This recipe does NOT taste healthy. It tastes like a big plate of chili cheese fries. Surprisingly, I would definitely consider this a light meal. It uses whole wheat pasta, 2% milk, ground turkey, and reduced fat cheese. It’s not exactly a salad, but it definitely doesn’t break your calorie bank. Its about 480 calories for each very sizable serving.
So, you start by making the turkey chili (which has a super secret ingredient that provides depth and complexity). Throw your ground turkey into a big pot over medium high heat and break up the meat. As the turkey is browning, chop up your onion and garlic. Add the vegetables into the pot with the turkey and cook for a few minutes until the onions begin to look translucent.
Yum. This is such a simple chili recipe. It really just has four main ingredients plus the spices. And it is sooo yummy and healthy!
So! Once your onions have cooked down a little bit, add your cumin, chili pepper, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Stir this around and let your spices brown for a minute or so. Then add in your tomato paste.
I always buy the tomato paste that comes in the bottle that looks like a tube of toothpaste. This is the brand I always buy at my grocery store. It’s so convenient because in most of the recipes I make, I only need a little bit of tomato paste, and I hate wasting that entire can just for a spoonful of the stuff.
Stir the tomato paste into the turkey and veggie mixture and let it cook for a few more minutes.
Turn your heat down to medium and add the two cans of diced tomatoes and the water. Take your wooden spoon and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pot from where the the turkey, veggies, and spices stuck. That stuff is pure flavor!
Peak under the lid and stir the chili occasionally :).
Meanwhile, as the chili is cooking, we are going to make the MOST delicious cheese sauce ever!
The cheese sauce starts with a roux. A roux is a super simple thickening agent that is made up of one part fat and one part flour. In this case, we are going to use butter for our fat. So melt three tablespoons of butter in large pan, and add three tablespoons of flour once it is melted.
Whisk the butter and flour together until it forms a thin paste.
Now we add the 2% milk! Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until it has thickened.
Take the sauce off the heat (make sure you do or the cheese will become grainy!!) and add your cheese, salt, and pepper!
If you don’t want to buy aged gouda, you can just use cheddar instead, or any other cheese you have really.
Stir in your cheese and watch it slowly melt into the sauce…yum.
Once your chili has simmered for 30 minutes, take off the lid, add the pasta and simmer/boil for about eight minutes, or until the macaroni is just about cooked, but not quite.
1. The chili flavor soaks into the macaroni, giving it that much more flavor.
2. The starch from the pasta thicken the chili and gives it the perfect consistency.
NOW for the secret ingredient.
If you don’t believe me, try a spoonful of the chili before adding the coco power and then after adding it. You will be able to tell the difference. Before adding the coco powder, the chili is tasty, but it needs something. It doesn’t have enough depth and complexity of flavor. If you are going to make chili in 30 minutes, you need to add something that will give you the flavor of cooking it for hours. Coco powder! Don’t skip this step! It is important!
Now that all of your components are ready to go, put the chili macaroni into a big bowl and add the delicious, thick, creamy cheese sauce. Stir it a few times and add the whole thing to a 9×13 pan. I ended having about a cup that wouldn’t fit without spilling over the top. I saved mine and ate it later….or maybe I ate it then….but either way, you might have a little left over. Eat it, throw it away, save it, whatever.
Top it off with the remaining half cup of cheddar cheese.
Okay, that was the last one. I promise.
Put the Chili Mac and Cheese into a 350 degree oven and bake for twenty minutes!
Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let it sit for another twenty or so minutes so that it doesn’t ooze everywhere when you serve it. Or don’t wait…it will taste the same either way. Which is delicious.
Slice and serve!Print
Light Turkey Chili Mac and Cheese
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 1 hour 20 mins
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 mins
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 lb ground turkey
- 2 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 pinches red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoon tomato paste
- 2 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 1 pound whole wheat macaroni
- 1 teaspoon coco powder
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups 2% milk
- 1/4 cup aged gouda cheese
- 1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese
- Heat up the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat
- Add the ground turkey and cook until the meat is browned, 3-5 minutes
- Add in the chopped onion and garlic
- Cook until onion begins to appear translucent, about 5 minutes
- Add the cumin, chili powder red pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons of salt, and one teaspoon of pepper
- Stir the spices into the meat and veggies and let this mixture cook for a minute or two
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another minute
- Turn the heat to low and add the two cans of diced tomatoes
- Fill up one empty can with water and add the water to the chili
- Bring the chili to a boil and then turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes – stirring occasionally
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
- Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce
- Melt three tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium high heat
- Add three tablespoons of flour and whisk together
- Cook the roux, continuously whisking, for about a minute
- Whisk in three cups of milk
- Let the sauce cook, whisking often, until it is thickened. It should be thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon without dripping off
- Once the sauce is thickened, remove it from the burner, and add 1/2 cup of cheddar and the gouda
- Stir until all the cheese has melted
- Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Once the chili has simmered for 30 minutes, add the macaroni and another teaspoon of salt and let that simmer uncovered for about 8 minutes, or until the macaroni is almost cooked, but not quite yet
- Add the coco powder and stir to combine
- Add the cheese sauce to the chili and macaroni, and stir a few times.
- Dump the chili mac and cheese into a 9×13 baking dish (you might have a little bit of the mixture left over) and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.
- Bake the chili mac and cheese for 20 minutes
- Transfer to a cooling rack and let sit for another 20 or so minutes