This macaroni and cheese is healthy and easy!
A healthy eating plan doesn’t mean that you have to save macaroni and cheese for your cheat day! While the classic comfort dish has a notorious reputation for carrying its weight in fat and calories, we’ve brought you a lightened up version of the iconic meal with our mouthwatering Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese! Each bite is bursting with cheesy, creamy goodness!
Does Guilt-Free Macaroni and Cheese Actually Exist?
Imagine a healthier version of mac and cheese that actually tastes good. Couldn’t you just squeak with excitement? With our slow cooker recipe, this version exists, and you seriously won’t believe your taste buds! This family-friendly dinner offers rich flavor and hearty consistency. Not to mention, it’s a cinch to make. Just bust out your handy-dandy slow cooker and let the appliance work its magic!
This slow cooker macaroni and cheese recipe will become a regular in your household. Making healthy mac and cheese the conventional way can get a little tricky. Fortunately, using your slow cooker ensures an ultra creamy, uber-flavorful finish each and every time. It makes for a super exciting weeknight dinner, and we promise all you cheese lovers will rejoice.
Our Recipe Uses Lighter Ingredients
Without skimping on flavor, we’ve lightened up this recipe by subbing in lighter alternatives for heavier ingredients. For example, our macaroni dish uses 1% milk instead of full-fat milk, shaving off a hefty chunk of calories. Meanwhile, it lightens the fat content by incorporating egg whites instead of whole eggs. This drool-worthy dish spotlights sharp cheddar cheese, one of our absolute favorites, and ditches the butter entirely.
Finally, whole-wheat pasta serves as the backbone of this yummy comfort dish. This healthier pasta option contains more nutrients than white pasta such as magnesium, iron, and zinc. At the same time, it packs in more protein, complex carbs, and fiber than white pasta. That said, whole-wheat pasta will satisfy so much better than white pasta, and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Each serving of our crave-worthy slow cooker macaroni and cheese clocks in at just 244 calories. Conventional macaroni and cheese recipes can carry upwards of 500 calories per serving, so this version is pretty darn impressive. It packs a protein punch, and will definitely hit the spot when you need your cheesy fix.
The Slow Cooker Creation Process
This recipe is almost too easy. It basically just involves whisking together milk, egg whites, and cornstarch in your slow cooker. Next, stir in the grated cheese and pasta shells and cook on low for up to two hours. Now the key is to stir on a pretty regular basis after the first hour- we recommend every 15 minutes or so. This ensures that pasta cooks evenly, and allows you to keep an eye on everything.
For extra sauce that tastes absolutely delectable over a side of veggies, double up on the milk! Finally, if you crave that crispy, crunchy top, place your dish in a broiler oven for 3-5 minutes afterwards.
Pair This Dish With A Tasty Veggie Side!
We believe there is room in anyone’s diet for a special treat on occasion. So enjoy this as a side dish with a serving of lean protein and a nice big heap of veggies.
Pair your mouthwatering macaroni and cheese dish with one of these fantastic recipes for a delicious, well-balanced meal!
Also, if you liked this healthy slow-cooker recipe, make sure to check out these 21 Healthy low-Carb Meals to Make In The Slow Cooker!
Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups milk low-fat
- 2 egg whites
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch optional: tapioca starch
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese grated, 2% sharp cheddar works best
- 2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
- Whisk together the milk, egg whites and cornstarch in your slow cooker insert. Be sure to whisk well.
- Stir in the grated cheese and pasta shells.
Cook on low for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
NOTES ON THE RECIPE:
- After the first hour, stir the food on a semi regular basis. About every 15 minutes or so. This will do 2 things. It will allow the pasta to cook evenly. It will also allow you to keep any eye on the pasta and see when it's done. Every slow cooker is different, so the timing for this recipe may be slightly different on this for you. Pasta goes from "cooked" to "mush" very quickly. So be sure to keep stirring on occasion to keep an eye on things.
- This was made in a 3 quart slow cooker. Should you wish to double the recipe, double everything except the cornstarch (use 1 tbsp.) and cook in a 4 or 5 quart slow cooker (we used a 5 quart for doubling the recipe). Time and temp does not change when doubling the recipe.
- Also, if doubling the milk, you will most likely end up with extra sauce. This sauce is wonderful over a side of veggies.
- For a crispier top, place under broiler oven for 3-5 minutes.
- We recommend penne pasta with this slow cooker version. Smaller shells don't hold up well in the slow cooker.
Have you made this recipe?
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on 1/13/2012.
Hey, I ordered your cookbook from QVC over two weeks ago. I actually ordered it before it was previewed. Is there a problem with shipping?
Thanks, Valerie Patterson
Valerie, Thank-you! No problem with the shipping…first orders will ship before the end of Jan.
