You might have fond memories of boxed mac and cheese as a kid, but their convenience — and deliciousness — come with a serious health risk. According to a recent report from The New York Times, high concentrations of harmful chemicals called phthalates were found in macaroni and cheese mixes made with powdered cheese. That’s why you’re always better off preparing your own dishes at home, so you know exactly what goes into them.
Whenever you’re craving this comfort food favorite, prepare one of these nutrition-boosting mac(aroni) and cheese recipes instead. We’ve got a few vegan, dairy-free options, too, made with creamy cashew “cheese.” You’ll wonder why you ever reached for Easy Mac in the first place.
8 Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipes to Make Now
If you want to amp up the nutritional value of your mac and cheese, this butternut squash recipe is the way to go. Rich in vitamin A, beta-carotene and fiber, butternut squash lends a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. In this dish, the squash is blended into the cheese sauce, which gets a spicy kick from cayenne pepper. Don’t forget to top the dish with the crunchy sage-scented breadcrumbs to complement the velvety noodles. Photo and recipe: Brandon Matzek / Kitchen Konfidence
Worcestershire sauce and horseradish help bring out the sharp, buttery and slightly sweet muenster and smoked gouda cheese sauce. For those who trying to cut back on calories and fat, muenster is lower in fat than cheddar. Meanwhile, for lactose sensitive folk, gouda has very little lactose, the sugar in dairy. Not exciting enough? Turn your dish into a confetti mac and cheese by adding diced red and green bell peppers, broccoli florets or peas. Photo and recipe: Dana Sandonato / Killing Thyme
This recipe makes it easy to practice portion control since it makes just four servings — a cup for everyone at the table. Instead of cheddar, food blogger Lindsay Ostrom uses gruyere, a semi-soft cheese with a slightly nutty and earthy taste. Plus, at eight grams of protein per ounce, a little goes a long way. The butternut squash in the cheese sauce also helps boosts the fiber content, so you feel more satisfied from every bite. Photo and recipe: Lindsay Ostrom / Pinch of Yum
You won’t miss the cheese at all in this incredibly creamy vegan mac and cheese recipe. Garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika and Dijon mustard infuse the cashew cheese with mouthwatering flavor. Turmeric boosts the anti-inflammatory benefits of this dish and gives it the golden yellow hue of cheddar. This recipe also calls for nutritional yeast, which provides loads of B vitamins. Pro tip: Soak the cashews overnight to help soften them up before blending. Photo and recipe: Renee Blair / Life by Daily Burn
We love the creative use of grated red potatoes, which mimic the chewy, soft texture of noodles, in this vegan-friendly mac and cheese recipe. Apple cider vinegar and nutritional yeast enhance the flavor and nutritional profile of the creamy cashew sauce. Last but not least? Broccoli florets for antioxidant power. Photo and recipe: Kathryne Taylor / Cookie and Kate
We know what you’re thinking: Bacon isn’t healthy. But in this lightened up dish, it’s a healthy indulgence. Thanks to unsweetened almond milk and Greek yogurt, you’ll cut back on the fat while adding some protein. Plus, Greek yogurt lends creaminess, so you don’t have to use as much cheese. Toss in some peas for hints of green, and you’ve got yourself a balanced meal. Photo and recipe: Chungah Rhee / Damn Delicious
Many of us don’t have time to bake a mac and cheese casserole. That’s where this 30-minute pasta dish comes in. As you wait for the pasta to boil, prepare the creamy vegan sauce and sauté the mushrooms and asparagus. Instead of cashews, we switch things up with vegan cream cheese. Photo and recipe: Dana Shultz / The Minimalist Baker
Mac and cheese for breakfast? Why not? In just 20 minutes, you can have a heavenly bowl of cheesey goodness to help you kick-start your day. Swapping in scrambled eggs for half the noodles will boost the protein and cut back on carbs in this super-easy recipe. The eggs are whisked with milk, hot sauce and mustard to make them extra creamy, while turkey bacon adds a crispy bite in each spoonful. Photo and recipe: Perry Santanachote / Life by Daily Burn