Chili mac
A plate of chili mac prepared with macaroni noodles, chili, cheese, onion and green onion
CourseMain dish
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateMidwestern United States
Serving temperatureHot
Main ingredientsMacaroni, chili con carne
Similar dishesAmerican chop suey, Johnny Marzetti, American goulash, Cincinnati chili, Macaroni and cheese, Macaroni casserole

Chili mac is a dish prepared using chili con carne and macaroni as primary ingredients, which is often topped or intermingled with cheese.[1][2][3][4] Some versions are made using prepared or homemade macaroni and cheese.[5][6] It is a common dish in the cuisine of the Midwestern United States, and is also popular in other areas of the United States.[1]

Several variations of the dish exist, and prepared canned and boxed versions also exist. It can be a relatively inexpensive dish to prepare,[7] and has been described as a comfort food.[8][9] Similar dishes include Spaghetti Red, a chili-topped spaghetti popular around Joplin, Missouri,[10] and Cincinnati chili.


Several preparation methods exist. Basic versions may be prepared using chopped meat, tomato, spices, and elbow macaroni.[7] Another basic preparation method incorporates boxed, prepared macaroni and cheese and canned chili. Some recipes incorporate all of the ingredients together, while others are prepared with the ingredients separately layered.[1][11] Those that use cheese may use grated cheese atop the dish,[12] while others mix the cheese throughout the dish. Sometimes, onions or beans are added.[1] Some diners in St. Louis, Missouri, serve a version called "chili mac a la mode", in which the dish is served topped with fried eggs.[4][1]

The dish may be prepared on a range top in a skillet, in a slow cooker,[13] or baked as a casserole.[6] Vegetarian and vegan versions of the dish are sometimes prepared.[13][14][15]


Chili mac has been a staple dish at American military dining facilities for years.[16] It was introduced into the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) field ration menu in 1995 and is one of only three of the twelve MRE meals offered in 1995 that has remained on the MRE menu to date.[17] A variation called "taco chili mac" has been consumed by NASA astronauts in space.[18] It is processed by NASA as a freeze-dried product.[18]

Hamburger Helper sells a boxed version named "Chili Macaroni".[19]

Similar dishes

Fred and Red's Spaghetti Red dish

Spaghetti red is a chili-topped spaghetti popular around Joplin, Missouri, and a signature dish at Fred and Red's.[10]

Cincinnati chili is a spiced meat sauce used to top spaghetti which is often referred to as chili spaghetti.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Stern, J. & Stern, M. (2011). The Lexicon of Real American Food. Globe Pequot Series. Lyons Press. pp. PT59-60. ISBN 978-0-7627-6094-7. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  2. ^ Stern, J. & Stern, M. (2009). 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late: And the Very Best Places to Eat Them. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 287. ISBN 978-0-547-05907-5.
  3. ^ López-Alt, J. Kenji (September 23, 2014). "American Chop Suey: The Cheesy, Beefy, Misnamed Stovetop Casserole That Deserves a Comeback". Serious Eats. Retrieved October 13, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Livingston, A.D. (2013). Chili: Recipes for a Bodacious Bowl of Red. Lyons Press. pp. 174–175. ISBN 978-1-4930-0605-2.
  5. ^ "Emeril's 'Better Than Mama's' Chili Mac". ABC News. September 8, 2015. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  6. ^ a b Little, D.D. (2010). Cowboy Food. Infinity Pub. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-7414-6210-7.
  7. ^ a b Shopsin, K. & Carreño, C. (2008). Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. Borzoi book. Alfred A. Knopf. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-307-26493-0.
  8. ^ Fiduccia, K. & Rowinski, K. (2013). The Ultimate Guide to Making Chili: Easy and Delicious Recipes to Spice Up Your Diet. Skyhorse Pub. p. 118. ISBN 978-1-62087-189-8.
  9. ^ Rothman, Julie (April 14, 2015). "Recipe Finder - Chili mac". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  10. ^ a b Stone, Amanda. "Amanda Stone: Ohio's Cincinnati chili competes with spaghetti red". Joplin Globe. Retrieved November 15, 2021.
  11. ^ Smith, A. (2013). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. OUP USA. p. 382. ISBN 978-0-19-973496-2.
  12. ^ Campbell, Karly (November 14, 2014). "How To Make Chili Mac". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Kuchar, K. (2013). Mac 'N Cheese to the Rescue: 101 Easy Ways to Spice Up Everyone's Favorite Boxed Comfort Food. Ulysses Press. p. 122. ISBN 978-1-61243-168-0.
  14. ^ Greenwood-Robinson, M. (2004). The Essential Net Carb Counter. Pocket Books. p. 110. ISBN 978-1-4165-0319-4.
  15. ^ Robertson, R. (2010). Vegan on the Cheap. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 131. ISBN 978-0-544-18859-4.
  16. ^ "MEAT, FISH, AND POULTRY Recipe No. L 028 02 - CHILI MACARONI" (PDF). United States Army Quartermaster Corps & School. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  17. ^ "MRE Menus". MRE Info. Retrieved October 1, 2015.
  18. ^ a b Bourland, C.T. & Vogt, G.L. (2009). The Astronaut's Cookbook: Tales, Recipes, and More. Springer New York. p. 101. ISBN 978-1-4419-0624-3.
  19. ^ "Hamburger Helper Chili Macaroni". Healthy Foods and More. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved September 9, 2015.