It’s Day 3 of Zucchini Week and quite possibly one of my favorite recipes because HELLO MAC AND CHEESE. WITH ZUCCHINI. So creamy. So luxurious. So tantalizing.
Realistically, watch me say that all of my zucchini recipes coming to you this week are my favorite. I mean you can’t pick your favorite child, right?!
Many of you have been requesting a mac and cheese for quite some time and you know how I LOVE to lighten up comfort foods with irresistible creative flavors and twists. This zucchini mac and cheese is no different! It’s a lightened up version of traditional mac and cheese and includes a TON of shredded zucchini.
Now I know what you may be thinking: zucchini in mac and cheese, realllllllyyyy? AND I SAY YES, REALLY. I promise with my whole Robert Pattinson-loving-heart that you can’t even taste the zucchini. It’s just pure golden creamy cheesy goodness up in that skillet. See?
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What’s in this zucchini mac and cheese?
This zucchini mac and cheese is made with super simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry and refrigerator. The entire recipe takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, making it perfect for delicious weeknight meals that you, your partner and kiddos will literally INHALE. Here are the 7 key ingredients you’ll need:
- Pasta shells: I LOVE using shells because the cheese coats the inside of each shell and gives it unbelievable cheesy flavor. Feel free to use gluten free pasta too!
- Butter: you only need two tablespoons for the entire mac and cheese recipe.
- Flour: you can use whole wheat, regular or gluten free all purpose flour to thicken up that delicious cheese sauce.
- Spices: we’re adding garlic powder and onion powder to flavor that delicious cheese sauce.
- Milk of choice: I typically make this with unsweetened almond or cashew milk because we don’t buy regular milk. However you can use whatever milk you’d like. If you want a richer mac and cheese, use 2% or whole.
- Sharp cheddar cheese: I recommend shredding your own cheese from a block of cheese. It generally melts better!
- Zucchini: our secret star veggie that adds the perfect boost of veggies to this cheesy skillet.
Tips for making zucchini mac and cheese
This spectacular mac and cheese is easier to make than you think! You’ll only need one pot to boil the pasta and a skillet or another large pot to make the mac and cheese. Besides watching the video to guide you, here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when you make this recipe:
- Squeeze out the zucchini. Make sure to squeeze the zucchini of all excess moisture. I demonstrate how to do this in the video below.
- Use a block of cheese. I recommend shredding a block of cheese instead of using a package. It generally melts better when shredded from the block!
- Timing is key for the slurry. When you make your slurry sauce, it’s important to have all your ingredients already measured out and ready to go because it’s a quick process! Once the butter is melted, you’ll whisk in a little bit of the flour and then slowly add in milk, a little bit at a time, alternating with the flour and vigorously whisking away any lumps. You should end up with a smooth paste every time without too many lumps.
- Cheese it up. At the end, you can either put the mac and cheese under the broiler for a few minutes to really get the top melted and golden, OR you can feel free to simply stir in the cheddar cheese you put on top.
Customize this healthier zucchini mac and cheese
- Choose a fun cheese. It’s fun to pick a different cheese to top the mac and cheese. I tried a spicy cheddar and it was incredible, but pepper jack, parmesan, sharp cheddar or gouda would also be delicious. It’s up to you!
- Add more veggies. Feel free to add even more veggies like peas or broccoli.
- Add a boost of protein. This dish would be delicious with chicken or chickpeas!
Jazz it up with a breadcrumb topping
This zucchini mac and cheese would be delicious with a crispy breadcrumb topping! To add one:
- Mix 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of melted butter
- Sprinkle it on top of your mac and cheese
- Bake it for about 20 minutes!
How to store & reheat mac and cheese
- To store: store this healthier zucchini mac and cheese in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days (if it lasts that long!)
- To reheat: you can reheat it in the microwave to save time, but I would recommend adding it to a lightly oiled baking dish and heating it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. This will help the mac and cheese get that bubbly cheese factor back without drying out.
