Southwestern flavor meets comfort food meets healthy family dinner with this Whole Wheat Turkey Chili Mac and Cheese.
Is there any food kids love more than macaroni and cheese? That creamy, mild, carb-a-licious dish has hooked kids for generations. (Want to guess my favorite food circa 1990? Yup.)
But as parents, mac-and-cheese can leave us wanting more. We want more nutrition, more veggies, and bolder flavors and textures.
Well, we’ve found the easy-to-make dinner that pleases everybody! Rich cheesy noodles mingle with saucy chili that’s full of vegetables, turkey and beans. There’s a little spice, but not too much (my two-year-old can handle it.) Plus lots of fiber from whole wheat noodles and beans, and a rainbow of veggies cooked right in.
It’s one of those meals that we instantly added to the “make-again” list. And we think you’ll love it just as much.
Just don’t trip over one another in your rush for seconds…
The secret to excellent chili mac and cheese is to start with excellent chili! So this recipe starts with a pot of chili that’s so good, it can be a stand-alone meal all by itself. (Bonus: it comes together quickly, with only a little hands-on time.)
We packed our chili full of veggies and spices for tons of flavor and nutrition: carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, kidney beans, bell peppers, cumin, and just enough chili powder for a kid-sized kick.
Ground turkey adds protein and a little healthy fat (we like turkey that’s not TOO lean). You can also substitute ground beef, if you prefer, for an even richer chili base.
This meal fits into even the busiest schedule: you can make the chili up to two days ahead, or you can start the chili in the morning, and let it simmer on low all day.
We like to grate the cheese and boil the whole wheat noodles ahead of time, too, so all you have to do at 5 o’clock is stir everything together, and sprinkle on a few scallions.
Then, the best part: you get to sit down to to the gooiest, healthiest, and tastiest chili mac this side of anywhere.
This recipe makes a huge pot of nourishing food. Enjoy leftovers, pack some in your kids’ thermoses for school, or freeze half for a quick homemade meal during a busy week. Your future self will thank you!
Whole Wheat Turkey Chili Mac and Cheese
- 1 pound turkey, ground
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 medium bell pepper, green
- 2 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 28 ounce crushed tomatoes, canned
- 2 cup kidney beans, canned
- 16 ounce colby-jack cheese
- 8 ounce macaroni pasta, whole-wheat, dry
- 1 stalk green onion
- In a large pot (6-quart or larger) over medium heat, cook ground turkey in olive oil about five minutes or until no longer pink, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon.
- Add chopped onions, carrots, celery, and bell pepper, and cook 5-10 minutes more, until vegetables begin to soften.
- Stir in minced garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.
- Stir the beans into the chili and simmer 30 minutes more, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, grate the colby-jack, and boil the pasta according to the directions on the box.
- When the chili is cooked, remove from heat and stir in the cooked pasta and cheese.
- Sprinkle with green onions or cilantro, and serve.
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie