What We’re Eating: Chuck Wagon Mac

As I was thinking about Wild West week, the first meal that came to my mind was one that we grew up eating.  My mom called it “Chuck Wagon Mac,” and I believe the recipe came from her friend, Joyce.

Chuck Wagon Mac

I’m not exactly sure why it is called Chuck Wagon Mac.  Maybe the western pioneers made something similar over their camp fires as they traveled in covered wagons across the country?  Maybe they even used cast iron skillets like mine?  I’m guessing that those folks did not have access to boxed Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese, though.

Box of Mac

This is what I used, but any similar brand will do!

This is classic family food at its finest.  Who wouldn’t love the combination of macaroni and cheese, ground beef, and tomato sauce?!

Chuck Wagon Mac 2

And, once again, it’s one of those meals that I could make during naptime and just stick in the oven 30 minutes before we were ready to eat.  Are you noticing a trend?  The make-ahead method seems to be the only way that I get dinner on the table these days.  Doesn’t everyone cook dinner at 1:00 in the afternoon?

Chuck Wagon Mac 3

I served our Chuck Wagon Mac with corn muffins and steamed broccoli on the side for a complete meal.  Here’s Joyce’s recipe, with a few little additions of my own (the seasoning!):

Chuck Wagon Mac
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons House Seasoning (see recipe below)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (to cut the acidity in the tomato sauce)
  • 1 (10 ounce) box Deluxe Macaroni and Cheese
  1. In a large, oven-proof skillet (I use cast iron), brown ground beef and onion over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Drain and return to skillet. Stir in tomato sauce, House Seasoning, and sugar.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare box of macaroni and cheese according to package instructions.
  3. Add prepared macaroni and cheese to beef mixture in skillet and stir to combine.
  4. Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree F oven until warmed through (about 30 minutes).
  5. For the House Seasoning:
  6. ¼ c. garlic powder
  7. ¼ c. kosher salt
  8. ¼ c. dried parsley
  9. ¼ c. dried minced onion
  10. ¼ c. dried basil
  11. Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.


Chuck Wagon Mac 4

Lovely comments

  1. Sara says

    Hi Blair, I’m one of Caryn’s friends! I made this last night but we were really hungry so I skipped the baking it in the oven for 30 minutes step. I’m wondering what the baking does? Did we miss out on something? It was good without the baking, so I’m curious! Thanks!!

    • says

      Hi Sara! I remember meeting you at some parties back in the Troy Street days. :) Thanks so much for stopping by!

      I’ve never tried this recipe without baking it, so I can’t say for sure what the big difference would be. I think that baking it just thickens it up a bit and makes the top crusty — the best part of any traditional casserole, in my opinion. Good to know that you don’t necessarily have to bake it if you’re in a time crunch. :)


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