Lighter Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese is spicy and decadent, but made with lighter ingredients so you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in a big cheesy scoop, or two!
Let’s take a break from Thanksgiving recipes for a minute to talk about mac and cheese. Lighter Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese, to be exact! There are worse things.
Lately I’ve been in a knock-down, drag-out fight with myself over my mac and cheese addiction. This beast formed while I was pregnant and has continued to rage on throughout the summer and fall. I can’t get enough! Worst yet, the kind I crave the most is this ridiculous version from a nearby Cajun restaurant which I make Ben pick up, um, at least once a week. It’s white cheddar, it’s impossibly thick and creamy, and it’s probably made with a shocking amount of cream, butter, and cheese. I was actually just thinking about the amounts last night in bed (?) and almost shed a tear.
Anyway, good mac and cheese, thankfully, does not need to be cream, butter, nor cheese laden, believe it or not, as I will prove to you in this mac and cheese recipe. I had scoop after scoop of it for lunch the other day!
There’s just 2 Tablespoons of butter in the entire recipe, and I used Greek yogurt to both thicken the sauce and give it a tang that tastes so good with spicy buffalo wing sauce. A modest amount of freshly shredded cheddar cheese gives the dish decadence, and a secret, cheesy ingredient provides a whole ‘nother level of deliciousness. Buckle up, baby – you’re in for a yummy ride!
Start by cooking 8oz (1/2lb) rotini in a big pot of salted, boiling water until it’s just under al dente. The pasta will finish cooking while the mac and cheese bakes in the oven, so make sure it’s still got a bit of a bite to it.
Meanwhile, add 1lb chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces to a large skillet with nonstick spray over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper then saute until no longer pink. Remove to a plate then set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium then melt 2 Tablespoons butter in the skillet and add 2 cloves minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds, then sprinkle in 2 Tablespoons flour, whisk until smooth, and then cook for 1 minute.
Next, slowly stream in 1-1/2 cups milk (I used skim but just use whatever you’ve got in the fridge) while whisking constantly then stir until thickened and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes.
Turn off the heat then add in all the goodies! Starting with 6oz plain Greek yogurt.
4oz freshly shredded cheddar cheese (freshly shredded is best, if you can swing it!)
And 3 Laughing Cow Blue Cheese Wedges (my secret ingredient!) I am SO excited about this addition! It melts like a dream and adds an awesome flavor to the mac and cheese. I don’t usually love blue cheese but the flavor in these wedges is just right – not too strong.
Once all the cheese is melted, stir in 1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce (not hot sauce.) This sauce contains no butter, and thus no fat – just zippy buffalo wing flavor.
Add the cooked chicken and pasta so the sauce then give everything a big stir to coat.
Transfer the mac to an 8×8 baking dish then top with 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs for crunch, and 2 Tablespoons more buffalo wing sauce for a concentrated punch of flavor. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and bread crumbs are light golden brown.
Let rest for 5 minutes then scoop and devour!
Lighter Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese
Inspired by HyVee Seasons Magazine
1lb chicken breasts, chopped into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups milk (I used skim)
6oz plain Greek yogurt
4oz shredded cheddar cheese
3 Laughing Cow Blue Cheese Wedges, crumbled into pieces
1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons buffalo wing sauce, divided
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook rotini in a big pot of salted, boiling water until just under al dente. Pasta should still have a bit of a bite to it as it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain then set aside.
- Meanwhile spray a large skillet over medium-high heat with nonstick spray then add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and then saute until no longer pink. Remove to a plate then set aside.
- Turn heat down to medium then melt butter in the skillet, add garlic, and saute for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in flour then whisk until smooth and cook for 1 minute. Slowly pour in milk while whisking then cook until thickened, 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat then add in Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese, and Laughing cow cheese. Stir until smooth then stir in 1/4 cup buffalo wing sauce.
- Add cooked pasta and chicken to the skillet then stir to combine. Transfer mixture to an 8×8 baking dish then top with panko bread crumbs and drizzle over remaining 2 Tablespoons buffalo wing sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and bread crumbs are light golden brown. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Lighter Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese is off the chain. There, I said it! Spicy, creamy, cheesy – and with a nice crunch from the panko bread crumbs. This would be great to serve the day before Thanksgiving, actually, when company’s in town and you need to feed a crowd. It’s certainly a pleaser! Enjoy!