buffalo chicken mac and cheese in pan

Healthyish Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

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Is there anyone who does not love mac and cheese? It seems to be a universal truth that if you have kids over at your house, you can serve them mac and cheese. When I asked my husband the other night what he would like me to make, and I told him it could be buffalo chicken mac and cheese, he said, “why make anything else?”

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image of recipe ingredients including pasta, velveeta, ritz chips, corn starch, chicken pieces, frank's red hot sauce, milk

Still, though, simple carbohydrates like white pasta and a heavy Mornay sauce (delicious though it may be) are not the healthiest options. I think we are so fortunate in this day and age to have so many alternative types of pastas. My 4-year-old cannot tell the difference between the chickpea pasta and the typical white pasta. This is not to say, of course, that if we are dining out with our kids at an Italian restaurant with handmade gnocchi we won’t indulge. I mean, we aren’t crazy. But I’m not making handmade pasta at home with my newborn. There’s a limit to what you can make one-handed.

Enter Trader Joe’s for the healthyish twist. How did I live for all those years before Trader Joe’s? They have an incredible assortment of alternative pastas, and we LOVE the brown rice and quinoa fusilli. It’s gluten free and made with healthy whole grains. Plus, the taste is fantastic. My 4-year-old ate a whole bowl of plain noodles before we were even able to finish making the mac and cheese portion.

mac and cheese with velveeta cubes

I love recipes (probably like most people) that are easy, quick, and infinitely adaptable. There’s nothing I hate more than having to run to the grocery store with my two kids in tow just to buy the one ingredient I’ve forgotten. I need easy substitutions, and that’s the genius of this buffalo chicken mac and cheese. Don’t have blue cheese (I didn’t)? No problem. Only have leftover chicken scraps or canned chicken? Easy. Don’t have brown rice pasta? Use anything you like. No cornstarch? Use flour or just leave it out, it’s not really going to change anything.

If you do have it, I would add some celery leaves to the top. A little green makes it pretty.

Now, I know what you are going to say. Why use velveeta? Aren’t there better options? Of course you can use whatever cheese you like, but every time I make homemade mac and cheese without velveeta, it’s just never quite creamy enough. Plus hand-grating 2 cups of cheese is quite a workout (maybe not a bad thing but difficult to do while holding a 2-month-old), and with velveeta you just need to cut it into cubes.

image of buffalo chicken mac and cheese

Full disclosure: my husband and I each had 3 servings of this mac and cheese. It’s pretty addictive. I hope you love it as much as we do!

Healthyish Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Addictive and infinitely adaptable mac and cheese
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: buffalo chicken, healthyish macaroni and cheese, macaroni and cheese
Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 16 oz pasta (we love the Trader Joe’s)
  • 16 oz velveeta
  • 1/2 cup milk (we used whole but 2%, evaporated, almond milk all work)
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce plus extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese optional
  • 1 pound chicken breast or thighs, cut into small pieces can substitute cooked shredded chicken
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch or flour
  • leftover crushed potato chips, pretzels, panko crumbs optional

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 375.
  • Boil water. Cook pasta until slightly under done, about 5-7 minutes. (If you are just going to do stove top, cook pasta until al dente). Drain pasta.
  • Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil (of your choice, we like plain olive) in a pan over medium heat. 
  • Put the chicken in a ziploc bag. Pour the cornstarch into the bag, seal it, and shake to coat the chicken. (skip this step if using pre-cooked chicken)
  • Add chicken to pan, brown on all sides. Turn off heat.
  • Add hot sauce to pan. stir to combine. Remove chicken from the pan and pour into a bowl or dish. You don’t need to remove all the sauce from the pan.
  • Using the same pan, turn the heat back on low. Add the drained pasta to the pan. Add velveeta, blue cheese, milk. Stir until melted.
  • Add the chicken back to the pan. Stir to combine. Shake in a little additional hot sauce.
  • Pour into 8×8″ pan. Cover with crushed potato chips.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until hot and chicken is cooked all the way through.
  • Pour a little extra hot sauce over top if desired. Enjoy!

Notes

You can make this all on the stove top. Just make sure you cook the chicken all the way through in the pan after browning it. Or just use leftover chicken.
Don’t have chicken? Try ham, broccoli, or cauliflower (oh man, buffalo cauliflower is DELICIOUS). 
We did not have blue cheese, so I added some leftover Italian shredded cheese mix. 

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