This vegan chili mac and cheese is a simple, one pot meal and is a reliable staple for fast weeknight dinners. It uses just one pot, and comes together on the stovetop in just about 30 minutes. It's easy to make this gluten-free or oil-free and it can be customized with your favorite toppings.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
This recipe ticks all the boxes I look for in a recipe that deserves to be in regular rotation. It is:
- WEEKNIGHT FRIENDLY - This comes together quickly and requires less than 30 minutes of cooking time.
- BUDGET FRIENDLY - The base of this recipe uses inexpensive, easy to find ingredients that won't break the grocery budget.
- PANTRY FRIENDLY - There's a good chance you have all of these ingredients on hand right now! We make use of canned beans, vegetable broth, dried pasta and canned tomato sauce. Add a few fresh ingredients to your weekly shopping list and you're ready to cook.
- MEAL PREP FRIENDLY - Like any chili, this one gets better with age. Make a pot of it on Sunday and you'll have enough for lunches for the whole week. It reheats beautifully and the flavors get more complex.
- PACKED WITH FLAVOR - With generous use of dried spices and just the right amount of heat from the jalapeno, this chili mac packs a ton of satisfying flavor into each bite.
- EASY CLEAN UP - It doesn't get much easier than a one pot meal!
Ingredients + Equipment
Here's a quick run-down of everything you'll need to make this recipe.
Small, dry pasta - I like to use elbow macaroni for a classic feel, but any small pasta will work. The pasta will cook in the skillet with the other ingredients, so no need to precook it. Yay!
Canned kidney beans - Kidney beans pack a nutritional punch, adding protein and fiber to this dish. The consumption of beans has been linked to weight loss, lower risk of colon cancer, and assistance in moderating blood sugar levels (1).
Canned tomato sauce & tomato paste- Tomatoes are the primary dietary source of lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. The human body cannot make lycopene, therefore it must be obtained from the diet (2). High dietary intake of lycopene has been associated with colon cancer prevention (3), cardiovascular disease prevention (4), and maintenance of cognitive function during aging (5).
Fresh vegetables - We use garlic, onion, bell pepper (any color will do), and a jalapeno pepper.
Vegetable broth - Look for a brand with no added sugar.
Spices - The flavor factor! We use a standard chili powder blend, cumin, smoked paprika and salt.
Enhancers - Maple syrup and fresh squeezed lime juice. You can certainly make this recipe without these enhancers, but they do add depth and balance to the flavors and are recommended.
Vegan cheddar-like cheese shreds - For an extra creamy kick, we melt in some vegan cheddar shreds at the end of cooking. This also makes the dish extra appealing to omnivores and provides a familiar cheesy texture. I used Violife brand. To keep the dish oil-free, leave this out or use 1 cup of your favorite homemade cheesy sauce.
See recipe card for specific quantities and detailed instructions.
You'll need a large, deep skillet or dutch oven for this recipe.
Making this vegan chili macaroni couldn't be easier! Have all of your ingredients chopped and measured before you begin because it all comes together quite quickly.
Saute the onions in your choice of oil or water over medium heat until transluscent, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno and cook for another 3 minutes. Then add in the spices and tomato paste. Stir and cook 1 minute.
Add the tomato sauce and vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.
Once simmering, stir in the pasta and beans. Return to a slow simmer over low heat and cover. Cook for 11-14 minutes, uncovering occasionally to stir.
When the pasta is tender, turn off the heat. Stir in maple syrup, lime juice and shredded vegan cheese. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.
Your chili mac and cheese is now ready to serve with your choice of toppings like cilantro, avocado, lime or vegan sour cream.
This dish tastes even better the next day. It's a great meal prep item and will easily yield a work week's worth of packed lunches. Simply portion into glass containers and reheat in the microwave as needed. Keep your garnishes separate until serving.
- Pasta - Experiment with different types of pasta here. Use Gluten Free pasta to make this dish gluten free. Expect the cooking time at Step 5 in the recipe card to be 2-3 minutes longer than the cook time listed on your pasta box.
- Kidney Beans - Pinto beans would also be excellent in this dish, or try a combination of the two.
