Slow Cooker Chili Mac

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it’s an easy recipe for busy days!

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This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!Thank goodness for the slow cooker, right?  I ended up having a crazy day the other day, but fortunately the slow cooker was there to help out with dinner.  To be fair, this Slow Cooker Chili Mac isn’t entirely a slow cooker recipe.  The slow cooker is the workhorse, but you do still need to brown the beef and cook the pasta separately.  When it was time to cook the pasta, I took a shortcut and used a large saucepan instead of a full-on stock pot.  Like I said, it was a crazy day.  I was able to get enough water in the pan, but it was tight.

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!Of course, as soon as that water started to boil, I looked over to see the water dangerously close to bubbling out of the pan all over the stovetop.  The last thing I had time to do that day was clean up a bunch of spilled pasta water!  I half-jumped, half-slid my way to the stovetop and laid a wooden spoon across the top of the pot.  Problem solved.  However, as I was doing this, the inquisitive side of my brain started to wonder why a spoon laid across a pot keeps it from boiling over.  Was this some kind of kitchen sorcery?  Nah, there had to be a scientific reason here.  Google confirmed this for me.

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!It turns out that the foam at the top of the pasta water is the real culprit here.  That foam is really a bunch of bubbles that are created from the starch in the pasta.  Those bubbles are have more stability than typical water bubbles, so it takes them longer to burst.  Thus, the bubbles can build up until you hear the hiss of pasta water spilling out of the pot onto your stovetop.  D’oh!  A wooden spoon laid across the top of the pot solves this problem.  As the bubbles rise, they hit the spoon and burst, thus preventing the bubbles from continuing to build up until they overflow.  Kinda cool, right?  I bet you didn’t think a blog post about Slow Cooker Chili Mac would lead to a lesson in thermophysics!

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!Slow Cooker Chili Mac

Speaking of Slow Cooker Chili Mac, let’s forget about pasta water and focus on how downright delicious this recipe is!  Modeled after the boxed version that was so popular when I was a kid, this Slow Cooker Chili Mac will bring back all of the childhood comfort food feelings.  However, like most things that are homemade, this one tastes way better than the boxed version!  You’ll need to do a little bit of prep work at the start with the browning of the beef, and then you’ll need to cook the pasta at the end.  Other than that, this recipe is a piece of cake.  (Mmm…cake!)  If you’ve got a wild day coming up, then put this recipe on the menu.  I promise it’s a good one!

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!Did you make a batch of this Slow Cooker Chili Mac at home?  Leave a comment.  Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog)!  Cheers!

Looking for more tasty slow cooker recipes?  Check out these other favorites, too:

Slow Cooker Cajun Snack Mix
Slow Cooker Beef Short Ribs
Slow Cooker Pork Posole
Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Slow Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!

Slow Cooker Chili Mac

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!
5 from 11 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 635kcal



  • Spray bottom and sides of a 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray; set slow cooker aside.
  • Using a large skillet, add ground beef and onions. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until beef has browned. Drain any grease and transfer mixture into slow cooker.
  • Add all remaining ingredients except pasta (garlic, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, chili powder, salt, cumin, smoked paprika and cayenne); stir until well combined. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and add to slow cooker along with grated cheeses. Stir and continue cooking for 5 more minutes, or until cheese has completely melted.
  • Before serving, top with additional cheddar cheese, sour cream and sliced green onions.

This Slow Cooker Chili Mac will remind you of childhood comfort food in the best way possible!  Plus, it's an easy recipe for busy days!

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    1. Yup, that cooler weather is definitely starting to show up here, Dawn. It’s comfort food time! And I love that this recipe relies heavily on the slow cooker…it’s so darned easy to make! 🙂

    1. I think we definitely share similar taste buds, Alex! I love this dish because it reminds me of childhood…but it tastes so much better than the boxed version that they sold here in the States. Thanks so much, my friend!

  1. 5 stars
    Wow, I didn’t even know that you could get chili mac in a box. Indeed comfort food worthy of a busy fall dinner or any meal. I’m rather fond of chili mac with sunnyside up eggs on top for breakfast.
    One of the first meals I cooked Eva’s special needs nefew here was chili mac. That was years ago and he still asks for it every time he comes over. Next time I’ll give him the Spiced version. Thanks for the science lesson, but I’ll still believe kitchen mojo is why it works.

    1. Yeah, you can indeed find chili mac (well, hamburger helper) in a box. It’s nowhere near the homemade version, though! Plus, the homemade version is pretty darned easy to make. I have to admit that chili mac with an egg on top is a new idea to me…but I kinda love it! Sorta like huevos rancheros!

      I do hope you (and Eva’s nephew) love this recipe, Ron. It’s a keeper, and it’s one of my favorites each year when the weather begins to turn. Thanks so much, my friend! 🙂

  2. Hi David! Gary has gone into fall/winter mode and he wants hearty dishes and leftovers. This is perfect and I have everything on hand to make it! PS I went to the grocery today and saw English cut short ribs for $7.99 a pound!! Is it just me or is that expensive?

    1. I’m right there with Gary! Granted, Fall/Winter mode is easier when the weather is downright chilly like it is up here now. (It took until noon the other day to crack above 50°F.) This is definitely a comfort food favorite, and I hope you get a chance to make it!

