt this Instant Pot version of chili mac and cheese for the stove, follow these easy steps:
Step 1: In a deep skillet or Dutch oven, saute the onions in olive oil over medium-high heat for about 4 minutes, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, and then add and brown the ground beef; stir and crumble as it cooks.
Step 2: Add the broth, macaroni, beans, spices, cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until the pasta is tender and liquid has absorbed.
Step 3: Add the cheeses, stir them until melted before garnishing and serving.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 531Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 2045mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 8gSugar: 5gProtein: 43g
More Easy Beef Pasta Recipes:
One-Skillet Tex Mex Beef Mac & Cheese – An EASY recipe that’s made in ONE skillet so you don’t have to cook the pasta separately!! Loaded with ground beef, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, and cilantro! A family FAVORITE that feeds a crowd!!
Easy 30-Minute Taco Macaroni and Cheese – Super creamy, ultra cheesy, flavored with taco seasoning, black beans, green onions, tomatoes, and cilantro! Easy comfort food with a Mexican flair that’s a family favorite!
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One Skillet Beef Taco Pasta – An easy recipe that’s ready in 20 minutes, made in one skillet, and loaded with Mexican-inspired flavors! A family favorite that’s great for busy weeknights!
Cheesy Ground Beef Pasta Casserole — Hearty comfort food that’s EASY and IRRESISTIBLE!! Cheesy pasta and beef coated in marinara sauce and topped with more CHEESE! Makes planned leftovers and is freezer-friendly!!
I hardly need another chili mac recipe, but this one looks too yummy to pass up! What would you estimate the stovetop cook time to be? Thanks, Cheryl
Probably about 12-15 minutes once you add the pasta, or until it’s soft and the excess liquid is absorbed. It will depend a bit based on its size, shape, etc.
Are the beans canned or dried and soaked?
This recipe sounds tasty and easy – can’t wait to try it! Question – did you have to drain any fat from the ground beef after browning?
Thanks for another great recipe!
No because any fat that exists you need for browning the onions with it. Plus with lean ground beef at around 90% there really isn’t too much. Obviously do as you feel is necessary but for me, no you don’t need to drain anything which makes it simpler too!
Looking easy and quick recipe with so many vegetables. loooved it!!