I’d like to tell you that this Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese with Bacon is a foolproof side dish that is sure to wow at your Thanksgiving and holiday tables, convince even the staunchest of veggie skeptics to eat their greens, and have everyone begging for the recipe, but (while I firmly believe all of this to be true), I have to confess something else instead.
I have absolutely no idea what this would be like as a side because, despite my intentions to serve it as such, we devoured the entire thing for our main meal.
I meant to serve this Brussels sprouts mac and cheese with chicken, but as soon as he tasted the mac, Ben scooped a huge serving of it onto his plate, gave me a sincere look, and stated matter of factly, “I’m not having any chicken.”
I reacted the way I did whenever my mom made the blue box mac growing up: I piled my plate high with Brussels sprouts mac and cheese too. I couldn’t let Ben get to it all!
If ever there were a mac and cheese recipe to eat as a main event, it would be this Brussels sprouts mac and cheese.
Just like this Tuscan Chicken Mac and Cheese, it’s rich, creamy, and tastes over-the-top indulgent. I do truly hope you make it for Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, and every holiday to follow because it will fit right in with the classic spread. Thanks to a few sneaky swaps, however, this mac and cheese recipe is actually far healthier than its creamy, cheesy taste and texture suggests (just like this Cauliflower Pasta).
Secrets to a Lighter Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese Recipe
In place of heavy cream, I used low-fat Greek yogurt, which gives the sauce the same velvety richness but is far lower in fat and high in protein.
For the cheese, I selected varieties that pack a punch, so a lesser amount goes a long way. My picks are extra-sharp white cheddar, which melts beautifully and has a classic mac-and-cheese taste I adore, along with Parmesan for its savory/salty factor and the way it browns in the oven to give the mac and cheese its tasty golden top.
My final two healthy tricks: I used whole wheat pasta in place of the regular white pasta (undetectable!), and, of course, we have our glorious green, the Brussels sprouts!
I am firmly convinced that anyone who doesn’t like Brussels sprouts simply has not had tried them cooked properly yet.
If these crispy, caramelized Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts or these Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic and Parmesan don’t convince you, then this Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese with Bacon assuredly will.
First, we sauté the Brussels sprouts with bacon (YUM), then liven them up further with a touch of lemon juice and generous amount of black pepper. Don’t skimp here.
The lemon might sound like an odd choice, but Brussels sprouts crave acid. The lemon also helps cut some of the richness, making it even harder to stop yourself at one serving. The black pepper is lively and gives the Brussels sprouts mac and cheese true pizzazz.
I decided to create this healthy mac and cheese recipe when a neighbor mentioned that she’d ordered a Brussels sprouts mac and cheese at a restaurant and knew I’d love it. I started poking around for recipe inspiration and found it in a cookbook written by one of the food bloggers I admire most, Deb from Smitten Kitchen.
In her latest cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day, Deb has a recipe for a weeknight Brussels sprouts pasta bake that she touts as one of her household’s new favorite weeknight dinners. Deb’s recipe goes heavier on the cheese than mine does. I promise this Brussels sprouts mac and cheese is plenty cheesy; I’m actually glad I didn’t add more. Deb’s version also does not include bacon, which we certainly enjoyed.
When I first looked at the recipe, I thought that it seemed more of a side dish versus a main, but after witnessing the way Ben and I inhaled it, I can state from experience that it’s a fantastic option for both. Give this Brussels sprouts mac and cheese a test drive for dinner this week, then make it again to wow your guests at Thanksgiving and beyond!
Other Tasty Brussels Sprouts Recipes
Recommended Tools to Make Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese
- I love the presentation of baking this mac and cheese in a cast-iron skillet like this one (this is a second and very affordable option).
- You can also bake it in a classic casserole dish like this one.
Brussels Sprouts Mac and Cheese
- 8 ounces whole wheat “twisty” pasta such as gemelli, cavatappi, or rotini (shells, bowtie, and penne all work too!)
- 4 slices bacon cut into lardons
- 1 pound brussels sprouts
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 small lemon zested (about 3/4 teaspoon zest), plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
- 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 7 ounces 2% Greek yogurt
- 2/3 cup coarsely grated sharp cheddar divided
- 2/3 cup coarsely grated part-skim mozzarella divided
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated (ground) Parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until 2 minutes short of al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart or 9-inch round baking dish with nonstick spray. In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, cook the bacon over low heat until it is crisp and the fat is rendered, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir periodically and don’t rush the process. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked bacon from the skillet and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Set aside. Drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from the skillet (you may not need to drain the pan at all). Increase the heat to medium high.
- While the bacon cooks, trim off the ends of the brussels sprouts and cut them into very thin slices or shave them on a mandoline. Add them to the pot with the reserved bacon fat and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until brighter green in color but barely wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and lemon zest and cook 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the top and stir until blended, about 1 minute more.
- Splash in the broth about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly to blend between additions and prevent lumps from forming. Let simmer until slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, then the cooked pasta; stir to coat evenly. Stir in the Greek yogurt, 1/3 cup cheddar cheese, 1/3 cup mozzarella cheese, and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Scrape the pasta mixture into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup cheddar and 1/3 cup mozzarella, then the cooked bacon, then the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake until bubbly around the edges and browned in spots on top, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot.
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