Mac and cheese is an American classic for a reason. The gooey, cheesy goodness comforts us in a way that few other dishes can. But if you’re trying to watch your waistline, you’ll find that traditional mac and cheese is packed with a lot of calories. The guilt-free solution? Veggie mac and cheese. By swapping out the meaty, processed ingredients in classic recipes for nutrient-packed vegetables, you can make delicious, creamy mac and cheese without the unnecessary fats and carbs. And although veggie mac and cheese may be just as calorie-dense as its meaty predecessor, the presence of nutritious veggies can help boost your nutrition intake while still having a comforting meal. Let’s take a look at the 4 easy and creative veggie mac and cheese recipes to enjoy without the guilt.
Veggie Grill Mac And Cheese (3)
Roasted veggies are the star of this delicious and hearty mac and cheese recipe. You’ll find that butternut squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower provide a great flavor and texture to this dish.
Topped with a light and creamy sauce, this veggie grill mac and cheese is a great way to get your comfort food craving fixed.
- Olive oil cooking spray 10-ounce fresh broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 10-ounce cauliflower florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 10-ounce butternut squash, cut into ½-inch dice
- 10-ounce quartered Brussels sprouts
- 1 ½ teaspoon olive oil
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 12 ounces of whole-grain elbow pasta
- 1 ½ tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup minced onion
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups fat-free milk
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth with freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 5 ounces freshly grated white sharp light cheddar cheese (such as Cabot) (about 1 ¼ cups)
- 4 ounces freshly grated creamy Havarti cheese (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Grill the veggies. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Then, line a large-rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat it with cooking spray.
- Place the broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, and Brussels sprouts on the baking sheet.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat, then spread into an even layer.
- Roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the macaroni, stir, and cook according to the package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
- Begin the sauce. In another large pot set over medium, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, for about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes.
- Add the milk and broth, and whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until thickened, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the pepper and cheese and whisk until melted.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Combine. Add the cooked pasta and roasted vegetables to the pot with the cheese sauce and stir until evenly combined.
- Serve immediately.
Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 378 Fat: 14 g | Sat. fat: 7 g | Unsat. fat: 7 g | Protein: 20 g | Carbohydrate: 50 g | Fiber: 8 g | Sodium: 568 mg | Calcium: 41% DV | Potassium: 23% DV | Sugars: 7 g | Added sugars: 0 g
This recipe is courtesy of Cooking Light.
Hidden Veggie Mac And Cheese (1)
Kids fighting you to eat their veggies? Surprise them with this sneaky, tasty mac and cheese. This creamy dish is packed with all sorts of vegetables but not even the pickiest eaters will know it. The best part? It’s just as creamy and delicious as the original.
- 1 lb elbow macaroni (455 g), cooked al dente
- ½ cup water (120 ml)
- 1 cup cauliflower florets (300 g)
- 1 cup butternut squash (205 g), diced
- 1 cup carrot (120 g), sliced
- 2 cups milk (480 ml)
- 2 cups cheddar cheese (200 g), shredded
- 4 oz cream cheese (115 g)
- Prepare the veggie sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the water and cauliflower. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, for about 5 minutes.
- Add the butternut squash and carrot to the saucepan and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Blend the veggies. Transfer the cooked vegetables and cooking liquid to a high-powered blender. Add the water and blend until smooth.
- Add the cheese. Transfer the blended veggie sauce back to the medium-sized saucepan.
- Over low heat, add the milk, cheddar cheese, and cream cheese. Stir until all of the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.
- Assemble the macaroni and cheese. In a large bowl, add the cooked macaroni and the cheese sauce. Mix until all of the macaroni is coated in the cheese sauce.
- Serve the macaroni and cheese warm.
Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 497 | Fat: 15 g | Carbs: 66 g | Fiber: 2 g | Sugar: 8 g | Protein: 19 g
This recipe is courtesy of Tasty.
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Vegan Mac And Cheese (4)
Being vegan may mean sacrificing the creamy, cheesy comfort of macaroni and cheese but not with this recipe!
This vegan version doesn’t compromise on creaminess thanks to an ultra-smooth and savory cashew cream sauce. You can choose the stovetop or oven method to satisfy your mac and cheese craving.
- Mac and cheese
- 1 ½ cups raw cashews
- 2 cups water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 (7-oz) bag of shredded vegan cheddar cheese (optional I used Follow Your Heart)
- 12 ounces of elbow pasta
- Breadcrumb topping (optional)
- 1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter, melted
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
Instructions For Stovetop Method:
- Prep the cashews. Soak the cashews in water for at least 4 hours, or overnight. If short on time, you can soak them in boiling water for 5 minutes.
- Make the sauce. Drain and rinse the cashews, then transfer them to a high-powered blender with 2 cups of fresh water.
- Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic powder, shredded cheese (if using), and salt. Blend until smooth.
- Cook the pasta. In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain the cooked pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
- Mix everything. Add the cooked pasta, reserved cooking liquid, and cheese sauce to the pot. Stir until all of the macaroni is evenly coated with the cheese sauce.
