Southwest-Chipotle Chili Mac

Yum Yum Chipotle Chili Mac From Our Best BitesWhen I was a kid, one of our family’s favorite meals, and one of the first things I learned how to make by myself, was a creation we called “Cowboy Grub.”  Don’t ask me how we came up with that name, but my Mom would make a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and when it was all done, she’d crack open a can of chili and stir them together and top it with some shredded cheddar cheese.  I have vivid memories of eating hot bowls of the cheesy-chili pasta; it’s definitely a taste of my childhood.  Looking back now, I can see that it was a go-to meal when the cupboards were bare and also when we were short on time.  It was one of the rare meals that all of the kids in my family liked, and now that I’m a Mom myself, with kids of differing palates, I realize why my Mom turned to this meal so much!  When I saw that Kraft introduced a Cheesy Southwest Chipotle variety of their classic Macaroni and Cheese, I  knew I wanted to use it to re-create an updated version of my beloved Cowboy Grub.

Chipotle Chili Mac Graphic Image

Besides the Southwest Chipotle, Kraft has introduced 3 other varieties of the classic Mac and Cheese.  There’s a Creamy Garlic and Herb Alfredo, a Three Cheese Jalapeno, and even a Buffalo Cheddar.  As we’ve stated many times before, we only partner with products that we’ve tried and enjoyed in our own homes, and believe it or not- even food bloggers eat boxed Mac n’ Cheese!  We tried all of these new variates and we both thought that these updated versions were like the Blue Box’s sophisticated, hipper, big sisters.  They’re yummy on their own, but they also provide a really great starting point that you can use to add other ingredients and create unique meals, and that’s just what we’re going to show you!  Kraft asked us to come up with some recipes featuring each of the new varieties and we had so much fun with it and we’ll be sharing them over the next month or so.  So first up:  My Cheesy Chipotle Chili Mac- super easy, super fast, and super filling dinner.

Start by preparing the Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese according to the package instructions.

Chipotle Mac and Cheese
While that’s cooking, brown a little lean ground beef and diced onion in a skillet.  We’ll season it with garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper, and cook it until it’s nice and browned.

Ground Beef Cooking
When it’s finished cooking, add in a can of canned, diced tomatoes that have been drained, and some tender canned kidney beans.  This can all be done in the time it takes the pasta to cook, so this is a seriously quick-fix meal.

Ground beef with tomatoes and beans

When the Mac and Cheese is finished, add all of that creamy, cheesy goodness into the skillet

Chipotle Mac Finished
And combine everything together.

Chili Mac Mixed

Serve in bowls with your favorite southwest toppings.  I think sliced green onions are a must, and a little shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream are the perfect finishing touch.

Chili Mac Toppings
As a true testament to the history of this dish- ALL THREE of my boys licked their bowls clean and asked for seconds.  (At that point I looked out the window to scout for flying pigs.) Score one for Mom!

Chipotle Chili Mac From Our Best Bites



Before you leave, make sure you check out one new feature!  If you’re reading this post via email, make sure to click here so you can see what I’m talking about!  On the right-hand side of our page, there’s a link right under the pink box with our social media icons.  (Looks like this!)

Click there and you’ll find some major dinner inspiration!  We’ve featured a whole bunch of our favorite dinner recipes from here on Our Best Bites, and what’s even better is that on that page you’ll find bonus recipes that we’re posting exclusively to that page for a while!  The first one us up today and it’s one of my favorite things to make for my 3 kiddos.  Let me know what you think!

bestbites+kraftBrought to you by Kraft Macaroni and Cheese



  1. Really? Mac n’ cheese in a box? I come to your site for inspiration on homemade versions of classics, not upscale Hungry Helper! I expect more from my OBB ladies! I understand sponsorships and growing the site, but I hope this is not going to be a regular thing…
    I love your food!

    1. Sherri, if you’re a fan of our site, you know we make a variety of meals for a variety of cooking levels and situations. This has nothing to do with sponsorship; Kate and I regularly teach how to use a ready-made product and fancy it up into a fun meal idea. Just because it’s not something you might like doesn’t mean it doesn’t appeal to many other people out there (including me!). It’s a misconception that food bloggers make everything from scratch; we like short-cuts as much as the next person! If today’s recipe doesn’t appeal to you, we have nearly 800 recipes in our index you can check out today. Hope you find something fun and new!

