by Olena

Healthy Mac and Cheese

This post contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy.

Olena's image
Olena Osipov
5 from 55 votes

Healthy Mac and Cheese in one pot in 15 minutes. Creamy, cheesy and flavorful and as healthy as it gets. No weird ingredients because life is short, friends.

Got Instant Pot? Try Instant Pot mac and cheese or similarly easy and cheesy Instant Pot chicken pasta.

Healthy Mac and Cheese

Is Mac and Cheese Healthy?

The reason I didn’t post healthy mac and cheese recipe until now is because I didn’t like any. I am sorry but I am willing to take the healthy route only that far.

Over the years, I tried all healthy alternatives of homemade macaroni and cheese. Including spaghetti squash mac and cheese and cauliflower mac and cheese. They are good alternatives, don’t get me wrong. But not when you want real-real pasta mac and cheese.

Healthy Mac and Cheese in a blue bowl with golden spoon

I finally found a perfect healthy formula for mac and cheese. It = whole wheat macaroni + moderate amount of cheese + don’t eat it every day. Plus we boil pasta in flavorful broth and creamy milk thus reducing amount of cheese and calories.

Just like with Tuscan chicken pasta and chicken alfredo, using whole milk and moderate amount of cheese cuts back on a lot of saturated fat.

Ingredients for Healthy Mac and Cheese

  • Pasta: Our family likes traditional elbow macaroni shape pasta when it comes to mac and cheese, pasta salad and even minestrone. We also love the heartiness and firmness whole wheat pasta adds to mac and cheese. White pasta works. Also gluten free pasta is great, just cook it for shorter amount of time.
  • Marble cheddar and Parmesan cheese: I am using 2 kinds of cheese. Marble cheddar is a blend of white and yellow cheddar. You can use only white or only yellow cheddar. It is harder to find organic yellow cheddar because it is artificially coloured. It is best to buy a block of cheese and grate yourself because it will melt better.
  • Milk and butter: I recommend to use whole milk 3.25% for maximum creaminess. 2% will work as well but less creamy.
  • Broth: To make any healthy pasta dish flavorful, using broth adds flavor and no extra calories. Great example is healthy mushroom stroganoff which even carnivores love.
  • Seasonings: Prepared mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

How to Make Healthy Mac and Cheese

  • Grate cheese: Pre-shredded cheese is mixed with anti-caking agent to prevent it from sticking. Same goes for Parmesan cheese. Make sure you buy a block of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and grate yourself. 1/4 cup goes a long way and adds a lot of flavor without many calories.
  • Combine liquids with spices: In a medium pot, add broth, milk, butter, garlic powder, mustard, salt, ground black pepper and bring to a boil. Do not walk away. Keep an eye on the pot because milk runs right after boiling. pasta and cheese in red pot with spoon
  • Cook pasta: Add macaroni and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente. Mixture with pasta should be at medium simmer, not boiling hard. Stir pasta while cooking often. It really sticks to the bottom if you don’t stir, especially towards the end as liquid evaporates.
  • Add cheese in portions: Turn off heat so cheese doesn’t burn. Add cheese in portions and stir between each until melted. pasta and cheese in red pot with spoon

More Tips and Storing

  • Prep before beginning to cook: This easy recipe comes together quick. I recommend to have all ingredients prepped and ready to go before starting.
  • Too much or little broth: If you notice your pasta is almost ready and there is still a lot of liquid, turn up the heat. Likewise, if you see pasta is not done and you are running out of liquid, add 1/4 cup at a time.
  • Can I bake it? I don’t recommend it because sauce will dry out. Baked versions need more cheese and sauce and seasonings respectively.
  • Storing: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 day. Do not freeze as pasta and dairy do not freeze well.

healthy mac and cheese on a spoon

Serving and Reheating

Serving: Mac and cheese is best to be served immediately. That’s when sauce is the most creamy and macaroni still firm. Pasta absorbs liquid really fast and makes mac and cheese dry.

