*Note: This turkey skillet mac and cheese first appeared on February 7, 2012 (originally titled “Grown Up Hamburger Helper Mac ‘n Cheese”). The recipe has been edited slightly and the pictures updated. I still stand by my stance on abandoning the sketchy ingredient list ridden Hamburger Helper box and making this easy, 30 minute one-pot meal instead. It’s every bit as tasty (if not more so!) and way better for you. Post now includes 4 other one-skillet/pot meals from some of my blogging friends too!
This one-pot turkey skillet mac and cheese is like a grownup version of hamburger helper and a much healthier option than that boxed stuff. Filled with spinach, peppers, real cheddar cheese, on the table in just 30 minutes and easily made gluten-free too!
Remember Hamburger Helper and that weird white hand with the red clown nose who bounced around countertops (he totally freaked me out)?
This is what I’m calling the grownup version. Granted, we never actually had that as kids (along with many other kid friendly/preservative filled foods we were deprived of) but this at least tastes like what I’d expect Hamburger Helper to except with the addition of peppers, spinach & lean turkey.
And minus probably 95% of the ingredients you see here.
That’s kind of sickening isn’t it? And what’s up with the imitation bacon bits, Betty? Go big or go home when it comes to the good stuff!
Before we get into this turkey skillet mac and cheese though, check out these other delicious and healthy one skillet meals!
Lexi from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen made a Loaded Veggie Taco Skillet
Lindsay from Cotter Crunch made a Mediterranean Marinated Balsamic Pork Loin Skillet
Taylor from Food Faith Fitness made a Mexican Sweet Potato Rice Bake
Brittany from Eating Bird Food made Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Lo Mein
Ok, back to the turkey skillet mac and cheese!
This is total, complete, utter, 100%, to the max (insert any other descriptor you can think of here) comfort food, that just happens to be pretty healthy too (kinda like this creamy Greek yogurt mac ‘n cheese with peas and bacon).
It’s sit in front of the TV, put your sweats on (I do that a lot if you haven’t noticed), curl up on the couch with a cozy blanket kind of food.
This is food that will win you bonus points with your significant other (especially if they’re mac and cheese fanatics like mine) and definitely have them doing the dishes afterwards while you sit and relax. In my infinite wisdom, I made this on a night Ulysses wasn’t home though, so I didn’t even get that luxury. Poor planning on my part.
I usually get really annoyed by mac and cheese recipes out there that have me making rouxes, using multiple pots, dirty whisks all over the place, starting on the stove top, moving to the oven… It’s all just way too complicated for freakin mac and cheese, you know?
I want one pot, cornstarch exists for a reason and don’t make me decide which of my 5 different whisks I need to use.
Problem solved. This turkey skillet mac and cheese fits all those requirements and still tastes like you spent hours in a dirty pot filled kitchen with flour and whisks strewn about.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or tapioca/arrowroot powder)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt & pepper
- 2 cups milk, (1% or 2% regular milk - or use unsweetened nut milk)
- 1 cup water
- 8 ounces elbow pasta, (use whole wheat or gluten free pasta if desired)
- 2 cups packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
- Place olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add turkey and cook until browned, breaking up with a spatula as it cooks. Drain excess liquid from the pot and return to the stove.
- Add the onions and cook with the turkey until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic to the pot and cook an additional minute until fragrant.
- Add the peppers to the pot and cook another 3 minutes until slightly softened.
- Add cornstarch and spices and stir until the meat mixture is thoroughly coated.
- Add the milk, water and pasta, bring to a boil then reduce to a medium simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring a couple of times while cooking.
- Uncover the pot, turn off the heat, add the spinach and cheese and stir until spinach is wilted and cheese is melted. Adjust seasonings to taste and serve.