This Slow Cooker Chili Mac is our new go-to dinner recipe for a couple of reasons. The obvious factor is the whole slow cooker thing means dinner can practically make itself. You just need to toss a few ingredients in the crockpot and come home to a fully prepared dinner.
Easy Chili Mac Recipe with a Slow Cooker
If I had to choose on appliance in my kitchen that I cannot live without, it may very well be my slow cooker. If you don’t have one, I highly suggest going out and buying one right now- you will not regret it. A slow cooker will basically make your dinner for you. Throw some ingredients in the pot, turn the heat on and come back a few hours later to a perfectly cooked, delicious meal! It is basically magic.
What kinds of foods can you actually make in a slow cooker? Well, for one, Chili Macaroni (or as I like to call it, chili mac). That’s right, chili and macaroni combined into one dish! Doesn’t that sound amazing? Trust me, it is. Slow cooker chili mac is one of the few foods that I can make and be confident that it will appease everyone one in my family from my 3 year old to my picky husband. I also don’t mind making it at all thanks to my handy slow cooker! So let’s get into how this super easy, super tasty meal works.
Using the Slow Cooker
With most slow cooker recipes, you simply throw all the ingredients into the bowl and turn the cooker on. This recipe adds one little step that I have found really makes a big difference in the taste of the chili and that is to brown the meat in a skillet before adding it to the slow cooker. You can totally skip this step if you’d like as the meat will definitely cook over the 8 hours that it is in the slow cooker however, the rich caramel flavor that is added to the meat when it is browned first is worth the extra step.
Into the skillet goes the onions and ground beef. A few stirs over high heat and your meat and onions will be perfectly caramelized. Now it is time to throw everything into the slow cooker! Some zucchini, some tomato sauce, macaroni, a few spices and you are done. This dish really only takes about 10 minutes tops to put together- skip the browning step and you can knock that down to about 5 minutes!
Another thing I really enjoy about making dinner in a slow cooker is that your house will begin to smell marvelous, as if someone is cooking fresh food all day long. I love setting up this slow cooker chili mac in the morning and then coming home after work to be greeted by the wonderful smell of dinner just waiting for me. There is no candle or air freshener that can beat the smell of a home cooked meal!
Combining Chili and Macaroni
Enough about the slow cooker though (but one last time, go get one right now!), let’s talk about the chili mac. If you love chili and you love macaroni, why not combine them! I far prefer having chili with pasta over a basic tomato sauce and this recipe grants you the ability to have that. No more hours of stove top cooking in order to get a tasty chili- just grab your slow cooker and let the ingredients cook on their own!
My chili recipe is pretty straightforward as I keep it pretty basic (but delicious) in order to make it kid friendly but feel free to add any spices that you like to it. You can even throw in some beans and make it a more traditional chili however, this recipe is pretty complete on its own (we decided to swap out the beans to better appeal to the picky eaters in our family!).
Having the macaroni cooked right into the chili really makes it a full meal. The only thing that you may want to add is cheese-I leave it out to save on calories but having melted cheese on top of chili can’t be beat!
Hopefully I have sold you on my chili mac recipe and you are breaking out your slow cooker right now. Any recipe that can be made in 10 minutes, be devoured by my whole family and also has minimal clean up (thanks for only having one bowl to clean, slow cooker!) needs to be shared. This recipe should quickly become a standard in your household and you will look forward to chili mac night just as much as me! Enjoy!
Hope you Enjoy! =)
- 1 ½ lbs. ground beef (or chicken/turkey)
- 1 box (16oz) macaroni shells (we used gluten free)
- 3 cups organic tomato juice or tomato sauce
- 2 cups peeled and chopped onion
- 2 cups peeled and chopped zucchini
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and onion. Cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes, making sure to crumble the beef as it cooks. Drain excess fat.
- Place cooked ground beef and onion into a slow cooker. Add macaroni, tomato sauce, zucchini, chili powder, onion powder, and salt/pepper, to taste.
- Cover and cook on low-medium heat for about 8 hours. Stir well and serve immediately.