This easy Vegan Chili Mac is adapted from our most popular chili recipe, with the addition of macaroni pasta and vegan cheese. Choose between an extra rich, omnivore-friendly version using store-bought vegan "beef" or lighten it up with crumbled tofu for a whole-food version. Vegan chili mac can be cooked on the stovetop or in the Instant Pot for a truly easy meal!
Vegan with gluten-free and oil-free options.
Why We Love It
We're BIG chili fans in our house, and this 45-Minute Lentil Chili is our go-to. It's quickly becoming a go-to for many of you, too, which makes me so happy!
Today we're taking those delicious chili seasonings and adding:
- pasta (yes, please!)
- new options for a beefy element
- and cheesiness, either with store-bought cheese or a homemade cheesy sauce!
This recipe makes a large amount, and we loved enjoying the leftovers all week long. Just like chili, the flavors develop and get even better as it sits.
There are also two ways you can cook this dish. For you Instant Pot users out there, you'll love this hands off, "dump-and-go" recipe.
Ingredient Tips and Equipment
This is a summary to help you get started; scroll down for the full recipe.
First, decide which version to make, tofu or beefy. Next, decide on a cheesy element, whole-food cheesy sauce or store-bought vegan cheese.
Gather up your ingredients and equipment. If you own an Instant Pot I recommend using it for this chili mac because it's so stinkin' easy! Otherwise, locate a heavy-bottomed stock pot.
If making the cheesy sauce you'll also need a blender.
Instant Pot Instructions
My all-time favorite Instant Pot recipes are the dump-and-go style, like this red lentil curry. And that's exactly what we're doing for today's recipe.
1. Simply chop the veggies, measure out the spices, and crumble the tofu or vegan beef (see photo below for tofu example). Put everything except the beans and cheese/cheese sauce in the Instant Pot, and give it a good stir.
2. Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes, then quick release the pressure.
3. If you're making the cheesy sauce, blend that while the IP is doing its thing.
4. After carefully removing the lid, stir in the cheesy sauce (or shredded cheese) and the beans. Let stand for a few minutes, then serve.
1. Preheat a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño and mushrooms and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Crumble the tofu or vegan beef into the pot, and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the spices and seasonings to the pot - chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, tamari, salt, black pepper - and give it a good stir.
3. Immediately add the tomatoes, broth, and beans, and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and stir. Return to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 15 minutes.
4. If making the blended cheese sauce, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. When the chili mac is done, stir in the cheesy sauce (or shredded cheese). Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve.
Even though this meaty chili mac is a full meal in a bowl, that never stopped me from wanting cornbread! Here are a few delicious options:
Chili mac also tastes fantastic topped with diced avocado or vegan yogurt or sour cream.
Interested in a super cheesy vegan hamburger helper type of dish? Add your vegan meat of choice to this stovetop macaroni and cheese!
Vegan Chili Mac (Instant Pot or Stovetop)
For the chili:
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 large jalapenos (remove seeds for mild spice level), diced
- 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced or roughly chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 ounces super firm tofu (oil-free option) OR vegan "beef" such as Beyond or Impossible
- 2 ½ tablespoons chili powder
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- ½ to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt - Use more for tofu version, less for Beyond/Impossible version as they are already salted.
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (28 oz.) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetable broth or "beef" flavored vegan broth
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional
- 8 ounces dry macaroni pasta (half of a standard package) Sub whole-grain or gluten-free, if desired. See Notes.
- 1 (15 oz.) can cooked kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (15 oz.) can cooked black or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 ½ to 2 cups shredded vegan cheese, optional For oil-free option, omit and use cheesy sauce listed below.
Optional cheesy sauce:
- ½ cup raw walnuts or cashews
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons white or chickpea miso If can't find miso, sub salt, to taste.
- ⅔ cup water
Instant Pot instructions:
- Using a 6 quart or larger Instant Pot, add everything EXCEPT the beans and cheese/cheese sauce to the Instant Pot. Stir very well.
- Lock on the lid and set to sealing (if applicable for your IP model). Cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. It will take about 15 minutes for the Instant Pot to come to pressure because of the large volume of food.
- If making the cheesy sauce, combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.
- After the 4 minutes of high pressure cooking are done, carefully quick release the pressure. Remove the lid, stir in the cheesy sauce (or shredded cheese) and the beans. Let stand for a few minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired.
- Preheat a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño and mushrooms and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
- Crumble the tofu or vegan beef into the pot (beef chunks can be about the size of a nickel or quarter; tofu should be slightly smaller; see photo in post for reference). Cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the spices and seasonings - chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, tamari, salt (1 tsp for tofu, about ½ tsp for pre-seasoned vegan beef), and black pepper. Stir well, then add tomatoes, broth, liquid smoke, if using, and beans. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta and stir. Return to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the pasta is al dente, about 15 minutes.
- If making the cheese sauce, combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. When the chili mac is done, stir in the cheesy sauce or shredded vegan cheese. Remove pot from heat, let stand 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cook time for various pastas in the Instant Pot:Regular macaroni noodles cook in the Instant Pot in the specified time, but if using a whole-grain or special gluten-free pasta that takes longer to cook, you may want to increase Instant Pot cook time by 1 minute.
Gluten-Free:Use your favorite GF pasta and be sure to check labels to ensure gluten-free for the following ingredients: tamari, miso, and vegan beef and cheese. *Beyond Beef is gluten-free, as is Miso Masters white miso.
Storage:Stove leftover chili mac in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. Freezing not recommended because of the pasta.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com. For the most accurate nutrition information we recommend calculating it yourself to reflect the specific ingredients used in your dish.