One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

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A protein-packed chili meets pasta in this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac! Easy and quick and made with simple ingredients, this is a perfect hearty weeknight-friendly and budget-friendly dinner! Easy to make gluten-free, soy-free, and oil-free.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
4.9 from 82 votes

As much as I like fancy gourmet recipes and expanding my culinary skills, I also love simple meals that are fuss-free and easy to throw together on a weeknight (and I know how much you all love those kinds of recipes).

So today we have an easy recipe for One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac. It’s vegan (obvi), and easy to make gluten-free, oil-free, and soy-free!

close up of vegan chili mac in bowl

Here’s why you’ll love this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

Easy to make. This is one of the easiest recipes to make and it’s pretty foolproof. Nothing fancy or complicated.

Quick and Weeknight Friendly. You’ll need about 10 minutes of prep time, but you can shave time off by using a mini chopper or food processor to chop your veggies. Then you’ll need about 7 minutes to sauté the aromatics and spices, followed by 15-20 minutes of simmering the chili mac. All in all, you’re looking at just 30-40 minutes!

woman's hands holding bowl of chili mac

Staple Ingredients. I came up with this recipe because I was trying to use up ingredients that had been sitting unused in my pantry for months. Which means you might already have all of the ingredients for this recipe in your kitchen!

This recipe features simple, everyday ingredients like onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, beans, and corn, along with some spices and vegetable broth. And if there’s one ingredient you don’t have and you really want to make this recipe anyways…guess what? You probably can!

In the “how to modify” this section below, I share some ideas on how to modify this recipe to meet your nutritional needs.

Budget-Friendly. As with many bean recipes, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this meal is budget-friendly! No expensive or exotic ingredients required :)

Delicious Leftovers. This makes a big pot of chili mac. It serves 6 generously (8 servings if your appetite is smaller or you go heavy on the toppings), so you can definitely enjoy leftovers for a few days, depending on how many people you are feeding. Plus, the leftovers are even tastier!

close up shot of finished dish

Ingredient Rundown

Spices

To keep this meal easy and straightforward, I rely on ground spices—chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, and cayenne pepper,. However, if you have the time, here are some optional additions that will elevate your chili mac and give it even more flavor.

  • Dice a few jalapeño peppers and add them along with the garlic. Or a serrano pepper, which is spicier. These will add a brighter, fresher spiciness than just using cayenne pepper.

  • Or, add a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (chop it up). It’ll add a rich, smoky, spicy flavor.

Garlic

Please use fresh garlic! It is much more potent and flavorful than garlic powder, especially when it’s sautéed in a bit of oil before adding the liquids.

Mushrooms

Chili mac is traditionally made with meat, so I love the meatiness that mushrooms bring to this dish. Not to mention, mushrooms are packed with fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and one of the few non-animal sources of Vitamin D.

But if you’re not a mushroom fan, just omit them and add an extra can of beans.

woman's hands adding cilantro to pot of vegan chili mac and cheese

Beans

I used kidney beans in this recipe but you could easily use pinto beans or black beans instead. Canned beans (rinsed and drained) are perfect in this recipe, but if you have freshly cooked beans on hand, of course, use those instead.

Pasta

Traditionally, chili mac uses elbow pasta (the same pasta used in macaroni), but I prefer using cavatappi. It’s another short-ish pasta but it has a ridged texture and curly shape. The variety and brand of pasta you use will dictate the exact cook time.

Agave/Maple Syrup/Coconut Sugar

I know, this sounds like a strange ingredient, but adding a bit of sweetener at the end really helps balance the acidity from the tomatoes, the spiciness from the spices, and the bitterness from the tempeh. Especially if you plan to eat this chili mac the day you make it (i.e., you don’t let it rest overnight in the fridge before eating), the sweetener really helps balance everything out.

bowl of vegan mac and cheese on table

How to modify this recipe for your nutritional needs

Gluten-Free

To make this chili mac gluten-free, be sure to use a gluten-free tempeh. Many varieties of tempeh contain gluten from either soy sauce or actual grains, such as barley. If you have only a moderate intolerance to gluten and are not allergic to it, you may be able to digest tempeh varieties that have gluten since tempeh is a fermented food, making it easier to digest.

