Hate cooking an extra protein when you make pasta? Make this high protein mac and cheese with an extra secret protein source.
This post was created in partnership with The Soyfoods Council. I have been compensated for my time commitment. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.
I didn’t eat tofu growing up, it’s been a discovery I’ve made in my adult life. If you’re apprehensive to try it, I highly recommend starting out by blending soft silken tofu into other foods. It’s by far the easiest way to wade into the soy and other plant based protein waters. It adds a major creaminess to anything you’re making, it’s got a really mild flavor, and it’s inexpensive. It’s really just an easy protein source that’s really versatile. I’m really digging it now.
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how this protein mac and cheese fits into my lifestyle
My absolute favorite way to eat tofu is adding it to smoothies, soups, and sauces. It makes them really creamy. Like REALLY creamy. Plus, I’m a minimalist when it comes to recipes. The fewer the ingredients the better. If I’m making pasta, I usually stick to adding edamame or shrimp as my protein source because they’re really easy additions, and I don’t have to get out another pan and cook it for like 15 minutes. Well, adding tofu is just as easy.
I decided to try adding tofu to my macaroni and cheese, honestly mac & cheese is my fave easy dinner. You just have to make the cheese sauce and add it to pasta. I usually make my easy queso sauce to macaroni, but decided to try it a bit different, and honestly the only differences between my regular cheese sauce & my tofu cheese sauce is that you need just a bit more cheese when you add tofu to make sure it still tastes like cheese. But that’s an easy fix to get the added protein & nutritional benefits of soy without trying too hard.
I also love the idea of eating soyfoods because soy may reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, and may benefit breast cancer survivors. I’ve got a family history of breast cancer, so anything I can do to reduce my risk and anyone else I come in contact with, I’ll do. So with that said, I’d recommend eating soyfoods such as tofu, TVP, soy milk, edamame, tempeh, and whole soybeans. Some research suggests that women in Asian countries, who consistently eat soyfoods from a young age have a 50% lower risk of developing breast cancer. Also soyfoods can help reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back for women in remission (1,2,3,4).
How it’ll make your life easier
All you need for this easy mac & cheese is a blender, a couple measuring cups/spoons, and a medium sized pot to cook the pasta. This recipe is low maintenance, low effort, and high payoff. It’s delicious, creamy, cheesy, and has more protein than traditional mac & cheese.
Quick Notes on This Recipe
how to make healthy mac and cheese
As a non-diet dietitian and food lover, I’m not a fan of healthify-ing recipes in a way that changes the flavor. For classics like this macaroni and cheese, most of us have an expectation for how it’ll taste, and honestly, if it doesn’t taste like we expect, we won’t be satisfied. With my recipes, I play around with the proportions of ingredients to see how much of each I need for it to taste delicious. Sometimes that means I can adjust the amount of butter in a recipe or cheese, sometimes not, sometimes I can add other ingredients that enhance the dish, such as tofu in this case. The tofu adds 4-6 grams of protein without changing the flavor. That way we all can enjoy an easy pasta dish with protein already in it. You can always add veggies to the mac & cheese or on the side, or not, depending on what you’re feeling.
can I make this into baked mac and cheese?
You absolutely can turn this into baked mac and cheese. But I don’t. Unless I’m making some for a crowd or cook it earlier than when I want to serve it, adding the breadcrumbs and baking it for another 30+ minutes is just too much effort for my lazy self. But if you have the time, or love the breadcrumbs on top, go ahead & bake this pasta. It’s easy!
How to prepare this protein mac and cheese
- Make your pasta. I don’t add much salt to the mac and cheese, so make sure to salt your pasta water well. I add a teaspoon of salt to my water, but if you prefer different amounts of salt, use your discretion.
- While the pasta is cooking, you can go ahead and start the sauce. I make the sauce in two stages. Stage one is to blend together the tofu, milk, and garlic salt. Blend it in a high speed blender until it’s smooth and creamy. It should just take a few whirls.
- Once your pasta is done cooking, and is al dente, drain the water, then add pasta back to pot. Pour tofu sauce over pasta, then add butter and cheese. Stir together until cheese is melted and all pasta is coated with sauce. It’s really quick and easy. If you’d like to add more protein, I’d recommend shrimp, grilled chicken, or my go to pasta protein-edamame. Or if you want to add some veggies, add frozen veggies to the cooking pasta when it’s got about 2-3 minutes left to cook-to save a dish.
- If you’ve made extra or have leftovers, to avoid that weird reheated pasta texture, add a dash of milk to your pasta after heating it up. Stir well, and your cheese will become creamy once again, and delicious.
Protein Mac and Cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup elbow macaroni
- 1/4 whole block of silken tofu
- 1/4 cup milk I used 2%, you can use any %age
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1 teaspoon butter
- 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- Bring water and salt (1 tsp) to a boil, in a medium sized pot, over medium-high heat. Cook pasta in this water according to package directions.
- While pasta is cooking, add tofu (1/4 package), milk (1/4 c), and garlic salt (1/4 tsp) to blender, and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Once pasta is al dente, drain water. Return pasta to cooking pot, pour tofu, milk mixture over pasta, butter (1 tsp), and sprinkle cheese (2/3 c) over pasta. Stir together until pasta is coated, and cheese is melted. Serve immediately.
- Add your favorite vegetables to the mac and cheese, or have on the side
- If you’re reheating the macaroni, add a dash of milk and stir together to make it creamy again.
easy ways to use up ingredients from this recipe
I wouldn’t recommend repurposing the mac & cheese exactly, but it does reheat up well when you add a dash of milk to it.
- Use up more of the tofu by making this sweet potato soup
- Add tofu to your smoothie. Just reduce the yogurt a bit, and add some silken tofu. It’s delicious, creamy, and doesn’t change the flavor. Here’s my fave smoothie recipe.
- I recommend freezing leftover cheese. Grate it, lay flat on a baking sheet to freeze for an hour or so, then transfer to a bag. It’s easy and thaws at room temperature really well.
Let’s get chatty:
- Do you like tofu?
- What would you add to this protein mac and cheese?
- Messina M, Hilakivi-Clarke L. Early intake appears to be the key to the proposed protective effects of soy intake against breast cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(6):792-8.
- Messina M, Wu AH. Perspectives on the soy-breast cancer relation. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(5):1673S-9S.
- Chi X-X, Zhang T. The effects of soy isoflavone on bone density in north region of climacteric Chinese women. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition. 2013;53(2):102–7.