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Chili Mac and Cheese Bites

These Chili Mac and Cheese Bites have all the deliciousness of chili mac, but in a bite-size format. Ground beef, macaroni, cheddar cheese and warming chili spices combine to make a fun meal for kids or the perfect party appetizer. A great make-ahead option for school lunch!

Be sure to check out my Instant Pot Chili Mac. All the same flavour of these bites, but serves a crowd for dinner!

stack of four chili mac and cheese bites on a piece of parchment paper

Chili Mac and Cheese Bites

It’s back-to-school season and everyone is looking for school lunch ideas. Be sure to add these chili mac bites to your list! Both of my girls love this recipe. It’s great served cold in a bento box lunch or it can be reheated and kept warm in a Thermos. (Pro tip: pour boiled water into the Thermos to pre-heat it, while you’re reheating the bites!)

These chili mac and cheese bites are also a fun party appetizer. They would be great for a Super Bowl party or a children’s birthday party. There’s something about the beef, cheese and spice combo that appeals to the crowd!

Ingredients in Chili Mac and Cheese Bites

  • Elbow macaroni
  • Lean ground beef (ground chicken works, too!)
  • Tomato paste
  • Chili powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder
  • Smoked paprika
  • Unsalted butter – salted will work too, but then you may want to reduce the added salt
  • All-purpose flour
  • Milk – I tested with a 3% milk fat variety, but 2% is fine
  • One large whisked egg
  • Grated cheddar cheese 

How to make chili mac and cheese bites

1. Preheat oven to 400 °F and grease mini muffin tins. In a medium sauce pan, cook macaroni noodles according to package directions and set aside when done. Meanwhile, in a non-stick skillet, cook the ground beef fully until no pink remains, about 7 to 8 minutes.

2. To the cooked beef, add the tomato paste, chili powder, ground cumin, salt and smoked paprika. Sauté another 30 seconds or until just combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. In a medium sauce pan (I use the one the macaroni cooked in – saves washing another dish!), make a roux using the unsalted butter and flour. If you’re new to roux (ha, that rhymes), it’s basically a combination of starch and fat that helps to thicken the sauce.

4. Slowly whisk in the milk to the roux. If you add the milk too fast, the sauce may not be as smooth and thickened. After the milk, add the whisked egg.

collage illustrating first four steps to make Chili Mac and Cheese bites

5. Add the grated cheese to the sauce pan with the milk and egg, and stir until just combined. It’s fine if the cheese doesn’t fully melt at this step.

6. Add the reserved macaroni noodles to the cheese sauce and stir until well coated.

7. Add the ground beef and spice mixture to the cheesy noodles. Stir until evenly distributed.

8. Spoon the chili mac and cheese into the greased mini muffin tins, being careful not to overfill each spot. Top with a bit of the remaining grated cheddar cheese, then bake for 15 minutes. Allow the bites to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the tin.

collage illustrating last four steps to make Chili Mac and Cheese bites

Tips for Making Chili mac and Cheese bites

  1. If you’re using very lean beef or ground chicken, add a little bit of oil to the non-stick frying pan first.
  2. When making the cheese sauce, be sure to add the egg after you add the cold milk to the roux. If you add the egg first, the egg may start to scramble!
  3. Be sure not to overfill muffin tin. Fill until just even with top. Overfilling may prevent muffins from holding together well.
  4. Add a small amount of water to the bottom of any unfilled muffin tray spots to prevent burning of the grease.
  5. If the bites are not coming out easily after cooling and setting, carefully use a knife to separate edges of the bites from the muffin tin.
Child's hand holding a chili mac and cheese bite

Other School lunch and snack ideas

Gluten-Free Banana Mini Muffins (nut free!)

Gluten-free Quinoa Brownie Cake (nut free!)

