Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac and Cheese
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.
- Dried Macaroni
- Shredded Cheese- I like to use shredded cheddar cheese.
- Sour Cream or Plain Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
- Optional Additional Toppers
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
- 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.
- Cook the meat until no pink remains, about 7-10 minutes. Once the meat is cooked through, drain the excess liquid from the pot.
- Add all of you dried spices to the large pot and stir until meat is coated.
- 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.
- 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.
- While the chili is simmering, prepare the dried macaroni per package instructions.
- Once the chili is finished simmering and the macaroni is cooked it is time to prepare the chili mac.
- 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.
- Combine all ingredients (except the macaroni and shredded cheese) to a large crockpot, and stir to combine everything.
- Cover and cook on HIGH for 4-5 hours or LOW for 6-7 hours.
- When you are ready to eat the chili, prepare the dried macaroni per package instructions.
- 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.
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!
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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!
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Sweet and Spicy Chili Mac and Cheese
- 1 Medium White Onion Diced
- 1/2 Pound Ground Beef
- 1/2 Pound Ground Pork Sausage
- 3 Tsp Minced Garlic
- 1/4 Tsp Salt
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 2 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 Tbsp Paprika
- 1/2 Tbsp Cumin
- 1 Tsp Oregano
- 1 Tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
- 1/2 Tbsp Red Pepper Flakes
- 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1 Can Mild Chili Beans
- 1 Can Kidney Beans Rinsed
- 1 Can Diced Tomatoes
- 6 Oz Tomato Paste
- 1/4 Cup Chili Sauce
- 1 Cup Water
- 16 Oz Dried Macaroni
- 2 Cups Cheddar Cheese Shredded
- 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!