Healthy chicken broccoli mac and cheese is a family favorite recipe that’s loaded with creamy macaroni, tender chicken, broccoli florets and an irresistible cheesy, buttery breadcrumb topping. Everyone will want seconds!
(Pssst... check out the recipe video below!)
Hellooooo there Monday!
It was a fun weekend of testing out our new fire pit 🔥, spring cleaning and watching a movie with the kiddos. We also fed some ducks, ran some errands, prepped some foods and played all the games. My soul feels good and I'm ready to face a new week.
Soooo... here's what I'm craving this week that goes in the cheesy, creamy delicious pasta dinner recipe categories.
My healthy chicken Alfredo with broccoli is one you'll definitely want to check out and my one-pot creamy chicken and mushroom pasta with peas is another favorite around here.
Today though, we're revisiting a classic.
My son J, who is 4 ½, is my mac and cheese maniac.
That boy seriously loves him some carbs and he orders mac and cheese every single time we go out for lunch.
So of course, I try and make it on the regular at home too!
Sometimes, I’m just mixing up the basics and serving it as quick as I can if the kids are eating earlier than us. (AKA, easy stovetop mac and cheese.)
But other times, I like to treat us all to a really fantastic, really creamy and cheesy dish. Something a little more special.
And while our baked mac and cheese is a classic, I also like to play with the flavors.
And this healthy chicken broccoli mac and cheese is a HUGE favorite for all of us!
J’s reaction the first time I made it for us a year or so ago: “So yummy! Thank you mommy!”
And his big sister M’s reaction: “Best dinner ever!” 🤗
I mean, you just can’t beat that! 🙌
My husband and I devoured it too. So of course I have it on our regular rotation now.
The crunchy, buttery breadcrumb and cheese topping is what will pull you in first. That texture is just killer!
And below it is perfectly tender, perfectly creamy, perfectly delectable pillowy bites of macaroni, along with tender chicken and broccoli and a creamy cheddar cheese sauce.
Everyone will be going back for seconds for sure!
Notes on healthy chicken broccoli mac and cheese:
- I usually use a rotisserie chicken to make things easy, but a leftover roast chicken or some grilled chicken would work well too.
- You technically can skip the breadcrumb topping and skip baking it. This mac and cheese is pretty delicious just all mixed together without the crunchy topping. Just make sure the noodles are fully cooked and stir in all the cheese (instead of saving some to sprinkle on top before it bakes).
- The crunchy topping really is killer though, so I highly suggest adding that step. 👌
- You can use a different type of pasta if you prefer. (I did for the recipe video below.) Just check the cooking time and add the broccoli when needed.
Want a bit of spice?
You can stir in ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper when you add the cheese and salt and pepper to the sauce. You can also add some hot sauce at the table. (I do this so the kids can have a not-spicy version).
Good news, too, you can prep this casserole ahead of time. 👍
Make-ahead tips for healthy chicken broccoli mac and cheese:
- Make the mac and cheese and assemble the casserole without adding the breadcrumb topping. Refrigerate.
- When you’re read to bake it, take it out of the fridge while the oven is pre-heating.
- Add the breadcrumb mixture, then bake, adding 5-10 minutes to the cooking time.
The leftovers are great too! They’ll keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and can be reheated in the microwave or in the oven. Here's the details.
How to reheat leftover healthy chicken broccoli mac and cheese:
- You can reheat single servings easily in the microwave, starting with about 45 seconds to a minute, then stirring and adding additional time until it’s nice and hot. This keeps everything moist as well.
- Pro tip: Cover your bowl or plate with a damp paper towel to help the food stay moist as it reheats in the microwave.
- You can also transfer leftovers to a smaller casserole dish and warm it in the oven. I usually cover it with aluminum foil and bake at 325 for 15 minutes, then uncover and bake 5-10 more minutes until it’s heated through. (Be sure to check it. Sometimes it needs longer.) The broiler will help bring back the crunch in the topping. Just keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn.
Just be careful not to dry out the dish with the oven method. Honestly, I prefer the microwave because it’s faster and gets the dish nice and piping hot again.
Can I freeze the leftovers?
Absolutely! Freezing leftovers is a great way to cut down on food waste, especially when a dish like this makes a lot. You’ll have dinner ready to go another night!
Simple let the leftovers cool down, then transfer to a freezer-safe plastic bag or container, label it, and keep in the freezer for 4-5 months.
Defrost it overnight in the fridge and then reheat in the microwave or in a small casserole dish (details above).
The crunchy breadcrumb topping will lose its crunchy, but it’s still delicious.
When you are looking to knock dinner out of the park, I highly recommend you try this broccoli chicken mac and cheese.
It’s comfort food at its best — and slightly lightened up too, so you can feel good about giving your family a wholesome meal.
- 1 (1 lb.) box elbow macaroni (whole wheat if you can find it)
- 1 large head broccoli, cut into florets and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour of choice
- 2 cups skim milk (or use 2%)
- 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¾ cup plain breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 400.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a small handful of salt and add pasta. Cook pasta according to package directions. Add broccoli to the pot for the last 5-6 minutes of cooking, until tender.
- Remove and drain macaroni and broccoli. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook for two minutes, stirring constantly.
- Slowly add in milk, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth.
- Add 1 ½ cups of cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
- Add cooked pasta, broccoli, chicken, salt and pepper to the cheese mixture and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Transfer to a greased 2- to 3-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining 1 ½ cups of cheese.
- In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs with 3 tablespoons of melted butter and stir to combine.
- Sprinkle buttery breadcrumbs on top of the casserole.
- Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Serve warm and enjoy!
You can prep this casserole ahead of time.Make the mac and cheese and assemble the casserole without adding the breadcrumb topping. Refrigerate. When you’re read to bake it, take it out of the fridge while the oven is pre-heating. Add the breadcrumb mixture, then bake, adding 5-10 minutes to the cooking time.
I use a rotisserie chicken when I’m looking to make things easy, but a leftover roast chicken or some grilled chicken would work well too.
You can use a different type of pasta here if you prefer. (I did in the recipe video.) Just pay attention to the cooking time and add the broccoli when needed.
Want a bit of spice? You can stir in ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper when you add the cheese and salt and pepper. You can also add some hot sauce at the table. (I do this so the kids can have a not-spicy version).
The leftovers are great! They’ll keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and can be reheated in the microwave.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 412Total Fat: 27gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 614mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 23g