Whenever I fail to plan ahead for dinner, my go-to dinner is this .
It only takes a few minutes of hands-on prep time, and it is incredibly creamy and delicious.
I’m all for or fancy mac & , but we’re keeping this classic comfort food incredibly simple.
I have many low-calorie recipes on my site, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider this 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 is that it is very customizable. I used what I happened to have on-hand when first creating this , but as you’ll see in the card below, it’s very easy to make substitutions based on your preferences!
Use Chickpea Pasta for Extra Protein
In this , I use Banza, which is 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 & vegan mac & ). tasting like hummus (although it is a fantastic ingredient in
But I promise you, it tastes exactly like regular !
If you want to use regular in this , you’re more than welcome to, but I love the extra protein and fiber that this chickpea 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 : takes mac & to the next level- you need it. I use center cut , which contains only 50 calories for 2 strips, and tastes just as good as any other type of . It’s what I use whenever a calls for , like my Breakfast Bagel Bombs.
Don’t try to get cute and use turkey here, because turkey is terrible.
Laughing Cow Spicy Jack Wedges: These spreadable wedges give the some great spice, as well as a creamy texture. If you don’t have any, you can use as well, but you’ll want to spice it up a bit. I suggest using , , , or other seasonings to add some flavor in that case.
Shredded Mozzarella: You can use any will also work great. If you prefer a bolder flavor, shredded would be a great way to go. you want here. I use shredded mozzarella because of the mild flavor and great meltability (is that a word?), but
Queso Dip: Queso is the base “” here, and it provides the perfect mac & flavor. If you don’t have queso (or don’t like it for some crazy reason), you can omit it and use more & extra 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 red flakes, or actual hot if you want. to spice, but it’s an optional step. You can add cayenne,
How to Make &
This 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 .
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 .
Rather than cooking down full strips of , I like to dice up the and then crisp them up in a pan that way. It speeds the process up, and I find it creates a much more uniform .
You can use leftover to create , or you can even use bits from the store. However, the best result comes from hot, .
Step 3: Remove excess .
I like to cook everything in a single pan, so here’s what I like to do: take a , and use a spatula to soak up the majority of the . It’s okay to leave some behind, but we don’t want a ton of grease in the pan. The makes it incredibly easy because it can be safely discarded.
If you don’t want to worry about the grease, you can remove the from the pan and prep everything in a fresh, clean pan for the next step.
Step 4: Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and add to the pan.
Keeping the the to low. Add the into the pan with the , then use a spatula or spoon to mix it around until melted and smooth. This should only take about 2 minutes. in the pan, lower
Step 5: Mix in the .
Once the has cooked, drain it and add the directly to the pan with your . Mix it all up until combined, then enjoy some delicious !
I divided this up into 4 servings, since that’s typically what you’ll get from a box of .
That being said, this makes 2 servings in our household, because we like to enjoy big bowls of mac & .
For reference, my wife usually does not finish 2 servings, because it is very filling. For me, it’s the perfect !
Need a vegan alternative?
You’re in luck! I have a vegan mac & here on my blog as well.
I’m not vegan, as evident by this cheesy, bacony , but I really enjoyed the vegan version too! Click here to check it out. This doesn’t require any or , making it completely dairy-free.
Need Another ?
Clearly, you’re a person of good taste. Cheesy taste, to be exact. Whether your obsession is , , , or , I’ve got plenty of recipes here for you to enjoy.
- Hashbrown Crust Breakfast Pizza
- Soft Pretzel Skillet With Beer Cheese Dip
- Fruity Cereal No-Bake Protein Cheesecake
- Mini Pizza Bagels Ready in Just 30 Minutes
- Protein Oreo Cheesecake Bites
- Healthy & Easy Pizza Muffins
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- While the bacon cooks, make your cheese sauce by adding all of your cheese ingredients to a bowl and mixing them together.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 InformationYield 4 Serving Size 1/4 of Recipe
Amount Per Serving Calories 360Total Fat 13gCarbohydrates 39gFiber 8gProtein 28g