Mac & cheese is a kid (and everyone, really) 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.
I’m also always looking for new recipes for my Instant Pot – which I use on a weekly basis it’s so amazingly convenient! AND I’ve been loving my newest discovery: Tolerant Pasta (which is gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, high in protein & fiber, and made with legumes!) and they make a macaroni that’s absolutely delicious, but made with green lentil flour. And this recipe for chili mac uses ALL of these things 🙌
So what exactly is 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 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.
It’s kid-friendly too – both of my kids ate this up and asked for it for the next 4 days for dinner! The husband loved it too – he said, “Man, I don’t know what it is about this dish but it’s so comforting, I just want to keep eating it).
It freezes well, and can last in the fridge for 4 days (in the freezer for 3-4 months!)
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!)
Gluten-free, vegetarian, and can be made vegan if you omit the cheese – but it will satisfy pretty much any picky eater or meat lover in your family. You can always add meat to this if you wanted to – but I’d encourage you to try the veggie-friendly version first!
Healthy Vegetarian Chili Mac (Instant Pot Friendly!)
- 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 pasta like Tolerant
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!