Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Chicken

Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Chicken

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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.

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

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 for an example of their pasta shells in action.

mac and cheese with chicken overhead

Cheese

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.

Breadcrumbs

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
5 from 8 votes
Print

Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Chicken

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

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword chicken, mac and cheese
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 298 kcal
Author Mason Woodruff

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  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.

    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. 

Recipe Notes

  • Total macros: 2,380 calories, 168 grams of protein, 241 grams of carbs, 94 grams of fat
Nutrition Facts
Garlic Parmesan Mac and Cheese with Chicken
Amount Per Serving (175 g)
Calories 298 Calories from Fat 108
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 12g 18%
Total Carbohydrates 30g 10%
Protein 21g 42%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

More Recipes You Might Like

If you’d like to keep the cheese train rolling, my extra cheesy hash brown casserole puts a similar low cal spin on the classic side dish.

lower calorie extra cheesy hash brown casserole

And in case you need an idea of what to do with leftover chicken, my spicy popcorn chicken and KFC Famous Bowls copycat recipes are must trys.

healthy spicy popcorn chicken recipe air fryer



8 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!

  • 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??

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