Watch me make the zucchini mac and cheese:
More zucchini recipes you’ll love
- Low Carb Zucchini Lasagna with Spicy Turkey Meat Sauce
- One Pan Enchilada Zucchini Turkey Meatballs and Rice
- Healthy Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
- Summer Garden Crustless Zucchini Pie
- Cheesy BBQ Chicken Stuffed Zucchini Boats
Get all of my zucchini recipes here!
I hope you love this easy zucchini mac and cheese recipe! If you make it be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked it. Enjoy, xo!
Zucchini Mac and Cheese
Deliciously creamy zucchini mac and cheese is the ultimate, healthy comfort food that adds in extra veggies! Make this healthier, easy zucchini mac and cheese for a weeknight dinner that the whole family will love. Options to add extra protein and even more veggies, too!
- 10 ounces dry pasta shells (gluten free if desired)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup whole wheat pastry flour (or sub regular flour or GF all purpose flour)
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cashew milk, almond milk or regular milk (from the carton or homemade if you prefer)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 oz sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese)
- 1 1/2 heaping cups shredded zucchini that’s been squeezed of excess moisture with a paper towel
- For topping:
- 2 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded and reserved for the topping (or about ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese)
First boil the noodles until al dente, according to the directions on the package. Once done cooking, drain and set aside.
While the noodles are boiling, make a slurry: In a large oven safe skillet or pot add butter and place over medium heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in a little bit of the flour and then slowly add in milk, a little bit at a time, alternating with the flour and vigorously whisking away any lumps. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes stirring every so often, until the sauce thickens up similar to a gravy. Stir in garlic powder, onion powder, salt and LOTS of freshly ground black pepper.
Next add in 6 ounces (or about 1 ½ cups) of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and stir until completely melted. Finally fold in cooked noodles and shredded zucchini. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
OPTIONAL BUT RECOMMENDED: Top mac and cheese with 2 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese. At this point you can either serve the mac and cheese as is and just fold in the extra cheddar you just added, or remove from heat and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden. Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side dish.
I typically make this with unsweetened almond or cashew milk because we don't buy regular milk. However you can use whatever milk you'd like. If you want a richer mac and cheese, use 2% or whole.
See the full post for tips, tricks and ways to customize!
To store: store this healthier zucchini mac and cheese in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days (if it lasts that long!)
To reheat: you can reheat it in the microwave to save time, but I would recommend adding it to a lightly oiled baking dish and heating it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. This will help the mac and cheese get that bubbly cheese factor back without drying out.
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats
look so yummi. perfect combination
Wow, this looks AMAZING! I love the way pasta shells scoop up cheese. They were born to be together <3
Quick question — the serving size says 6 servings, but the nutrition info says it's based on 1/4 of the recipe. Does that just mean you can probably get 6 servings out of it if necessary? Thanks Monique!
Shells are the best! The recipe serves 4 as a main and 6 as a side dish 🙂 Enjoy!
Hey! Zucchini week came at the perfect time, my garden is exploding with huge zucchini and I need creative ways to get through it. Question on the portion size- it says 1/4 of recipe, but the recipe says it serves 6. Is this a mistake? Which is the correct division/portion? Thanks so much!
Hi Sierra! Perfect timing with all of the zucchini. This recipe serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side – the nutrition is calculated for 4 🙂
Made this last night and it was very good-
My only issue was that the slurry seemed a bit thick. Maybe 1/4 cup of flour was a bit too much?
We’ve made this more than 5 times and the sauce has always been creamy, but we always use unsweetened almond milk. Next time feel free to add more milk if you need to!
This was delicious and pretty easy to make. My husband loves mac and cheese and this was a hit with him.
Amazing! So happy to hear that, Julie.
WOW!!! So simple yet SOOOO DELICIOUS!! Added some peas cos l love them – definitely on the thumbs up list. Thanks Monique .
LOVE the idea of peas in here. I’ve made it with broccoli, too, and it was delicious! Glad you loved it and thanks for your comment Helen!
And l give it FIVE stars!!
