Main Dish

Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac and Cheese

The absolute BEST Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac! Amazing combo of sweet and spice makes this one tasty dinner or tailgating game day fave. 
September 12, 2018 (Last Updated: September 13, 2019)
Two small bowls of stirred sweet and spicy chili mac and cheese. The bowls are white and on a marble table. The top bowl has a silver spoon in it.

Growing up in the Midwest chili was a cold weather staple in my home. One of the most requested meals from my brother and I when snow was on the ground was mom’s chili. My brother and I would spend hours out in the cold building snowmen, injuring ourselves on sleds, and attempting to build igloos. My absolute favorite part of those chilly (pun intended) days was coming inside and smelling my mom’s sweet and spicy chili on the stove simmering away. We would impatiently wait until dinner time when we could get our cold hands on the warm bowl of chili and chow down. Now, many years later, my mom’s chili recipe has evolved into the best Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac and Cheese! Some of the ingredients have changed but the soul of this chili is still the same.

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What Do You Need to Make Chili Mac and Cheese

This sweet ans spicy chili mac requires only basic kitchen tools which is great for the home chef. That said, I use a lot of dried spices for this chili recipe. I am fully aware that not everyone will have all of these spices and you could substitute some out if you need to. 

The kitchen tools needed for this sweet and spicy chili mac and cheese are:

  • A Large Pot with a Lid- I love to use my dutch oven, but any large pot will do.
  • Measuring Cups and Spoons- Gotta get the balance of sweet and spicy rights!
  • A Can Opener- There are lots of cans to open for this chili recipe, you need this for sure.
  • A Pairing Knife and Cutting Board- This is to dice the onion. 

The ingredients you will need for this stove top chili are:

  • Ground Beef and Ground Sausage- I love using both to develop an incredible flavor. If you wish you could just use ground beef for this sweet and spicy chili recipe, but I highly suggest using the combination. 
  • Chili Beans and Kidney Beans
  • A Large White Onion- You could use a yellow or red onion as well. 
  • Chili Sauce
  • Tomato Paste
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • Brown Sugar- This is super important for this chili mac recipe. The brown sugar is what gives the chili its sweet flavor.
  • A Boat Load of Spices- Yes, I know there is a lot of spices for this chili recipe, but sometimes perfection requires a lot of stuff. This is one of those cases.
  • Water
  • Dried Macaroni
  • Shredded Cheese- I like to use shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Sour Cream or Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt 
  • Optional Additional Toppers

A large pot of chili with two smaller white bowls of chili. The small white bowls contain sweet and spicy chili mac and cheese with sour cream and cheddar cheese. There is also a blue, pink and yellow plaid towel in the corner.

How To Make The Best Sweet and Spicy Chili

I like to make this sweet and spicy chili mac and cheese on the stove top. Another option would be to make this chili in the crockpot if those are more your jam. Either way you will need to make the pasta separate from the chili, so this chili mac recipe requires more than one pot. 

Stove Top Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac Instructions

  1. In a large pot add diced onion and olive oil and saute for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the ground beef, ground sausage, salt and pepper and minced garlic to the pot.
  2. Cook the meat until no pink remains, about 7-10 minutes. Once the meat is cooked through, drain the excess liquid from the pot.
  3. Add all of you dried spices to the large pot and stir until meat is coated. 
  4. Next, add in all the remaining ingredients (except the macaroni and cheese) to the pot and give the chili a good stir to combine all the ingredients. 
  5. Bring the sweet and spicy chili to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover letting the chili simmer for a minimum of 20 minutes to let the flavors develop. Taste chili and adjust spices as needed while it is simmering.
  6. While the chili is simmering, prepare the dried macaroni per package instructions. 
  7. Once the chili is finished simmering and the macaroni is cooked it is time to prepare the chili mac.
  8. In your personal chili bowl add a large scoop of macaroni, then top with sweet and spicy chili, cheese, then sour cream. Stir everything together for the perfect sweet and spicy chili mac and cheese!


Check out the sweet and spicy chili mac and cheese recipe video below for a more detailed look at prep for this recipe!

Crockpot Sweet and Spicy Chili Alternate Preparation 

If you want to make this sweet and spicy chili mac in a crockpot instead of on the stove top you absolutely can. Letting the chili simmer in the crockpot all day helps it build a ton of flavor. I love the crockpot option for game days or tailgating where this chili would be served at a party or gathering. Please note, that you will still need to make the macaroni on the stove top. DO NOT add it to the crockpot with the chili. That would not sure out well. 

  1. Combine all ingredients (except the macaroni and shredded cheese) to a large crockpot, and stir to combine everything.
  2. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours or LOW for 6-7 hours. 
  3. When you are ready to eat the chili, prepare the dried macaroni per package instructions. 
  4. Give the sweet and spicy chili a good stir before serving with cooked macaroni, shredded cheese, and sour cream. 

