Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Chicken

I recently polled my Facebook group full of healthy eaters for Thanksgiving recipes they’d like to see. Unsurprisingly, the dominant winner was the mac and cheese variations option. So, here we go. While this garlic parmesan mac and cheese with chicken may not be traditional Thanksgiving flavors, it’s the first of many to come in response to the poll.

My primary objective with this recipe was to make a higher volume mac and cheese (more food, fewer calories per serving), and chicken is a volume eating superstar. One serving of this garlic parmesan mac and cheese weighs 175 grams (about one cup) and has 21 grams of protein with only 30 grams of carbs. I can put some food away, but I struggled to finish two servings.

A lower calorie recipe for garlic parmesan mac and cheese with chicken that pairs cheesy macaroni with pan fried chicken and crispy Italian breadcrumbs.

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How to Make Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Chicken

Before you look at the recipe and get overwhelmed (it’s slightly longer than most of my recipes), know that it’s really simple stuff. If you’ve tried my garlic parmesan chicken pasta, this mac and cheese uses a very similar chicken recipe. Other than cutting and pan frying the chicken, the rest of the recipe is simple assembly.

Here’s a quick rundown of the steps:

  1. Prepare and cook the chicken.
  2. Microwave pasta. (Yes, microwave.)
  3. Add the cheese sauce ingredients to a bowl and microwave again.
  4. Mix the pasta, cheese sauce, and chicken together.
  5. Top with butter and Italian breadcrumbs before baking.

That’s it!

how to make garlic parmesan mac and cheese with chicken

Looking for another chicken mac option? Check out my green chile mac and cheese with chicken recipe.

Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese Ingredients

I’ll quickly run through most of the ingredients and touch on modification notes or things to know.

Barilla Ready Pasta

Since the recipes requires a bit more prep than most, I opted to go with a precooked pasta. This is the same pasta I used for my bacon cheeseburger healthy Hamburger Helper copycat recipe. It tastes great and saves a ton of time boiling water and cooking pasta.

That said, you could certainly reduce the carbs and increase the protein by using something like Banza’s chickpea pasta. Check out my easy taco pasta bake, chipotle ground beef mac and cheese, or Italian sausage pasta bake for examples of their pasta in action.

mac and cheese with chicken overhead


The recipe calls for shredded mozzarella exclusively, but you can certainly use other cheeses. I used a bit of shredded parmesan in the cheese sauce mixture in my first run and really enjoyed it, though it was a tiny bit salty.

If you’re no cheese whiz (see what I did there?), you could always use an Italian cheese blend.


Thinking about skipping out on the breadcrumb topping? I’d urge you to reconsider, as the crispy topping truly makes the dish.

However, if you wanted to reduce the carbs a tiny bit, you could replace half the breadcrumbs with equal parts shredded parmesan cheese. I used both in recipe testing and was torn between the two. Ultimately, I thought the seasoning on the Italian breadcrumbs really enhances the Italian-ish mac and cheese flavor.

mac and cheese with chicken recipe

Greek Yogurt

As long as you don’t use cream cheese, you can swap the Greek yogurt with just about any creamy ingredient. I like the protein boost and flavor of Greek yogurt when combined with garlic and other flavors, but other cheeses and creamy ingredients could add their own flare to the mac and cheese.

Light Butter

The macronutrient difference between using regular butter and light butter for this garlic parmesan mac and cheese:

Light butter: 400 calories and 48 grams of fat

Regular butter: 830 calories and 92 grams of fat

If you make the switch, you can divide the difference by the number of servings and add that to each serving.

mac and cheese with chicken

Final Notes

The full recipe is below. When you make this garlic parmesan mac and cheese with chicken, I’d love to see it. Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram @mason_woodruff or join my free Facebook group I mentioned in the intro and share it with everyone!

garlic parmesan mac and cheese recipe with chicken

Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Chicken

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Cheesy macaroni with pan fried garlic parmesan chicken topped with crispy Italian breadcrumbs.


