Mac plus cheese plus Mexican equals comfort food heaven!
What are your favorite comfort foods? Is mac and cheese one of them? Does Mexican food come to mind? What about a steaming, gooey, home-cooked casserole? Or a bite of ground meat, like meatballs or a cheeseburger? What if we told you that we’ve combined all of those decadent, comforting foods into one healthy casserole recipe? You might scoff at us and write that recipe off as too fattening, but you know better! We’re Skinny Ms.! We can take a cheesy, meaty, baked casserole and make it clean eating style, low in calories, and good for you!
Here’s how it’s done. We’ve recreated macaroni and cheese using whole wheat pasta and low-fat cheese, two ingredients that are great for you, and big improvements on the originals! Then, we’ve added chili powder, cumin, and salsa, all healthy, low-cal ingredients that make give any casserole that Mexican flair! As for the rich, hearty meat you’re looking for, we’ve substituted turkey for beef or pork, because it’s lower in fat, cholesterol, and calories. When you mix these healthy ingredients and bake them up in a casserole, you wind up with a comfort food dish that is as healthy as it is tasty.
Serve this to your kids any night of the week. They’re sure to gobble it down! Or bring it to your next potluck. People won’t be able to resist its many charms, and when they hear how healthy it is, remember to send them the recipe!
Tex-Mex Meaty Mac 'n' Cheese Casserole
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 yellow onion small, peeled and diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- 6 ounces whole-grain macaroni dry or penne, or 3 cups cooked
- 16 ounces salsa jar, no sugar added
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 cup cilantro freshly chopped, plus more for garnish
- 2 cups Mexican style cheese shredded, low-fat (optional cheddar)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large skillet over medium heat cook ground turkey and onion, breaking up turkey as it cooks. Once turkey is cooked and there's no more pink color, drain and add to a large mixing bowl.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil, add 1 teaspoon salt, then add pasta. Cook pasta just until al dente, drain.
- Add to the meat and onions, chili powder, cumin, pepper, and cilantro, stir to combine. Add remaining ingredients and toss with a large spoon until combined. Spoon into a 9 x 13-inch casserole pan. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and casserole is heat through.
Have you made this recipe?
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More Tex-Mex Recipes to Enjoy:
Tex-Mex Style Macaroni & Cheese
Clean Eating Mexican Corn on the Cob
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Speak your mind in our comments section! We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, and on our other content.
Can you do this in the crock pot?
Stephanie, I've never made this recipe in the slow cooker since it takes so little time cooking in the oven. It should be fine just cook the ground turkey until
it loses its pink color, before adding to the slow cooker. Keep us posted!
Is 9 smartpoints calculated using 85% or 99% lean ground turkey? What are the smartpoints based on the other turkey? Thank you!
The data was calculated using 99% lean ground turkey. Using 85%, the SmartPoints would increase to 11.
Is it okay to use ground beef instead of the ground turkey?
J, Sure, lean ground beef is fine too. 🙂
What is the SERVING size per serving?
Marlene, Approximately 1 cup. 🙂
Can you prep and freeze this? If so, how long do you cook and at what temperature? Can you substitute venison?
Great question, Dora! You can prep and freeze this – cook the casserole as directed in the recipe. Cover well and freeze. To reheat, remove from the freezer the night before and place in the refrigerator. Reheat in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes until heated through.
In regards to the venison, it can be substituted but will change the nutrition information. Make sure to drain and liquid off the meat after cooking!
What would the points be for the new freestyle program? When I calculated it, it came out to 3 points (1 of the 12 servings). Is that accurate?
Hi Kristy, we calculated this recipe at 4 SmartPoints (Freestyle). We’ve updated the recipe to reflect the new points!
We make this recipe whether we are watching calories are not. It’s very tasty, filling, and there are plenty of leftovers that reheat nicely for our household of two. We only omit the cilantro. Everything else goes in. We love it!
LaDonna, That’s a win win! Thank you so much for the feedback.