Chili-Chicken Mac and Cheese

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The flavor of your favorite chicken chili all wrapped up in a delicious bowl of mac and cheese. It’s a marriage made in heaven.

Chili-Chicken Mac and Cheese | Taking On Magazines | | The flavor of your favorite chicken chili all wrapped up in a delicious bowl of mac and cheese. It's a marriage made in heaven.

I do not understand how a blue box has set the standard for mac and cheese. How were they able to corner the market with skinny, straight noodles and day-glo powdered stuff that might have been cheese at one point in its life?

While I may not be super gung-ho about making sure our family avoids all food coloring and preservatives (after all, that would mean I’d have to give up my Diet Coke), I do try to balance out the junk with not-so-junk foods.

Mac and cheese though, I dunno. I’ve made it with bacon. I’ve topped it with crunchy crumbs. And I’ve gussied it up with cheeses I can’t pronounce. Not a single one has received the Dudette seal of approval.

So, this time I figured I’d head off the beaten path and strike into new territory. Chicken mac and cheese. Cool idea, huh?

The Process

This dish comes from Food Network’s Weeknight Cooking section. It’s targeted to take 40 minutes from start to finish and I found the timing to pretty spot on, if not a few minutes quicker.

The process is a bit unique for a mac and cheese. It started with me cooking the pasta, then draining and rinsing it. I put it back in the pot and tossed it with the milk. Then I dumped the chicken and cheese over it and left it alone (no, I didn’t stir it).

I moved my attention to my skillet and sautéed the scallions along with chili powder, salt and pepper. I added some pico de gallo, then more butter and some flour, forming a paste. When ready, I poured in chicken broth and milk, stirring until it thickened.

The recipe said that it would take six minutes or so for the sauce to thicken, but mine was ready after about two minutes so I went ahead and poured it in the pot with the other ingredients. I stirred everything together until the cheese melted and the pasta was covered in creaminess.

Each serving was topped with a bit more pico de gallo.

The Verdict

This is really, really good. Hubby and I both enjoyed it a lot. Whatever the reason is for separating the cheese from the rest of the sauce, it works. The pasta was coated in creaminess, creaminess that tasted fantastic. I did poach a couple of chicken breasts instead of buying anything, but it was still a quick and delicious meal.

Dudette, yeah, well, this wasn’t from the blue box. Honestly, I think she did like it because she ate just about the whole thing, but she said it was only so-so.

What I’d Do Different Next Time


Chili-Chicken Mac and Cheese

Recipe Type: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Author: Taking On Magazines One Recipe At A Time
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
[i]from [url href=”” target=”_blank”]Food Network Magazine, March 2014[/url][/i]
  • Kosher salt
  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1 1/4 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (8 ounces)
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken breast (skin removed)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 12 -ounce container pico de gallo or fresh salsa (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain, rinse under cold water and return to the pot. Toss with 1/4 cup milk. Top with the cheese and chicken (do not stir).
  2. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add half of the pico de gallo. Cook, stirring, until the scallions soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and swirl to melt. Sprinkle in the flour; cook, stirring, until a paste forms, about 1 minute. Gradually stir in the broth and the remaining 1 cup milk. Bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add the sauce to the pot with the pasta. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese melts, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup pico de gallo.

If you have a mac and cheese dish that comes close to copying the blue box’s version, I’d love to hear about it. Seriously.

7 thoughts on “Chili-Chicken Mac and Cheese

  • March 26, 2014 at 6:57 am

    I love going crazy with mac and cheese… and this is a wonderful recipe to switch things up. My family will gobble this right up. :)

  • March 23, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I've often wondered how that blue box can hold so much nostalgia for people. Seriously, we're talking about powdered cheese here. I love this take on the homemade stuff, though.

  • March 21, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    I am happy that we stopped buying the blue box a few years ago when Tay said she didn't feel well every time she ate it. Before that it was her go to box! I'll show her this and ask if she wants to make this. :-) It looks like I can just reach out and sneak a bite right off your plate!!

  • March 20, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Why is it that most kids want the bright orange kind of macaroni and cheese?? I helped my DIL prepare mac and cheese for the church youth group and it was barely touched, sigh. Even worse than the blue box is that they make that neon orange mac and cheese in microwaveable bowls, blech.
    On a different note, I was so excited to come and let you know that I purchased two artichokes yesterday and cooked them at lunch time, yummy, yummy, yummy! It wasn't intimidating at all to prepare.
    I also bought a cherimoya to try, I love trying new things.

  • March 20, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    You took the words right out of my mouth. I can't believe that most people's go-to is that blue box. ugh… Homemade mac 'n cheese freakin' rocks! Obviously!

  • March 20, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    My daughter didn't know what the blue box macaroni tasted like until she was 11 and at asleep over. Her friend's mother told the girls that they were having mac and cheese for dinner and all the girls got very excited, my girl included. She came home the next morning to tell me that her mouth had gotten all set to eat my family's 3 cheese baked macaroni and her friends mother was not a good cook, that she had not been able to eat the horrible, nasty stuff that everyone else thought was macaroni and cheese. I'm 64 and I have never bought it and I have never eaten it, but I love my recipe and have been trying a few of yours which are good but not what my traditional tastebuds are desiring when I want Mac and cheese. Love your blog, which I discovered just recently.

  • March 20, 2014 at 9:55 am

    I think I would purposely make the blue box stuff and hope Dudette would eat that instead of this wonderful looking stuff. I sounds fantastic! Then I'll just smile to myself the next day at lunch as I enjoyed it again :)


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