Lightlife Foods sells a gluten-free version, as it’s made with organic soybeans, not soy sauce.

Also, use gluten-free pasta. I’ve tried the gluten-free elbow pasta from Barilla. It took about 18 minutes to be cooked through.

Oil-Free

Cook the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and spices in water instead of oil. Heat up about 1/3 cup of water, and once the water is sizzling, add the onions and follow the directions. Add a spoon or two more of water, as needed, to prevent things from burning. Keep in mind that the mushrooms will also emit a lot of water.

Soy-Free

I love using tempeh in this recipe because it adds this wonderfully nutty flavor, but if you are on a soy-free diet, you can easily replace it. One option is to double the amount of mushrooms (i.e., use 16 ounces or 454 grams of mushrooms) and omit the tempeh. Or, omit the tempeh and use another can of beans (any variety you like).

woman's hands holding bowl of vegan mac and cheese

Tips for making vegan chili mac

1. The exact cook time for this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac will depend on the shape and brand of pasta that you use. Elbow pasta will be done closer to 15 minutes. I used cavatappi pasta, which is a bigger pasta, so it took closer to 20 minutes.

2. You might be tempted to just toss the onions, garlic, and mushrooms into the pot with all the ingredients and not sauté them first. But since there aren’t a whole lot of fresh flavors in this chili, sautéing the aromatics beforehand is critical. It releases their volatile oils, which in turn releases flavors that would otherwise lie dormant. And then those flavors get infused into the chili.

3. For the tempeh, you’ll want to crumble it or grate it. I like to use a box grater to finely grate it, but crumbling by hand works well too.

If you’ve had tempeh before, you might have noticed that it can be quite bitter tasting, which is why many recipes recommend steaming the tempeh before further cooking it. However, I notice that when I crumble tempeh finely, especially into a stew or chili, the bitterness doesn’t come through (which is why you don’t need to steam the tempeh beforehand).

4. Let the chili mac rest before serving. As with any chili recipe, this chili mac is better the next day. Even allowing the recipe to rest for just 15-20 minutes will make it taste better. Resting helps the spices mellow out in their heat but also deepen in flavor. The result is a deep, rich, spicy yet balanced flavor, and a thicker texture.

5. Go topping happy! Toppings are my favorite part of chili, and this chili mac is no different. This is totally optional, but if you sprinkle on a generous amount of vegan cheddar cheese after cooking, and then close the lid, it melts into the chili and it is very delicious.

I also always top my chili with cilantro and either chopped raw red onion or sliced scallions!

More hearty vegan pastas

Hungry for even more hearty vegan fare? We’ve got you covered. Have a gander at these tasty recipes:

Okay, that’s it from me. If you try out this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac, be sure to tag me on Instagram and leave a comment below with your feedback!

One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

4.9 from 82 votes
A protein-packed chili meets pasta in this One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac! Easy and quick and made with simple ingredients, this is a perfect hearty weeknight-friendly and budget-friendly dinner! Easy to make gluten-free, soy-free, and oil-free.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Diet Vegan
Serving size: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil*
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces (227g) mushrooms, chopped (I use cremini mushrooms)
  • 1 (8-ounce / 227g) block of tempeh, grated or crumbled**
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular paprika is also fine)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, for a slightly spicy version)***
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 4 cups (946 mL) vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce / 440g) can pinto, kidney, or black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28-ounce / 790g) can crushed tomatoes, fire roasted
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (15-ounce / 430g) can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
  • 12 ounces (340g) elbow pasta or cavatappi pasta (gluten-free as needed)
  • 2-3 teaspoons agave nectar, maple syrup, coconut sugar, or brown sugar****