Garlic Parmesan Chicken

  • 1 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenderloins, or chicken breast
  • 1 Tbsp (15g) Minced Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp (15g) Reduced Fat Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper, reduce if you're spice sensitive

Mac and Cheese

  • 2 packages (8 oz each) Barilla Ready Pasta Elbows
  • 3/4 C (170g) Fat Free Greek Yogurt, plain
  • 1/4 C (56g) Light Butter, I used Land O' Lakes
  • 1 C (112g) Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 2 Tbsp (30g) Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Black Pepper

Crispy Topping

  • 1/4 C (56g) Light Butter
  • 1/2 C (56g) Italian Breadcrumbs


  1. Preheat your oven to 400F and spray an 8x8 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and add them to a large bowl. Toss the chicken pieces in the garlic, grated parm, black pepper, and red pepper. garlic parmesan mac and cheese with chicken step 2
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with nonstick cooking spray. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken to the pan. Leave untouched for 5 minutes before flipping.  mac and cheese with chicken step 4
  4. Cook for an additional 2 minutes before reducing the heat to low and covering for 6 minutes. garlic parmesan chicken in the frying pan
  5. While the chicken cooks, microwave the pasta according to the directions on the package. Set aside.
  6. Mix the remaining mac and cheese ingredients in a bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals for 2-3 minutes, stirring at each interval. The cheese sauce should be smooth but it doesn't have to be 100% homogenous. 
  7. Once the chicken is finished cooking, add the pasta and cheese sauce to the pan. Stir until everything is evenly mixed. Add everything to the baking dish and smooth out the top. mac and cheese with chicken step 5
  8. Microwave the remaining butter for the crispy topping for 5-10 seconds or until it's mostly melted. Add the breadcrumbs and stir until it starts to look like a wet sand. Add to the top of the mac and cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and no liquid remains in the bottom of the mac and cheese. 


  • Each serving has 7 Smart Points.
  • Total macros: 2,380 calories, 168 grams of protein, 241 grams of carbs, 94 grams of fat

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 servings Serving Size: 175 g
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 298Total Fat: 12gCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 21g

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More Recipes You Might Like

Since you’ll already have chicken tenderloins on hand, you could also make my reader favorite naked chicken tenders

chipotle ranch pan fried naked chicken tenders

And as another idea for leftover chicken, my spicy popcorn chicken and KFC Famous Bowls copycat recipes are must trys.

healthy spicy popcorn chicken recipe air fryer

48 thoughts on “Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Chicken”

  • Made the Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Banza pasta and it was delicious. Only one serving was left for me because my children ate it up so fast! Your recipes are so good and it’s nice to not have to try so hard to get my protein in for the day thanks to your site!

  • New favorite!!! So simple SO delicious!!! Might add some turkey bacon to the topping next go around!

  • This is the first Macaroni and Cheese recipe we’ve found that we’ve been able to work into our Carb/Fat/Protein Macros. It was awesome to be able to eat a meal that tasted like a splurge, but fit into our meal planning. As an added bonus, our picky teenager loved it too! Highly recommend this one.

  • All recipes are just SO GOOD!! This is another hit! I always try to share with my friends and I can’t wait to share some recipes with my family for the holidays 🤗

  • The Garlic Chicken Mac and Cheese is delicious. I was only able to have a bite, since it doesn’t fit in my plan today. But here is my question. I followed the recipe. I measured out 175g portions and it only made 6, so I went and changed the serving size on MFP to 6 and it the macros increased so much. I feel the portion size to the amount of macros i am using will leave me hungry still. Am I doing something wrong??

  • Do you think I could just use half the amount of normal noodles and substitute the other half with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles?

  • MY OH MY! This recipe is AMAZING! I am always on the hunt for a good “healthier” Mac & cheese recipe, and this is my new favorite. I opted for lower carbs and did half of the breadcrumbs for the topping.

  • This was what’s for dinner tonight. My first attempt at making it. The recipe and instructions were spot on and easy to follow. It was delish. Even my wife and teenage daughter tried it and said they liked it. My favorite thing though is that it was very filling. I felt no compulsion to eat the entire pan. I have plenty left over for dinner tomorrow night. Five stars!!!!!

  • My favorite recipe to make when I need some macro friendly comfort food. I have subbed the ready to use elbows with high fiber noodles and it comes out just as good (although not as macro friendly, I did my math wrong.) 1 tip if you freeze portions for later pull it out the night before and refrigerate, it reheats in the microwave better partially defrosted.

  • AAAAAAAA-mazing! Used banza noods! Perrrr-fection. Mason is right, the bread crumbs are a MUST! 🤤 Made my own bread crumbs with sourdough. Yum!

  • Amazing recipe!!! This is a regular meal in my rotation. As per some recommendations added some broccoli & cauliflower into this and it’s equally as good!

  • This is one of my go to recipes! Since I’m vegetarian and my family isn’t, this is one of those recipes I can just leave the chicken separate and everyone can enjoy!