Uhm hello this is incredible. Definitely made is not as healthy: whole milk, some breadcrumb on top and hot sauce…: but woah this is awesome. Also added broccoli because we had some left. 5 stars for sure
Sounds delicious!! All about adding broccoli here.
Reallllyyy need to do a redo 🙈 I added TOO much pepper so it’s a bit overpowering but I’m sure next time if I easy up on it, it’ll be awesome! Love me some Mac n cheese with extra veggies!!
Oh no! Hope you give this a try again with a little less pepper – can’t beat a veggie-packed mac and cheese!
Love the addition of zucchini. I always cook a diced onion in with the pasta and use some of that water to create the sauce – usually about half milk and half the now onion flavoured stock. Adds flavour and not noticeably any less rich. I’m even happier to add more veg with the zucchini.
Love that idea! Sounds delicious. Great way to sneak in more veggies 🙂
I’ve told you before, I’m a plant based eater who never liked zucchini until I tried your recipes. This is the best creamy, cheesy, filling shells and cheese. It took maybe 10minutes start to finish too! Thanks
So happy you loved this one too! One of my favorites from Zucchini Week 🙂
This mac and cheese was BEYOND amazing!!! satisfied that mac and cheese craving during my pregnancy with much less guilt!! Thank you!! Oh- and my toddler ate it up too! Always a plus to get some veggies in him!
The best!! So happy you found this one, Kelly 🙂
Thank you for sharing this recipe, it looks delicious.
Absolutely! Enjoy 🙂
For the first time in my life, I made CREAMY homemade cheese sauce thanks to your video and tip about grating cheese from block! Will make this one again and ditch the Cheese Whiz forever! Thanks!
Amazing! So happy you found this recipe!
Perfect comfort food! My 18 month gobbled it up and my husband went back for seconds. Thank you Monique!!!
Amazing! So happy to hear that!
Sorry if this is a silly question but where does all that protein come from? 24.6 lg/serving? The cheese!?
Yep it comes from the cheese and actually the noodles themselves!
I only have oat milk on hand. Do you think that would work in this recipe?
That should be fine! Just note that oat milk tends to be a bit sweeter.
Quick question: Is this freeze-able??
I haven’t tried it actually. Think it might be okay, but could reheat strangely.
I made this and it turned out absolutely perfect ! This is my favorite blog for recipes. It makes me look good in front of my mother in law and that’s not easy because she is such a good cook! Thank you!
Do you don’t cook the shredded zucchini?
Nope! No need to cook it beforehand.
Delicious recipe. One suggestion, buy yourself a good box grater.
Great idea! Glad you liked this!
Thanks for the great recipe! I used regular milk, whole wheat flour and upped the garlic powder a little since I was out of onion powder. I also added the optional peas. We’ll be saving this recipe to make again.
Perfect! Glad you enjoyed!
One of my favorite zucchini recipes!! This is a hit with everyone I’ve made it for. Recently I added some panko on top to broil and it was so good! Thanks for this awesome recipe.
I’m so glad! Also love the idea of adding panko. YUM.
The best mac and cheese ever! And with a healthy twist so even better!
Yes!! One of my favs 🙂
This is the only zucchini recipe I’ve ever found that is a total hit at my house. Even my self-proclaimed-zucchini-hating-husband LOVES this recipe. We’ve made it at least 8 times in the last 6 months. Thanks for another great recipe Monique!
Amazing! So happy to hear that!
Mac and cheese is my all time favorite food, and this one is so great! I love the added zucchini in there. If I’m in a food rut, this is one of my go to recipes to help get me out.
Perfect! Such a great, cozy dinner.
So so good! Boyfriend licked the pot when we were done… and the kids absolutely loved it! When my son and his dad argue as to who will get the leftovers for their lunch the next day, we know we have a winner!
Love the veggie-loaded mac n cheese idea! This one was so good and cant wait to make the Brussels Sprouts version!
If I could give this dish more than 5-stars I would. Literally one of my favorites and now my go-to anytime I want Mac ‘N’ Cheese!! Highly recommend!
