SNAP Challenge: One Pot Chili Pasta

$9.71 recipe / $1.08 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.71 from 81 votes
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After going through a week of hunger in week one of the SNAP Challenge, I knew I had to rethink my strategy. Luckily, the hunger allowed me to pinpoint certain ingredients that really keep me full and satisfied for a large part of the day. For me, that’s pasta, beans, and cheese. I wanted to do a “one pot” dish because they’re easy and I don’t have to bother planning side dishes. Everything that I’m eating is in one easy-to-reheat bowl. So, the first thing that came to mind was my Chili Cheese Beef n’ Mac. I love that stuff, but decided to add a few extra ingredients, like beans, diced tomatoes, and corn, to make it more chili-like and a little more well rounded as a meal. The result? This DEEE-LICIOUS One Pot Chili Pasta.

And after eating this all week, I’m a happy camper this week, for sure.

P.S. Click here for a vegetarian version of this recipe: Cheesy Vegetarian Chili Mac

A bowl of One Pot Chili Pasta on a teal napkin

Can You Freeze One Pot Chili Pasta?

Yes! I find that this dish freezes very well. I suggest dividing the recipe into single-serving portions first, then cooling completely in the refrigerator before transferring to the freezer. Once frozen, you can keep this One Pot Chili Pasta for about three months.

How to Reheat One Pot Chili Pasta

To reheat from the refrigerator I suggest using the microwave, heating on high for 30-60 seconds at a time, stirring between, until heated through. To reheat from the freezer, either first let it thaw in the refrigerator over night, then use the refrigerator reheating instructions, or reheat straight from the freezer using your microwave’s defrost function.

Front view of a bowl of One Pot Chili Pasta
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One Pot Chili Pasta

4.71 from 81 votes
This super hearty One Pot Chili Pasta is bursting with southwest chili flavor, protein, and fiber. It’s a meal in a bowl that the whole family will love.
Servings 9 1 cup each
Prep 10 minutes
Cook 30 minutes
Total 40 minutes


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 1 yellow onion ($0.42)
  • 2 cloves garlic ($0.16)
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef ($2.46)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour ($0.02)
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder ($0.30)
  • 1 15oz. can tomato sauce ($0.79)
  • 1 15oz. can diced tomatoes ($0.79)
  • 1 15oz. can black beans ($0.99)
  • 1 15oz. can kidney beans ($1.09)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels ($0.60)
  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni ($0.85)
  • 2 cups beef broth* ($0.08)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese ($1.00)


  • Dice the onion and mince the garlic. Cook both in a large pot with olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until soft and transparent. Add the ground beef and continue to stir and cook until it is fully browned. If using a high fat ground beef, drain off the excessive after it is browned.
  • Add the flour and chili powder to the pot and stir to coat the meat. Continue to stir and cook the coated meat for 1-2 minutes more. The flour and chili powder may coat the bottom of the pot, but that’s okay. Just be careful to not let it burn.
  • Drain and rinse the black and kidney beans. Add the beans, tomato sauce, diced tomato, and corn kernels to the pot. Stir well and dissolve the flour/chili powder mixture from the bottom of the pot.
  • Add the dry macaroni and two cups of beef broth to the pot and stir to combine. Place a lid on top, turn the heat up to high, and let the pot come to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, give it a quick stir to loosen any pasta stuck to the bottom of the pot, replace the lid, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the pot simmer on medium-low for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is soft and has absorbed most of the liquid. Stir the pot one or two times during the 15 minutes to loosen any pasta stuck to the bottom.
  • Once the pasta is fully cooked, turn the heat off and add the cheese. Stir the cheese into the pasta until it has melted in and become slightly creamy. Serve hot.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


*I used bouillon to prepare beef broth rather than using canned or boxed broths, which are more expensive.


Serving: 1CupCalories: 376.43kcalCarbohydrates: 54.91gProtein: 21.02gFat: 8.99gSodium: 865.32mgFiber: 11.36g
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!

Close up of a forkful of One Pot Chili Pasta

How to Make One Pot Chili Pasta – Step by Step Photos

Saute Onion and Garlic in pot

Start by dicing one medium onion and mincing two cloves of garlic. Cook the onion and garlic in a large pot with 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat for one to two minutes, or until softened.

Divide Ground Beef and freeze half

I used 1/2 lb. of ground beef and promptly froze the other half for later use. Add 1/2 lb. to the pot and continue to sauté until the beef is fully browned. If you’re using a higher fat beef, drain off the excess fat after it is browned.

Browned Ground Beef with spices and flour

To the browned ground beef add 2 Tbsp all purpose flour and 2 Tbsp chili powder. The flour will help thicken the sauce later. The chili powder is NOT cayenne pepper or hot chile powder, it is a mild blend of spices that is sold in the U.S as “chili” powder, not “chile” powder. If they don’t sell that where you’re at, you could actually also use a single packet of chili or taco seasoning. 

Chili Roux

Stir and cook the flour and chili powder with the browned beef. It will begin to coat the bottom of the pot, but that’s okay because it will dissolve off in the next step. Just be careful that the heat is not so high that it will burn it. Cook this mixture for about two minutes more (this cooks out that raw flour-y flavor).

Canned Beans and Tomatoes

These are the canned goods that go into my chili (no time to cook my own beans this week). It’s one 15-oz. can each of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, black beans, and kidney beans. Drain and rinse the beans before adding to the pot.