Toppings

  • 1 cup (16g) fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Several squeezes of lime juice
  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheese (optional but recommended)
  • Vegan sour cream, for serving (optional but recommended)
  • Pickled red onions***** (optional)

Instructions

  • In a Dutch oven (or a large nonstick soup pot), heat the 1 tablespoon oil (or 1/3 cup water) over medium heat. Once the oil is hot (or once the water is simmering), add the onions and cook for 2 minutes, seasoning with a pinch of salt. Add the garlic, mushrooms, and crumbled tempeh, and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the chili powder, paprika, oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt. Stir the spices into the vegetables and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  • Pour in the vegetable broth to deglaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot.
  • Add in the beans, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, corn, and pasta. Stir well to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked through but not soggy. If you want it to be a bit saucier, add a splash more of broth or water.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the agave or other sweetener. Taste for seasonings again and adjust accordingly.
  • If using vegan cheese, sprinkle it all over the top of the chili mac. Cover the lid and let warm through for a few minutes. Allow chili mac to rest at least 15 minutes before serving and top with fresh chopped cilantro and any other desired toppings.

Notes

* See notes on “oil-free” in the blog post for an oil-free substitution.
** See notes on “Tips for this recipe” on how to crumble tempeh.
*** To add more heat, I recommend sautéing some jalapeño peppers or a serrano pepper along with the garlic. I find that this method, instead of just adding more cayenne pepper, yields a more balanced spiciness.
*** The sweetness helps balance the spices and take some of the edges off from the heat.
*****For my pickled onions recipe, check out the 7th recipe card in this post: https://rainbowplantlife.com/vegan-nachos/

Calories: 521kcal | Carbohydrates: 81g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 1979mg | Potassium: 854mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 1588IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 175mg | Iron: 5mg

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130 comments on One-Pot Vegan Chili Mac

  1. Jacintha

    5 stars
    What a lovely dish. The seasonings were on point. So delicious!!!! My boys truly enjoyed it. They even asked for seconds. I can’t have tempeh so I added portobello mushrooms instead. Came out just like the picture.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Jacintha. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  2. Maryam

    5 stars
    Thank you Nisha for making my new favorite recipe!! So easy and comforting and makes so many servings in a single pot. I’ve been eating it all week and still have leftovers that I’m excited to come home to :’)

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Wonderful, Maryam! Thank you for making the recipe!

  3. Patty

    4 stars
    I love your recipes and this one had good flavor but it was more “goopy” than expected (maybe because I used penne noodles?). No worries, I will make some more noodles and then add those to the leftovers. The pinto beans also ended up sort of mushy; next time I will opt for red kidney beans because I think they would hold up better.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sorry to hear it didn’t turn out as expected, Patty! Glad you enjoyed the flavor of this dish at least!

  4. Sara

    5 stars
    This was so good! I decided to make it because we had a crazy day and I needed something I could prep and have easy cleanup. This recipe checked both of those boxes and was so delicious!!! My entire family loved including my skeptical 7 year old. This will definitely be on a regular rotation!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Sara, So glad to hear everyone loved this recipe! :)

  5. AK James

    5 stars
    So delicious!!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      AK, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

  6. Ganny

    We are out of town and visiting family for the next two weeks, but when we get home….watch out! I think this is going to be the first dinner I cook for us! It sounds sooooo good!!! I love the seasonings and spices you use in this recipe. I know I’m probably going to add some lentils to give it the mouthfeel of ground beef. I’ll definitely let you know how it turn out once we get home from our vacation! Thank you!!!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hope you enjoy this recipe, Ganny!

  7. Skye

    5 stars
    Had the end of three pastas and a block of tempeh and thought what can I do with this?? Make chili!!! This recipe works great,
    comes together fairly quickly, and was mostly pantry items- and SUPER Delicious!! If you’re craving chili Mac this is the one!!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Skye, So glad to hear you love this recipe!

