Mac and Cheese might just be the ultimate comfort food and we have a lightened up version for you that is just as delicious. Healthy Mac and Cheese is made with a really simple, but super cheesy, sauce and is packed with "hidden" vegetables too. Great for batch cooking and freezing and a family favourite.
We are always looking for ways to give our favourite comfort foods a nutrition boost and this is one of our favourites. Gooey and cheesy macaroni cheese with broccoli and cauliflower "hidden" in the mix and then topped with extra cheese for a crispy topping. Kids LOVE this and healthy macaroni cheese is a good way to get some extra vegetables in to fussy eaters.
Why you will love it
- Healthier - This is lightened up comfort food. All that flavour, but not as heavy.
- Easy - We have made a really simple cheese sauce with creme fraiche, rather than making a roux. It's a healthy cheese sauce.
- Hidden vegetables - If you struggle to get enough vegetables in to your families diets, then this healthy mac and cheese is a really easy way to sneak some more in.
- Freezes really well - This low calorie mac and cheese is a great recipe to bulk cook, as it freezes really well.
- Macaroni - Technically any pasta would work here, but it's macaroni cheese, so you should use macaroni.
- Cauliflower - This is the first of our hidden vegetables. If you just wanted to use cauliflower, then you can follow our Cauliflower Mac and Cheese recipe. Because cauliflower is the same colour as the pasta and cheese sauce, it blends in really well.
- Broccoli - This does add some green colour to the healthy mac and cheese, but if you cut it up small enough, it will break down in to the sauce to be more hidden.
- Creme fraiche - Rather than making a roux with flour, butter and milk, we made a healthy cheese sauce with creme fraiche. You can use reduced fat to make it even more of a low calorie mac and cheese, but it wouldn't be as creamy.
- Mustard - This is a must in mac and cheese. A little Dijon mustard gives it a real kick of flavour.
- Cheese - The star of the show. We used a really strong mature cheddar, as it has such a strong flavour, that a little goes a long way so you don't have to use as much.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
How to make healthy mac and cheese -Step by step
Prep: Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6.
One: Put the macaroni into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.
Two: At the same time, put the broccoli and cauliflower into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.
Three: Drain the pasta and vegetables and put back in the pan and add the rest of the ingredients (reserving a quarter of the cheese) and mix well.
Three: Transfer to an oven proof dish.
Four: Top with the rest of the cheese and put in the oven for 20 minutes.
Healthy cheese sauce
This recipe really comes down to the cheese sauce, doesn't it - and it couldn't be easier. This healthier alternative means that there is no need to make a time consuming roux, as we have used reduced fat creme fraiche for the creaminess mixed with some cheddar and Parmesan.
You could use mozzarella instead if you like, and they would make it really melty. We then season with salt and pepper and add a little mustard for extra flavour. It really doesn't get much easier than that.
Adding some truffles to mac and cheese would make it really decedent, or you could add some chunks of chorizo or bacon to make it meaty. We have also stirred through some red onion chutney when it needed using up and that was delicious. There are so many ways to take this simple, but lightened up, mac and cheese to a whole other level.
If you wanted to add some more hidden vegetables to this healthy macaroni cheese, then make our Roasted Butternut Squash and blend it into the cheese sauce. You could also grate some courgette in to the mixture - for really picky eaters you could peel the courgette first so it blends in more.
What to eat with mac and cheese
This is a pretty filling meal by itself and it has all the vegetables already in it. However, if we are trying to make it go a little further, then we love serving up some garlic bread with it. Either buy some ready made, or make your own easy garlic bread by cutting up some French stick and spreading it with a mix of butter, crushed garlic and dried herbs. Then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. Why not try our Cheesy Garlic Bread recipe or Air Fryer Garlic Bread?
As well as garlic bread, you can bulk the meal out with a big green salad. The key to an epic green salad is to use a variety of greens, like romaine, spinach, kale and rocket. You want leafy greens, but crunch too. Then you need the perfect dressing. Why not try our Lemon Vinaigrette, Honey and Mustard Dressing or Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette. You could also try our Grilled Little Gem Salad.
If you want to add a big side of vegetables, then we recommend our Garlic Spring Greens, Air Fryer Green Beans, Roasted Tenderstem Broccoli, Garlic Green Beans, Air Fryer Carrots, or Roasted Lemon Asparagus.
This is such a great batch cook meal, as it freezes really well. We always make extra and then freeze it in little portions for the kids meals. Just wait for it to full cool and then portion it out in the freezable containers. It will keep in the fridge for 2 months.
You can also keep leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days.
It's actually really easy to make this mac and cheese vegan. We just swap the creme fraiche for a plant based alternative (Oatly is our favourite) and use a vegan cheese that melts really well.
As long as you use gluten free pasta and make sure there is no cross contamination, then this can be gluten free.
More pasta recipes
If you’ve tried this healthy mac and cheese, let us know how you got on in the comments below.
Tag us in your creations on Instagram @hungryhealthyhappy - You can use the hashtag #hungryhealthyhappy too.
Healthy Mac and Cheese
- 280 g (10 oz) Macaroni
- 0.5 head Cauliflower - small; cut into very tiny pieces
- 0.5 head Broccoli - small; cut into very tiny pieces
- 75 g (1 cups) Light mature cheddar - grated; for the macaroni
- 25 g (0.25 cups) Light mature cheddar - grated; for the topping
- 0.5 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 100 g (0.5 cups) Reduced fat creme fraiche
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- Preheat your oven to 200°C/180°C(fan)/400°F/Gas 6.
- Put 280 g Macaroni into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.
- At the same time, put 0.5 head Broccoli and 0.5 head Cauliflower into a pan of boiling water and simmer for 12 minutes.
- Drain the pasta and vegetables and put back in the pan and add 75 g Light mature cheddar, 0.5 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 100 g Reduced fat creme fraiche and 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper and mix well.
- Transfer to an oven proof dish.
- Top with 25 g Light mature cheddar and put in the oven for 20 minutes.
- This is a great dish for adding lots of extra vegetables. You could add frozen peas, grated courgette and chopped up spinach.
- Reserve a little of the pasta water to add to the sauce to make it nice and silky.
- We used reduced fat cheddar and some Parmesan, however you could use mozzarella.
- Make it more indulgent by adding some cooked chopped bacon or chorizo.
- Make this vegan by using plant based creme fraiche and cheese alternative.
- You don't have to put it in the oven, however it does make it nice and crispy.
- Make it extra crispy by mixing some Panko breadcrumbs with the cheese that goes on the top at the end.
- This will store in the freezer for 2 months.
The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors, but we have endeavoured to be as accurate as possible.