Amazing! So happy to hear that 🙂
Just made this last night for dinner. It was fabulous and came together so quickly. Definitely a keeper!
So happy to hear that!
So delicious! Had to add some grated Parmesan because I didn’t have enough cheddar but was still great!
Perfect! Glad you enjoyed!
Thank you for this wonderful recipe.
Absolutely! Glad you love it 🙂
An absolute fave! And was a HUGE hit with my 14 month old.
So happy to hear that!
My entire family raved that this was the BEST Mac and cheese they had ever had. I agree!
That’s incredible!! So happy to hear that 🙂
Was very easy and yummy. I added an onion and peas and used pepperjack, cheddar and gruyere cheese. Also save some pasta water to thin and make creamier!
I’m so glad you enjoyed it, Sunny! Those cheeses are all so yummy 😍
So delicious!! Loved this dish! Will definitely be making again.
Delicious! I added just a little more milk because my sauce ended up being extra thick but otherwise, perfect! Great use of extra zucchini.
So delicious!! Will definitely make this again!! Added a bit of panko breadcrumbs to the top as well. So creamy and the flavor was outstanding!
I asked my husband how many stars he would give this recipe m, and he said 5! Very delicious! I love sneaking veggies into ordinary meals Thank you for the recipe!
This was great! Had some leftover rotisserie chicken that I threw in at the end! Will definitely be making again!
Really easy to make and enjoyed by my toddler and husband who doesn’t usually like pasta. I used onion salt as I couldn’t find onion powder and normal milk!
Oh yay, so happy you all enjoyed it! Onion salt is a great idea, too!
Amazing!!! Grilled some shrimp for on top!
This was so good. My 13 year old son devoured his plate in seconds and my 3 year old daughter (once we got over the “yuck mom, there’s green stuff in it” comments and she actually tried it) kept saying “yum, this is sooo good.” So I guess I would say mom, teenager, and toddler approved. Thanks 🙂
Hahaha omg LOVE THAT. Happy you guys all enjoyed it! 🙂
This was a hit with my very picky 5-yr-old which officially means it’s a win! I used veggie rotini and cut down the amount of zucchini slightly in hopes of increasing the chance of success 😆 I also chopped up the zucchini super fine which helped to hide it. Love that I can serve mac n cheese for dinner and feel less guilty about it! It comes together quickly as well so it’s sure to be a regular go-to! Thank you!!
Delicious and easy to make. I used a combination of cheeses (what I had), but had I FOLLOWED THE RECIPE and used ONLY sharp cheddar, it would have tasted even better. If you use “mac and cheese” pre-shredded packaged cheese, consider adding a 1/2 tsp or so of dry mustard. Warming the milk before you add it to the butter/flour slurry will help it incorporate much more quickly and smoothly. Use whole wheat flour as recommended, if you can, if only for nutrients and fiber. It still tastes like a good mac & cheese. Because the zucchini isn’t cooked ahead of time, it maintains a slight crunch, which adds an additional (nice) texture. So do the breadcrumbs on top – elevates a simple meal. Makes a goodly amount for a family or to share with other singles, as I did.
Five stars all the way around!
Thanks so much for sharing all of this, Wendy! I’m so happy you loved it. Can’t wait for you to make it again 🙂
I made this plane based and it was delicious!!! Def will be a go to week night option.
*plant based/vegan lol
Nice!! So glad you loved it 🙂
Just made this for the first time and I absolutely love it! Super quick and easy and so deliciously cheesy 🙂 I added some Buffalo sauce to mine and it really hit the spot. Perfect use of my leftover zucchini!
Yay!! So glad you loved it. And the buffalo sauce is such a good idea!
This turned out really nice! I had issues in the past where my mac and cheese would turn out grainy but this one is perfectly smooth.
Quick, easy, and so delicious! Toddler & husband approved 👍
Ahh this is amazing! Happy everyone enjoyed this recipe ❤️
Great way to incorporate veggies into comfort food! You taste the zucchini but the sauce is so rich I’m too busy enjoying that.