    2. Honestly, I’m with Sherri. Mac n’ cheese is so easy to make from scratch that I have no idea why you would use a box full of unhealthy preservatives. I’m really surprised by this! Don’t get me wrong–I love your site, as well as most of your recipes. I’m not trying to be a complainer here; I’m just bummed about this recipe. That’s probably how Sherri feels too. That said, you have every right to post whatever kind of recipe you like, and I’m thankful you’re willing to share so many of your wonderful ideas with us 🙂

    3. I get really irritated when people complain about certain recipes. There are certain recipes that don’t sound appealing to me sometimes, but it doesn’t mean we need to write a complaint. If its not your cup of tea, move on. They aren’t only catering to you.

    4. I was a little surprised to see this kind of recipe, especially considering all the usual “anti-cream of anything” attitudes. I’d feed my kids cream of mystery casserole over Crap Mac n Cheese anyday! That said – I REALLY don’t want you to think I’m asking for cream of soup stuff recipes…get plenty of those from the in-laws 🙂 And not every recipe is going to appeal to everyone, but so often, every recipe does, that I think some people were a little taken back to come to the blog and finally see the one that didn’t.

  2. I think this is a fantastic meal idea! For those who can’t believe you’d start with a box of Mac and Cheese, I’m sure you can find a from scratch recipe to make things more difficult. 😉

  3. I think someone **cough, Sherri, cough*** needs to get off her high horse. I LOVE making my family delicious food from scratch as much as the next gal but sometimes I love to see a quick, easy recipe that’s almost from scratch. I am a full time employee and a mother and heavily involved in our church as a volunteer and serving this would make me feel much better than chicken nuggets from a fast food join any day! Thanks ladies!

  4. This is great! It’s always nice to have simple, good meals (aka, not always from scratch every single step) to fall back on. Love this! It looks super delicious!

  5. Mmm. Growing up in Wisconsin, people made chili with macaroni. This reminds me of my childhood! Kids yum. I think some “dressing up” of things like boxed Mac h cheese can be super helpful on chaotic evenings that we all have.

  6. Question: how spicy is this? We are wusses for spice in my house. Like, big huge wusses. If it’s not spicy, I think this would make an awesome quick and easy meal to add to my rotation. I love having those kinds of meals to fall back on when I’m short on time!

    1. Good question Nat- the Chipotle has more of a smoky flavor than a spicy flavor, so it doesn’t pack a lot of heat. We’re total wimps at my house too and all 3 of my kids gobbled this up.

  7. Love this idea! My favorite part about you guys is that you don’t pretend at all. You realize we are busy and know that most of the people who read your blog are busy moms and appreciate a fast easy meal every now and then. Thanks girls!

  8. What a perfect, quick and easy meal for busy evenings! With 3 kids in soccer right now, most of my evenings seems to be rushed. This will make me feel a LOT better about pulling out that little blue box occasionally (as you know we ALL do). Can’t wait to try it with my kids and report back!! Thanks for keeping it real OBB!

  9. Oh man, this would be such a delicious meal for camping. I can smell it now. I love chili. I love mac n’cheese. Yes I do! haha. And of course, so do my kids. I am so going to make this.

  10. Om nom nom. I have two boxes of this stuff in my pantry right now and I’m excited to have something to do with it. Tomorrow’s the first day of school AND the first day of gymnastics — definitely need a quick meal idea! Thanks girls!

  11. We will definitely be trying this one! We love mac’n’cheese at our house, and this is a great way to fancy it up. Looks delicious!

  12. This does sound good. And I’m glad to hear that it’s not TOO spicy. I don’t mind spice, but my kids hate it. I’ll give this a go on my menu next week. I think everyone will love it (well, except one middle child will be picking the beans out). Thanks for keeping it real and giving us lots of different kinds of recipes.

  13. Oh I’m totally making this tonight because my husband will be out of town. My kids will love you, Sara! Perfect quick meal.

  14. I haven’t seen Kraft’s other flavors at the store yet. I’ll have to pick some up next time I go! I love quick and easy meals–and this would be a more filling meal than just the mac by itself!

  15. YUM! I already know this will be a hit in our home. My husband and I proudly produced heat-loving offspring…so I’m happy to learn Kraft has interesting new flavors to choose from, I had no idea! I’ll be looking out for them in the stores, for sure. This looks totally delicious, thanks girls!

  16. I looked for this in the store but wasn’t able to find it. That made me sad. I have a couple of kids who love Southwest flavor and also kids who love mac and cheese. This might just be the perfect combo for them. I do have a bean hater though so she will have to pick out the beans. I like the idea of having a quick place to start for a meal. I cook from scratch most of the time but there are times when I don’t have the brain power or the energy to do that.