- Maple syrup - Try agave or date syrup if preferred. You may also leave the sweetener out completely - just be aware it is added to balance out the flavors of the dish and is chef recommended.
- Vegan Cheese Shreds - Substitute ⅓ cup nutritional yeast flakes for the cheese shreds if desired to keep the dish oil-free. Or add 1 cup of your favorite homemade, oil-free cheesy sauce.
Store in the refrigerator in a well-sealed container for up to 7 days.
For longer storage or meal prep, you may freeze this dish. Spoon into a zip-top freezer bag, and lay flat in the freezer. When ready to use, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Individual portions may be reheated in the microwave or reheat multiple servings on the stovetop over low heat, stirring frequently and adding a splash of vegetable broth if additional moisture is needed.
Hungry for More?
One-pot meals are a cook's best friend and I have more of them!
Check out this Smoky Black-Eyed Pea Soup or this Tuscan Lentil Soup with Potatoes for vegan, gluten-free, and oil-free NO FUSS meals that absolutely nourish you from the inside out.
Be sure to stir the dish occasionally throughout step 5 of the recipe card to keep the pasta from sticking and for it to cook evenly.
One Pot Vegan Chili Mac and Cheese
- 1 Large, deep skillet or Dutch oven
- 1 Tablespoon water or 2 teaspoons olive oil, if preferred
- 1 medium yellow onion diced small
- 1 medium bell pepper any color, diced small
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper finely diced
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 can (15 ounces) plain tomato sauce
- 2-⅔ cups dry elbow macaroni or other small pasta. Use whole wheat for WFPB.
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1 lime juiced
- 1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup optional but recommended
- 1 cup vegan cheddar cheese shreds I used Violife brand. Or sub ⅓ cup nutritional yeast flakes for oil-free.
- sliced jalapeno
- diced avocado
- vegan sour cream if not oil-free
- fresh cilantro
- In a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the water (or oil) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and starting to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to keep it from sticking.
- Add bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Cook for 1 minute while stirring continuously to distribute the tomato paste and allow the spices to heat up.
- Add the vegetable broth and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
- Once the mixture is at a simmer, stir in the macaroni and beans. Return to a slow simmer over low heat then cover. Let cook, covered, for 11-14 minutes (time will vary based on your pasta). Occasionally remove the cover and stir to prevent sticking and allow the pasta to cook evenly.
- When the pasta is tender, turn off the heat. Stir in the lime juice, maple syrup and nutritional yeast or cheese shreds. Cover the pan and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.
- Serve with your favorite toppings.
Yes! Simply swap in your favorite gluten free pasta. Use the cooking time on the pasta as a guide for how long to let it cook from that point on. Be sure to stir it a few times so it cooks evenly, and begin checking it when you reach the suggested cook time from the pasta box. It will likely take 2-3 minutes longer than that.
Yes, you can easily make this recipe oil free. Simply saute the vegetables in water or vegetable broth at the beginning, adding more as needing to prevent them from sticking. Omit the vegan cheese shreds and add in ⅓ cup nutritional yeast at that step instead.
- Healthline article: Kidney Beans 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
- Imran M, Ghorat F, Ul-Haq I, et al. Lycopene as a Natural Antioxidant Used to Prevent Human Health Disorders. Antioxidants (Basel). 2020;9(8):706. Published 2020 Aug 4.
- Rowles JL 3rd, Ranard KM, Applegate CC, Jeon S, An R, Erdman JW Jr. Processed and raw tomato consumption and risk of prostate cancer: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis. 2018;21(3):319-336.
- Mozos I, Stoian D, Caraba A, Malainer C, Horbańczuk JO, Atanasov AG. Lycopene and Vascular Health. Front Pharmacol. 2018;9:521. Published 2018 May 23. doi:10.3389/fphar.2018.00521
- Crowe-White KM, Phillips TA, Ellis AC. Lycopene and cognitive function. J Nutr Sci. 2019;8:e20. Published 2019 May 29.
So easy and so good! Will definitely make again.
Wow! Can't wait for more tasty and healthy recipes!