In spite of it being peak soup season, I’m currently obsessed with healthy mac and cheese recipes. Soups, stews, and chili are great, but it’s tough to compete with cheese. If you’re with me, I think you’ll appreciate the return of the mac and the addition of this chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese to the growing collection.
I’ve dubbed it a lower carb mac and cheese since once serving only has 21 grams of carbs and more protein than carbs. You read that correctly, mac and cheese with more protein than carbs. Need I say more about the nutritional breakdown for this recipe?
Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese Ingredients
Like I said in my garlic parmesan mac and cheese with chicken recipe, this recipe seems a bit lengthier than what you’re accustomed to from my site. But don’t worry, it’s as simple as adding everything to pan and stirring after you’ve cooked the chicken.
Pan Fried Ranch Chicken
If you’ve tried the garlic parmesan mac and cheese or my naked chicken tenders, this recipe calls for a similar pan frying method. If you’ve been searching for an easy way to make tender, juicy chicken that doesn’t suck, check that out next. The only difference with this chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese will be cutting them into pieces prior to pan frying.
Bacon Ranch Mac & Cheese
For the cheese sauce, you’ll be using a blend of reduced fat cheddar, light butter, and Greek yogurt. That, combined with some sliced bacon and ranch dip seasoning is a simple, low calorie cheese sauce recipe.
Banza: The Key to Lower Carb Mac and Cheese
Similar to my easy taco pasta bake and green chile mac and cheese, I went with Banza’s pasta shells for this recipe. Banza makes a chickpea pasta that’s lower carb and higher protein than traditional pasta. It tastes great so don’t even think about calling it an IMPASTA.
Here’s a quick macro comparison between Banza and my time-saving recommendation, Barilla Ready Pasta Elbows. The servings are equal to what you’d use in this recipe.
Banza: 760 calories, 128 grams of carbs, and 56 grams of protein
Ready Pasta: 840 calories, 168 grams of carbs, and 28 grams of protein
Not a huge difference, but it definitely helps if you’re on a lower carb diet. I’d like to add that I’m not affiliated with Banza. There are comparable products with similar nutrition profiles, Banza is just what I find in stores near me and I love the product.
The MVP: Crispy Topping
If you’d like to save a few calories (and time in the oven), you could always leave the crispy topping off. But you’d be making a huge mistake. On a per serving basis, the topping only adds about 30 calories.
And if you try this chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese with and without the topping, you’ll kick yourself for skipping the topping.
After I posted my extra cheesy hash brown casserole that also has a Corn Flakes topping, I received some questions about swapping Corn Flakes for other cereals like Rice Krispies. I can’t say for sure since I’ve yet to test any, but I would imagine most crispy cereals would work. You may need to add a bit more butter, though.
You could also use breadcrumbs or other comparable ingredients to create the crispy topping. Check out my ultimate protein mac and cheese for a bacon and panko bread crumb topping.
Are You Ready for a Grate Time?
Sorry, that was a cheesy dad joke. You’ll find the printable recipe card is below. In case you’re looking for more mac and cheese recipes, check out my 20-minute bacon mac and cheese, queso mac and cheese with ground beef or low fat cajun mac and cheese recipes next!
And when you make this chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese, the world needs to know about it. Take a photo and tag me on Instagram @mason_woodruff or join my free Facebook group and share it with the posse!
- 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenderloins, or chicken breast
- 1 Tbsp (16g) Olive Oil
- 1/2 packet (15g) Ranch Dip Seasoning
- 1 tsp Chili Powder
Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese
- 1 box (8oz) Banza Pasta Shells
- 1 1/2 C (168g) Reduced Fat Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- 1/4 C (56g) Light Butter, I used Land O' Lakes
- 1 C (227g) Fat Free Greek Yogurt, plain
- 1/2 packet (15g) Ranch Dip Seasoning
- 6 slices Precooked Bacon, cut into small strips
- 2 Tbsp (28g) Light Butter
- 2 C (56g) Corn Flakes Cereal
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta. If you're using Ready Pasta, skip this step.
- Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and add to a bowl with the olive oil, half a packet of ranch seasoning, and chili powder. Toss/stir until the chicken is evenly coated.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the chicken and cook for 4-5 minutes untouched (until the bottoms have a slightly crispy layer) before flipping and cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
- When the chicken is fully cooked, add the cheese sauce ingredients (except the pasta) to the skillet and stir until the cheese melts and everything is mixed evenly.
- Once the cheese sauce is evenly mixed, add the cooked pasta and stir once more. Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish or continue to the next step if you're using an oven safe skillet.
- Microwave the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 seconds before mixing with the Corn Flakes. Fold the melted butter into the cereal until it's evenly coated. Top the mac and cheese with the Corn Flakes mixture.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.
- Each serving has 8 Smart Points.
- In case you don't have a food scale, a 150g serving is roughly 3/4 cup. Also, get a food scale and check out my guide to using a food scale for tracking macros and cooking.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Servings Serving Size: 150 grams
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 280Total Fat: 13gCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 22g