Creamy with hearty bites of chicken and a hint of ranch this Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese makes a satisfying an enjoyable meal.
Loaded Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac And Cheese Recipe
Loaded with flavor this mac and cheese recipe becomes an easy dinner when chicken and bacon are added to this recipe. The surprise ingredient of cottage cheese in the cheese sauce makes a high protein meal with pasta.
Adding a packet of powder cheese from a blue box give this dish a familiar taste of mac and cheese, but the other ingredients make it more filling and enjoyable.
The idea to use cottage cheese to add protein and creaminess came from a loaded mac recipe trending on Tiktok.
Why This Recipe Works:
- The unique combination of pasta, meat and ranch seasoning always pleases family and guests.
- Leftovers reheat well.
- Great recipe to meal prep for the week by cooking the chicken and bacon ahead of time. The cheese sauce can even be made ahead.
- Can vary the creaminess by using different amounts of pasta.
- Higher in protein from the extra cottage cheese which helps you feel fuller longer.
- Chicken – We like to coat boneless, skinless chicken breasts with garlic salt, onion powder and smoked paprika. Then bake and cut into bite sized cubes.
- Bacon – Thick strips freshly baked and chopped into visible squares that are bigger than bacon bits are the best, but purchased bacon bits work well too.
- Elbow Macaroni – A whole pound will make the recipe a little dry and a half pound dry pasta that is cooked will be really creamy and cheesy so we enjoy using about 3/4 pound.
- Cottage Cheese – Use a low fat option to reduce calories while maintaining extra protein.
- Cheese Packet – Grab a packet of the powdered cheese sauce mix from a blue box (or store brand) box of mac and cheese.
- Milk – Helps activate the cheese powder and make the cheese smooth.
- Cheddar Cheese – Sharp cheddar packs more flavor.
- Ranch – Mix a seasoning packet in the cheese sauce and drizzle some more ranch from a bottle on top for an eye appealing accent and more flavor.
- Chives – Chopped and sprinkled on top are an optional accent. Green onions are another great option for fresh flavor.
Preparing The Chicken
We like to use about a pound and a half or 24 ounces of cubed chicken. Typical boneless, skinless chicken breasts are about 3/4 to 1 pound each.
Mix garlic salt, smoked paprika and onion powder together. Coat chicken with spices.
Use more if necessary to ensure each breast has a generous coating. We like to increase the seasoning level and coat both sides.
The spices can be sprinkled on or rubbed in if you like.
We prefer to bake the chicken uncovered in the oven at 375℉ for 20 – 25 minutes.
When chicken reaches an internal temp of 165℉ it is safe to eat. Allow to rest for 10 minutes and then cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Chicken that is smaller than bite sized blends best with the chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese.
How To Make Loaded Mac and Cheese
While the chicken is baking, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and return to the pan.
Prepare ingredients to make cheese sauce.
Using a blender add cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, cheese packet, ranch seasoning and milk.
Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked pasta and stir it up.
Mix in the chicken and bacon. Stir well.
Warm the cheesy pasta mixture in the pan or heat in a skillet if desired.
Since the cheese mixture starts with cold ingredients it will need to be heated. The sauce can be heated separately, or we find mixing together in the pasta pot and heating the entire dish is very convenient.
Drizzle with ranch dressing, sprinkle remaining bacon bits and chives on top. Serve warm and enjoy!
If you manually stir the cheese sauce it will have a unique texture that we do not prefer. Using a blender creates a smooth consistency so that you don’t even notice the cottage cheese.
Chicken nuggets substitute well for chicken breasts which would be faster and a bit more kid friendly.
Can Greek Yogurt Be Used Instead of Cottage Cheese
Greek yogurt is more tangy and creates a much more distinctive flavor that our family did not enjoy. You can pick out the yogurt flavor, but the cottage cheese blends better and can’t be singled out.
Slow Cooker Version
The cooked ingredients and cheese sauce can easily be poured in a slow cooker and heated on high for 1 hour or on low for about 2 hours until warmed through.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Using a half or 3/4 of a pound of pasta makes the pasta dish even creamier. Less pasta creates a much creamier texture based on the pasta to cheese sauce ratio.
- Use two large or three medium chicken breasts.
- Can also shred and chop a rotisserie chicken to save time.
- We find that using plenty of seasoning on the chicken makes the entire dish much more flavorful and enjoyable.
- Use a blender to make the smoothest and most enjoyable cheese sauce.
More Easy Meal Ideas From TikTok
Pancake Tacos – Make a fun meal or snack and are so easy to customize with a variety of toppings.
Big Mac Smash Tacos are easy to make in a skillet or on a Blackstone griddle.
Beef Tortellini is cheesy, creamy and loaded with ground beef.
Baked Alfredo Spaghetti is bakes in a casserole dish and makes a classic meal better.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese
- 24 ounces chicken breasts about 3 medium breasts
- 1 tablespoon garlic salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
- 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
- 1 cheese packet from blue box of mac
- 2 tablespoons ranch seasoning
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3/4 pound elbow macaroni
- 6 strips bacon cooked and chopped
- 1/4 cup ranch
- 1 tablespoon chives optional
- Mix garlic salt, smoked paprika, onion powder and rub generously on chicken breasts. Place in a baking dish, uncovered and bake at 350℉ until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165℉.
- Allow chicken to rest and then cut into slightly smaller than bite sized cubes.
- Cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and return to the pan.
- Using a blender add cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, cheese packet, ranch seasoning and milk.
- Pour cheese sauce over cooked pasta. Mix in cooked chicken and 5 strips of chopped bacon. Stir well.
- Drizzle with ranch dressing and sprinkle with chives and a few bacon bits if desired.
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