Note: I like to brown the meat before adding it to the crockpot, but this is not required. Just make sure to break the meat up when you add it to the crockpot with the rest of the chili ingredients.

Two white bowls filled with chili mac with pot of chili in the top left corner.

Tips for the Best Homemade Chili Mac

My mother has so many amazing recipes that she creates, but I think her chili is one of her best. My mom has always been a picky eater so for her simple is best. She has a few things that she adds to her chili that makes it stand out from others, which I still incorporate into my Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac. My mom is a lover of all things spicy, so she always wanted her chili to be hot. At the time though, us kids did not want it super spicy, so she tweaked some things.

Tip 1: Make the Chili Sweet

First, my mom taught me to adds brown sugar chili. For a very long time I thought the addition of brown sugar to chili was something every one did. It wasn’t until I got married and cooked chili for my husband for the first time that I learned I was mistaken.

I had made a comment about how my chili was the best and asked if he wanted me to make it. He replied that no, he did not because his dad’s chili was the best (as if). At this point I had to make my chili because I need to prove to him that my chili was indeed the best.

When I went to add in the brown sugar he looked at me, confused, and asked what I was doing. It was this moment that I realized that brown sugar in chili was not a household thing. To me this absolutely makes it! The brown sugar gives just the right amount of sweetness without over-powering the chili flavor.

Tip 2: The Perfect Meat Combo

Second, I use a mix of ground beef and ground pork sausage for this sweet and spicy chili recipe. My mom only ever used ground beef in her chili. I started doing this because one day when I was going to make this recipe I only had a small amount of ground beef in the house. I also had some leftover ground pork sausage from another meal I had made previously. Therefore, to avoid making an extra trip to the grocery store I decided to just use half ground beef and half ground pork sausage.

Since then I haven’t made my chili any other way. The flavor the ground pork gives this chili is amazing. It compliments the other ingredients like the brown sugar and tomatoes perfectly.

Tip 3: Let the Sweet and Spicy Chili Simmer

Third, my mom taught me to let this sweet and spicy chili simmer for a long time. This is not a groundbreaking tip, but my mom starts her chili no later than 2 o’clock in the afternoon. She lets the sweet and spicy chili simmer and come to a boil multiple times. She also tastes and adjusts her spices multiple times throughout. I have also stuck with this idea of simmering my chili for as long as possible. While it is not always realistic to simmer the chili all afternoon, I always let it go AT LEAST 20 minutes. Ideally at least an hour.

Another important thing to remember is to taste as you go. The chili recipe below is the base that I start off with. After simmering sometimes I will add more brown sugar, more heat, or more chili powder. Adjust to whatever your personal tastes are!

A close- up shot of sweet and spicy chili mac in a small white bowl. There is a second bowl of chili mac faded in the distance. The Chili Mac is topped with sour cream, shredded cheese and parsley.

Love Comfort Foods? Try these Recipes Next!

Crockpot Beef Short Ribs

Southern Biscuits and Gravy Recipe

Grandma’s Classic Mostaccioli Recipe

Jalapeno Popper Dip with Bacon

Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac in a white bowl on a marble counter top.

Leftover Chili Mac Storage Options

Store leftover chili mac and cheese in an airtight storage container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Personally, I like to store the macaroni and sweet and spicy chili separate in the fridge, but you could store them together if you wish. To re-warm the chili place the chili in a bowl, cover and warm for 2 minutes stirring halfway through. Depending on your bowl size the chili may need more or less time to warm up.

To freeze leftover chili play in a large freezer bag and store flat. Personally, I like to double bag the chili to be sure it won’t leak. When you are ready to serve the chili defrost the chili in the fridge overnight and re-heat in the microwave. Also, you could add the sweet and spicy chili to a crockpot on LOW and let is warm all day and enjoy for dinner. 



My family absolutely adores this recipe and recently when we were visiting my family my mom admitted this sweet and spicy chili mac was better than her own chili. But, hey, I learned from her so she still gets credit! Every time I make this I think back to me eating this as a kid and love passing on the family favorites to him! I hope your friends and family love this recipe as much as we do!

Happy Eating!

"Caitlyn" signature in black cursive.




