This Creamy Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese is a lightened up version with Greek yogurt and a secret ingredient.
Ever since I took a bite of Chef Plum’s Gouda Macaroni and Cheese with Smoked Avocado Salsa at the Culinary Exploration Workshop, and then again, at his Dinner Underground in Newtown, CT, I’ve been thinking about recreating a healthier version of this comfort food dish in my own kitchen.
When I came across a recipe for a smoked Gouda macaroni and cheese on Cooking Light, I took a closer look to see whether or not this healthier version of mac n’ cheese would pass the test in our house. Scanning the recipe, there was very little cheese relative to most macaroni and cheese recipes, which is good from a health perspective, but I was concerned about the taste and whether or not the recipe would yield the ooey gooey rich cheesy taste and texture of an authentic macaroni and cheese.
The recipe also included spinach to the mac and cheese, which I knew would not pass muster with my kids (unless it’s a stir fry, my kids prefer their vegetables served separately).
Sure enough, as I read through the reviews, there were a number of comments about the lack of cheesy flavor. So, I came up with a few alterations to the recipe to make this comfort food just that – cheesy, rich and creamy, but still with less fat and calories than the typical recipe.
I did three things to amp up the flavor and creaminess of this mac ‘n cheese. First, I used more smoked Gouda cheese (one ounce per serving, which does add fat and calories but more flavor; the original recipe only used half an ounce per serving). Second, I substituted nutritional yeast for the Parmesan cheese to add cheesy flavor (nutritional yeast has half the fat, 97% less sodium, and twice the protein of Parmesan cheese).
If you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s often used in vegan cooking as a substitute for Parmesan cheese. In addition to having umami qualities, nutritional yeast is packed with B vitamins, and is naturally low in salt, so it’s a healthier alternative to Parmesan cheese. Don’t get freaked out by the name…they should probably call it umami dust.
To add extra richness and creaminess to this mac n’ cheese, I used a mixture of non-fat Greek yogurt and a beaten egg, and stirred this into the sauce. This is a great trick that I’ve been using the last few weeks to make creamy sauces and soups without the fat, while adding protein to recipes. Chobani sent me some Greek yogurt to play around with and I’ve been having fun trying it in all sorts of recipes as a healthier substitute for coconut cream (Smoked Red Curry Coconut Chicken), heavy cream (cream soups), and sour cream (dips).
For extra smokiness, I served some Smoked Avocado Salsa on the side, which the kids dolloped on top of their macaroni and cheese. This little extra condiment is well worth the effort.
Even doubling the amount of Gouda cheese, one serving of this revamped Creamy Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese comes in at about 400 calories, thanks to some healthy substitutes.