If you love the taste of both barbecue chicken and mac and cheese, this recipe is for you! It combines the two flavors into a one pot meal that the family will love!
Over the last several months, I have noticed that several of both chain and locally owned restaurants have this item on their menu. And after sampling one bite, I know why it is quickly becoming a popular dish.
Chunks of breaded chicken coated in barbecue sauce is mixed in the same dish with creamy macaroni noodles. If this cheesy goodness wasn’t enough, they also top it with more barbecue sauce and shredded cheese.
One look at this overflowing dish of macaroni and I would swear that I put on 10 pounds just looking at it. Although the taste is so good and comforting, I know that it would take me days to burn off the calories.
So in an effort to follow my Summer Workout Routine and Healthy Eating Habits, I decided that I would make a healthier version of this recipe. Now I am able to enjoy all the flavors of the traditional dish with just about 400 calories per serving.
Best of all, by making this recipe yourself, you can cut even more calories by using low fat ingredients such as skim milk and reduced fat cheese. This will then lower the calorie count below 400!
So don’t give up the flavor of this decadent summer time dish that is perfect to serve at any backyard barbecue or as a family friendly meal that even the pickiest eater will enjoy!
Barbecue Chicken Mac and Cheese Recipe
*Specific measurements and complete recipe instructions are located in a printable recipe card at the bottom of this article. However, be sure to continue to read the tips and tricks to making this recipe below.
- 1 ½ lbs. Chicken Breasts, boneless, skinless *or used precooked and diced chicken
- 6 tablespoons Barbecue sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted Butter
- ¼ cup All-purpose Flour
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground Black Pepper
- ¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 ½ cups Milk
- 2 ½ cups Water
- 10 oz uncooked Elbow Macaroni
- 1 cup freshly shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Before making this Barbecue Chicken Mac and Cheese recipe decide if you will be using pre-cooked chicken or if you will be starting with fresh, uncooked chicken breasts.
You can make it either way. Although, if you have leftover rotisserie the recipe will come together in under 30 minutes.
However, if you are starting from scratch, no worries! It is an easy recipe that still uses only one pot, even if you have to cook your raw chicken breasts first.
Cook The Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
Because you want the chicken to be moist and take on the flavor of the barbecue sauce, it is best to boil or bake the chicken prior to adding it to this recipe. Start by trimming and discarding any fat from he pieces of chicken.
Then place the chicken breasts in a large stock pot and cover them with at least 1 inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium to maintain a constant simmer.
Check The Internal Temperature
Cook until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken breasts reads 165°F when checked with a digital food thermometer, which should take approximately 15-20 minutes.
This is a great time to use a high quality digital food thermometer like Chef’s Temp Instant Read Thermometer. It will give you an accurate reading every time and the digital display is easy to read from any direction.
Once the chicken is cooked through, use tongs to remove the chicken breasts to a cutting board and let them rest for 10 minutes. In the mean time, discard the water in the pot and wipe the inside of the pot clean so that you can use it for the mac and cheese.
However, if you choose so, you can use another pot to make the mac and cheese. Although now this recipe is no longer be considered a one pot meal. The choice is totally up to you!
Once the chicken has had time to rest, cut each breast into small, bite-size pieces. Then transfer the chunks of chicken to a medium size mixing bowl.
Pour the barbecue sauce on top of the chicken and toss to coat. Set the barbecue chicken aside while you prepare the mac and cheese.
Homemade Mac and Cheese
Melt the butter in the stock pot over set over medium heat. Add the flour, salt, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper to the butter and whisk for 1 minute.
Then slowly add the milk, whisking as you pour until the mixture becomes smooth. If you see clumps of flour, try smashing them against the side of the pot and continue to whisk until smooth.
Next pour the water into the pot and continue to whisk to combine. Increase the heat to medium high until the mixture begins to boil.
Then reduce the heat to medium low and add the elbow noodles and stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles are at al’ dente consistency, approximately 8 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and add the shredded cheese. Stir until well combined.
Add the diced cooked chicken and any residual barbecue sauce left in the bowl and stir until combined. Cook for 2-3 minutes or just until all the ingredients are heated through.
Drizzle a little more barbecue sauce on top and serve warm.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
If you want to make this recipe ahead of time, cook the noodles to al’ dente minus 1 minute. Then proceed with the recipe as instructed.
When you go to reheat the Barbecue Chicken Mac and Cheese pour it in a pot along with 2 tablespoons of milk. Reheat on medium, stirring frequently until heated through.
2. Can I use a box of mac and cheese instead of homemade?
Of course you can combine chicken with a prepared box of mac and cheese. However, it is super easy to make your own macaroni and cheese and it is much less caloric as well.
However, in a pinch and when you aren’t watching your calorie intact, feel free to indulge in the shortcut method to this recipe. Although it won’t be as tasty, it will still help you get dinner on the table in no time!
3. If I am using cooked chicken, how much do I use?
1 pound of chicken equals approximately 1 cup of cooked, deboned, and diced chicken. Therefore, in this recipe use 1 1/2 cups of cooked and diced chicken.
4. How do I make this recipe Gluten-Free?
To make this recipe gluten-free use gluten-free barbecue sauce such as Sweet Baby Ray’s. Also use a gluten free all-purpose flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free flour) and gluten-free elbow noodles.
5. What other recipes can I make with leftover Rotisserie Chicken?
- Chicken & Potato Casserole
- Easy Cobb Salad
- Buffalo Chicken Pinwheels
- Chicken & Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Barbecue Chicken Wraps
- Easy Chicken Pot Pie
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Barbecue Chicken Mac and Cheese Recipe
A healthier version of traditional Barbecue Chicken Mac and Cheese. Made with boneless skinless chicken breasts and a light and creamy cheese sauce. It is so good you won't know that it is a healthier version of this comfort food recipe.
- 1 ½ lbs chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
- 6 tablespoons barbecue sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 2 ½ cups water
- 10 oz uncooked elbow macaroni
- 1 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Place the chicken breasts in a large stock pot and cover with at least 1 inch of water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium to maintain a constant simmer. Cook until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the chicken breasts read 165°F when checked with a digital food thermometer, approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove the chicken breasts to a cutting board and let rest. Discard the water and wipe the pot clean to use for the mac and cheese or use another pot.
- Cut the chicken into small, bite-size pieces and transfer the pieces to a medium size mixing bowl. Pour the barbecue sauce on top and stir to coat. Set aside.
- In a small bowl add the flour, salt, black and cayenne pepper and whisk until no flour clumps are visible. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in the stock pot over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted add the flour mixture and whisk for 1 minute. Then slowly add the milk, whisking as you pour until smooth. Add the water and continue whisk to combine.
- Increase the heat to medium high until the mixture begins to boil. Then reduce the heat to medium low and add the elbow noodles and stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles are at al' dente consistency, approximately 8 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the shredded cheese. Stir until well combined. Add the diced cooked chicken and barbecue sauce and stir until combined.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes or just until all ingredients are heated through and serve warm.
*If you have leftover chicken breasts or rotisserie chicken skip the first step and add the cooked and diced chicken to a bowl with the barbecue sauce and proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Recipe provided by Make Your Meals
Serving Size:1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 423Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 119mgSodium: 537mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 7gProtein: 37g
Nutritional Information is to be used as a general guideline only . Nutritional calculations will vary from the types and brands of the products used.