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Chili Mac (protein-packed, whole-food, plant-based)

We all need some hearty, healthy, comforting dinner options to rely upon. Considering we have to figure out what to eat for dinner every. single. day. can you ever have too many delicious, healthy dinner ideas? Absolutely not!


This Chili Mac recipe is very filling, especially if you use chickpea pasta, which I recommend. Legume pasta is fairly new to the market, and it’s such a genius idea! I love that my toddler daughter thinks she’s eating just regular pasta, but I know she’s eating chickpeas–with nearly double the protein, fiber, and iron of traditional pasta. It’s also certified gluten-free.

The Ingredients

You can find legume pasta at most grocery stores now (I’ve seen it at Target, Fred Meyer, Walmart, Albertsons, and sometimes at Costco). Find the Banza brand near you with this store locator. Of course, if you can’t find legume pasta, don’t let that stop you from making this recipe. Any pasta will do. The rest of the ingredients are common pantry ingredients, making this the perfect meal when you’re running low on fresh produce.

If you’re counting your Daily Dozen foods, one serving of this recipe enables you to roughly check off 2 beans (from the chickpea pasta, lentils and beans),  1 greens (spinach) and 1 other vegetable (tomatoes, bell pepper, onions). Serve with some steamed broccoli on the side, a glass of water, and fruit for dessert, and you’ve checked off 7 of your Daily Dozen in this meal. You’ll feel super satisfied!

Recipe Tips

This is about a 30-minute meal. Cook the lentils in advance or use canned lentils. You can also chop the onions and peppers in advance. It comes together pretty quick, and it also makes great leftovers!

If you’re feeding people who are plant-based hesitant, let them add cheese to theirs (either vegan or real), or a dollop of sour cream.

Do you like pasta recipes? You’ll also like this Saucy Zucchini Basil Pasta or this Cauliflower Mac ‘n Cheese.

5 from 7 votes
Chili Mac (Protein-packed, whole-food plant-based)
Prep Time
35 mins

Comforting, flavorful, and filling! Made with common pantry ingredients. Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and delicious!

Course: Main Course
Keyword: Banza pasta, chili mac, pesto pasta, wfpb, whole food plant based
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Faithful Plateful
  • 1 8-oz box of elbow macaroni (I prefer Banza or other legume pasta)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
  • 3 TBSP flour (any kind will work, I used whole wheat)
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk from a can (shake can first, then measure 1 cup)
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (blend up if you don't like tomato chunks
  • 1 can beans (any kind, I used kidney)
  • 2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1.5 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 3 TBSP ketchup or hot sauce (make sure it has vinegar in it, which adds to cheesy flavor)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3 cups fresh spinach (optional)
  1. If you don't have cooked or canned lentils, start by boiling 1 cup dry lentils in 2 cups water, and letting simmer for 15 minutes, until tender. They should be done by the time you need to add them at the end.

  2. Boil pasta according to package directions.

  3. In a large skillet or pot, saute onion and bell pepper in a splash of water until soft, about 10 minutes.

  4. Add garlic and flour. Cook one more minute.

  5. Add all remaining ingredients. Cook about 5 minutes on medium heat, until bubbly.

  6. Add cooked pasta and spinach (fi using) and heat through, until spinach is completely wilted. Add more hot sauce or salt to taste.

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  1. Oh my heavens, Faith, this was delicious! I made it last night and it tastes just like the chili and rice with Hormel chili we had as kids! The lentils serve nicely as a faux ground beef, matched the texture perfectly. My kids thought it was a little too spicy so next time I’ll dial down the chili powder to 1 tablespoon. I did use gluten free pasta and gf flour (gum free) for the thickener and it worked great. I think I might switch brown rice, quinoa, or even riced cauliflower occasionally for the macaroni since they’re cheaper than gf macaroni. Definitely will be in the rotation!

    1. I never would have thought it tastes like Hormel! So glad you made it work. Banza pasta is GF and so yummy–I bet your kids would love it! It’s about $2.50 a box, so still a little expensive.

      1. Ha, it’s been a long time since I had Hormel chili but that’s what it reminded me of!🤣Yes, I need to try Banza, I think I’ll have to order it online.

  2. Made this tonight. It’s worth it, folks! My husband, who tends to apologize to our dinner guests when I serve our vegetarian fare, actually said, “This is good enough for company!”. Now, that’s a good recipe!

  3. This was a definite win in my house! My husband (who LOVES meat) told me multiple times how good this was. He even ate it for leftovers twice! We are just trying to cut down on meat for now and my family loved it! It also made a lot which I appreciated since we eat a lot. The lentils make this dish filling and the spices were right on. I highly recommend this dish if you are trying to incorporate less meat and more whole foods into your week!

  4. I made this for lunch today and brought it to my husband at work for a bed-of-the-truck picnic! He loved it and said he wanted it to be added to our weekly dinner rotation. I thought it was super yummy and loved the bold spices! My toddler liked it, too!

  5. This was SO good. I’m glad the recipe made a nice big batch because I already can’t wait to have leftovers for tonight’s dinner!

  6. Ok this was delicious. Even my toddler was eating a lot of it and she’s pretty picky. I love that it mixes together well so she can’t pick as much out. Thank you very much. It’s hard to find comfort meals that are whole food plant based.

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