I just wanted to let you know that I made this last night at 9:30 so that we could have it with your sloppy joes for dinner tonight and when it was done cooking, my husband and I tasted it to see how good it was, and we could not stop eating it! Thank you so much for another fabulous recipe!!!
Sandy, You are so welcome!! We're happy both you and your husband enjoyed! My husband loves it too! 🙂
Thanks! This would be great to bring to a cookout as well so the kids have something to enjoy! Does rotini hold up?
Yummo!! Ultimate favorite dish!!
Slow Cooker Mac and cheese…decadent indulgence:)
My kids even ate this, usually they will not eat the whole wheat pasta, thank you!
Can this be frozen for another meal?
Riscan, Sure…of course, it's always better fresh. You may want to add a little additional milk when rewarming.
What is your opinion of Dreamfield Pasta? I'm not a fan of Whole Wheat Pastas, the texture just isn't right But Dreamfield is delicious. Tastes just like regular pasta
Terri, It's funny you ask. About a year ago I was flying to visit my daughter and sat next to a lady who knew the doctor that created this pasta. I couldn't find it at the time but will look for again. I read about it on their website just now…it sounds healthy.
Does anyone know if this can be made on the stovetop instead of the crockpot? If so, how? Sounds yummy, but would like to make it as a side for another crock pot meal!
Sure! Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Just cook the pasta according to directions on the box. Combine the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and pour over pasta. Add all ingredients to an appropriately sized casserole dish. Bake uncovered until cheese is melted and bubbly. Enjoy!
Is there anyway to replace the egg whites with something else? Egg sensitivity 🙁
Kelly, Just add 2 tablespoons milk for one egg white.
Can unsweetened almond milk, or even skim milk, be used instead of 1%?
Similar (and simpler) recipe is 1cup dry pasta any type, 2 cups milk or soy milk, and two cups cheese. Distribute evenly in a 9 x 9 baking pan. Bake 50 minutes at 350, covered.
If you want the top toasted, or if too fluid for your taste, uncover under broiler for a "few" minutes – obviously you have to watch it at this point.I often add meats like bacon, ham, sliced sausage, or veggies broccoli, cauliflower or favorite squash to turn the whole thing into a casserole. Double if you wish, same time and temperature, larger pan.
Jimmy, Thanks for tips!
What if you wanted to add chicken to this, any tips?
KM, Add 1" cubes after being cooked.
will this work with gluten free pasta? a lot of it turns into mush very quickly =/ i have celiac… wheat kills me =(
Gwen, Never tried it with gluten free. Maybe try doing the gluten free version on the stovetop. Keep us posted!
Mmmmmm! Mac-N-Cheese, can't go wrong with that. : ) LOVE IT
If I have to stir this every 15 minutes, what is the advantage to using the slow cooker over just making it on the stovetop?
Melissa, Maybe the stovetop will work best for you. Many people love this recipe and don’t mind stirring.
Read my mind Melissa!
Does anyone know if you can use glueten free pasta???
I know you stated that doubling the recipe would result in extra sauce but my results were just noodles and soupy/barely-cheesy milk 🙁 None of the cheese stuck to the noodles and I'm really bummed! I did use skim milk as it was all I had on hand. Could that have been the cause?
Katie, Oh no!!! I can’t say for certain, but using skim milk can effect the outcome. I use 1% milk without problems.
Making it again as we all loved it the first time. Added Grilled organic chicken breast and a salad. Yum! Thanks !
Made this tonight for my hubby and myself… It was DELICIOUS!!!! We added some bacon, green onion, and red pepper flakes to spice it up. LOVE your recipes!!!
Stephanie, Thanks so much! 🙂
I just made this and I'm not completely thrilled. I think next time I'm going to use regular penne rather than whole wheat. The pasta texture is just off.
This might be a stupid question- is dry pasta uncooked pasta?
Nikki, Yes the dry pasta is uncooked pasta:).
I doubled the recipe as instructed and I too (like an earlier post) ended up with runny not thick at all sauce. I did everything the same (used 1% milk) except used 7 oz reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese. Any ideas what I can add to the sauce to fix this?
Jackie, Add additional cheese and that should do the trick. I just created a new recipe for the slow cooker that doesn’t required pre-boiling the noodles. It’s easy and delicious. Would you like to me to email you when it’s on the site? If so, send me a quick email letting me know. firstname.lastname@example.org 🙂
Do you just add dry pasta out of the box or is it pre cooked? Never used pasta in a slow cookers before
Hi, Bianca. You’ll use dry pasta for this recipe. Just note that pasta goes from “cooked” to “mush” very quickly. So be sure to keep stirring on occasion to keep an eye on things.
Question- I usually make the batch of cheese and then split and pour over cauliflower for me and pasta for everyone else… would it screw anything up if I just made the cheese this way?
Marissa, That should be fine.