Instructions For Oven Method:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
- Make a breadcrumb topping. In a medium bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, melted vegan butter, and smoked paprika until combined.
- Make the sauce and cook the pasta. Follow instructions 1 to 3 from the stovetop method above.
- Assemble the macaroni and cheese. In the prepared baking dish, add the cooked macaroni and sauce. Sprinkle with the breadcrumb topping.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 304 kcal | Carbohydrates: 41 g | Protein:11 g | Fat: 11 g | Saturated Fat: 2 g | Sodium: 443 mg | Potassium: 309 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 3 g | Vitamin C: 2 mg | Calcium: 18 mg | Iron: 2 mg
This recipe is courtesy of Nora Cooks.
Cauliflower Mac And Cheese (2)
Take your veggie-packed mac and cheese to the next level by subbing in some cauliflower for the pasta. This version is keto- and low-carb-friendly yet still creamy and cheesy. A sprinkle of pork rinds and panko breadcrumbs adds crunch to the top.
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
- ¾ cup whole milk (you can also use heavy whipping cream)
- 3 ounces softened cream cheese, cut into cubes
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
- Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 slices bacon, diced and cooked to the desired crispiness
- Fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
For The Topping (Optional):
- 1/4 cup pork rinds panko crumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish and set aside.
- Steam the cauliflower. Add a pinch of salt and 1 cup of water to a large pot.
- Add the cauliflower florets and cover with a lid, cook for 7 to 10 minutes until the cauliflower is tender.
- Drain any excess liquid, then transfer the cauliflower to a bowl and set aside.
- Make the sauce. In the same pot, heat the milk on medium-low heat. When the milk starts to simmer, add softened cream cheese and stir until melted.
- Stir in parsley, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add 1 cup of cheddar cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese and stir until melted.
- Assemble the macaroni and cheese. In the prepared baking dish, add the cooked cauliflower and pour over the cheese sauce. Sprinkle it with the remaining cheddar cheese and bacon.
- Prepare the topping (optional). In a small bowl, stir together pork rind panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and melted butter until combined. Sprinkle over the top.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbly. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, crispy bacon, and extra cheese if desired.
Calories: 605 kcal | Carbohydrates: 13 g | Protein: 32 g | Fat: 48 g | Saturated Fat: 27 g | Cholesterol: 139 mg | Sodium: 961 mg | Potassium: 649 mg | Fiber: 3 g | Sugar: 6 g | Vitamin A: 1331 IU | Vitamin C: 69 mg | Calcium: 722 mg | Iron: 1 mg | Net Carbs: 10 g
This recipe is courtesy of Diet Hood.
What Goes With Mac And Cheese Vegetarian?
Mac and cheese is a versatile dish that pairs well with many different sides.
Here are some suggestions to pair your vegan mac and cheese with:
- Roasted vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and peppers
- A side salad with leafy greens, fresh vegetables, and a vinaigrette dressing
- Roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts
- Garlic bread or toasty sourdough
- Baked sweet potatoes or roasted squash
- Roasted mushrooms, either plain or with herbs and garlic
- Sauteed greens, such as kale or spinach
- Slaws or pickled vegetables
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What Is A Good Addition To Mac And Cheese?
Plain macaroni and cheese is a classic, but there are tons of ways to switch it up.
Try adding some of these ingredients to your mac and cheese for a delicious twist:
- Crispy bacon or diced ham
- Sautéed onions and garlic
- Fresh or frozen vegetables such as peas, corn, or broccoli
- Roasted red peppers or sundried tomatoes, chopped
- Sausage, cooked and crumbled
- Ground beef, cooked and crumbled
- Cooked chicken or turkey, shredded
- Olives, sliced
- Mushrooms, sliced
- Cooked jalapeños, diced
- Shrimp or crabmeat, cooked
- Fresh herbs such as parsley, sage, or thyme, chopped
- Crunchy croutons
- Nuts such as almonds or walnuts, toasted
- Pesto, salsa, or taco sauce
- Hot sauce or spicy seasonings to taste
How Do You Make Macaroni And Vegetables?
Veggies are a great way to add some nutrition and flavor to macaroni.
To make macaroni with vegetables you can add the cooked vegetables (roasted, steamed, or sauteed) to the cooked macaroni before adding the cheese sauce. Alternatively, you can blend the cooked vegetables into the cheese sauce before pouring it over the macaroni.
Some popular veggies to add are broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, squash, spinach, and kale. If you’re keen on a vegetable-based mac and cheese meal, substitute the macaroni for cauliflower or zucchini noodles for a low-carb option.
The Bottom Line
Mac and cheese can easily be made vegan, keto-friendly, or just packed with veggies. With a few tweaks and substitutions, you can create a delicious and healthier version of this classic dish.
And if you’re looking for a tried and true vegan or keto mac and cheese recipe, try one of the above recipes.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Hidden Veggie Mac & Cheese Recipe by Tasty (2019, tasty.co)
- Keto Mac and Cheese Recipe (2020, diethood.com)
- Roasted Veggie Mac and Cheese Recipe (2017, cookinglight.com)
- The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese (2021, noracooks.com)