  • The ultimate comfort food (with great macros!) I have brought this to several work pot lucks and always get raving reviews 😊

  • This recipe is amazing! Quickly became a staple in our house. Even for our toddler! We offer add bacon to it and my husband will drizzle ranch on the top. Easy to put together and packed with flavor!

  • This is a repeat make. If I’m not watching calories we’ll add a little more cheese! But it’s super easy and tasty.

  • So I doubled this recipe and used fresh garlic. I love garlic and 2 table spoons of fresh garlic was intense in the recipe (atleast for me). The garlic flavor was more manageable a day or two after I made it (made for meal prep). Over all I will make it again with a little less garlic.

  • Not my favorite but still delicious. I found the recipe called for too much garlic – it was overwhelming in every bite. During cooking, my “cheese sauce” didn’t really spread. It seemed to stay in one clump in the pan and I had to force the cheese to spread over the pasta and chicken. Took a bit more effort than I anticipated. In the future, I will probably use less garlic (maybe sub some fresh for garlic powder) and hopefully the cheese sauce is easier to work with!

  • This one is a staple for me. I have a weird aversion to greek yogurt in savory recipes, so i substitute with cottage cheese. I just put it in the food processor until smooth, thin it out with a tiny bit of water, and add it just like the greek yogurt. Allllll the good macros without the tang!

  • This mac and cheese is so good, and so filling! Our best version to date included a mac and cheese blend of shredded cheese instead of mozzarella and it really upped the flavor. One thing I’ve noticed the more I make this is to watch the time in the oven; I dried my first on out a bit by accident thinking I still had liquid in the bottom and leaving it in for the full twenty minutes/overtime.

  • I made this twice! Both times it was kind of ugly as a meal prep but it heated up really well. Also, the chicken is so good that I am most likely going to cook it that way and add it to other recipes. I added peas and carrots the second time.. it’s better without the veggies. 🙂

  • This recipe deserves 10 stars. I can make this week after week and NEVER get sick of it. It is amazing. I added broccoli to mine to get in some extra veggies. I also use this method of chicken to make in other recipes! Can’t say enough good stuff about these!

  • Made this without chicken for a vegetarian friend and it was DELIGHTFUL! I put parmesan in the bread crumbs for the topping and sprinkled a little inside the dish as well. I also added spinach and some chopped roasted red peppers to it and it came out amazing! I made chicken tenders on the side using the directions for the chicken here and they were lovely with it!

  • I prepped the chicken ahead of time and then when it was dinner time I picked up with the recipe and had it put together in less than 5 minutes and then into the oven for 15 so I love how easy it was to pull together at dinner time and it turned out so delicious! I snuck a few bites of chicken before putting it with the mac and cheese and will make the chicken again in bulk and use it for this dish as well as just to have on it’s own or inside of a sandwich. I will also probably never make another kind of mac and cheese again because this one was just perfect cheesy-gooey-creamy-goodness. Farewell Kraft!

  • This is by far my fav recipe so far! My husband was a huge fan of it as well which is a big win given that he had no idea this was a slimmed down version of one of our favorite comfort foods! I couldn’t find the pre-cooked pasta so I cooked my own but still tasted great!

  • This one is one that we have often and it’s just so good! I like to have it with broccoli or some garlic bread if I have the carbs to spare. I like to make this and eat it the day of, since it can dry out a bit the next day. It’s just better fresh, in my opinion! 🙂

  • While this mac and cheese was very tasty, I was disappointed with the serving size for the calories listed.

  • I made this but I used your Buffalo Chicken like you suggested in that recipe and I used garlic paste instead of minced garlic. Turned out delicious!

  • Super super good!! One of my favorite dinners. Added some broccoli as well (just a bag of it) and it was a good way to get some veggies in.

  • This mac and cheese recipe was super yummy. I substituted the noodles for banza chickpea pasta to gain more protein and fiber. I would definitely make this again and can’t wait to try more of Mason’s recipes!

  • Love this recipe. I halved the pasta and added broccoli to improve the macros and it was delicious. Also great heated up in the microwave as leftovers. 👍🏼

  • This is probably my favorite recipe here! Although I’ve never made it with chicken – I use shrimp instead! I use 1.5 pounds of shrimp and 6oz of pasta to up the protein and lower the carb content.

  • Do NOT delay one more meal and make this beauty of a casserole. I have it in our rotation and it NEVER disappoints. It is the perfect comfort food and combination of all that is good in the kitchen! Keep ‘em comin’, Mason!

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