by Olena

Healthy Mac and Cheese

by Olena

5 from 2 reviews

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.

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. With: butternut squash, cauliflower, no cheese, barely any cheese, yogurt. My kids cringed, I cringed and we opened a box of Annie’s mac and cheese and hummed.

Who doesn’t love good old mac and cheese, right?!

Healthy Mac and Cheese in a blue bowl with golden spoon

So, I think 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. Agree?

This is an ultimate comfort food in a bowl. Even my husband, Alex, who vouches not to eat any cheese because “live until 100”, gave in. It was truly warming to the bones on a stormy ocean day and completely happy food coma on a couch by the fire kind of food.

Country life is the best. And so is this super easy healthy homemade mac and cheese. One pot!

Best Cheese to Use

I am using 2 kinds of cheese: marble cheddar and Parmesan cheese.

Marble cheddar is a blend of white and yellow cheddar. You can use only white or only yellow cheddar as well. It is harder to find organic yellow cheddar because it is artificially coloured.

It is best to buy a block and grate cheese yourself because it will melt better. 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.

pasta, cheese, milk, broth, butter, mustard

Pasta Options

Me and kids agree that elbow macaroni shape pasta is the best for mac and cheese. Even when we buy Annie’s, kids always eat shells in a Costco size pack last. You can use any short pasta.

We actually love the heartiness and firmness whole wheat pasta adds to mac and cheese. Small bites coated in creamy cheesy sauce are just the best.

White pasta works. Also gluten free pasta is great, just cook it for shorter amount of time.

pasta and cheese in red pot with spoonpasta and cheese in red pot with spoon

Tips for Healthy Mac and Cheese

  • This easy recipe comes together quick in one pot for a 15 minute dinner. So I recommend to have all ingredients prepped and ready to go before starting.
  • When bringing broth and milk to a boil, do not walk away. Keep an eye on the pot because milk runs right after boiling.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stir in cheese with heat off.
  • Add cheese in small portions and stir to ensure even distribution.

healthy mac and cheese on a spoon

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. I am not a fan of dry baked mac and cheese.

You can bulk it up with small veggies:

  • Frozen peas or edamame beans – rinse under hot water and drain.
  • Finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower that has been blanched or steamed.
  • Spinach – add a handful into hot mac and cheese and stir until wilted.

You can also add hot sauce.

More Quick One Pot Pastas

healthy mac and cheese recipe

Print

Healthy Mac and Cheese

5 from 2 reviews

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.

  • Author: Olena of ifoodreal.com
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 14 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: One Pot
  • Cuisine: North American
Scale

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 cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot, add broth, milk, butter, garlic powder, mustard, salt, ground black pepper and bring to a boil.
  2. 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.
  3. Turn off heat. Add marble cheese and Parmesan cheese in portions and stir between each until melted. That’s it.
  4. Serve immediately as mac and cheese tastes best fresh. Saucy, creamy and so comforting!

Store: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 day. To reheat simmer on low with a splash of milk and stirring.

Notes

  • You can use any short pasta, white or gluten free Cooking time might differ especially GF pasta cooks faster.
  • Shred cheeses while pasta is cooking to save on prep time.

 Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating in the comments.

olena osipov in the studio

Hello and welcome to iFOODreal.

My name is Olena Osipov. I'm a mom to 2 boys and a wife to Alex. And this is our healthy family recipes blog. I grew up in Ukraine on real food. As an adult, I tried many diets without results. Now for over 10 years, I cook quick and easy healthy meals for my family. I can help you with “What’s for dinner?” too.

What You Will Find Here

Healthy family recipes with simple ingredients. Many are inspired by my Ukrainian heritage. I share mostly dinner recipes because it just never ends... I’m obsessed with healthy freezer meals. And more than in love with my Instant Pot.

A Little More About Me

Originally from Ukraine, I now reside on magic Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada with my family. I started this blog in 2012 when I ended up at home with 2 small kids unemployed and a wee bit chubby.

3 comments on “Healthy Mac and Cheese

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  1. Hi Olena,
    Macaroni is a super star ar of cooking fast and tasty, but sometimes I feel guilty that they are not that healthy for me. But with new recipe from you I will enjoy them very much,.
    Thanks,
    Olga

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