Whole Wheat Turkey Chili Mac and Cheese
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
Made this for dinner tonight and it was easy and delicious! My 3 year old loved it.
Love this recipe. Nutrition facts please!!
Very good, kids loved it. A few things though, it would be very helpful to have the number of servings this makes and the nutrition content. I am always searching for recipes for my kids but need to know the # of carbs because my youngest has diabetes. At the very least, the number of servings would greatly help in my calculations.
I substituted brown rice elbow macaroni and organic chicken instead of turkey. My picky eater son ate 3 servings!
This was delicious! But you can halve the cheese. I might add more turkey next time, too. I made with orecchiette because it’s what I had! And you could of course add corn to entice your little ones that much more.
This turned out awesome!! I used less cheese and pinto beans instead of kidney. The flavor is SO good! Great recipe!
So glad you liked it! Thanks for sharing!
This was a good base recipe to use! I used a chili spice mix that I had and needed using so omitted the spices in this recipe and I didn’t use celery as my family’s not a fan. I also served the pasta separate so we can control our carbs. This is a keeper!
Thanks for sharing! So glad you were able to customize it for your family and have it work out so well! 🙂
Do you drain and rinse the beans? or put the juice in too?
Yes, drain and rinse the beans. 🙂
Yes! Drain and rinse the beans. 🙂
Best Chili Mac Recipe I have tried. Thank you!
That’s great! Thanks for sharing!! So glad you loved it. 🙂
This was very good and filling. I followed the recipe except for cilantro and green onion at the end. My picky daughter loved it.
Super yummy & filled with all the good stuff stuck in there! It would be helpful though to add to your recipe if the cheese is 16 oz. of shredded cheese or 16 oz. block cheese, then shredded, just to clarify. I did 16 oz. of already shredded first to see if it was enough and seemed to be. Thx for the recipe, it’ll be a keeper!