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!
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.
If you’re using very lean beef or ground chicken, add a little bit of oil to the non-stick frying pan first.
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!
Be sure not to overfill muffin tin. Fill until just even with top. Overfilling may prevent muffins from holding together well.
Add a small amount of water to the bottom of any unfilled muffin tray spots to prevent burning of the grease.
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.
Nutrition estimate is for one chili mac and cheese bite.