Winter Wonder: Cheesy Sweet Potato Chili Mac

Overhead shot of sweet potato chili mac on table in potCharge into 2018 with a new go-to dinner in your culinary arsenal. Our cheesy sweet potato chili mac is great for feeding hungry kiddos on cold, busy weeknights—it’s a hearty, complete meal you can have on the table in 45 minutes or less. The cherry on top? It’s almost a one-pot meal! Simply boil some macaroni (or use leftover pasta from the night before) and then cook everything else in a single skillet (full recipe below). It’s simple, healthy, filling, and versatile: You can use rice or quinoa instead of noodles, swap in pinto or cannellini beans for black beans, or toss in your favorite veggies.

Less time planning, cooking, and cleaning means more time for a post-dinner snuggle fest. Happy New Year!

Sweet potato chili mac ingredients

You can’t beat the simplicity of this shopping list—chances are you have most of these items on hand already! These ingredients make a hearty protein- and fiber-rich vegetarian meal, but meat lovers can easily add ground turkey or lean beef.

News Flash! The tubers pictured here with golden skin and pale flesh inside are labeled as “sweet potatoes” at the grocery store. Their copper-skinned kin with orange flesh are usually labeled as “yams,” but are actually sweet potatoes, too—either of the two will work for this recipe. What’s the difference between a sweet potato and a real yam, anyway? The Kitchn explains it all.

Mom and son peeling sweet potato asking  "What's inside?"

Cooking with your child has numerous benefits: It can help him practice basic math and science concepts, build language skills, and develop a more adventurous palate. All this learning happens naturally when you invite him to measure ingredients, count cubes of sweet potato, or simply ask questions and chat about what you’re making together.

Step 1, 2, and 3 Sweet Potato Chli Mac

1. Cut the peeled sweet potatoes into approximately ½-inch cubes. Raw sweet potatoes are quite hard and awkwardly shaped, which can make cutting them a challenge—check out this Blue Apron video for an easy sweet potato chopping how-to.

2. Add a tablespoon of olive oil, the sweet potatoes, and the spices to a large skillet (the same one used to cook ground meat if included) and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are slightly brown and just tender.

3. Add all the other ingredients to the skillet and simmer about 20 minutes until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and the mixture is thick and creamy.

Close up shot of sweet potato chili mac in bowl

Scoop your chili mac into bowls and dinner is served! Pack up any leftovers for an easy brown-bag lunch at work the next day. 

In our centers, we embrace family-style eating—encouraging children to serve themselves teaches them important social skills (like passing items, sharing, being patient, and saying “please” and “thank you”) and how to listen to their own hunger cues. Allowing kiddos to get in on the serving action can also inspire them to try new foods, like the sweet potatoes, beans, and spices in this chili mac.

If your skillet is still hot, transfer the yummy goodness to a large serving bowl before placing it on the table. Set out small bowls of chopped green onions, cilantro, and cheese for toppings, and then invite everyone to build their own bowl. Sure, there will likely be some spills when children take the lead, but also a lot of smiles.

Cheesy Sweet Potato Chili Mac

Serves: About 6

Total time: About 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces dried elbow macaroni
  • Optional: 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Optional: 1½ to 2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. Cook the macaroni according to directions in a pot of boiling water on the stove. Once the pasta is al dente, remove from stove, drain, and set aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, prepare the ground meat, if using. For ground turkey, first add a bit of oil to a large skillet; no oil is needed for beef. Cook the meat over medium heat until browned, about 6–8 minutes. When done, transfer it to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into approximately ½-inch cubes.
  4. In the same skillet used to cook the meat, add the tablespoon of olive oil and heat over medium until the oil shimmers and flows like water. Add the sweet potatoes, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are slightly brown and just tender.
  5. Add the macaroni, meat, onions, milk, black beans, one cup of the cheese, and the chipotle peppers (if using) to the skillet and stir.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and the mixture is thick and creamy, about 20 minutes.
  7. To serve, place the skillet on the table and garnish with the remaining grated cheese, green onions, and cilantro. If the skillet has cooled or you’ve transferred the chili to a large serving bowl, encourage your child to serve himself family-style. Otherwise, spoon individual portions into small bowls and let each diner garnish as he or she likes. Enjoy!

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