  17. Yum! I think I will try this out, but unfortunately all 4 of my kids hate beans. We used to make a similar dish growing up, but used taco seasoning instead of the canned chili. Good memories!

  18. I love seeing easy meals that you can just throw together on a busy night , when you’re tired or, let’s face it, in my case lazy. I’ve got picky eaters sometimes so starting with a base (the mac and cheese) that’s familiar to them helps encourage them to try something new. Thanks for keeping it real and giving us lazy cooks something new to try!

  19. Sorry ladies, but my first thoughts were exactly as Sherrie stated. Just thought I’d back her up and let you know she’s not the only one who feels that way. Please think of it as constructive criticism and not be defensive. All feed back is good. I do love your site and come here often for recipe ideas.

    1. I think it was more of the way she worded it. We know that OBB ladies can take constructive criticism 🙂 Hey, Mac & Cheese from the box may not be for everybody, but there are a ton of people that do love it and use it as a quick go to meal starter 🙂

      1. Agree 100% with Leann. Wasn’t so much the criticism…more of the tone and wording. That type of comment was more appropriate for an email, not a comment on a blog post. If it’s not for you, just don’t comment or send an email instead.

  20. This looks awesome! I’m gonna have to try it, love how you fancied up regular boxed macaroni and cheese!! Thanks girls for always making me look good, my family loves your food!

  21. Mac and cheese is really my kids all-time, hands-down favorite meal that I’m always trying to work around … just happy to finally find a way to add a little bit of substance to the quick and easy … and hopefully I can find it in the store, haven’t seen it anywhere yet. Would the regular box work as a substitute, in a pinch?

  22. I really am pretty disappointed in this recipe as well. If I want a recipe like this, I can just look on the back of a box or can. I am sad that you are willing to sacrifice your recipes in order to gain sponsorship.

  23. I’m going to make this recipe, but I’ll use homemade mac and cheese with organic pasta and REAL cheese. Thanks for the inspiration, ladies!

  24. This is the second thing I’ve seen on the old interwebs today that had snotty or mean comments on it. It is so tiring to see such things!! It’s not about feedback. You are free to have your opinion but It’s about not saying something on the Internet that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face…and I have a small inkling these women wouldn’t come into your home and wrinkle their noses in disgust about what you made for dinner as they did here. I subscribe to many a food blogs and there are recipes posted daily that don’t appeal to me and I’ve never once been compelled to tell the author so! Don’t like a recipe? Move along then! It’s almost as if you are under employ as their personal chef and/or dietician! Free service, here people, free service!
    Anyways…Kraft Mac and cheese is my guilty pleasure! Thanks for another great and quick recipe!

    1. I never comment but I am an avid reader & lover of this blog. I just have to give a big kudos to YOU. Fantastic comment. People need to be kind. This world needs a lot more kindness & love. No more hate. 🙂 (I made this for dinner last night, SUPER YUMMY!)

    2. I am so with you on this! The anonymity of the Internet permits people to say nasty, snide things they’d never say in person. Can you imagine being invited into someone’s home for a meal and then berating them for using “fake food” from a box as they proudly served it to you? Yet that’s what the commenters do here. If you don’t like a recipe, just put that one in your “no thanks” pile and move on! I don’t like olives or feta cheese, so I never make any of the Greek style recipes from the OBB blog. But I don’t feel the need to ride my sassy horse into town every time they post one and blast them for not catering to my tastes, because that would be RUDE.
      To Sara and Kate: do what my dear mother, who is as well mannered a woman as they come, used to say on occasion when someone pushed her past her limit with their rude, spiteful, unsolicited opinion. She would calmly respond, “Next time I want your opinion, I’ll ask for it.”

      Keep up the great work!

  25. Hmmm. I’m a fan of OBB but it would seem like you would want to use recipes based on real food, wouldn’t you? I’m not sure the Blue Box counts as real food. There was a reason I discontinued the Kraft Food and Family magazine- too many recipes that involved fake food. I also understand the need for sponsorship- but please don’t let it sway you from inspiring those of us that want to learn how to prepare and enjoy real, honest to goodness, nutritional food. One more for the dissenting column, I guess….

  26. I’m all for cooking food from scratch when I have time… which isn’t often these days. Proper homemade mac ‘n cheese takes time I usually don’t have, even though it’s delicious. Food like this which requires minimal prep but is still several steps above boxed or frozen food is pretty awesome for a busy week (or a busy year).

