This 20-minute stovetop healthy kale mac and cheese is a healthy whole grain vegetarian dinner that the whole family will devour!

healthy mac and cheese in pot

I’ll admit, I am always the one to go for maximizing the crispy topping on a baked mac and cheese. When I pull a mac and cheese out of the oven and let it cool on the stovetop, I will pick bits of crunchy noodle and topping off here and there surreptitiously while I put the finishing touches on the salad or whatever we’re having as a side dish. Hopefully nobody will notice! He he.

stovetop mac and cheese with serving spoon

But lately, with the Maple publicity schedule, I haven’t had time to make dinner many nights, much less make recipes for dinner that spend time bubbling in the oven. I am sure we can all relate. Sometimes, stovetop mac and cheese is the way to go. It is just so much faster!

healthy mac and cheese in pot with serving spoon

I set out to make this healthy mac and cheese on the stovetop and I wanted it to be ready licketeysplit.

And I also wanted to make sure it was extra good for you, so I grabbed a few handfuls of kale from the garden to give it some nutritious veggies. I also used shallot in this recipe, which I don’t normally add to homemade mac and cheese, but I thought it would go well with the kale. It really boosted up the savory sauce and made it so much more flavorful.

healthy mac and cheese on a spoon

I didn’t want the sauce to be too watery, so I only used a cup of non-fat milk and thickened it with flour. The flour helps to stabilize the sauce so that the cheese has something to grab onto and becomes creamy as it melts into the sauce. And for the cheese I added in the cheesiest and sharpest cheddar I could find.

And guess what? It was so creamy and dreamy and comforting! It made me forget all about my overly busy schedule and my affinity for crunchy topping.

healthy mac and cheese in bowls

Tips for Making Healthy Mac and Cheese

This stovetop mac and cheese is super easy to make, but because the ingredients list is so simple there are a few things you should do to make this dish the best it can be.

Staying Organized For Stovetop Mac and Cheese

To be as efficient as possible, you’ll want to have two pots going simultaneously. One for the pasta and kale and the other for the cheese sauce. 

Start the pasta water first since bringing that to temp takes a long time. While it comes up to a boil, you’ll have enough time to prepare the remaining ingredients.

Then while the pasta is cooking you’ll be able to make the sauce. 

Cook the Macaroni and Kale Together

  • Salt the Water:

    Don’t underestimate the importance of salting the pasta water. This adds some much-needed flavor to the macaroni and takes the entire meal to the next level.

  • How To Cook them Together:

    To save an extra pot, you can cook the pasta and kale together. But since the pasta takes longer to cook than the kale, you’ll have to add the kale after the pasta has been cooking for a few minutes. 

  • Cook According to Package Instructions:

    Since this is a stove top mac and cheese recipe, you’ll want to cook the pasta completely.

  • Stove Top Mac and Cheese:

    By contrast in a baked macaroni and cheese like my Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese or my Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, you actually intentionally undercook the pasta because it will continue cooking in the oven.

  • Set A Timer:

    Here, in this recipe though, it won’t. So you want to set a timer for what the package recommends for al dente. 

  • Add the Kale In Last 4 Minutes:

    Four minutes before the timer goes off, stir in the kale. That will give both the pasta and the kale the perfect amount of time in the boiling water. 

How To Make Healthy Mac and Cheese Sauce

Make  A Roux

Cook some shallot in butter. I only use two tablespoons of butter to keep the calories in check.

I add in the shallot to boost the flavor of the cheese sauce. It works well with the kale. 

Add in the flour and make a paste. You’ll just want to make sure the flour is dissolved into the butter so that it will mix with the milk more easily. 

Add the Milk

Next whisk in the milk, salt and pepper and bring it up to a simmer, while whisking.

Simmer to Thicken 

Take care to get any roux out of the corners of the saucepan! Simmer until the sauce is thick and the shallots have had a couple minutes to soften completely. 

Add Cheese Off the Heat

Once the sauce has simmered, the sauce will be stabil, and you can remove it from the heat. It will be hot enough to melt the cheese when you whisk it in. 

Combine the Cooked Pasta with the Cheese Sauce

Once the sauce is cooked and the cheese is added you can add it to the pot with the kale and pasta. Stir until it is coated and creamy. 

Steps To Make Healthy Mac and Cheese with Kale

For more on kale, be sure to check out this Ultimate Guide to Kale!

healthy stovetop mac and cheese in bowls with spoons

20 minute Healthy Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese with Kale on by Katie Webster

healthy mac and cheese with kale

  • Author: Katie Webster
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 5 cups 1x
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


This 20-minute stovetop healthy mac and cheese is a healthy whole grain vegetarian dinner that the whole family will devour!



  • salt for pasta water plus ¼ teaspoon, divided
  • 3 ½ cups dry whole-wheat pasta, such as fusilli, rotini or macaroni
  • 3 cups finely chopped kale
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 5 oz shredded sharp cheddar


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. When water boils, prepare pasta according to package instructions adding kale for the last 4 minutes of boiling. Drain well.
  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring until the shallot is slightly softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over the shallot and stir to dissolve flour into the butter. Add milk, and whisk until all of the flour is incorporated into the milk. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and cook stirring often until sauce is thick and the shallot is tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in cheddar until smooth.
  4. Stir pasta and kale with the sauce in the pasta pot and serve hot.


  • Serving Size: 1 1/4 cups
  • Calories: 433
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Sodium: 386 mg
  • Fat: 19 g
  • Saturated Fat: 11 g
  • Carbohydrates: 48 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 20 g