Instant Pot Chili Mac (Vegetarian!)This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure.
Instant Pot Chili Mac is the perfect recipe when you need dinner in a hurry. Healthy and full of flavor, this hearty vegetarian meal can easily be made vegan or gluten-free! The recipe also includes instructions to cook on the stovetop.
Mac & cheese is a universal 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.
This vegetarian Instant Pot chili mac recipe is going to become one of your new favorite recipes! While most chili mac is made with meat, we replace the meat with hearty beans, which pairs well with the macaroni noodles and creates a super satisfying meal.
Adding beans, vegetables, and spices to the classic cheesy dish results in a chili mac and cheese recipe that is great for the whole family. You won’t feel guilty indulging, and plus it is super easy and quick to make, thanks to the Instant Pot! It really is the ultimate comfort food.
This easy recipe is for an Instant Pot, but you can easily make this homemade chili mac recipe on the stovetop, too! Just read on for the whole scoop.
👩🍳 Why You Will Love Instant Pot Chili Mac
There are so many reasons to love veggie chili mac made in the Instant Pot! This recipe is…
- Family Favorite: This one pot meal contains many “hidden” veggies without the kiddos noticing, which makes it a great option for picky eaters. 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.
- Great Recipe For Busy Weeknights: Making chili mac in the instant pot saves so much time! Thanks to the trusty Instant Pot, this easy dinner recipe has just about 5 minutes of cook time and is ready in just over 30 minutes.
- Nutritious: With beans, vegetables, whole grain pasta, and low-sodium vegetable broth, this Instant Pot chili mac and cheese recipe is as delicious as it is good for you!
- Budget-Friendly: Calling for pantry staples, affordable vegetables, and commonly found spices, this easy chili mac and cheese is a filling meal that doesn’t hit the pocketbook hard.
- Allergy-friendly: All you need is a few simple swaps to make gluten-free or vegan chili mac and cheese! Read below for this recipe’s allergy-friendly dietary adaptations.
This meatless chili mac is made with simple ingredients easily found at any grocery store! Here’s what you need:
- Beans: Canned beans are pantry ingredients that I always have on hand. Black beans and kidney beans are the co-stars of this macaroni chili, but you can use any type of beans you like.
- Elbow Macaroni: Whole wheat elbow pasta is what we are looking for here, but any other small shape pasta that has a similar cooking time can also work.
- Vegetable Broth: Adds savory flavor to this healthy chili mac and gives moisture for the pasta to absorb as it cooks. Use low-sodium vegetable broth to keep this hearty meal’s sodium levels in check.
- Tomato Sauce And Fire Roasted Tomatoes: Pureéd tomato sauce is what we are looking for here, not marinara or spaghetti sauce.
- Fire-Roasted Tomatoes: The fire-roasting process adds an extra layer of smokiness to this vegetarian chili mac Instant Pot recipe
- Veggies: I used frozen corn, yellow peppers, and baby spinach. Corn is a favorite addition to chili, so it takes this veg chili mac to the next level, too! The peppers and spinach add extra nutrition and fiber to this chili mac Instant Pot recipe without overpowering it with a strong flavor.
- Cheese: You can’t make mac & cheese without lots of cheese! I used a Mexican 4 cheese blend, but shredded cheddar cheese would also work.
- Spices: Chili powder, ground cumin, and ancho chili powder perfectly season the chili mac and beans, though you can always reduce either of the chili powders if you or your family aren’t as into heat. Fresh garlic is best for this recipe, though bottled minced garlic can work in a pinch! Don’t forget using salt and black pepper to taste!
🍲 Ingredient Substitutions
- Beans: Pinto beans, garbanzo beans, or cannellini beans can substitute for black beans and/or kidney beans in this Instant Pot chili macaroni.
- Pasta: Though it won’t add as much nutrition and fiber, white elbow pasta can work in place of whole wheat pasta.
- Spices: If you don’t have the spices listed in this recipe, you can also use taco seasoning in a pinch.
- Canned Tomatoes: Canned diced tomatoes can replace the fire-roasted tomatoes, though this vegetarian chili macaroni recipe will miss out on the smoky flavor notes.
- Corn: Canned or fresh-cut corn can substitute for frozen corn.
- Sweet Peppers: Any combination of bell peppers – red, green, orange, or yellow – can step in for the yellow peppers.
🔪 How To Make Instant Pot Chili Mac
This Instant Pot chili with noodles recipe is ready in just 4 simple steps!
Sauté The Onion and Garlic: Set Instant Pot to sauté mode (normal level) and add olive oil, onions, spinach, corn, spices, and garlic. Sauté for 5 minutes.
Add Macaroni And Liquids: Stir the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, black beans, kidney beans, elbow noodles, and vegetable broth into the Instant Pot. Stir to combine.
Pressure Cook: Secure lid onto Instant Pot and set to high pressure cook / manual on high for 5 minutes.
Quick Pressure Release, Add Cheese: Use the quick-release valve to release steam. Once the pressure is released, open the lid and stir in the shredded cheese. Give it a good stir until melted and combined.
Serve this easy Instant Pot chili mac with beans with your favorite toppings!
🙋♀️ How To Make This Recipe On The Stovetop
Don’t have an Instant Pot or an electric pressure cooker? No problem! You can make this hearty noodle chili on the stove top as well. Here’s how:
- Sauté the vegetables and spices in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, or until the onions are beginning to turn translucent.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, pasta, and vegetable broth. Stir well and increase the heat to high, stirring occasionally, or until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the chili mac for 13-17 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the macaroni is cooked through.
- Stir the cheese into the chili until combined. Serve hot!
