This skillet mac and cheese recipe is so delicious and packed with heartwarming ingredients the whole family will love. This chili con carne style mac and cheese is super easy to make for any home cook and takes just 40 minutes to prepare using only one skillet for easy clean-up.
⭐ Why this recipe works
Skillet mac and cheese is one of the easiest recipes you will make this year. All you need to do is combine all the comforting ingredients in one large skillet and voilà - the best mac n cheese is ready for serving.
It's hard to resist such tempting goodness on one plate with succulent ground beef cooked in a delicious tomato-based sauce with black beans, corn, and spices. Tossed with cooked pasta and topped with sharp cheddar cheese to finish.
If you feel inspired by this recipe I recommend you to try my texas roadhouse chili recipe. Similar ingredients and hearty meal!
The fact that this recipe only requires a single skillet to prepare the meal makes cleaning up afterward a breeze and ideal for home cooks to make with limited kitchen equipment.
Unlike traditional mac and cheese recipes that start with a white roux cheese sauce as the base of the dish, this variation uses Southern-inspired ingredients to make a flavorful, spicy tomato sauce instead to balance all the different textures and flavors.
And because there is no milk mixture or flour needed for the cheese sauce, it's perfect for gluten and lactose-intolerant people.
🍽 Key Ingredients
The list of ingredients to make this skillet mac and cheese is quite extensive, but most of them are common household ingredients and may be sitting in your kitchen pantry.
Spices - This mac and cheese is a little spicy, so were adding cumin, cayenne pepper, and chili powder for the heat.
Tomato sauce - Tomato paste and canned tomatoes give the dish its authentic tomato base flavor. Buy the canned variety with liquid and diced tomatoes for the best results.
Pasta - The pasta of choice is elbow macaroni as they are small and absorb the flavors quicker.
Vegetables - The red onion, green pepper, corn, and black beans add beautiful colors to the dish and flavor.
Meat - Look for lean ground beef for a richer beef flavor. Have frozen ground beef? No worries, learn how to quickly defrost ground beef in my guideline.
Cheese - The mac and cheese recipe requires a strong flavored cheese like sharp or white cheddar cheese. Learn more about best cheeses for mac and cheese.
Cheddar is the cheese of choice, but you could substitute it for Jack, Colby, or Cantal cheese for a similar flavor.
Small macaroni pasta shapes like a corkscrew or small tubular ones work best with thick sauces as a substitute for elbow macaroni.
🔪 How to make
This skillet mac and cheese requires no special cooking skills or equipment. Just ultimate comfort food cooked in a skillet anyone can make, and you can learn how to prepare this delicious recipe in 40 minutes with my step-by-step instructions, walkthrough video, and helpful cooking tips.
- Finely chop the garlic cloves, then dice the red onion and green pepper.
- Drain and wash the canned corn and black beans.
- Bring a pan of water to a boil and cook pasta until al dente. Usually 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain the cooked pasta and set it aside.
Place a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat with 2 tablespoons of oil, and sauté the garlic, onion, and pepper for 4 minutes until fragrant and softened.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cooking until browned.
Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, corn, black beans, and cooked elbow macaroni.
Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the pasta is soft and tender, then stir in half the cheddar cheese.
Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place the skillet in the oven set to broil at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius).
Once the cheese turns golden brown, take it out of the oven and serve.
💭 Cooking tips
Don't overcook the pasta.
It's essential to not over-boil the elbow macaroni before adding it to the skillet. It will cook again for another 15 to 20 minutes and become mushy instead of tender if it's over-boiled.
Shred the cheese
Buy the block of cheddar cheese and shred it yourself instead of the package shredded cheese for a creamier texture.
📖 Recipe Variations
Skillet mac and cheese is a versatile dish that can easily be made into other delicious variations like these three alternatives.
Skillet mac and cheese with bacon
Give your mac and cheese an upgrade with some crispy bacon pieces. Cut a 150-gram block of bacon into small pieces and fry or bake bacon them until crispy, then remove from the skillet and leave the bacon fat to cook the ground beef.
Baked mac and cheese
Add a crunchy topping to the homemade macaroni and cheese by mixing 100 grams breadcrumbs with cheddar and parmesan cheese and sprinkle it on top before baking in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the top becomes golden brown.
🥗 What to serve with
Skillet mac and cheese is absolutely delicious as the main meal or hearty side dish. Here are a few suggestions to serve with it.
This southern-style fried cabbage and bacon recipe is one of my favorite side dishes to whip up in a hurry that is full of flavor and uses few ingredients. It takes minutes to prepare in a skillet and tastes good with the mac and cheese recipe.
