When 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.
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.
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.
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.
When the Mac and Cheese is finished, add all of that creamy, cheesy goodness into the skillet
And combine everything together.
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.
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!
Southwest Chipotle Chili Mac
Recipe by Our Best Bites
1 box Kraft Cheesy Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 can tomatoes, well drained
2/3 cup canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Prepare Macaroni and Cheese according to package instructions. Heat a separate 12-inch skillet to medium-high heat. Add oil, and then ground beef and diced onion. Immediately season with garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned and drain fat only if necessary. Add tomatoes and beans and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. When Southwest Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese is fully prepared, add it to skillet and stir everything together. Serve with sliced green onions, shredded cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. Yield: 4 1-cup servings.
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!
Brought to you by Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
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!
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.
I was seriously just thinking ‘what in the heck am I going to make for dinner? Then I read this. Thanks ladies!
I love this idea! Preservatives and all!!:)
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?
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!
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.
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 🙂
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.
This looks awesome and super fast to make! Our kids will love it! Again, you ladies rock!
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!
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!
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.
This looks like something my husband and kids would eat!
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!
Being a vegetarian, I would skip the meat, but otherwise this sounds awesome! And I want to try some of the new stuff plain too, can’t go wrong with chipotle and cheese!
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!
Oh I’m totally making this tonight because my husband will be out of town. My kids will love you, Sara! Perfect quick meal.
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.
Since my kids already love Mac n Cheese, I love the idea of dressing it up with other ingredients! And glad to hear that the spice wimps like it–I’m a card carrying one 😉
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
It’s pretty mild. I mean, the mac and cheese has a bit of a kick, but my spice wuss kids loved it, and once you add in all that other stuff, it’s not bad at all.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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. 😉
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!
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!
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 🙂
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.
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.
Mmm!Chipotle chili mac?!? That sounds amazing and like something my family would love! Pefect for school nights!