Shop This Recipe:

Two small bowls of stirred sweet and spicy chili mac and cheese. The bowls are white and on a marble table. The top bowl has a silver spoon in it.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac and Cheese

My family's favorite Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac! My mother started this recipe and over the years it has evolved into a classic family favorite. The brown sugary sweetness hits first followed by the perfect amount of heat! I hope you and your family love this cool weather favorite!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course, Main Dish, Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chili with ground beef, stove top chili recipe, sweet and spicy chili mac and cheese
Servings: 8 Servings
Calories: 631kcal


Optional Toppings

  • Additional Cheese
  • Sour Cream (or Plain Greek Yogurt)
  • Green Onions
  • Avocado Diced
  • Oyster Crackers


  • In a large pot add olive oil and bring to medium heat. Once oil is warm add in the diced white onion and saute until translucent. Add the ground beef and ground pork sausage and break into small chunks. Add in the minced garlic, salt, and pepper to the meat and cook until no more pink remains, about 7 minutes. Once meat is cooked through drain the excess fat. 
  • Once meat is drained add in the chili powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and the brown sugar and stir the combine. 
  • Once combined, add the chili beans, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, chili sauce, and water and stir until combined. Once combined bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for at least 20 minutes* Stir occasionally and adjust spices as needed. 
  • Right before serving, follow macaroni package instructions and cook until al dente. To serve combine macaroni, chili, sour cream and cheese in a personal sized bowl and mix everything together*. Enjoy!
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*I like to let my chili simmer for at least 20 minutes, but it is better the longer you can let it simmer. I adjust my spices usually once or twice adding in more brown sugar if it is too spicy, or more cayenne if it is too sweet. Add small amounts at a time so you do not over spice the chili. 
*I like letting everyone put together their own chili mac in their own bowl. This lets everyone customize it to their own liking. Alternatively, you could combine together the cheese, chili, and macaroni in a large bowl and serve it that way. 


Calories: 631kcal | Carbohydrates: 32.2g | Protein: 42.6g | Fat: 37.5g | Saturated Fat: 20.8g | Cholesterol: 131mg | Sodium: 1590mg | Potassium: 800mg | Fiber: 9.4g | Sugar: 7.2g | Calcium: 540mg | Iron: 9.4mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @erhardtseat or tag #erhardteat!

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A large pot of chili with two small white bowls filled with delicious cheesy chili mac.


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  • Reply
    September 17, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Hi Caitlyn! I’m Caitlin! Love your name 😉

    I LOVE Mac and Cheese and I love chili! So I am very excited to try your chili Mac and Cheese. I wonder if there was a way to get sweet potato in it too. I have been loving chili with sweet potato recently.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 17, 2018 at 8:22 pm

      Haha yes love your name 😉 I have made chili with sweet potato and love it! I think it would be a great addition to this. I would saute them first that way they cook down better! You have given me something to try next time I make this!

  • Reply
    Leigh Suznovich
    September 17, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    I’ll take mac and cheese anyway, anyhow and this version just looks like pure comfort!!

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 17, 2018 at 8:20 pm

      Mac and cheese really is the best!

  • Reply
    September 17, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    This just sounds like something that I need to make! I agree that comfort food when it is cold out is so satisfying. I’ll definitely be making this as soon as the weather cools! Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 17, 2018 at 8:20 pm

      Yes I agree! Whenever the weather turns I am all about the comfort food! Enjoy!

  • Reply
    Ann F. Snook-Moreau
    September 17, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    This looks so amazing! My husband is French-Canadian and is obsessed with brown sugar so I’ll have to try that in my next batch of chili.

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 17, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      I think it is a perfect compliment to any chili!

  • Reply
    sheenam |
    September 14, 2018 at 10:37 am

    Oh my! This looks absolutely delicious! definitely trying this recipe!!!

  • Reply
    Bintu | Recipes From A Pantry
    September 13, 2018 at 6:54 am

    5 stars
    This definitely does look like the ultimate comfort food – so filling and so full of flavour!

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 13, 2018 at 10:50 am

      Exactly! Comfort food is my favorite once cold weather starts!

  • Reply
    September 13, 2018 at 3:03 am

    5 stars
    We LOVE chili mac and cheese. It is the ultimate autumn comfort food. So excited for all the autumn recipes.

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 13, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Right?! Fall food is some of my favorite!

  • Reply
    Brian Jones
    September 13, 2018 at 12:51 am

    5 stars
    That sounds fantastic, you can’t beat a wonderfully homely chili on a winter evening!

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 13, 2018 at 10:49 am

      Yes! Living in a cold climate makes this dish perfect!

  • Reply
    September 13, 2018 at 12:12 am

    5 stars
    I love mac and cheese and the idea of making it spicy with chili is genius! Looks so delicious!

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 13, 2018 at 10:48 am

      Yes it is so yummy and a really great combo!

  • Reply
    September 12, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    5 stars
    Wow, this looks so good and comforting! I love mac and cheese, and your addition of spicy chili is perfect!

    • Reply
      Caitlyn Erhardt
      September 13, 2018 at 10:48 am

      Yes! The best combo ever!

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