July 21, 2022
Pack chili mac in a thermos for a cozy meal your kids can enjoy at school!
The cheesy, hearty pasta with smoky flavors is super filling, and thanks to a thermos, the food can stay hot for hours.
Cheesy Chili Mac – Hot Lunch
If your kids love hot lunches on cold days or just prefer cooked meals over sandwiches, this chili mac will be a favorite item. It’s a yummy change of pace, and you can balance it with their choice of fruit and veggies.
Now, I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying to make an entire batch of this chili mac at 6 a.m in the morning, but you could make it for dinner the night before and reserve 2 portions for the next day. It’s way easier, and you get two meals from one!
You’ll find even more tasty hot lunches like this one and other incredible ideas to pack in the lunchbox right below:
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Chili Mac Ingredients
Here’s everything you’ll need to make a batch of my homemade chili mac:
- ground meat: turkey or beef.
- onion: browned with the meat for additional flavor.
- spices: chili powder, cumin, oregano, and salt.
- garlic: makes everything taste better.
- chicken broth: if using turkey, and beef broth if using beef.
- green chilis: for a little kick, omit if your family doesn’t like spice.
- canned beans: this recipe calls for red kidney and black beans, but you could also use pinto or white beans.
- elbow macaroni: or any shelled pasta you have on hand.
- diced tomatoes: adds bulk.
- tomato sauce: gives it that tomato-y chili flavor.
- shredded cheese: topped over the hot chili so it melts.
How to Pack Chil Mac in a Thermos for Lunch
The directions below will show you how to pack this chili mac, so it stays hot for hours. I recommend using a double insulated thermos so you can also include cold ingredients in the lunch bag.
If you need a double-insulated thermos, check out a few of my favorite options here.
That being said, let’s make lunch:
- Warm the thermos container
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Fill the thermos with boiling water and close. Wait 5 minutes and empty the thermos.
- Fill it up
Microwave the desired amount of chili mac until piping hot. Transfer the chili mac into the thermos and seal.
- Prepare for shipment
Pack fresh veggies and fruit into snack containers, and place both containers into the lunch bag, adding an ice pack directly beneath the snacks to keep the ingredients fresh.
You can also learn more tips on how to transport hot and cold items in the same lunch bag in the video below.
Chili Mac Thermos Lunch
- 1 lb ground turkey or beef
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 15- ounce can of diced tomatoes
- 15- ounce can of tomato sauce
- 4- ounce can of green chilis
- 15- ounce can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 15- ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
- 8 ounces elbow macaroni
- 2 ½ cups chicken or beef broth
- ½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese, plus more for topping
- In a large skillet, brown the beef over medium-high heat. Add the onions, spices, salt, and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, and the onions are translucent.
- Add the tomatoes, sauce, chilis, beans, macaroni, and broth, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes or until the macaroni is al dente.
- Remove from heat and stir in ½ cup of cheese until it’s completely melted.
- Preheat the thermos container, fill it with about 1 ½ cups of chili mac, and top with additional cheese. Close the thermos container and pack it into a lunch bag with your choice of snacks.
- Include an ice pack to keep the other ingredients chilled.