    I’m looking forward to giving this recipe a shot. I’ll probably replace the meat with more beans, and as I usually do for boxed mac n cheese I will cut down the butter but add in some real cheddar cheese.

    People need to chill out.

  27. I don’t understand what the problem is.
    I didn’t see this recipe as OBB ‘selling out to sponsership’ or whatever at all. As for the health nuts, everyone has to let their hair down sometimes. I’m sure you all.have a tasty/quick/easy not-so-healthy recipe that you eat sometimes. They’re not suggesting you eat it everyday. And if you are uncomfortable indulging in a bit of Mac n cheese once in.a while, what are you doing with your life?!

  28. As soon as I saw the recipe, I thought “uh-oh, there are going to be haters trashing this recipe in the comments!” Thanks for keeping it REAL! Fact is, kids like the blue box and sometimes we all need a short cut. If it bothers you, adapt the recipe and make the Mac and cheese from scratch. Use this site as a springboard for your own cooking.

  29. Love adding ingredients to boxed mac and cheese! (I have yet to make it successfully from scratch.) This looks delicious. One of my favorite combos is broccoli added during the last 4-5 minutes of boiling the pasta and shrimp. I also add chopped garlic (or garlic powder if I am out of fresh) and dried basil.

  30. These products are so new they must not be available in my city yet… tried 3 different stores. I was looking forward to quick and easy for our busy night tonight!

  31. My teenagers will eat mac & cheese as a quick lunch. I am pinning this to my “college” board on pinterest. I’m putting together a little cookbook for my kids when they go to college. I’ve been collecting recipes that are inexpensive and easy to make. I think this one fits the bill perfectly.

  32. Made this for dinner tonight! My 10 year old took one look at it and said, “holy cow mom, you finally bought some Hamburger Helper like grandma!” It was yummy, but I thought it was too funny not to mention, being some chose to get their panties in a wad over it :). Love your blog and your recipes, even ones that start from a box!

  33. Easy solution, just cook your own macaroni to make it ! This is a great recipe to add or minus a number of ingredients. Ground chicken or turkey, different kinds of beans or legumes, corn, sneak in some veggies.
    Love your recipes and ideas.

  34. Ever since I saw this post, I’ve been craving it like crazy! Made it tonight for dinner and it was so quick, easy and filling. Loved it!!!! Keep up the great work ladies! :-*

  35. I had this on the dinner menu for tonight when I heard the missionaries were coming over. I tripled the recipe – it filled a huge pot – and they each ate three platefuls! I was complimented over and over again! This was a yummy and easy dinner. Thanks!

  36. I’ve been wanting to try this recipe since you posted it and I’m so happy I did. My husband and I were starving when we got home from work tonight. This recipe was quick, delicious, comforting. We will definitely add it to our list of favorites. Thank you. (BTW – I couldn’t find the Chipotle Mac in our grocery store. I used the Creamy Mac and it worked great.)

  37. Thank you so much for this super easy…super fun idea for my 3 little kids who already LOVE Mac n Cheese! But…where on earth can I find this Mac N Cheese. Walmart and Fred Meyers aren’t carrying it in my stores anyway. Any thoughts? Please help!????

  38. I made this tonight with regular mac n’ cheese and it was delicious! My kids don’t like mac n’ cheese and I don’t feel like it’s filling enough or healthy enough to serve as a meal on it’s own.. but I had a Costco sized box of it to use. I paired it with a side of broccoli and felt good about my “last minute whip up”. We will definitely be making it again.. thank you girls!!

  39. Made this tonight with rave reviews from all 7 people in this house from my 3-year-old on up to my husband and 25-year-old nephew!! It doubles really well to feed that size of a crew!

  40. Just made this tonight… and coming from the world’s slowest cook, it really was so fast and easy to make. And so so so good! 🙂

  41. This is so good! My boys are both picky and as expected when they saw it they both said it looked gross. But after they tried it they both said “this is actually pretty good!”
    Thanks for the recipe!

  42. Thank you for posting a variety of recipes with different ingredients as well as skill levels. My family is currently on an internship for four months across the country and really weren’t able to bring ANYTHING and so I really can only make simple things that are cooked on the stovetop or in a crock pot (no oven in our apartment). So thanks again for catering to all types of readers!

  43. I doubled this (with one box chipotle and one box “thick ‘n creamy”) and added corn and one can of diced green chiles. It was quick and easy, and warning: doubling it makes TONS!

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