All-Natural, Healthy Creamy Mac & Cheese in 25 Minutes

By: Penelope Wall

This super-creamy stovetop mac & cheese is loaded with veggies plus gets an extra boost of fiber from whole-wheat pasta.

healthy stove top mac & cheese

I’m not gonna lie to you—I have boxed mac & cheese at home. There are two boxes of shells and cheese sitting in my cupboard just pining to be my next dinner. Boxed mac & cheese has its place. But nine times out of ten I just want the real deal. I want real extra-sharp Cheddar (just enough to make it taste great) and I want to be able to pronounce what goes onto my dinner plate.

Related: Healthy Mac & Cheese Recipes

That's why I love this no-fail recipe for stovetop mac & cheese developed by the EatingWell Test Kitchen. Not only is this ultra-creamy version of mac & cheese nearly as fast as the boxed variety (you make it on the stovetop), but your family will be able to pronounce every ingredient. It’s healthier too: skipping the boxed mac & cheese and upgrading to whole-wheat pasta boosts fiber. Cooking your favorite veg with the pasta adds a stealth serving of vegetables to boost nutrients. Here's how to cook up the best homemade mac & cheese on your stovetop in under 30 minutes:

Basic Stovetop Mac & Cheese Recipe

Quick Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Peas

Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Peas

Active Time: 25 minutes | Total Time: 25 minutes

Serves 4: 1 1/2 cups each 

8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles 

2-4 cups Vegetables (see below)

1 3/4 cups reduced-fat milk, divided

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons Flavor Boost (see below)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 1/3 cups shredded or crumbled Cheese (see below)

2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese

2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar

1/4 cup Topper (see below)

Step 1. Add Veggies

Quick Stovetop Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Veggies love cheese sauce, so add them to your mac & cheese for a one-and-done meal. Cook Vegetables and 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles according to package directions in a large saucepan of boiling water. (If using peas, add them during the last 2 minutes of cooking time.) Drain.

Vegetables:

  • 4 cups chopped dark leafy greens
  • 2 cups diced beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kohlrabi, winter squash (1/2-inch)
  • 2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
  •  

Step 2. Amp the Flavor

Quick Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Broccoli Rabe

Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Broccoli Rabe

A flavor boost in the cheese sauce gives it extra oomph. Whisk 3 tablespoons all-­purpose flour, 1 tablespoon Flavor Boost and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper with ¼ cup reduced-fat milk. 

Flavor Boost:

  • Mashed roasted garlic
  • Dried herbs, such as rosemary
  • Lemon zest
  • Dijon mustard
  • Pesto
  • Harissa
  • Tomato paste
  • Minced capers
  •  

Step 3. Make Your Sauce

Quick Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Kohlrabi

Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Kohlrabi

A bit of cream cheese makes the sauce luscious. Heat 1½ cups reduced-fat milk in the saucepan over medium-high heat until just simmering. Add the flour mixture and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 1⅓ cups shredded or crumbled cheese, 2 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese and 2 teaspoons white-wine ­vinegar until the cream cheese is melted. Stir the pasta and vegetables into the sauce.

Cheese:

  • Crumbled goat cheese 
  • Shredded Cheddar, fontina, Gouda or Gruyère 
  •  

Step 4. Top It Off

Quick Stovetop Mac and Cheese with Beets

Pictured Recipe: Quick Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Beets

Sprinkle with ¼ cup Topper for a final touch.

Toppers:

  • Diced salami 
  • Chopped fresh herbs 
  • Toasted breadcrumbs or nuts
  •  

Watch: How to Make Healthier Baked Mac & Cheese

Related: