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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Vegetarian Chili Mac and Cheese (Instant Pot Friendly!)

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Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac is the perfect recipe when you need dinner in a hurry. Healthy and full of flavor, this hearty meal can easily be made vegan or gluten-free! Recipe also includes instructions to cook on the stove top.

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac in a white bowl

Mac & cheese is a kid (and everyone) favorite; and vegetarian chili has always been a big hit in our household! So, when I found out that I could combine both recipes to create a hearty, healthy version of vegetarian chili mac – I really couldn’t resist.

Adding beans and vegetables to whole grain pasta makes this a kid-friendly vegetarian chili mac and cheese that adults can enjoy too. You won’t feel guilty indulging, and plus it’s instant pot friendly!

The recipe below is for an Instant Pot, but you can make it without an Instant Pot as well (I’ve included notes on how to do that below too!)

Ingredients to make Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac

Kitchen Equipment and Tools You’ll Need to Make This Chili mac

How to make Healthy Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac – step by step

Step 1: Set Instant Pot to saute function (normal level) and add olive oil through garlic above. Saute for 5 minutes.

Ingredients in the instant pot

Step 2: Add diced tomatoes through vegetable broth and stir to combine.

Stock being poured into the Instant Pot

Step 3: Secure lid onto Instant Pot and set to pressure cook/manual on high for 5 minutes.

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac before being cooked

Step 4: Use the quick release valve to release steam. Once pressure is released, open lid and stir in cheeses until melted and combined.

Cheese being stirred in

Step 5: Serve warm, right out of the Instant Pot!

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac cooked

What Makes This Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac & Cheese Healthy?

Each serving of this chili mac has only 277 calories, 3.9g of saturated fat, 10g fiber and a hearty 17g of protein! Not only that, this chili mac is packed with nutrients thanks to these healthy swaps:

  • Whole Grains: Instead of white pasta which is made with refined grains and will spike your blood sugar, this chili mac is made with either whole wheat pasta or chickpea macaroni for a gluten-free, higher protein option. This healthy pasta swap will keep you fuller longer and much more satisfied!
  • Plant Protein: This chili is brimming with beans too, which are a nutrient dense food – rich in complex carbs, plant protein and fiber. They contain a type of antioxidant called polyphenols, and are heart healthy too!
  • Tons of Veggies: I always like to “eat the rainbow” when it comes to my recipes and this dish is no exception. Hidden in the chili mac you will find peppers, spinach, corn and tomatoes — which are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants!

What is Vegetarian Chili Mac?

It’s really simple – it’s macaroni and cheese, WITH chili. Pretty much the best of all worlds.

Chili and pasta might seem way too indulgent, but thanks to the healthier swap of whole wheat or lentil pasta for regular, the addition of tons of veggies hidden in the chili, beans instead of meat (since this is veggie friendly) and a healthy (but not overdone) amount of cheese – this is a meal you can feel great about eating but still sounds super decadent.

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac in a white bowl garnished with a green leaf

Is Chili Mac and Cheese Kid Friendly?

Absolutely! And it’s perfect for picky eaters because you can sneak in a ton of veggies without them noticing thanks to the sauce, pasta and cheese. Both of my kids ate this up and asked for it for the next 4 days for dinner! If your kids are sensitive to spices, you can always dial down the chili powder and any other hot spices so it has a more subtle flavor for your little ones.

Can You Freeze This Vegetarian Chili Mac?

Yes indeed! You can even prep this vegetarian chili ahead of time and freeze it – before cooking! When you’re ready, you’ll thaw and cook your chili and it will taste just as delicious as if you hadn’t frozen the ingredients.

Stored in an airtight container in the fridge, this chili will last up to 5 days. It does separate a bit when being stored in the fridge after a while, just stir it up again and reheat over the stove (medium heat) or in the microwave.

Does Chili Taste Better The Next Day?

Absolutely. The flavors become even richer, so make a big batch! The reason for this is as protein sits, it can continue to break down and release amino acids which makes food taste more savory (called “umami”). Long story short, yes it tastes even better the next day!

