Healthy Mac & Cheese That’s Anything But Boring
Next level mac & cheese that’s not only healthy, but incredibly delicious! The cherry on top? Even little ones will love this dish. My preschooler loves this meal and I make a vegan version for my toddler who’s allergic to dairy. The recipe can also be made ahead of time! It truly is one of my favorite nutritious dinner recipes for the entire family and I know that you’ll love it, too!
RELATED: 30+ Healthy Pasta Recipes (Easy & Comforting!)
In This Post
- How to Make Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
- Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese (Easy Variation)
- Storing This Recipe
- More Wholesome Recipes You’ll Love
Ready to get started? Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:
Shells or Elbows – You can use any type of pasta shells or macaroni elbows for this recipe! From whole wheat variations to chickpea pasta (my personal favorite), any option is great.
Butternut Squash – Save time by purchasing pre-cubed, ready-to-cook butternut squash at the grocery store. Trust me, it’s 100% worth it if you have hungry little ones running around at your feet while you’re trying to cook dinner (been there soooo many times)!
Unsweetened Almond Milk – Unsweetened almond milk, soy milk, or cashew milk are the best options for this recipe. Other types of milk can work too (including regular milk, of course!), but beware of the texture and flavor of other types of milk that may over-sweeten the recipe!
Broth – Chicken or vegetable broth should both work great in this Healthy Mac & Cheese.
Avocado Oil – I love using avocado oil in savory recipes, since coconut oil tends to add too much flavor and sweetness. Olive oil or melted butter is a great option, too!
Cheddar Cheese – Want a dairy-free or vegan version? Substitute the shredded sharp cheddar cheese with vegan cheese!
Seasoning – A mix of garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and salt/pepper bring this recipe to life! Feel free to use freshly minced garlic and onion instead if desired.
Roasted or Steamed Broccoli – I roasted broccoli to mix in the mac & cheese, but steamed broccoli florets work great, too. Especially for little ones!
Cooked Bacon – Cooked, chopped bacon takes this recipe to another level! However, any type of protein works great. Chicken, ground beef, and roasted chickpeas are all great options!
Bonus points: add in a little bit of fresh thyme or sage leaves to really take this recipe to the next level!
How to Make Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Here’s the quick rundown for how to make Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese:
- Bring water to a boil and cook the pasta.
- Sauté the butternut squash over medium heat in a large saucepan or skillet.
- Add broth and let simmer.
- Blend into a puree.
- Whisk in the cheese and seasoning to create the cheese sauce.
- Mix in pasta, broccoli, and cooked bacon!
TIP: I love making this recipe in my Caraway Pan! Here’s a review of my favorite non-toxic non-stick pans for everyday cooking. 🙂
Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese (Easy Variation)
There are two ways to make Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese! The first is to simply substitute the cheddar cheese with vegan cheese. The second way is to omit the cheese completely and add in an extra 1/2 cup of plant-based (unsweet) milk!
Storing This Recipe
Healthy Mac & Cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months!
To reheat from the freezer, it’s best to let the mac & cheese thaw in the fridge the night before. Then heat up in the oven or microwave!
More Wholesome Recipes You’ll Love
- Spinach Ricotta Mac & Cheese
- Chicken Pesto Pasta Bake
- Healthy Chicken Broccoli Pasta Casserole
- Creamy Salmon Pasta Recipe
- Mac and Cheese Stuffed Acorn Squash
- Spicy Southwest Butternut Squash Casserole
Did you make this healthy mac & cheese recipe? Be sure to give it a rating below and tag your photos @jar.of.lemons!
Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
- 1 head broccoli (about 2 cups florets)
- 3 Tablespoons avocado oil, divided
- salt/pepper (to taste)
- 16 ounces whole wheat elbows or shells
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 4 cups)
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup cooked bacon (or protein of choice)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Wash and cut the broccoli, placing on a baking sheet.
- Drizzle with 1 Tablespoon oil and salt/pepper to taste.
- Roast the broccoli for about 25-30 minutes (or until tender).
- While the broccoli is roasting, cook the pasta according to package directions.
- Drain and set aside.
- Warm up the remaining oil in a deep sauté pan (or sauce pan) over medium-high heat.
- Add in the cubed butternut squash and sauté for about 4-6 minutes.
- Add salt/pepper to taste.
- Pour in the broth and bring to a simmer.
- Cover and let simmer for 12-15 minutes.
- Remove from heat, then add in the milk and stir.
- Use and immersion blender or pour the mixture into a blender and blend to create a smooth puree.
- Place back in the pan over low heat.
- Add in the garlic powder, paprika, onion powder, and salt/pepper.
- Add the shredded cheese and remove from heat, stirring often.
- Pour the pasta into the pan and stir until evenly coated.
- Mix in the roasted broccoli and cooked bacon (or protein of choice), serve, and enjoy!
- You can also steam the broccoli instead of roasting it, if desired.
- To make vegan, simply omit the cheese and add an extra 1/2 cup of plant-based (unsweet) milk. Another option is to use vegan cheese instead!
- Feel free to add chicken, ground beef, or any protein of choice.
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