Bulk up with veggies and other variations:

  • Frozen peas or edamame beans: Rinse under hot water and drain. I make veggie mac and cheese muffins this way and kids love anything in a muffin form!
  • Finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower: That has been blanched or steamed, some like raw.
  • Spinach: Add a handful into hot mac and cheese and stir until wilted.
  • More heat: Drizzle bowl with Frank’s red hot sauce, Cholula or Tabasco.
  • Spices and seasonings: Everything bagel, Montreal steak spice, paprika, nutmeg, soy sauce and even honey.
  • Bacon: Leftover chopped bacon. I like to bake mine at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. Way less mess.
  • Protein: Creamy pasta goes very well with sweet and sticky honey garlic chicken.

Reheating: Simmer on low heat with a splash of milk, and stirring often.

More Healthy Pasta Recipes

healthy mac and cheese recipe

Healthy Mac and Cheese

Healthy Mac and Cheese {One Pot - 15 Minutes}

Healthy Mac and Cheese in one pot in 15 minutes. Creamy, cheesy and flavorful and as healthy as it gets. No weird ingredients because life is short, friends.
4.95 from 55 votes
Print Save Rate
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North American
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 14 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 405kcal
Author: Olena Osipov

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni uncooked
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth low sodium
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp butter salted
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp mustard condiment
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 cup marble or cheddar cheese shredded
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese shredded

Instructions

  • In a medium pot, add broth, milk, butter, garlic powder, mustard, salt, ground black pepper and bring to a boil.
  • Add elbow macaroni and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente or desired firmness and adding more milk or broth if you wish.
  • Turn off heat. Add marble cheese and Parmesan cheese in portions and stir between each until melted. That's it.
    Healthy Mac and Cheese
  • Serve immediately as mac and cheese tastes best fresh. Saucy, creamy and so comforting!
    Healthy Mac and Cheese
  • Top with your favorite hot sauce, everything bagel, Montreal steak spice, paprika, nutmeg, soy sauce and even honey. Or with leftover chopped bacon. I like to bake mine at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. Way less mess.

Store: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 day. Do not freeze as pasta and dairy do not freeze well.

    Reheat: By simmering on low with a splash of milk and stirring.

      Video

      Notes

      • Pasta: Any short pasta, white or gluten free works. Cook gluten free pasta for shorter amount of time.
      • Cheese: You can use marble cheese, white or yellow cheddar cheese. It is best to buy a block of cheese and grate yourself because it will melt better.
      • Milk and butter: I recommend to use whole milk 3.25% for maximum creaminess. 2% will work as well but less creamy.
      • Prep before beginning to cook: This easy recipe comes together quick in one pot for. So, I recommend to have all ingredients prepped and ready to go before starting.
      • Too much or little broth: If you notice your pasta is almost ready and there is still a lot of liquid, turn up the heat. Likewise, if you see pasta is not done and you are running out of liquid, add 1/4 cup at a time.
      • Can I bake it? I don't recommend it because sauce will dry out. Baked versions need more cheese and sauce and seasonings respectively.

      Nutrition

      Serving: 1cup | Calories: 405kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 38mg | Sodium: 549mg | Potassium: 230mg | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 433IU | Calcium: 273mg | Iron: 3mg
      Join today and start saving your favorite recipes

      Recipes and images are a copyright of ifoodreal.com. It is against the law to republish recipes anywhere including social media, print and all world wide web. Nutritional info is provided for informational purposes only and to the best knowledge.

      Did you try this recipe?

      Follow @ifoodreal on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #ifoodreal. Show me what you are making!

      olena osipov in the studio

      Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

      My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys, a wife to Alex and we reside on magical Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. This is our healthy family recipes blog. Originally from Ukraine, I grew up on real food. As an adult, I struggled with diets for years because none worked long-term. Now for over 10 years, I cook easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

      The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. You assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions.

      This page may contain affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy. ifoodreal.com is a participant of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. If you make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps keep iFOODreal recipes free. Thanks for your support!