by Olena

Healthy Mac and Cheese

by Olena

5 from 35 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.

Got Instant Pot? Try Instant Pot mac and cheese that requires no stirring.

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

healthy mac and cheese

5 from 35 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: 6 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.

77 comments on “Healthy Mac and Cheese

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  1. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Is the liquid supposed to be all soaked up from the noodles? It still seems like it’s still too liquidy for mac and cheese.

  2. Though I’m not a huge fan of mac and cheese myself, my family is absolutely nutty for it. The sodium content of regular mac and cheese makes my eyes bug out (I’ve seen labels reading over a 1,000mg per serving, your recipe has half of that) so when my daughter in law found your recipe we knew we needed to try it. As everyone on here notes, it is delicious and I’m now a huge mac and cheese fan. Thank you Olena 😊

  3. How does this rate on sodium levels??? We are looking to find good tasting pasta dishes to use as sides that aren’t loaded with sodium!!

    1. There is nutritional info located inside each recipe card (at the bottom) 🙂
      It will tell you how much sodium there is per serving.

  4. Delicious! I have tried making other mac n cheese recipes in the past and they just didn’t cut it. This one was tasty, creamy, and flavourful, not to mention super easy to make! I will definitely make this one again!!

  5. This was excellent! So easy. I did not change a thing. So much less fattening than classic recipes without compromising flavor. The way the broth boiling the noodles becomes part of the sauce – brilliant! I found a quinoa mac noodle at Costco which was delicious, and made this recipe gluten-free. I think – LOL

  6. A huge hit with the whole family. SO delicious and creamy! Love that it’s all real ingredients. Thanks for the great recipe 😊

  7. Soooooo delicious!
    I made a little over 3 cups (my mini whole wheat elbows from Sprouts contained just about 3 1/4 cups). I absolutely added more whole milk AND used some Gouda cheese to add more cheese flavor. Along with Colby jack cheese + Parmesan. Love love love this creamy savory pot! Reminded me of the Panera white Mac & cheese minus all of the extra empty calories. Pictures on my insta!

  8. Delicious!
    I could not find whole wheat mac so used standard mac pasta.
    First time I have made macaroni and cheese and I will not bother with any other recipes after this one because this was just right. It gave everything we all know we want from mac and cheese.

  9. I needed something quick and delicious for dinner tonight. I was a bit sceptical with the amount of liquid and honestly thought we may have had to order pizza, but OMG was I wrong. This recipe is amazing and delicious. This will be our new go to Mac recipe. 🤤

  10. Scrump-dilly-icious😊Win-Win-Win recipe—easy, healthy, delicious. This is the only mac ‘n cheese recipe to use ever!

    1. Hi! Just wanted to clarify how many servings? It says 4 initially but then the nutrition facts show 6. Thank you!!

  11. I loved this dish! Great flavour, without being too heavy. Super easy to make as well – thank you!

  12. Yummy! I loved this recipe. My husband loves comfort foods and we’re trying to eat healthier, so this was a great option. 🙂

  13. Hey!! I’ve been using your recipes to help with my weight loss journey and your meals have been working WONDERS!! For this recipe, I wanted to know what the best alternative to whole milk would be

  14. Little baby cheese, I love this recipe, so easy, and quick, the kids love it. I add I little bacon to it to make it MORE healthy.

  15. This is my favorite Mac n cheese recipe, but now I’m starting to notice I can’t find marble cheese anywhere :/ is there something I can use instead of marble? Thanks! And thank you so much for this recipe! It’s so easy and delicious!

  16. Hi Olena, I’m looking forward to making this recipe! I’m in Australia and we don’t seem to have marble cheese! Any other suggestions/?

  17. Found your site yesterday when searching for easy healthy family dinners. There are so many great recipes to try but I chose the healthier mac and cheese as a side to the main chicken entree. So easy to follow, super quick which i love, and so tasty! My son said 20 out of 10! 👍👍

  18. Really delicious. I have made it twice so far. First time used parmigiana Reggiano because that’s what I had. Used skim milk and homemade chicken broth. It was amazing.

    Made it this time according to the recipe with marbled cheese, whole milk etc. Taste not as intense but just as good!

  19. This was a simple and quick recipe. It was a big hit. I made sure to write this one down. You won’t be disappointed!

  20. This became my go to Mac and Cheese Recipe of all time! My kids and even husband love it! Thank you Olena!

  21. Amazing food and really easy. Gives me good variety so I don’t have to try too hard

  22. Awesome mac and cheese my whole family loved the pasta.
    Great recipe, maybe just a bit more sauce, but other than that a stunning meal.

  23. The only adjustment I made was using 1/2 cup skim and 1/2 cup 1/2&1/2 because that’s what I had. Okay… I do have to admit I also used 3 slices of spliced/chopped bacon! Excellent recipe! Thanks.

      1. Man, that was the most excellent macaroni and cheese recipe. Since there are only 2 of us at home, we had leftovers. They lasted 12 hours and are almost better than fresh!

    1. I was a bit skeptical at first but this is the best macaroni cheese I’ve made! I served it with broccoli and peas. Also drizzled some hot sauce over the top

  24. Just made this using whole wheat macaroni and skim milk. Added one slice of swiss cheese and pinch of cayenne. It was delicious!

  25. Thank you Olena! This is so good! Rich and creamy and so easy. It really satisfied my craving for some scrumptious comfort food! My husband and I enjoy many of your recipes. ❤️

  26. My family loved this mac and cheese! This is the second recipe I have made from your website and I am wanting to try a lot more. I had to swap milk for canned goat milk, and I used ancient grains quinoa elbow pasta. I love that there is not a ton of cheese, but it still tastes cheesy and creamy. It was super easy to make; just wish I could find marbled cheese where we are but I used white and yellow cheddar. Thank you again!!

    1. Awe, you are so welcome! So happy to hear you are enjoying my recipes! Please don’t be shy to leave me a comment with a star review once you make any recipe. Have a great week!

  27. I was very hesitant to try this recipe. I have been making very unhealthy mac and cheese for years -everyone loves it but as out diet has changed and we have switched over to organic and healthier choices, our family recipe had to change. I decided to give this recipe a try and I am so thankful. It was so flavorful and creamy. It took a lot less time which is great for me!
    Thanks so much for a great healthier recipe on this comfort food.

  28. By far the easiest mac & cheese recipe I have ever made AND it was delicious too!
    We’ve searched around for the best homemade mac & cheese recipes and they usually come out really rich and too thick, this was seriously perfect!
    Thank you so much! We will definitely be making this again (and again!)

  29. We love this Healthy Mac & Cheese recipe! We only had sharp white cheddar cheese to use, which we really enjoyed as well.
    Thank you so much Olena for all your delicious recipes!!!

  30. 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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