HELLO MAC AND CHEESE. WITH ZUCCHINI. So creamy. So luxurious. So tantalizing.
Over the years I’ve gotten many requests for a healthy mac and cheese recipe and you know how I LOVE to lighten up comfort foods with irresistible creative flavors and twists. I perfected this zucchini mac and cheese about 4 years ago and it’s no different! It’s a lightened-up version of traditional mac and cheese that includes a TON of shredded zucchini.
Now I know what you may be thinking: zucchini in mac and cheese, realllllllyyyy? AND I SAY YES, REALLY. I promise with my whole Robert Pattinson-loving-heart that you can’t even taste the zucchini. It’s just pure golden creamy cheesy goodness up in that skillet.
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Welcome to the AK Summer Series
For the rest of the summer, we’ll be dedicating each week to select summer produce! Week 4 is HERE and we’re celebrating beautiful zucchini continuing with this delicious zucchini mac and cheese recipe. Stay tuned on the blog and on Instagram for each week’s produce highlight, fun videos, and more.
What’s in this zucchini mac and cheese?
This zucchini mac and cheese is made with super simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry and refrigerator. The entire recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, making it perfect for delicious weeknight meals that you, your partner and kiddos will literally INHALE. Here are the 7 key ingredients you’ll need:
- Pasta: I LOVE using shells because the cheese coats the inside of each shell and gives it unbelievable cheesy flavor. Feel free to use gluten free pasta too!
- Butter: you only need two tablespoons for the entire mac and cheese recipe.
- Flour: you can use whole wheat, all purpose flour, or gluten free all purpose flour to thicken up that delicious cheese sauce.
- Spices: we’re adding garlic powder and onion powder to flavor that delicious cheese sauce.
- Milk of choice: I typically make this with unsweetened almond or cashew milk because we don’t buy regular milk. However, you can use whatever milk you’d like. If you want a richer mac and cheese, use 2% or whole.
- Sharp cheddar cheese: I recommend shredding your own cheese from a block of cheese. It melts much better because it doesn’t have the stabilizers found in pre-shredded cheese.
- Zucchini: our secret star veggie that adds the perfect boost of veggies to this cheesy skillet.
Customize this healthier zucchini mac and cheese
- Choose a fun cheese. It’s fun to pick a different cheese to top the mac and cheese. I tried a spicy cheddar and it was incredible, but pepper jack, parmesan, sharp cheddar or gouda would also be delicious. It’s up to you!
- Add more veggies. Feel free to add even more veggies like peas or broccoli.
- Add a boost of protein. This dish would be delicious with chicken or chickpeas!
Jazz it up with a breadcrumb topping
This zucchini mac and cheese would be delicious with a crispy breadcrumb topping! To add one:
- Mix 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter
- Sprinkle it on top of your mac and cheese
- Bake it for about 20 minutes and enjoy!
Tips for making zucchini mac and cheese
This spectacular mac and cheese is easier to make than you think! You’ll only need one pot to boil the pasta and a skillet or another large pot to make the mac and cheese. Besides watching the video to guide you, here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when you make this recipe:
- Squeeze out the zucchini. Make sure to squeeze the zucchini of all excess moisture. I demonstrate how to do this in the video below.
- Use a block of cheese. I recommend shredding a block of cheese instead of using a package. It generally melts better when shredded from the block!
- Timing is key for the slurry. When you make your slurry sauce, it’s important to have all your ingredients already measured out and ready to go because it’s a quick process! Once the butter is melted, you’ll whisk in a little bit of the flour and then slowly add in milk, a little bit at a time, alternating with the flour and vigorously whisking away any lumps. You should end up with a smooth paste every time without too many lumps.
- Cheese it up. At the end, you can either put the mac and cheese under the broiler for a few minutes to really get the top melted and golden, OR you can feel free to simply stir in the cheddar cheese you put on top.
How to store & reheat mac and cheese
- To store: store this healthier zucchini mac and cheese in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days (if it lasts that long!)
- To reheat: you can reheat it in the microwave to save time, but I would recommend adding it to a lightly oiled baking dish and heating it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. This will help the mac and cheese get that bubbly cheese factor back without drying out.
Watch me make the zucchini mac and cheese
More zucchini recipes you’ll love
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I hope you love this easy zucchini mac and cheese recipe! If you make it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
Zucchini Mac and Cheese
Deliciously creamy zucchini mac and cheese is the ultimate, healthy comfort food that adds in extra veggies! Make this healthier, easy zucchini mac and cheese for a weeknight dinner that the whole family will love. Options to add extra protein and even more veggies, too!
- 10 ounces dry pasta shells (gluten free if desired)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour (or sub regular flour or GF all purpose flour)
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened cashew milk, almond milk or regular milk (from the carton or homemade if you prefer)
- ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 oz sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese)
- 1 ½ heaping cups shredded zucchini that’s been squeezed of excess moisture with a paper towel
- For topping:
- 2 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and reserved for the topping (or about ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese)
First boil the noodles until al dente, according to the directions on the package. Once done cooking, drain and set aside.
While the noodles are boiling, make a slurry: In a large oven safe skillet or pot add butter and place over medium heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in a little bit of the flour and then slowly add in milk, a little bit at a time, alternating with the flour and vigorously whisking away any lumps. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes stirring every so often, until the sauce thickens up similar to a gravy. Stir in garlic powder, onion powder, salt and LOTS of freshly ground black pepper.
Next add in 6 ounces (or about 1 ½ cups) of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and stir until completely melted. Finally fold in cooked noodles and shredded zucchini. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED: Top mac and cheese with 2 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese. At this point you can either serve the mac and cheese as is and just fold in the extra cheddar you just added, or remove from heat and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden. Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side dish.
See the full post for tips, tricks and ways to customize!
Serving: 1servingCalories: 514kcalCarbohydrates: 62.6gProtein: 24.6gFat: 19.9gSaturated Fat: 10.6gFiber: 4.9gSugar: 2.8g
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats
This post was originally published on August 6th, 2019, and republished on August 2nd, 2023.