Slow Cooker Vegetarian Cheesy Chili Mac with Optional Ground Beef

Hearty, spicy, and extra cheesy, this Easy Cheesy Chili Mac is delicious with or without the meat.

Total Time: 9 hours 35 minutes

We’re headed to Sonoma for a mini vacation, so I thought I’d share this recipe for easy Cheesy Chili Mac from the archives of my other blog, The Hazel Bloom. I posted this one long before I decided to start a blog all about this kind of recipe and our mixed-diet lives – aka, our Kitchen Treaty. 🙂

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Some dinners lack a little, shall I say, class… but more than make up for it in tasty, dig-innable, comforting pure deliciousness.

I think we can all be pretty clear on which side we’ll find Crock Pot Easy Cheesy Chili Mac. Elegant it’s not. Yummy? Oooooh yes. It’s comfort food at its best, perfect for a blustery rainy night after a long, long day. If you’re feeding others, I can almost guarantee there will be happy mid-bite groans and proclamations of your amazing kitchen talent; and then lots of happy full-bellied cuddling on the couch after dinner. Actually, this will also happen when you’re by yourself. It’s practically involuntary.

Hearty, spicy, and cheesy, this Cheesy Chili Mac is equally delicious with meat or without (my guy gives both versions One Grunt Up). It’s an adaptetarian recipe that can go either way – or both. And, of course, the bulk of the work is done by your Crock Pot when you’re off going about your day. Gotta love it.

I made The Pioneer Woman’s wonderful skillet cornbread to go along with it, and highly recommend it.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Cheesy Chili Mac with Optional Ground Beef

Yield: 6 – 8 large servings

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 9 hours

Total Time: 9 hours 35 minutes

Hearty, spicy, and extra cheesy, this Easy Cheesy Chili Mac is delicious with or without the meat.


  • 1 pound (2 – 3 cups) fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or one 16-ounce can diced tomatoes)
  • 3 16-ounce cans black, kidney, or chili beans, drained (I like to use a couple different varieties)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use 1/2 teaspoon for a milder version)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano OR instead of the cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and oregano simply substitute 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 8 ounces (1/2 pound) macaroni noodles
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese, grated (I love love love Tillamook medium cheddar) (Oh, and you can use less if you want. I just like to go for it with this recipe.)
  • Add for full-on meat version
  • 1 pound lean ground hamburger
  • Add for half meat and half vegetarian
  • 1/2 pound lean ground hamburger


  1. Combine the tomatoes, beans, onion, garlic, and spices in your Crock Pot. If you’re going for the full-on meat version, go ahead and brown your pound of hamburger in a separate frying pan, drain, and add that now, too. You’ll add meat later if you’re going half veggie/half carnie.
  2. Cook on low for about 7 – 9 hours. But it’s pretty forgiving if you need to cook it for longer.
  3. Boil the macaroni according to package directions, but cut the time short by a minute or so to make sure it’s just nice and al dente, or else the noodles might swell up to epic and less appetizing proportions in the finished product.
  4. Stir the macaroni, along with half the cheese, into the Crock Pot with the chili.
  5. For the half veggie/half carnie adaptetarian version, here’s where you split it. If you’re going all vegetarian or all meat, ignore this step and move on to Step 6. Move half of the cheesy chili maccy goodness into a medium casserole dish. Brown your half pound of hamburger in a separate frying pan, drain it, and stir the hamburger into the mixture in the casserole dish. Sprinkle over the top with half the remaining cheese, and bake the meaty version at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle all the remaining cheese over the Crock Pot mixture, cover with the Crock Pot lid, and cook for another 20 – 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted.
  7. Now get cozy, and enjoy!

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Karen Raye

Kare is a vegetarian home cook living among carnivores. She loves creating irresistible and flexible recipes that help multi-vore families like hers keep the peace - deliciously.

6 Responses to “Slow Cooker Vegetarian Cheesy Chili Mac with Optional Ground Beef”

  1. Thanks for the great recipe! We have a mixed house too – I’m a veggie, hubby is a carnivore and the three kiddos are picky carnivores. I love finding dishes that there is at least a part of it that everyone will eat! I made this one last night and shredded some leftover turkey to add in the hub’s portion and I made extra noodles for the little ones who wouldn’t touch chili, no matter how much cheese and noodles you add in. (I like to use Ronzoni Garden something… Delight maybe? It actually has real veggies in it so we’re sneaking some veggies into the picky ones and not just noodles.) Anyway, I loved my veggie version and hubby loved his with the turkey added in. He actually mentioned a few times how good he thought it was 🙂 After the tastiness and everyone eating actually something, my other favorite part was that I had all the ingredients already (except subbing in the leftover turkey for the ground beef).
    Thanks again! Now that I’ve found Kitchen Treaty, I’m sure I’ll be looking here for more mixed meal ideas 🙂

    • Hi Elizabeth! I’m so glad you and the family liked the recipe. I started this blog hoping to reach the mixed vegetarian/meat-eater households out there so it’s always so nice when I hear from someone in the same situation as us. Thank you. 🙂

      My toddler is shaping up to be a bit picky – ugh, no fun! – so I’ll have to keep an eye out for that pasta!

  2. I’m so excited to try this recipe! I do have a question though – at what point in the overall cook time do I add the macaroni and first half of the cheese? I’m probably just missing it but I wasn’t sure when reading the instructions. Thanks!

  3. I made this tonight for dinner and it was amazing! I’m always looking for good crock pot meals on the nights I’m busy with grad school. I’m a vegetarian and my husband is a meat-eater and this blog has been fantastic for our meal planning. He didn’t even mention the lack of meat tonight! Which is a big deal in our house! Since there’s only two of us, I froze all the leftovers. I hope they’re just as delicious when we decide to thaw it out!

  4. Hello!
    I have made quite a few of your recipes, I’m living with a meat eater (sister)(my boyfriend, who doesn’t live with us also is a meat eater) and I have made several wonderful recipes from this blog! Your blog makes the infamous “What’s for dinner?” question so much easier!!
    I make my noodles in the crockpot as well, 2-3 hours before dinner time you can pop in uncooked noodles and let them marinate (still keeping the heat on low) there is enough “juice” to rehydrate the noodles and you clean less dishes!

  5. This recipe looks great!  Chili Mac always sounds good, but because we keep kosher, I’ve never been able to make it because we’re not able to have meat and dairy in the same meal.  But a vegetarian version would be perfect.  And I can make it in a crock pot… Even better!

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