Add beans, tomatoes, corn to pot

Add the drained and rinsed beans to the pot along with the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and one cup of frozen corn kernels. Stir this mixture well and dissolve the flour off the bottom of the pot as you do so.

Chili Base ready to simmer

At this point you already have a pretty damn good lookin’ chili, but we’re going to go one step further and add some pasta to help make it an entire meal in a bowl.

Pasta and Broth

I used whole wheat pasta just to add a bit more fiber. You’ll need to add 2 cups of uncooked elbow macaroni and 2 cups of beef broth. I was out of my beloved Better Than Bouillon and a recent price hike meant that it didn’t fit in my weekly SNAP budget. Luckily, this powdered bouillon was on clearance and I got it for $2! Score.

Simmer chili pasta

Add the pasta and broth to the pot, place a lid on top, turn the heat up to high, and let it come to a boil. Once it reaches a bowl, give it a quick stir to loosen any pasta stuck to the bottom, then replace the lid, turn the heat down to medium-low, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid. You’ll want to stir one or two times during the simmering, too, to keep the pasta from sticking.

Cooked Chili Pasta

This is what it will look like once the pasta is cooked. Still a little liquidy, but it will continue to absorb the flavorful liquid.

Add Taco Cheese

Add one cup of shredded cheese and stir it in until melted and creamy. I just happened to have “taco cheese”, but plain cheddar or monterey jack would also work well. Just avoid mozzarella, which tends to be more stringy when melted.

And this delicious one pot chili pasta is what has been keeping me full and satisfied all week. I love it! :D

A bowl of One Pot Chili Pasta
A forkful of One Pot Chili Pasta
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  1. This is delicious and I’ve made it once a week for like two months now. I do have a quick question tho-

    My dad wants me to make this for him but he wants it made with rice instead of pasta. I don’t think that would be a difficult swap- but I’m so new to cooking that I’m afraid I wouldn’t know the appropriate adjustments.

    Could you possibly advise on how I could adjust the amount of liquid/time and how much rice to use in place of the pasta? of course I know y’all haven’t tested it, but any suggestions would be great!

    1. Hi, Riley! Excited to help you develop your first recipe! First, I will say — it sounds like you already have some good instincts. Trust them! And know that part of the fun (especially in our job!) is the trial and error process. (Emphasis on the word ERROR!) While I don’t have super specific suggestions (Since, as you know…we haven’t tested it ourselves!), I will point you to some of our similar recipes that include rice. I would combine the cooking techniques of this recipe with the others and adjust the amount of the ingredients to match how much you want to make (which you can do with help from the serving size drop-down at the top of each recipe card) to best match the results and servings you want to make. No matter what happens, it will be delish!

      One-pot rice recipes:

      Rice cooked separately (1 cup dry rice = 3 cups cooked):

      I hope this helps! ~Marion :)

  2. Why not do another SNAP challenge or just call it a month of inexpensive eating. Food prices are still very high and we could use your expertise to make it easier for singles, families, and seniors all trying to live on less.

    1. Hi, Kris! Thanks for reaching out! I will bring up that idea at our next content planning meeting. In the meantime, I would suggest going to our recipe index and filtering them based on the cost per recipe to find the ones that are under $10, $5, or $3. You can also reduce the serving sizes at the top of each recipe card to help make some of our larger-batch recipes more budget-friendly. I hope that helps! ~Marion :)

  3. Thank you for all your work. I love it.

    How long can I keep this in the refrigerator?

    1. Hi, Sev! This will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days. If frozen, it will keep for three months. ~Marion :)

    1. I’m sure it would, but as we haven’t made it in an instant pot, we don’t have any guidance. XOXO -Monti

      1. I made it in one and it turned out perfectly. Thanks for the recipe!

  4. One of my favorite go-to recipes! I cook it without the macaroni so I can freeze it (it makes a TON), then just cook the pasta separately when I want to eat it. Also use ground turkey and chicken broth en lieu of beef. So good!

  5. I had a great time making this recipe, and it’s so filling that I feel like I’ll have enough food to eat for a week! Thank you so much

    1. I don’t know. Appetites vary based on so many different factors. There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all serving size. :)

  6. I made some minor changes (didn’t have enough chili powder and added some of the zucchini that’s growing like weeds right now in our garden) but fortunately this recipe is very flexible and forgiving—and super easy to double! I also slightly overcooked the macaroni…oops!…but this recipe was still a hit with our family, especially our 2yo! :) 

  7. Use a giant pot! I had to transfer mine halfway through cooking. I used ground turkey and got 6 big servings for about 500 calories each. 

  8. Just made this! It’s tasty! An easy winner. Pretty much just chili with pasta and that’s a keeper in my book. I don’t think I changed anything. Tried to go a little lighter on the cheese, but i didn’t actually measure it so who knows. Super easy to make and easily adjusted if desired. Might add frozen spinach next time to add something green.

  9. Love this recipe! I didn’t feel like using beef, so I simply omitted it, and the beans and other filling were plenty and I didn’t miss the beef at all. I divided it into six portions and froze half of them to pull out for easy, filling lunches, and after thawing for about a day in the fridge the texture was just as good as ever and everything was delicious. Definitely a recipe I’d like to continue making in the future.