These healthy-ish mac and cheese cups are perfect for meal prep, served as a hearty appetizer, or whipped up for a quick yet fun dinner. Packed with the flavors of spinach and artichoke dip, they’re a fun upgrade from classic mac too.
Healthy-ish Mac and Cheese Cups
My goal with these mac and cheese cups was to create a recipe that was delicious and decadent enough to be served as an appetizer and still healthy enough to be a weeknight dinner for the fam. Here are the smart ingredient swaps I made.
- Add protein and fiber. Instead of refined pasta, I opt for bean-based pasta because it’s lower in refined carbs and is higher in fiber and protein.
- Use healthy fats. Instead of mayo and butter, I use Greek yogurt and a combo of unsalted butter and olive oil.
- Add some veggies! A whole bag of spinach to be exact. Spinach adds important vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Bean-based pasta, I like Banza elbows!
- Panko bread crumbs, I love using whole-wheat Panko!
- Unsalted butter and olive oil
- Canned artichoke hearts
- Fresh spinach
- Whole-wheat flour
- Whole Milk greek yogurt
- Gouda cheese
How to Make Mac and Cheese Cups:
- Line a muffin tin with paper liners.
- Cook pasta 2 minutes less than directed on package. You want the pasta to be al dente (especially when using bean pasta) as it will continue to cook as it bakes.
- Brown the artichoke hearts in butter.
- Cook the onion until tender then whisk in the flour and briefly cook. Add the milk and cook until a creamy white sauce forms.
- Gradually whisk in cheese until fully incorporated and a silky cheese sauce is formed.
- Stir in cooked pasta, browned artichokes, and spinach.
- Scoop mac and cheese into muffin tin and top with buttery breadcrumbs.
- Bake until golden brown.
- Enjoyed the baked mac and cheese, crunchy topping and all!
- Skip the spinach and artichoke altogether and keep these simple.
- Swap out the Gouda for sharp yellow Cheddar.
- Swap out the spinach and artichoke and add tiny broccoli florets or, my favorite, green peas.
- Add a little spice by stirring in some red pepper flakes or cayenne.
- Make these mini! Bake the mac and cheese in mini muffin pans for a great one-bite appetizer.
- You could also make these in jumbo muffin cups!
Did you make these mac and cheese cups (aka mac and cheese muffins)? Let me know how it went—leave a comment and star-rating below. And if you snapped a pic, share it on IG and tag me @zestfulkitchen. I love seeing what you make!
Healthy Spinach Artichoke Mac ‘n Cheese Cups
- 8 ounces bean-based elbow or shell pasta, such as Banza
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 (14-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
- ½ cup diced yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 ½ cups whole milk, warmed
- Cracked pepper and kosher salt
- ¼ cup whole-milk Greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 cup grated Gouda cheese
- ½ cup grated fontina cheese
- 1 (6 ounce) bag fresh spinach, chopped
- ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs
- Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners or coat with nonstick spray; set aside.
- Cook pasta in a large saucepan or pot of boiling salted water for 2 minutes less than package directions, drain and toss with a splash of olive oil to avoid sticking.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium high. Add artichokes and sauté until lightly browned, 4–5 minutes. Transfer browned artichokes to a small bowl; set aside.
- Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to now-empty pot over medium heat, add onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle in flour, garlic, ½ teaspoon pepper and ¼ teaspoon salt; cook, whisking constantly, until flour turns golden brown, 1 minute.
- Gradually pour in milk, whisking constantly, until no lumps of flour remain. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk in yogurt and Dijon. Add Gouda and Fontina by small handful, whisking to incorporate after each addition. Remove pot from heat and stir in cooked pasta, cooked artichokes and spinach. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Microwave remaining tablespoon butter in a small bowl microwave-safe bowl until melted. Add Panko and stir to combine; season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide mac and cheese between prepared muffin wells and sprinkle each with breadcrumbs. Bake mac and cheese cups until topping is deep golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Let rest in pan 5 minutes before serving.