5-minute Healthy Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

Child's hand holding a chili mac and cheese bite

Chili Mac and Cheese Bites

Laura Lawless, BASc
These chili mac and cheese bites have all the deliciousness of chili mac, but in a bite-size format. Ground beef, macaroni, cheddar cheese and warming chili spices combine to make a fun meal for kids or the perfect party appetizer. A great make-ahead option for school lunch!
5 from 11 votes
Servings 36 mini muffins
Calories 67
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup elbow macaroni
  • ½ pound lean ground beef (or ground chicken)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 large egg (whisked)
  • 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese (divided)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 °F. Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray.
  • Bring water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Cook the macaroni according to package directions and set aside in the colander to drain.
  • Meanwhile, heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook the ground beef until browned (about 7-8 minutes), breaking it into small pieces.
  • To the cooked beef, add the tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. Sauté another 30 seconds until fragrant and well combined. Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In the sauce pan (I use the one the macaroni was cooked in), make a roux: melt the butter over low heat. Slowly whisk in the flour in stages, ensuring no clumps form. Whisk continuously for about 3 minutes while the roux thickens. Turn off the heat, then in the following order, whisk in the milk, the egg, and 2 cups of the grated cheese. Stir until just combined – the cheese does not need to fully melt.
  • Add the reserved macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir until just combined. Add the cooked beef and spice mixture and stir until the beef and spices are evenly distributed.
  • Spoon the chili mac into the mini muffin tins (be careful not to overfill – see note 3), top with a small amount of the remaining shredded cheese and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Allow the bites to cool for 5 minutes and carefully remove from the muffin tins. Serve immediately or allow to cool completely and store in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Notes

  1. If you’re using very lean beef or ground chicken, add a little bit of oil to the non-stick frying pan first.
  2. When making the cheese sauce, be sure to add the egg after you add the cold milk to the roux. If you add the egg first, the egg may start to scramble!
  3. Be sure not to overfill muffin tin. Fill until just even with top. Overfilling may prevent muffins from holding together well.
  4. Add a small amount of water to the bottom of any unfilled muffin tray spots to prevent burning of the grease.
  5. If the bites are not coming out easily after cooling and setting, carefully use a knife to separate edges of the bites from the muffin tin.
  6. Nutrition estimate is for one chili mac and cheese bite.

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Equipment

Mini Muffin Pan
Frying Pan
Measuring Spoons
Box Grater

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 67kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 19mg | Sodium: 85mg | Potassium: 61mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 170IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 1mg
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head shot of Laura

Hey, I’m Laura!

Creator of The Recipe Well


I love food and cooking, but hate doing the dishes. I use my nutrition degree to create easy, approachable recipes that will help you find your happy place in the kitchen.

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Recipe Rating




10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This sounds like a great idea and perfect for kids lunch box. Explained detailed with stepwise instructions.

  2. Jenni LeBaron says:

    5 stars
    These look like delicious little morsels of cheese! I love that you’ve combines chili with them too for a bit of spiciness and some great protein!

  3. Cathleen @ A Taste of Madness says:

    5 stars
    This is genius!! I love a good mac and cheese, but now they are snackable?? Count me in!

  4. 5 stars
    Cheesy Mac and cheese bites are so good. Thanks for the recipe.

  5. 5 stars
    Oh, wow…you really bring mac-and-cheese to another level! And it’s perfect for quick lunch bites or snack on-the-go, too.

  6. Karyl Henry says:

    5 stars
    What a fun idea! And you are so right, they’re perfect for a kid’s lunch, snack, appetizer, and the list goes on. I think this would be fabulous for our tailgating this season.

  7. 5 stars
    These are awesome! Perfect for a potluck, appetizer or snack!

  8. Jacqui Debono says:

    5 stars
    Definitely going to make these for lunches – big and little kids will love these! These will be perfect for grabbing from the fridge too.

  9. 5 stars
    Wow that looks like a wondeful appetizer for school snack with traditional mac an cheese. I am sure half would be gone before I pack for the school 🙂

  10. Stine Mari says:

    5 stars
    This looks so much better than traditional mac and cheese! I love the thought of serving them as an appetizer or Super Bowl snack.