Instant Pot Chili Mac brings together the best of chili and mac and cheese all in one meal! Made with ground beef, pasta, cheese and chili seasonings, this fast one-pot recipe is sure to become a family favourite!
I’m not sure why I resisted cooking pasta in my pressure cooker for so long. I suppose I had visions of burnt, dried out and unevenly cooked noodles. I’m happy to say, my fears were plain wrong. This Instant Pot Chili Mac was such a success, I may never make pasta on the stove top again! I’m now obsessed with using my pressure cooker for pasta because it’s all done in one pot and the noodles turn out perfectly every time.
For this recipe, I took all the flavour from my chili mac and cheese bites and added beans and bell peppers for some extra colour and fibre. You can really make this recipe your own, though. Check out my suggested variations below.
- Olive oil – for sautéing the peppers
- Bell peppers – two of your favourite colour(s). I used red and green so the colours would contrast the noodles.
- Lean ground beef – one pound. Ground chicken and turkey are great, too!
- Yellow onion
- Spice mix – chili powder, cumin, sea salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika.
- Chicken broth – 4 cups. Or use vegetable broth if doing the vegetarian version (see below).
- Kidney beans – 19oz can. Black beans would be great, too!
- Chopped green chilies – a small can (about 4 oz). Where I am (in Canada) you can usually find these in the Mexican section of the grocery store.
- Tomato paste – 1/4 cup
- Elbow noodles – one pound (454g)
- Grated cheddar cheese – 2 and a half cups, divided. Half a cup reserved for topping.
- Milk – optional. Add a 1/2 cup after pressure cooking, if you want a creamier sauce.
Step one: Make the spice mix and Sauté the peppers
- In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, sea salt, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Set aside.
- Turn on the Instant Pot’s Sauté function. Heat olive oil then add the bell peppers. Sauté until softened but still tender crisp. Turn off the sauté function (to prevent juices from the peppers from burning onto the bottom of the insert) and transfer the peppers to a bowl. Set aside.
Step two: Cook the beef and onion
Turn on the sauté function again and add the beef. Cook until no longer pink, while breaking it up into smaller pieces. Add the diced onion and continue to sauté until fragrant, then sprinkle in the spice mix and continue to cook another 30 seconds, while ensuring the spices evenly coat the beef. Turn off the Sauté function.
Step three: Deglaze the insert and pressure cook
- Add a small amount of broth to the beef and onion mixture. Use a plastic or wooden spatula to scrape up every last bit of food that is stuck to the bottom of the insert. This is critical to avoid a burn warning.
- Pour in the remaining broth, kidney beans, chopped green chilies and tomato paste, then add the elbow noodles and push them into the broth until just submerged. Do not stir (again, this is to avoid a burn warning).
- Pressure cook on Manual high pressure for 4 minutes. It will take about 12 minutes to come to pressure. At the end of cooking time, carefully quick release the pressure, then stir in two cups of the grated cheddar and the reserved bell peppers. Scoop into bowls and top with some of the remaining grated cheese.
You can change up this recipe to suit your taste! The only thing you shouldn’t change is the broth to noodle ratio.
- Make it vegetarian: leave out the beef and use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
- Swap out the beef: I love making this with chicken or turkey for a lighter option.
- Leave out the beans: if beans aren’t your thing, simply leave them out!
- Leave out the peppers: you don’t need the peppers in this recipe, but I recommend them for the colour, texture and extra nutrition.
- Add tomatoes: if you want a more tomato-y flavour, add a drained 15oz can of diced tomatoes along with the chilies and tomato paste.
- Add milk: if you want a creamier texture, add a half cup along with the grated cheese.
- Turn up the heat: the recipe as written isn’t very spicy, so if you want more heat, add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to your spice mix.
Tips for Success
1. Be sure to deglaze the insert. Do not skip this step after sautéing the beef and onion. Caked on food can cause a burn warning.
2. Add ingredients in the order given and don’t stir. Adding the broth first and not stirring the tomato paste and noodles to the bottom help prevent a burn warning.
3. Be sure there’s no oil or liquid on the insert rim. Sometimes oil or broth can drip onto the top rim of the insert (particularly when you’re removing the bell peppers). Be sure the rim is clean and dry, or the lid may not properly seal and will prevent the pot from coming to pressure.
4. Grate the cheese while the Instant Pot is pressure cooking. Rather than beforehand. This is just a time-saving tip 🙂
Other Instant Pot Recipes you may enjoy
Instant Pot Chili Mac
For the spice mix
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
For the chili mac
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 2 bell peppers, small dice (any colour)
- 1 lb lean ground beef (ground chicken or turkey are also great)
- 1 yellow onion, small dice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 19 oz can kidney beans
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 4 oz can chopped green chilies
- 1 lb elbow noodles
- 2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
- 1/2 cup milk (optional)
- Prepare the spice mix. In a small bowl, mix the chili powder, cumin, sea salt, garlic powder and smoked paprika. Set aside.
- Turn on the Sauté function on the Instant Pot. Heat olive oil then add the bell peppers and cook until softened but still tender-crisp. Turn off the Sauté function and transfer the bell peppers to a bowl and set aside. (Turning off the Sauté function during the transfer will help prevent the juices from the peppers from burning onto the bottom of the insert.)
- Turn on the Sauté function again and add the ground beef. Cook until no longer pink, while breaking it up into smaller pieces, about 7 minutes. Add the diced onion and continue to cook for another minute, then add the spice mix and sauté for 30 seconds, making sure the spices evenly coat the beef. Turn off the Sauté function.
- Add a small amount of broth to the beef and onion and deglaze the bottom of the insert. Use a plastic of wooden spatula to scrape up every bit of food that is stuck to the bottom. This is critical to avoid a burn warning.
- Pour in the remaining broth then add the kidney beans, canned chilies and tomato paste. Add the elbow noodles last and push into the broth until just submerged. Do not stir.
- Pressure cook on Manual high pressure for 4 minutes. It will take about 12 minutes to come to pressure. At the end of cooking time, carefully quick release the pressure. The noodles will look stuck together, but they're perfect once you stir. Stir in 2 cups of grated cheddar cheese and the reserved bell peppers. Scoop into bowls and top with some of the remaining cheddar. Serve immediately. Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator and eat within 4 days.
- Inactive time indicates time needed for Instant Pot to come to pressure and release pressure after cooking.
- Yield is eight 1.5-cup servings.
- Recipe was tested in a 6-quart Instant Pot model.
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