Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food recipe, but this healthier recipe is a dinner you can feel good about eating again and again! Made with skim milk, whole-wheat pasta, and broccoli, this is a healthy twist on your favorite cheesy meal!

Fall is here which means I’ll soon be craving all sorts of comfort foods! Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my favorites, but it usually feels more like a “special occasion” dish. Maybe that’s because it’s often loaded up with tons of cheese and butter without a lot of redeeming health benefits. I can’t justify having it for dinner every night, but sometimes a girl needs her macaroni. Am I right? That’s where this lighter broccoli macaroni and cheese comes in.

macaroni and cheese on a plate

How to Make Healthier Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe uses skim milk instead of whole milk and skips the butter to cut down on the fat. Using whole wheat noodles adds more protein and fiber, and a healthy dose of broccoli means you can eat your greens while enjoying macaroni and cheese. Cornstarch helps thicken the sauce, and breadcrumbs give this dish a crunchy topping!

macaroni and cheese on a plate

The Best Pasta for Healthier Macaroni and Cheese

I like using Bazan chickpea noodles or whole wheat pasta because they have more protein and fiber than traditional pasta. My favorite brands are Barilla, for whole wheat pasta, or Banza, for chickpea noodles. These can be found at most major grocery stores.

What is Chickpea Pasta?

If you’ve never tried chickpea pasta, give it a shot! It’s one of my favorite things to keep in my pantry. This Banza mac and cheese recipe is so simple but filled with protein so it’s great for a vegetarian main dish! Banza actually sells boxed macaroni and cheese which is great, but this homemade macaroni and cheese recipe is even better!

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This healthy baked macaroni and cheese will satisfy your cheesy cravings without all the calories and fat of traditional macaroni and cheese. It's a perfect side dish or vegetarian main dish!

Healthier Macaroni and Cheese

  • Author: Liz Thomson
  • Prep Time: 15 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian

Description

Macaroni and cheese is a classic comfort food recipe, but this lighter recipe is a dinner you can feel good about eating again and again! Made with skim milk, whole-wheat pasta, and broccoli, this is a healthy twist on your favorite cheesy meal!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 16 oz chickpea macaroni noodles (like Banza) or whole wheat noodles
  • 1 large head of broccoli, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups of skim milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded smoked Gouda (or more cheddar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Dash of pepper
  • 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  3. Add in the macaroni and cook according to the package directions.
  4. When you have about 5 minutes left of the pasta cooking, add in the broccoli. (Check it out, one less dish to wash!)
  5. You can boil them together until both are tender.
  6. In a separate sauce pan, heat up the milk over medium heat.
  7. Right before it starts to simmer, whisk in the flour and cornstarch slowly and reduce heat to low.
  8. Slowly add in the cheeses until melted. You can turn the heat back up a bit if you need to.
  9. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  10. Combine the sauce and the macaroni in an 8×8 pan.
  11. Cover with breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.
  12. Bake for another 10 minutes, or until the top begins to brown.

Notes

I’ve been loving Banza chickpea noodles and I swear you can’t taste this difference in this recipe! If you can’t find them or you’re not a fan of chickpeas, whole wheat noodles will do the trick.

If you’re short on time or you’re craving a really saucy macaroni and cheese, you can skip the baking part entirely and stop after step 9.

You can also prep everything until step 9 a few hours or a day before. Keep it in the fridge, and plan to add an extra time while you bake it to ensure it gets hot all the way through.

Keywords: healthier macaroni and cheese

macaroni and cheese

I’ve made this healthier macaroni and cheese for friends and roommates, and I’ve even made it for our family’s Christmas dinner! It’s a perfect side dish or vegetarian main dish. Banza Macaroni and cheese has always been one of my favorite comfort foods, and with a recipe like this, I don’t have to save it for special occasions!

Need something to serve with this healthier macaroni and cheese? Make one of these easy side dish recipes!

Warm Kale Salad

warm kale salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Cucumber tomato Salad

What’s your favorite comfort food?

This post was originally published in January, 2014. Updated August 2021.