My kids love eating a homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. However, in our home, things have shifted from eating gluten free. We now eat clean 95% of the time and addnutritional whole foods to any and all recipes. It was important to create an amazing recipe for macaroni and cheese that our kids would still love as equally as the old unhealthy version.
How do you Make a Healthy Macaroni and Cheese Recipe?
Creating a truly healthy macaroni and cheese recipe that actually tastes good is easier said than done. But it can be done! I’ve played around a lot with trying to make a healthy macaroni and cheese and this one is by far the best as far as good taste and good nutrition.
It’s very low in cheese (believe it or not, it has less than 2 tablespoons of cheese per serving!) and it is loaded with phytonutrients from the cashew nuts and butternut squash. Best of all, is super easy to make!
You can use truffle oil in this dish, or if you prefer a more mild flavor, you can use cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil.
If you aren’t familiar with nutritional yeast in the healthy mac and cheese recipe below you can buy this nutrient-packed super healthy food at any natural foods store or in bulk from Whole Foods Market.
Nutritional yeast (We love Bragg’s brand and you can find it here!) is different than baking yeast because it is inactive, meaning that it does not feed on sugars in your body or promote candida albicans, which is a yeast-like fungus that lives in the digestive tract. For this reason, those who are advised to avoid yeast (most always this refers to “active” yeast) can almost always tolerate nutritional yeast.
Nutritional yeast is a vegan source of complete protein and a rich source of B vitamins (including vitamin B12, which is extremely difficult to get from plant foods.) And, it tastes delicious! Nutritional yeast melts and has a mild cheddar cheese flavor, perfect for a healthy mac and cheese recipe (it’s also super yummy in soups, sprinkled on kale chips, mixed in sauces, dips and salad dressings.)
You’ll notice this recipe makes a great big batch and the reason is it’s just as easy to make a big batch as a little batch. Leftovers can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Pin this graphic to your favorite dinners board!
Add a Salad to your Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Greens are jam-packed with all sorts of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The phytonutrients are what protect the plant but they also protect the plant-eater (you and your little kiddies!!) by supporting a healthy immune system, reducing inflammation, etc.
Calorie for calorie, dark leafy greens deliver the most abundant, broadest spectrum of nutrients of just about any food in the whole world. For example, did you know dark leafy greens contain hefty doses of calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium?
I know how difficult it can be to introduce raw dark leafy greens to kids but mild tasting raw greens, like romaine lettuce, are very kid-friendly (as long as you dress it with a yummy dressing!) A simple chopped fresh salad with a healthy dressing (preferably one that also delivers omega-3 essential fats, like the recipe below) is one of the easiest and healthiest ways to get your kids to eat their greens. And, in case you’re wondering, here’s how salad greens rank, from most nutritious to least: spinach leaves, arugula, watercress, endive, romaine, Bibb, Boston, and iceberg—basically, the darker the green the better.
A yummy salad dressing is makes your salad even more delicious. I’m not a huge fan of store-bought dressings because: 1) they are typically made with highly refined empty calorie vegetable oils and 2) they usually just don’t taste all that good.
Making your own salad dressing is incredibly easy and SO well worth it! Check out my recipe for the omega-3 rich Caesar salad dressing before but it’s such a hit, I just had to post it again. Although romaine is the traditional lettuce served with Caesar, feel free to serve it with any green you like.
Love Spicy Food? Try this!
We love a little kick in our food and have recently found Texas Pete® Original Hot Sauce as a new favorite. For our dinner, we grilled some boneless, skinless chicken thighs and added to our macaroni and cheese plate. Just don’t forget to add a few (or several, like we did!) drops of Texas Pete® Original Hot Sauce (you can get a 2 pack for $10!!) for a buffalo chicken style macaroni and cheese recipe.
Now, for that delicious, healthy recipe for macaroni and cheese using butternut squash, cashews and nutritional yeast.Print
Creating a truly healthy mac and cheese recipe that actually tastes good is easier said than done. But it can be done! I’ve played around a lot with trying to make a healthy mac and cheese and this one is by far the best as far as good taste and good nutrition.
- 1 cup roasted butternut squash, see notes below
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 2 hours in water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon truffle oil or extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon unrefined sea salt
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast, such as this one from Bragg’s
- ¼ pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 6 cups cooked chickpea pasta or gluten free pasta
- 1 cup shredded dairy free organic cheese or you can use organic sharp cheddar
- Roast butternut squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butternut squash on a baking sheet (check out this post for the best non-toxic baking pan!), skin sides down. Rub the flesh with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt to taste. Roast butternut squash for about 35-40 minutes, or until flesh is fork-tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, scoop out 1 cup of pulp and set aside (reserve leftover roasted squash for another dish or eat as-is.)
- Place cooled roasted butternut squash, soaked cashews, lemon juice, water, oil, salt, nutritional yeast, cayenne pepper, and paprika in a high speed blender, such as this one from Vitamix. Process until smooth and creamy.
- Place the cooked pasta in a large saucepan, such as this 5.5 quart one from Xtrema. Stir in the butternut squash sauce and add the grated cheese and stir until well combined. Serve warm.
BAKED VERSION OPTIONAL: We love baked macaroni and cheese and if you prefer to make it this way, just add the macaroni and cheese from step 3 into a deep dish baker, such as this unglazed stoneware baker from Pampered Chef. Add 1/3 cup of grated cheese to the top and return to the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes.