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Healthier Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

January 27, 2014


Ugh, Mondays, right?  I’m never ready for them.  In fact, I spend all day Sunday dreading Monday morning.  I love sleeping in and being lazy for just a little while.  When you’re lazy like me, a slow cooker is your best friend every day of the week but especially on Mondays.  I normally  use mine to make breakfast so I can sleep in just a little later, but I love making dinner too.

Healthier Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

The idea for a healthier slow cooker mac and cheese came to me last week when I needed to make something for a work potluck.  I hate work potlucks.  I either just bring my own food and go to be social or I try to bring something substantial enough that I can eat only that when there’s inevitably no other vegetarian options.  This means I can never copout and be the one who brings the soda or some store bought cookies — I always have to put in thought and effort.  Another obstacle is our lack of an oven at work (or even a sink!!!), so food either has to be cold, microwaved, or cooked in a slow cooker.  I never want to give vegetarian food a bad image around people who eat meat, so I knew I needed a tasty recipe everyone would appreciate — mac and cheese!

Healthier Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese

Every slow cooker mac and cheese recipe I found had eggs (what?), canned milk, and also called for full fat milk, which you should know is NOT my kind of recipe.  I took inspiration from my butternut squash mac and cheese to make this SUPER easy mac and cheese.  If you don’t count seasonings, there’s only 4 ingredients you need to remember to grab at the store.  There’s also no need to cook the noodles in advance.  So easy, I’d trust Josh throwing this together 😉  The recipe makes a LOT of mac and cheese, see the notes in the recipe on how to cut it in half if you don’t have a lot of mouths to feed or want leftovers.  This still isn’t the absolute healthiest dinner, but it’s a great better-for-you option.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Healthier Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

 

Ingredients
  • 2⅔ c butternut squash puree (I used frozen, entirely thawed)
  • 4 c unsweetened almond milk or milk of choice
  • 16 oz whole wheat or high fiber pasta (small, such as shells or macaroni)
  • 3 – 4 c reduced fat sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1½ tsp salt, to taste
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried parsley

Instructions
  1. Spritz large slow cooker with nonstick spray.
  2. In the slow cooker, whisk together butternut squash puree and almond milk until there are no chunks remaining. Add the pasta, cheese, and seasonings and mix until well combined.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 3 – 4 hours. Do not stir. Serve when all liquid has been absorbed and noodles are cooked through.

Notes
I have NOT tried this recipe with gluten free noodles and cannot vouch for the results — please let me know if you try it.
If you want to cut the recipe in half, reduce all ingredients by half. Cook in a smaller crock pot so that it fills at least ½ of the crockpot and cook for the full length of time. If cooking half of the recipe in a larger crock pot, time will be dramatically reduced to 2 hours or less.

Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/10 recipe Calories: 360 Fat: 13 Carbohydrates: 40 Fiber: 5 Protein: 19

 

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30 Comments
    Joan Aug 01, 2016

    Looks delicious!! I am interested in bringing this to a potluck at the office. Nervous about having enough time to make and cook it. Is it possible to make the night before and just reheat it in the morning the next day? I know that defeats the purpose of a crockpot, but don’t want to have to come into work much earlier (and even more concerning – not having the food cooked through before serving time). I love squash, so I’m sure this will be tasty! Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
      Kelly Aug 26, 2016

      I’m sorry for the late response to your question, Joan! I know this is too late to be helpful but for anyone else wondering — if you bump this up to high instead of low, you should be able to cut the time approximately in half. You risk burning the edges/bottom a little, but all of the noodles should cook just fine. My other suggestion would be to still cook on low but in a larger crock pot– this will also drastically increase cooking time, but again you’ll definitely have a burnt bottom. For best results, if you have a short commute I would start this at home, turn it off for the commute, and then turn it back on when you got to work to finish cooking. Cooking the night before and then reheating would leave less than tasty results because the mac and cheese would dry out or not heat thoroughly.

      Reply
    Teresa Jan 12, 2016

    I was wondering if I’m on the points plus weight watchers program how to figure how many points this would use

    Reply
      Kelly Jan 18, 2016

      Hi Teresa, Sorry for my slow response! I don’t personally do weight watchers, so I’m uncertain how to calculate that. I would suggest asking at a meeting if there’s a calculation you can do or doing a Google search to see if you can find a calculator. I know they’ve gone through several iterations of the points system, but I’m sure you can find the formula somewhere. The nutritional information for this particular recipe is located just below the recipe.

      Reply
    wg Dec 22, 2015

    does 3-4 c. mean 3 or 4 cups of cheese?

    Reply
      Kelly Jan 18, 2016

      Sorry for my slow response! Yes, 3 – 4 means “three to four cups of cheese”. It will depend on personal preference. If you like your mac and cheese to be extra cheesy, opt for the greater amount.

      Reply
    RJ Nov 02, 2015

    I am very new at using a slow cooker and this is probably a stupid question… but do you precook the pasta before putting it in the slow cooker? Thanks! I am very excited to try this recipe.

    Reply
      Kelly Nov 02, 2015

      Not a stupid question! Put the pasta in uncooked. Many recipes have you stir in pre-cooked pasta at the end, but I’m a fan of being lazy! Since you mentioned you’re very new to slow cookers, make sure slow cooker is most-of-the-way full for this recipe. If you’re using an extra, extra large slow cooker, everything will get hotter and cook faster. The timing in this recipe is based on the cooker being at least 2/3 full.

      Reply
    marilyn Oct 01, 2015

    how many servings in this recipe. I need to feed 30 people so do I double or triple it?

    Reply
      Kelly Oct 01, 2015

      It depends on how large of a serving (side dish vs entrée). It uses a 16 oz box, so use your best judgement based on how many people you’d normally feed with that. I’ve used it as a side for 12 people at a potluck no problem. I’ve never doubled or tripled the recipe in one slow cooker, so let me know how it turns out!

      Reply
    Leslie Sep 06, 2015

    I recently discovered that those hard squash can be slow cooked in the crock pot all day,,,, no peeling required until it’s all done! Look out, squash! YUM YUM

    Reply
    D Jul 17, 2014

    Hi. This looks great! Could I throw in a bag of frozen broccoli or califlower? Would I need to alter the recipe in anyway?

    Reply
      Kelly Jul 17, 2014

      I haven’t personally tried this so take my recommendation with a grain of salt, but I think if you thaw the veggies first, it should work. I recommend you thaw them in a colander/strainer so any excess liquid drains off. I’m a little worried you wont have enough sauce — if you have a really large crock pot, I’d suggest adding 1c extra milk and 1c extra cheese or just dial back on the pasta (maybe 12 oz instead?).

      Check it after the normal cook time. If it doesn’t look set, let it go a little longer. Let me know how it turns out!

      Reply
    Carrie Apr 16, 2014

    Ooh this picture looks SO good! Can’t wait to try!

    Reply
    Tina @ Tina's Chic Corner Jan 28, 2014

    My husband calls me “Sunday Tina” sometimes because I do exactly the same! Mondays are the worst. I love love love this dish! I’m all for anything having to do with mac and cheese, especially if it is healthier. Pinned to make. 🙂

    Reply
    ninaholsonna Jan 27, 2014

    About how big is one serving? 1 cup, 2 cups, etc.? Thank you!

    Reply
      Kelly Jan 28, 2014

      I honestly didnt measure and just eyeballed it (because I wzs just that hungry haha). It will depend a little on the shape of the noodle, but usually 1 lb pasta = 8 c, plus we’re adding a couple cups of cheese. Best guess is this makes approximately 10 c and a serving size is 1c

      Reply
    Reeni Jan 27, 2014

    Love, love, love squash in my mac & cheese! This is dreamy! And perfect for me right now because my crockpot is my best friend!

    Reply
    Becky @ Olives n Wine Jan 27, 2014

    Genius! I’ve never actually used butternut squash in mac ‘n’ cheese. Crazy, I know. But anything that can be made in a crockpot is a winner in my book 🙂

    Reply
    cookingactress Jan 27, 2014

    Such creative ways to lighten this classic comfort food up!

    Reply
    Em @ Love A Latte Jan 27, 2014

    I ate about a big bowl of Mac & Cheese myself this weekend – sooo good! Love that this has butternut squash though!!!

    Reply
    marcie@flavorthemoments Jan 27, 2014

    I can’t believe I still haven’t tried mac and cheese with butternut squash yet, because I absolutely love that squash. This looks incredibly delicious, Kelly!

    Reply

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