      So $7.99 is a bit on the high side, but if the quality was good, then I could get behind it. Usually I try to stay until $5.99 (or less on sale) with short ribs. Of course, for the English cut, you don’t need as many pounds…so maybe it works out in the end?

      1. This is amazing!! Totally a hit in our house. But wondering if you could use rice as an alternative when you’ve eaten sooo much pasta of late?

        1. Awesome – so glad you enjoyed this recipe, Diane! It’s always a hit in our house, too. As far as rice, I think that sounds delicious. It might be a bit of a challenge in the slow cooker though. I’d probably recommend doing the same as this recipe – cook the rice separately and then stir it in at the end. Let me know if you try that out!

          1. Hi David. We did try it with rice and everyone loved it. Even the kids. Cooking it again tonight but this time as is (with pasta) to see if they notice! Thank you a family staple meal.

  3. 5 stars
    Homemade is always best! Glad you’ve made a real version here of that boxed version that you used to enjoy David. This is good wholesome comfort food at its very best. I love it. Lynne will love this recipe too. Thanks!

    1. This recipe is an absolute favorite, Neil! I’ve been making it for a few years now, but I finally got around to taking pictures for the blog. It’s quintessential comfort food!

  4. 5 stars
    Homemade is always the best and this looks like a winner, David! And in the slow cooker? Love it! I use my year ’round, especially this time of year so this needs to happen soon! Looks super duper comforting and bet it would disappear in a flash 🙂 Can’t wait to give it a try! Happy weekend to ya! P.S. Isn’t spilled pasta water the worst? Even the tinniest bit seems like a lot.

    1. Yup, this recipe never lasts long in our house, Dawn! In fact, it’s one of the few things I’ll let myself go back and get “just a little bit more” of. 🙂 Hope you had a great weekend yourself…and I hope it didn’t involve any spilled pasta water. Haha!

  5. that’s interesting about the bubbles thing david. i don’t think i knew that about putting a spoon on top of the pot. your dish looks very comforting, but not really what i need this week as it is going to be 33C! 🙂 cheers sherry

  6. I’ve never heard of thaty wooden spoon trick, and I would not’ve guessed that it worked, but what to you know! Cool. Did you know that if you pour pop into a glass, and it starts foaming over (same deal with beer), that if you stick your finger in the foam, it will stop foaming. True!

    1. Yup, that wooden spoon trick works. Not sure where I heard about that one, but I feel like I remember Laura telling me about it. I guess the same concept exists for the finger in soda/beer. Anything to break the bubbles to keep them from building up. Good tip, my friend!

  7. 5 stars
    What a fantastic comfort food meal. The minute I saw the photo, I thought of when I used to have dinner at my Grandma’s house. She made something similar, so you are so right, reminds me of childhood comfort food. I’m probably the last person without a slow cooker, but I’ll make it happen in a Dutch oven. Yum! 🙂 ~Valentina

    1. Oh, you could totally get away with making this in a Dutch oven, Valentina! It really is childhood comfort food…but better! 🙂 I hope you get a chance to make this one and reminisce about dinners at Grandma’s house.

  8. A wooden spoon to fight those annoying foam and bubbles? How cool and simple is that! And this pasta dish? The quintessence of comfort food. It’s still a little too warm for this kind of hearty food (We’re enjoying warm kind of salads), but it will be the perfect dish just in a month or so! Needless to say, it’s super delicious (because of all that cheese), too!

    1. Yup, that simple wooden spoon is all you need to prevent boiled-over pasta water…and a messy clean up job! It’s getting chilly here, and I’m totally on board with some delicious comfort food. (Although, to be fair, I still grilled some steaks last night. I’ll keep on grilling until the snow covers up the grill…which is hopefully a long way away still!)

  9. 5 stars
    David, loving the thermophysics and the childhood comfort food feelings! This is such a great dish that the whole family would love! I’ve always been skeptical of the spoon over the pasta pot. I’ll have to give it a try now. I won’t admit to how many times I’ve had to clean the stove because the pasta water boiled over 🙂

    1. Haha! I never thought thermophysics and childhood comfort food would intersect so well. 🙂 Also, I won’t admit how many times I’ve had to clean the stovetop either. And pasta water is the worst to clean once it dries, too! Thanks, Kelly!

    1. Tell me about it! You can totally make this recipe in a ‘regular’ pot, but the slow cooker certainly makes it a bit more forgiving in the timing department. These weeknights are crazy around here this time of the year! Thanks, Kathy!

  10. 5 stars
    Can’t believe I’ve never made chili Mac David! Now I have no excuse, especially as my slow-cooker is one of my best friends in the Fall and Wintertime! I love this idea! Also, I need to let you know, when you said “..,piece of cake” my instant thought was, “Mmmm…cake!” And it’s like you were reading my mind. Ha!

    1. Yup, you have no excuse now, Laura! The weather is getting chilly, and that means we need some serious comfort food. Also, I think you need cake, too. Because cake. 🙂

  11. 5 stars
    chilli and tomato is my favourite kinda combination. mac n cheese is I eat frequently in restaurants. I am super tempted now about this chili and tomato infused mac 🙂 I want to try this at home too- hopefully pretty soon.
    have a great day ahead!

    1. Yes! You should totally try it soon, Priya. Chili mac is a childhood favorite for lots of kids here, and this version tastes SO good. Definitely give it a shot! 🙂

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