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Quick & Simple Bacon Mac & Cheese

Whenever I fail to plan ahead for dinner, my go-to dinner is this bacon mac and cheese.

It only takes a few minutes of hands-on prep time, and it is incredibly creamy and delicious.

I’m all for baked mac or fancy mac & cheese, but we’re keeping this classic comfort food incredibly simple.

Easy Bacon Mac & Cheese

I have many low-calorie recipes on my site, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider this bacon mac to be one of them. Each serving contains 360 calories, which is certainly not high at all, but if we’re being realistic, I always have 2 servings in my bowl.

If you have 2 servings like I do, it’ll be 720 calories, but it also packs an impressive 55g of protein!

And the best part of this recipe is that it is very customizable. I used what I happened to have on-hand when first creating this recipe, but as you’ll see in the recipe card below, it’s very easy to make substitutions based on your preferences!

 

Use Chickpea Pasta for Extra Protein

In this recipe, I use Banza, which is pasta made entirely from chickpeas. The company was actually founded near where I live, so I’ve been enjoying the product for a long time now.

If you’ve never had it before, you may be hesitant to try it. I mean, chickpeas are most notably used to make hummus… and we don’t want our mac & cheese tasting like hummus (although it is a fantastic ingredient in vegan mac & cheese).

But I promise you, it tastes exactly like regular pasta!

If you want to use regular pasta in this recipe, you’re more than welcome to, but I love the extra protein and fiber that this chickpea pasta provides.

At 190 calories per serving, it’s nearly identical to all other types of pasta, but it sneaks in some extra fiber and protein.

Sure, the differences aren’t huge; regular pasta will have 7-8g of protein per serving. But considering it tastes the same to me, I’ll take that added bonus!

 

Ingredients Used for Bacon Mac & Cheese

But allow me to break down the ingredients I choose to use here…

Center Cut Bacon: Bacon takes mac & cheese to the next level- you need it. I use center cut bacon, which contains only 50 calories for 2 strips, and tastes just as good as any other type of bacon. It’s what I use whenever a recipe calls for bacon, like my Breakfast Bagel Bombs.

Don’t try to get cute and use turkey bacon here, because turkey bacon is terrible.

Laughing Cow Spicy Pepper Jack Cheese Wedges: These spreadable cheese wedges give the cheese sauce some great spice, as well as a creamy texture. If you don’t have any, you can use cream cheese as well, but you’ll want to spice it up a bit. I suggest using garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, or other seasonings to add some flavor in that case.

Shredded Mozzarella: You can use any shredded cheese you want here. I use shredded mozzarella because of the mild flavor and great meltability (is that a word?), but cheddar cheese will also work great. If you prefer a bolder flavor, shredded cheddar would be a great way to go.

Queso Dip: Queso is the base “sauce” here, and it provides the perfect mac & cheese flavor. If you don’t have queso (or don’t like it for some crazy reason), you can omit it and use more shredded cheese & extra milk instead.

Frank’s Red Hot Seasoning: I had no idea they turned Frank’s Red Hot into a powder, but they did, and it’s amazing. I throw a bunch into my cheese to spice, but it’s an optional step. You can add cayenne, red pepper flakes, or actual hot sauce if you want.

 

How to Make Bacon Mac & Cheese

This bacon mac and cheese only requires a few minutes of hands-on time, and you can have everything ready from scratch in just about 20 minutes!

 

Step 1: Boil your water and add your pasta.

While the water gets going, we’ll start on everything else so it will all be ready at the same time.

 

Step 2: Dice up and cook your bacon.

Rather than cooking down full strips of bacon, I like to dice up the bacon and then crisp them up in a pan that way. It speeds the process up, and I find it creates a much more uniform crispy bacon.

You can use leftover bacon to create crumbled bacon, or you can even use bacon bits from the store. However, the best result comes from hot, crispy bacon.

 

Step 3: Remove excess bacon grease.

I like to cook everything in a single pan, so here’s what I like to do: take a paper towel, and use a spatula to soak up the majority of the bacon grease. It’s okay to leave some bacon drippings behind, but we don’t want a ton of grease in the pan. The paper towel makes it incredibly easy because it can be safely discarded.

If you don’t want to worry about the grease, you can remove the cooked bacon from the pan and prep everything in a fresh, clean pan for the next step.

 

Step 4: Mix all of the cheese sauce ingredients together in a bowl and add to the pan.