  8. Anik

    4 stars
    This recipe is genius! We are Caribbean and my father used to make mushroom mac and cheese from scratch. He also made curry mac and cheese and that became my favorite. He makes curry chicken as well. I will definitely make this recipe.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hope you enjoy this recipe, Anik!

  9. April

    5 stars
    Super easy and flavorful. Thanks for a fantastic recipe.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for the lovely feedback, April!

  10. Dennis

    Hi Nisha,
    Love your recipes and website. Question: I would like to make the Chili-Mac recipe for the first time…hosting 7 for dinner (one being a six-year-old). Should (or can I) double the recipe? Also, does the vegan cheese melt properly? Thank you.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Hi Dennis, yes you can definitely double the recipe! The vegan cheese should melt, just make sure to cover the pot after adding the vegan cheese to allow the steam to melt it. Here’s a blog post that goes through all my favorite vegan cheeses!

      1. Dennis

        5 stars
        Thank you…made it last night and doubled the recipe. Took a few different turns…cooked the pasta separately and cooked the tempeh (added a few seasonings) separately. Added the tempeh after cooking the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Tossed in the beans, corn, etc. Once all ingredients were hot I poured them into the pasta and tossed them together. Tasted great! I hope our company will enjoy this dish…don’t have vegan cheese but will add some shredded Colby jack cheese to melt in the oven before serving. Thanks for the help, Nisha!

        1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

          You are welcome! Thanks for sharing with us :)

  11. Andrea

    5 stars
    Love love love this recipe and the family does too. Great for leftovers for school lunches. I’ve been trying a lot of your dishes and they tend to get great reviews over here — this is one of our favorites!

  12. Jake

    5 stars
    I saw this recipe this morning and had to order the ingredients and make it for lunch. I just got done eating the first bowl. This tastes amazing! I used the chili powder from your other vegan chili recipe where you make your own fresh chili powder.

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Jake. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  13. Nat

    Me again….Just wanted to clarify that:
    1. i didn’t overcook the pasta. It was cooked al dente
    2. the recipe said to use 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes. Was this possibly too much, making the mixture look sloppy?
    3. I followed all the instructions exactly as written.

  14. Nat

    3 stars
    Flavours were nice (though i don’t like oregano and my kids don’t do mushrooms or chilli/spicy so left these out – substituting the m’rooms for tin of kidney beans as recommended.)
    My one complaint is that my dish didn’t look very appealing. Before i dressed it up , covering it with some grated cheese, cilantro and red onion, my kids said it looked like slop. The pasta didn’t have the kind of clean red tinged look like it did in your pics. The tempeh and sauce seemed to mix and make it look like slop all over the pasta :(
    Any suggestions?
    Did anyone else have this issue?

  15. Ricky

    5 stars
    I took a try at it for dinner! It was for me, my wife and 11 year old son! I did omit a few things but it turned out great and everyone loved it!
    I didnt have sweet corn and didn’t use the tempeh but everything else was a go. My son isn’t a big mushroom fan but it was seasoned so well he didn’t even know they were there! Great recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Thanks for sharing, Ricky!

  16. Sterling

    5 stars
    So much flavour in this! Will definitely make it again. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Awesome, Sterling. Thanks for your comment and for taking the time to review!

  17. Charlsie

    5 stars
    This was AMAZING! Admittedly, I used the whole box of fusili, and more vegan cheese (I used Daiya cheddar shreds), and I eyeballed and tasted tested all of the spices, but it came out incredibly delicious. I will definitely make this again. All of your recipes are to DIE for. You’re amazing. Thank you!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Aww, so happy you loved the mac Charlsie! Thanks for trying the recipes :)

  18. Jenn

    5 stars
    Just made this tonight! Holy Guacamole so delicious!!! We loved it!!! So much flavor! Definitely will be making again!

    1. Support @ Rainbow Plant Life

      Jenn, So glad to hear you loved this recipe!

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