Baked White Cheddar Mac n Cheese with Kale and Bacon

Main Dish, Pasta | 20 comments

Macaroni and Cheese is a bit sinful. Pasta loaded with rich, velvety cheese gets my taste buds watering during these often colder than fall but not quite winter yet evenings. My latest obsession: Baked White Cheddar Mac n Cheese with Kale and Bacon.

I am a bit nuts about Kale these days. It often finds a place in the vegetable bin of my refrigerator. I have found that it is an easy way to add extra vegetables, color and nutrition to many of my favorite cold weather recipes so I am adding it to everything.

On a chilly evening with snow in the forecast last week I found myself craving Macaroni and Cheese. A lonely bunch of Kale sat in the produce bin of my refrigerator. It was an obvious addition for a nutritional boost on such a rich dish of Mac n Cheese.

4 Things You Should Know About Kale

1. Nutritional Benefits of Kale

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse and a great way to add extra dark, leafy greens to your diet. As a member of the Brassica family, it finds itself in good company with other nutritious cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Kale is rich in iron, Vitamin A, C and K, and Calcium.

2. Kale Flavor Pairings

Kale Pairs well with cheese, especially Parmesan and cheddar, garlic, pasta, onions, pancetta (Italian bacon), chicken, olive oil, and chicken stock which makes it a natural addition to fall and winter comfort foods like soups or pasta based casseroles like this Baked White Cheddar Mac n Cheese with Kale and Bacon.

3. Kale Varieties

There are several varieties of kale which include curly, dinosaur, and red Russian – I’m sure there are other varieties, but these are what I have found available. I typically only see curly at a standard grocery store. Sometimes I will see the dinosaur variety, but I have found that if I am looking for something other than curly it is best to rely on health food stores such as Whole Foods.

4. Kale Selection Tips

Select Kale during autumn through spring months for peak nutrition and quality. Leaves should appear dark colored, small to medium in size, and with no brown or yellow leaves. It may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 – 5 days.

More Recipes Featuring Kale

What are your favorite ways to eat kale?

Baked White Cheddar Mac n Cheese with Kale and Bacon

Yield: serves 8

Prep Time: 5 - 10 minutes

Total Time: 35 - 45 minutes

Print Save Recipe


1 lb. macaroni
3 tablespoon butter
1/2 of a purple onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup flour
3 cups whole milk
8 ounces sharp white cheddar, grated
1 ounce parmesan, finely grated
dash nutmeg
dash cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, or according to personal preference
6 ounces center cut bacon or pancetta, cooked and crumbled
3 1/2 ounces fresh kale, chopped (about a half a bunch)
1/2 cup crushed Homemade Sourdough Garlic Butter Croutons


Cook pasta one to two minutes less than package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, cut the bacon pieces in half vertically, then into small bite sized pieces. Cook until crispy. Then drain, and set aside.

In a large French or Dutch oven, melt the butter. Saute the onion for 3 - 5 minutes over medium heat, or until tender and golden. Add the garlic and saute and additional minute or two, until fragrant. Whisk in the flour and cook over medium heat till golden. Slowly whisk in the milk while cooking over medium heat.

Stir in the sharp white cheddar and parmesan cheese, whisking until melted and creamy. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, black pepper, and salt (if desired). Bring to a slow simmer, and then stir in the pasta, bacon, and kale.

Transfer the pasta mixture to a 3 1/2 quart oven safe casserole dish or cast iron pan. Sprinkle the top with the crushed Homemade Sourdough Garlic Butter Croutons. Bake at 375 degrees F on the center rack in the oven for 10-20 minutes, or until the mixture is hot and bubbly. Serve immediately.

adapted from Fontina, Spinach, and Bacon Shells and Cheese via GoodLife Eats

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    Rachel @ Bakerita - October 30, 2012 @ 11:58 am

    Drooling! This looks phenomenal, and kale is so good! I would do anything for a heaping bowl of this right now..


  • 2
    Blog is the New Black - October 30, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

    Love this, esp the addition of kale!


  • 3
    Bev @ Bev Cooks - October 30, 2012 @ 1:22 pm



  • 4
    Erik - October 30, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    Mmmmm…never thought of adding kale to our mac and cheese! Next time we make it, it’s going in!!


  • 5
    allison - October 30, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

    Yum! I am definitely making this before the week is over.


  • 6
    Liz @ EatingPlaces - October 30, 2012 @ 2:50 pm

    Great idea! I love mac & cheese (and also kale) – this is a great way to get some greens into a classic dish.


  • 7
    Jamie | My Baking Addiction - October 30, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

    I have been thinking about this mac and cheese since we discussed it last week – it looks amazing, Katie!


  • 8
    barbara - October 31, 2012 @ 3:59 am

    I have luck with just about every recipe with the EXCEPTION of macaroni and cheese… no matter what I try the cheese always curdles. What do you do to stop that from happening? I have tried everything I can think of… also, is it ok to use 2% cheese? (I usually use Cracker Barrel 2% Extra Sharp Cheddar, although I have tried it with regular full fat cheese). This sounds VERY good… also is there one type of Kale that isn’t so Kaley? Ha ha… One with a milder taste? I want to try this!


  • 9
    Ali | Gimme Some Oven - October 31, 2012 @ 7:29 am

    Beautiful! Love the kale tips too!!


  • 10
    Erin - October 31, 2012 @ 9:51 am

    Love this recipe for another way to use kale!


  • 11
    Kevin @ Closet Cooking - November 06, 2012 @ 6:27 am

    That is one tasty looking mac n cheese!


  • 12
    Amy - November 08, 2012 @ 9:56 am

    Do you think this could be assembled ahead of time and baked later? Doing a play date with friends and their kids next week a d wanna make this for lunch, but don’t want to be cooking while people are over. Sounds like a great dish for a bunch of toddlers! My daughter loves kale!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — November 8th, 2012 @ 10:17 PM

      Should work fine. The cheese might not be as silky smooth as if done according to instructions but I don’t think there will be any devastating issue with assembling ahead.

  • 13
    sara - November 12, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    Lovely! I’m a huge fan of mac and cheese…and it looks fantastic with these add ins, especially the greens…love it!


  • 14
    Aurelia - November 13, 2012 @ 11:18 am

    This looks great! I love kale. I will often put some in soups and I love kale salad. The raw kale is harder for kids to eat though. Here is another terrific recipe and it is a super quick weeknight meal.


  • 15
    Stephanie - January 10, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

    Made this for dinner tonight. It was AMAZING! I made it without onions because it was for company and I didn’t know if they like onions. But it was delicious and I wouldn’t change a thing!


  • 16
    Emily - December 02, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

    This macaroni recipe is delicious! I used baby kale, chard and collards (because I had to use them from my CSA) and didn’t add any croutons but it turned out delicious!


  • 17
    Yesim - January 26, 2014 @ 8:56 am

    Do you think this would freeze ok? I don’t normally freeze pasta dishes but this recipe makes a lot. The other option is halving the recipe…


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — January 26th, 2014 @ 4:30 PM

      I have not tested out freezing it so I can’t say. Let me know if you try it and how it works.

  • 18
    JudyB - October 25, 2014 @ 9:30 pm

    This was delicious! I have to say, though, that I made the full amount of cheese sauce and only 2/3 of the pasta (there are only 2 of us) and the pasta soaked up all of the extra sauce. My leftovers are somewhat drier than I would like and will have to be moistened tomorrow. I will definitely make this again but I will make MORE sauce than the recipe provides. Thanks for a good dinner!


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