Keeping the cooked bacon in the pan, lower the heat to low. Add the cheese sauce into the pan with the remaining bacon, then use a spatula or spoon to mix it around until melted and smooth. This should only take about 2 minutes.

 

Step 5: Mix in the macaroni.

Once the macaroni has cooked, drain it and add the cooked pasta directly to the pan with your cheese sauce. Mix it all up until combined, then enjoy some delicious bacon mac and cheese!

I divided this recipe up into 4 servings, since that’s typically what you’ll get from a box of pasta.

That being said, this recipe makes 2 servings in our household, because we like to enjoy big bowls of mac & cheese.

For reference, my wife usually does not finish 2 servings, because it is very filling. For me, it’s the perfect main dish!

 

Need a vegan alternative?

You’re in luck! I have a vegan mac & cheese recipe here on my blog as well.

I’m not vegan, as evident by this cheesy, bacony recipe, but I really enjoyed the vegan version too! Click here to check it out. This recipe doesn’t require any cheese or butter, making it completely dairy-free.

 

Need Another Cheese Recipe in Your Life?

Clearly, you’re a person of good taste. Cheesy taste, to be exact. Whether your obsession is cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, American cheese, or cream cheese, I’ve got plenty of recipes here for you to enjoy.

 

Scoop of bacon mac & cheese

Bacon Mac & Cheese with 55g of Protein

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

One of my absolute favorite dinner recipes is this creamy mac & cheese loaded with crispy bacon. Using chickpea pasta for the noodles, an entire bowl of this mac & cheese contains 55g of protein!

Ingredients

  • 8oz (1 box) Banza Chickpea Pasta (or pasta of your choice)
  • 6 Strips of Center Cut Bacon

For Cheese Sauce

  • 136g (1/2 cup) Queso Cheese Dip
  • 4 Laughing Cow Pepper Jack Cheese Wedges (or other flavor)
  • 112g Lite Shredded Mozarella Cheese (I love Trader Joe's Brand)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 Cup Milk of Choice
  • *Optional: Frank's Red Hot Seasoning (or other spicy seasoning)

Instructions

  1. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Reduce down to low-medium heat and add your box of pasta. Cook based on the instructions on the box.
  2. While the pasta cooks, dice up 6 strips of bacon and add them to a large frying pan over med-high heat. Move them around occasionally, allowing them to get nice and crispy.
  3. While the bacon cooks, make your cheese sauce by adding all of your cheese ingredients to a bowl and mixing them together.
  4. This is where you can adjust the ratios a bit if you'd like. If you want more of a liquidy cheese sauce, use the recommended amount of shredded cheese along with 1/2 cup milk. If you want your cheese to be stringy and thicker, reduce the milk down to 1/4 cup.). When you do that, you'll be able to get a wonderful "cheese pull."
  5. Once the bacon is done, reduce the heat on the frying pan down to low. Take a paper towel and use your spatula to soak up most of the bacon grease, carefully discarding the paper towel in the trash.
  6. Add the cheese sauce directly to the pan and stir it around to melt everything down, about 2 minutes. Note: I like to add the cheese directly to the pan with the bacon grease for extra flavor. You can remove the bacon from the pan and mix everything up in a separate pan if preferred.
  7. Drain your pasta and add it directly to the pan. Mix it all up, and enjoy! We typically split the entire batch between two of us, so we enjoy 2 servings each.

Notes

  • I love regular pasta, but I'm obsessed with Banza pasta. It's made from chickpeas, but you'd seriously never know the difference! I love the added protein and fiber, but any pasta will work great.
  • I enjoy 2 servings in a bowl, which is extremely filling. I have a large appetite, and this is always plenty for me. My wife will typically only eat a single serving, to give you some reference!
  • Laughing Cow cheese is just a form of spreadable cheese that is pre-portioned. If you don't have any, you can even use cream cheese, but it will change the flavor.
  • I use shredded mozzarella cheese in this recipe for the mild flavor. If you prefer a bolder flavor, you can definitely use cheddar cheese.

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Nutrition Information
Yield 4 Serving Size 1/4 of Recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 360Total Fat 13gCarbohydrates 39gFiber 8gProtein 28g

Did you make this recipe?

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Traci

Thursday 18th of March 2021

I cannot wait to try this!

Matt

Sunday 18th of October 2020

Thank you Stephanie!! Mac & Cheese is the best because of just how customizable it is. Glad you're enjoying this one!

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