Bread is always served with most dinners in my house, and this jalapeno cheese cornbread is the perfect accompaniment to soak up those delicious juices from the skillet mac and cheese.
Grilled cheese sandwich
Pair the skillet mac and cheese with a grilled cheese toasty. This BLT sandwich is fancier than the standard BLT sandwich you are used to and uses cheddar and Havarti cheese for extra gooeyness. It's scrumptious.
🙋 Frequently Asked Questions
Is a roux necessary for mac and cheese?
t all mac and cheese recipes require a roux. This skillet mac and cheese, for example, does not have a cheese sauce, so there's no need for a roux. But if a mac and cheese recipe has a cheese sauce, it will be made with a roux, which is melted butter and flour mixed together with milk.
Is it necessary to par-boil the macaroni?
Yes, par-boiling pasta for homemade macaroni and cheese recipes is necessary because the pasta will absorb the sauce and take twice as long to cook otherwise. With all baked pasta dishes, it is recommended to boil the pasta first before mixing it with the sauce.
🧊 Storing and ♨️ Reheating
Skillet mac and cheese is perfect for storing any leftovers once it has cooled completely and tastes amazing reheated the following day.
Fridge - Transfer the leftover skillet mac and cheese to an airtight container or leave the remains in the skillet covered with aluminum foil and place it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freezer - Top freeze the mac and cheese, place the leftovers in a freezer bag or an airtight container and freeze it for up to 4 months.
Reheating - The best way to reheat leftover skillet mac and cheese is to preheat an oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the leftovers on a baking dish for 15 minutes for refrigerated and 20 minutes for frozen until piping hot.
Alternatively, you can reheat it in the microwave on full power for 1-minute intervals until hot.
🍳 Related Mac and Cheese Recipes
If you love my southwest chili mac and cheese recipe, try my new Texas Roadhouse Chili, or chili queso dip, a hearty dish loaded with flavor. Or one of these fantastic mac and cheese recipes for your next meal.
👪 Serving Size
This skillet mac and cheese recipe will give you 5 to 6 generous servings. However, you could scale the recipe to make more if you have a larger skillet. The best way to make more is to prepare the ingredients in a large pot and transfer the mixture to individual large aluminum trays for easy storage.
Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food to enjoy with your family and friends, and this easy skillet version is the best.
🎥 Watch how to make it
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star 🌟rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
Try one of my comfort dinner recipes for your next family meal! And if you have any questions, I'm here to help!
Southwest Skillet Chili Mac and Cheese
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium red onion - finely diced
- ½ green pepper - finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 ½ tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 can tomatoes - 15 oz with liquid diced
- 1 can tomato paste - 6 oz
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ cup corn - canned, drained
- 1 can black beans - 15 oz, drained and rinsed
- 1 ½ cups macaroni - uncooked
- 1 ½ cups cheddar cheese - shredded
- salt and pepper - to taste
- Heat the oil over medium low heat in a large cast iron skillet, dutch oven or oven-safe saute pan.
- Add the onions and pepper and cook until beginning to soften - about 4 minutes then add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.
- Increase the heat to medium high and add the ground beef, breaking it up well with a wooden spoon and cook until browned.
- Add the chili powder, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper and mix well.
- Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, water, corn, beans and macaroni - mixing well.
- Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally - until the pasta is just tender.
- Stir in half of the cheese, then sprinkle the rest on top and put in the top third of your oven with the broiler on 400 F (200 C) and allow the cheese to brown, then serve. (perfect with some jalapeno cheddar cornbread)
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Tried this and we all loved it but I didn’t put enough salt in. Can you tell me how generous I should be? I was raised by people with heart conditions so my take on generous is probably a lot different than others. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!
How about fixing mac 'n cheese dinner from the box and mixing it in, then put it in the oven with more cheese on top? I'm going to try that and will let you know how we like it!
Made this today, added a can of rotel for some extra heat, and used small pasta.
As I am reading this recipe I wonder if putting corn bread mixture on the top and then cooking it sounds? It would give it another spin.
I thought that you were not to cook tomatos or tomato products in cast iron
made this for my family today minus the corn.took the creamy cheese from the velvetta box mixed it in,then added shredded cheese on top.add tortilla chips.ny family loved it.
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Southwest Skillet Chili Mac | Chow Down
[…] Source: Comfortable Food […]
What size is considered a large skillet.
Laura Mcauley just add it to your favorits
The second step in the instructions says to add the onions and pepper...am I missing something...I don't see pepper in the ingredients list (except for salt and pepper and cayenne pepper but those are both added later in the instructions).
Made this tonight, t'was simple and tasted wonderful! Whole family loved it!