This 20-minute stovetop Mac and Cheese with Kale is a healthy whole grain vegetarian dinner that the whole family will devour!

Mac and Cheese with Kale with serving spoon

Why You’ll Love This Recipe For Mac and Cheese with Kale

I’ll admit, I am always the one to go for maximizing the crispy topping on a baked mac and cheese. But today I set out to make this healthy mac and cheese on the stovetop because I wanted it to be ready in no time at all for busy nights and busy families.

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. And guess what? It was so creamy and dreamy and comforting, no one even noticed it was good for them too.  

Recipe Highlights

  • Super easy to make and has a really simple ingredients list
  • It’s ready in only 20 minutes
  • It’s kid and family-friendly
Mac and Cheese with Kale on a spoon

Key Ingredients For This Kale Mac and Cheese

  • Kosher Salt & Ground Black Pepper
  • Whole-Wheat Pasta: Use any whole wheat pasta such as fusilli, rotini or macaroni.
  • Kale: Regular curly Kale is perfect for this recipe. Lacinato kale also works.
  • Unsalted Butter: You’ll need this for frying shallots and to make the roux for the cheese sauce.
  • Shallot: I used shallot in the cheese sauce. It really boosted up the savory sauce and made it so much more flavorful.
  • 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.
  • Milk: 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. You can use regular fat milk as well.
  • Sharp Cheddar: For the cheese, I added the cheesiest and sharpest cheddar I could find. Any cheddar will do though.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Salt and boil pasta water

First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil 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. 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.

whole wheat pasta in a pot of water
add kale to the pot

Step 2: Cook pasta and kale together

When the water boils, prepare the pasta according to the package instructions. 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. 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. Drain the pasta and kale well.

Also, since this is a stovetop mac and cheese recipe, you’ll want to cook the pasta completely (unlike in a baked macaroni and cheese where you intentionally undercook the pasta because it will continue cooking in the oven).

Drain the pasta and kale
Cook shallot in butter until softened.

Step 3: Make cheese sauce

Meanwhile, cook the shallots 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. Then 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. 

Next whisk in the milk, salt and pepper and bring it up to a simmer, while whisking. 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. Remove the sauce from the heat and add the cheese.

add flour to the shallots and butter
Add milk and whisk

Step 4: Stir pasta and kale into 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. Serve the Mac and Cheese with Kale hot.

FAQs and Expert Tips

How to store this Macaroni and Cheese with Kale:

To store mac and cheese, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To reheat, use a microwave or stovetop with a splash of milk or cream to keep it from drying out.

Can mac and cheese be frozen?

Yes, mac and cheese can be frozen. Place it in an airtight container or wrap a container with plastic wrap and tin foil. Freeze it for up to a few months. Thaw in the refrigerator or in the microwave.

What else can I add to this mac and cheese?

Experiment by adding more veggies. You could add peas, broccoli florets, cauliflower or even carrots to it if you’d like.

More Healthy Macaroni and Cheese Recipes To Try

Mac and Cheese with Kale in bowls with spoons

At Healthy Seasonal Recipes, we specialize in cooking with fresh veggies and creating weeknight meals. Sign up HERE to get more produce-forward dinner ideas for FREE! If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought! Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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

Mac and Cheese with Kale

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4.2 from 5 reviews


This 20-minute stovetop Mac and Cheese with Kale is a healthy whole grain vegetarian dinner that the whole family will devour!


Units Scale
  • salt for pasta water plus 1/4 teaspoon, divided
  • 3 1/2 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
  • 1/4 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.


Storing Instructions: To store mac and cheese, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. To reheat, use a microwave or stovetop with a splash of milk or cream to keep it from drying out.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


  • 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