What To Serve With This Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac & Cheese

If you are looking for a side to serve with this lovely, hearty meal, here are some ideas:

  • Salad: You can serve a light garden salad with this recipe. Or a caesar style salad is always a hit too!
  • Bread: If you would like some bread for dipping, try a crusty loaf or some whole wheat garlic bread.
  • Chips and salsa: You can never go wrong with corn tortilla chips and salsa!
Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac in a white bowl in front of the pressure cooker

Top tips to make Healthy Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac

  • Make this recipe gluten free by using a chickpea macaroni. If you’re not tied to the shape of the pasta, you could also try some of my favorite chickpea and lentil pastas (like this chickpea rotini or lentil/chickpea penne!)
  • Make this recipe vegan by omitting the cheese or using a vegan-friendly substitute.
  • You can use any veggies you like in this recipe. I used spinach, peppers, corn and tomatoes, but kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, mushrooms or even zucchini would be delicious.
  • It freezes well, and can last in the fridge for 4 days in an air-tight container (and in the freezer for 3-4 months!)
  • If you don’t have an instant pot, this can also be made on the stove top.
  • Use a low sodium vegetable broth.
  • Make a day ahead, refrigerate and let the flavors combine even further, creating more depth and richness.
  • If you want the chili mac to be less spicy, for you or the kids, start with half of the amounts listed and add more to taste.
  • You can always add meat to this if you wanted to – but I’d encourage you to try the veggie-friendly version first!
Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac ready to serve

Be sure to check out these other healthy Instant Pot recipes!

A spoonful of Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac

If you have tried this Instant Pot healthy vegetarian chili mac recipe, or any other recipe on my blog, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below! You can also FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOKTWITTERINSTAGRAM and PINTEREST to see more delicious, healthy, family friendly food!

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Healthy Vegetarian Chili Mac (Instant Pot Friendly!)

Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac is the perfect recipe when you need dinner in a hurry. Healthy and full of flavor, this hearty meal can easily be made vegan or gluten-free! Recipe also includes stove top instructions.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 277kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion diced
  • 3 yellow bell peppers diced
  • 1 box of baby spinach approx. 6oz, shredded
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2-3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1.5 tsp salt more to taste
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 15 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes I like petite diced tomatoes if you can find it!
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow pasta or lentil / chickpea pasta
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups Mexican shredded cheese blend
  • Optional: 1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder more to taste if you want it super spicy!

Instructions

  • Set Instant Pot to saute function (normal level) and add olive oil through garlic above. Saute for 5 minutes.
  • Add diced tomatoes through vegetable broth and stir to combine.
  • Secure lid onto Instant Pot and set to pressure cook/manual on high for 5 minutes.
  • Use the quick release valve to release steam.
  • Once pressure is released, open lid and stir in cheeses until melted and combined. Serve warm.

To Make This Without An Instant Pot

  • Cook pasta according to the package directions and set aside.
  • In a large pot, add olive oil, onions, garlic and all spices, and saute until the onions have caramelized a bit (about 5-10 min on medium heat). Then add the peppers, spinach, corn, salt, diced tomatoes, black beans, kidney beans and saute another 5-10 min on medium heat.
  • Add half of the can of tomato sauce and stir to combine. Add the pasta into the pot and the cheese and stir to combine.
  • Depending on how "saucy" the mixture looks, add in the rest of the tomato sauce. If you need it to be even more "saucy" add 1/2 cup vegetable broth at a time until the consistency is what you desire. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Top tips to make Healthy Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili Mac
  • Make this recipe gluten free by using a chickpea macaroni. If you’re not tied to the shape of the pasta, you could also try some of my favorite chickpea and lentil pastas (like this chickpea rotini or lentil/chickpea penne!)
  • Make this recipe vegan by omitting the cheese or using a vegan-friendly substitute.
  • You can use any veggies you like in this recipe. I used spinach, peppers, corn and tomatoes, but kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, mushrooms or even zucchini would be delicious.
  • It freezes well, and can last in the fridge for 4 days in an air-tight container (and in the freezer for 3-4 months!)
  • If you don’t have an instant pot, this can also be made on the stove top.
  • Use a low sodium vegetable broth.
  • Make a day ahead, refrigerate and let the flavors combine even further, creating more depth and richness.
  • If you want the chili mac to be less spicy, for you or the kids, start with half of the amounts listed and add more to taste.
  • You can always add meat to this if you wanted to – but I’d encourage you to try the veggie-friendly version first!
Modified from KaraLyndon

Nutrition

Calories: 277kcal | Carbohydrates: 24.7g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 7.1g | Saturated Fat: 3.9g | Sodium: 773mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 4.3g

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