💭 Expert Tips
- Prep the ingredients ahead of time. The cooking time can go by quickly; have all of the ingredients measured out and prepared before you start up the Instant Pot. This will help prevent any ingredients from burning or overcooking.
- To double the recipe, follow the recipe directions, adding additional time to the sautéing step if needed, but not to the pressure cooking time. The Instant Pot will naturally adjust the time needed to bring the extra volume to pressure, meaning that you don’t need to.
- Layer your ingredients. First, add the vegetable broth, followed by the pasta, beans, diced tomatoes, and spices. Do not stir the ingredients after adding them to the pot. This helps to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom and triggering the “burn” warning.
- Deglaze the bottom of the pot. After sautéing the vegetables, pour a little vegetable broth or water into the Instant Pot and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom. This will prevent the “burn” warning and will also add flavor to this pressure cooker chili mac.
📖 Recipe Variations
The best part about this recipe is that it’s super versatile and you can customize it in so many different ways! Here are some of our favorite variations:
- Add Extra Spice: If you like a little more heat in your chili, stir 1/8 teaspoon or more chipotle powder or cayenne pepper in with the other spices. You can also add in green chiles or diced jalapeno peppers.
- Use Any Veggies You Like: I used spinach, peppers, corn, and tomatoes, but kale, sweet potatoes, carrots, mushrooms or even zucchini would be delicious.
- Make The Chili Mac Milder: If you want this Instant Pot macaroni and cheese to be less spicy, start with half of the amount of the spices listed and add more to taste.
- Make With Meat: Though I highly recommend trying this delicious chili mac vegetarian version first, you can also make this recipe with meat if desired. Just sauté 1 pound of ground turkey or lean ground beef with the onions and spices and follow the rest of the recipe as directed. You can also use beef broth or chicken broth instead of the vegetable broth.
🙌 Dietary Adaptions
- Gluten-Free: 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!).
- Vegan: Make into a vegan chili mac instant pot recipe by omitting the cheese or using a dairy-free or vegan cheese substitute.
🍽 Serving Suggestions
If you are looking for a side to serve with this recipe, here are some ideas:
- Salad: A light garden salad or Caesar salad are perfect complements – and a great way to add in extra vegetables – to this meal. I love this tomato avocado cucumber salad or this keto Greek salad as side salads for this recipe.
- Bread: Crusty French bread, vegan garlic bread, or whole wheat garlic bread are great for dipping in the chili! For a gluten free option, just use this gluten free bread recipe.
- Chips And Salsa: You can never go wrong with corn tortilla chips. Tortilla scoops can even be used as make-shift spoons for a more interactive dinner! Salsa makes a great topping for this recipe. Try this Chipotle corn salsa or this pineapple pico de gallo!
- Toppings: You can top your vegetarian chili mac and cheese with so many different ingredients! Here are some of our favorite toppings: chopped fresh cilantro, green onions, diced avocado, sour cream, Greek yogurt, extra cheese, crushed tortilla chips, sliced jalapenos, or even a drizzle of hot sauce.
⏰ Making Chili Mac Ahead Of Time
Meal Prepping: This recipe is a great one to meal prep a day or two ahead of time, because it tastes even better the next day! Just refrigerate and let the flavors combine even further, creating more depth and richness. As the protein sits, it can continue to break down and release amino acids which makes food taste even more savory (called “umami”), making it even more delicious!
Freezer Meals: You can even prep and cook this one pot vegetarian chili mac recipe ahead of time, and freeze it for later. When you’re ready, you can thaw and heat your chili in the microwave or on the stovetop and it will taste just as delicious as if you hadn’t frozen the ingredients.
Storage, Freezing, And Reheating Directions
To Store: Leftover chili with macaroni keeps covered in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. It also can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
To Reheat: If reheating from frozen, thaw the homemade chili mac in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours or overnight. Stir the chili well and heat up over low heat on the stovetop or in 1-2 minute intervals in the microwave, stirring as you go.
❓ Recipe FAQs
Each serving of this vegetarian chili mac has only 277 calories, 3.9g of saturated fat, 10g fiber, and a hearty 17g of protein! Because this recipe calls for whole wheat pasta instead of white and is abounding in plant protein and antioxidants from the beans and veggies, it is a nutritious meal you can feel great about serving your family!
Adding enough moisture (vegetable broth and tomato sauce) to the hearty chili mac mixture will keep it from burning in the Instant Pot. You will also want to stir the mixture well so the veggies and beans are distributed evenly throughout the mixture, preventing them from accumulating on the bottom and burning.
To set the Instant Pot to seal, turn the knob on the back part of the lid (i.e., the steam release handle) to the left. To set it to vent, turn the knob to the right. When you do this, you will hear and see steam escaping from the pot, confirming that the pot is now venting.
🥣 More Vegetarian Instant Pot Recipes!
- Instant Pot Lentil Cauliflower Curry
- Instant Pot Yellow Dal
- Instant Pot Vegetarian Chili
- Instant Pot Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Instant Pot Tomato Soup
- Instant Pot Lentils with Tahini
Love this vegetarian entree recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating 🌟 in the recipe below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page!
📋 Recipe Card
Instant Pot Chili Mac (Vegetarian!)
- ½ 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
- 1½ tsp salt more to taste
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 15 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes I like petite diced tomatoes if you can find it!
- 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
- 15 oz can kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 8 oz whole-wheat elbow pasta or lentil / chickpea pasta
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups Mexican shredded cheese blend
- ⅛ tsp chipotle chili powder optional – more to taste if you want it super spicy!
- 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!
- 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.
- Leftovers freeze 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 stovetop.
- 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!