What Protein Goes With Mac and Cheese? Check Out Our Top Picks

Ah, mac and cheese – the ultimate comfort food. It’s warm, creamy, and oh-so-delicious! But have you ever wondered what protein would be the perfect addition to complete this scrumptious meal? Look no further!

Explore a variety of proteins that not only enrich your mac and cheese but also transform it into an even more satisfying dish suitable for any dinner table.

What Protein Goes With Mac and Cheese
Photo by Ronaldo de Oliveira on Unsplash

Whether you’re a meat lover or vegetarian, we’ve got something for everyone.

Key Takeaways

  • Adding protein to mac and cheese enhances the flavor profile and nutritional benefits of the dish.
  • There are plenty of protein options that pair well with mac and cheese, including bacon, ham, sausage, chicken, shrimp or lobster for meat lovers; tempeh, tofu or chickpeas for vegetarians.
  • Pairing protein with mac and cheese allows for endless possibilities in creating new and exciting meal ideas like buffalo chicken mac and cheese or shrimp & grits macaroni.
  • Experimenting with different types of proteins can add depth to your beloved comfort food while keeping it healthy by adding essential nutrients.

Protein Options For Mac And Cheese

Some protein options to consider for your mac and cheese include bacon, ham, sausage, chicken, shrimp, and lobster – read on to discover how these can add flavor and texture to your favorite comfort food.


Its smoky flavor complements the creamy and cheesy nature of the dish, adding an extra layer of depth to every bite.

There are multiple ways to prepare bacon for mac and cheese, whether it be crispy bits sprinkled on top or chopped into small pieces mixed throughout. For those who prefer a crispy texture, baking bacon in the oven is a recommended cooking method as it allows for easy cleanup and consistent results.

Alternatively, pan-frying can provide more control over the level of crispness desired.


You can add diced ham to your mac and cheese while it’s cooking or layer sliced ham on top for an extra boost of flavor. For a twist, try using different types of ham, like honey glazed or smoked.

Additionally, you can opt for Canadian bacon if you’re looking for something leaner than regular ham but still want that delicious smoky taste.


It adds delicious flavor and texture that complements the creaminess of the pasta dish. You can choose from different types of sausage, such as spicy or sweet Italian sausage, chorizo, or Andouille sausage, depending on your taste preference.

Alternatively, you can slice it thinly and layer it on top of the macaroni mixture for added crunchiness.


Grilled chicken breast, crispy fried chicken, or shredded rotisserie chicken are all great options to add some savory flavor and texture to your dish.

You can also experiment with different seasonings such as garlic powder, smoked paprika, or even buffalo sauce for an added kick. Another popular way to incorporate chicken into mac and cheese is by making a casserole.

Simply layer cooked pasta with diced chicken in between creamy layers of cheese sauce for a delicious one-pan meal.

Mac and cheese with chicken is sure to satisfy any comfort food craving while providing necessary protein for balanced nutrition.


The tender, succulent texture of the shrimp contrasts nicely with the soft pasta, while its mild flavor pairs well with the savory creaminess of the cheese sauce.

For an added layer of flavor, consider seasoning your shrimp with garlic or Cajun spices before cooking them.

One great example dish featuring this pairing is Shrimp and Grits Mac and Cheese. This Southern-inspired dish combines creamy cheddar macaroni with sautéed shrimp in a spicy Cajun sauce, topped off with crispy breadcrumbs for a satisfying crunch.

Another option is Creamy Garlic Shrimp Mac and Cheese, which features plump shrimp tossed in garlicky white wine sauce over cheesy cavatappi pasta.


Lobster mac and cheese is a popular dish in many seafood restaurants, but it’s also easy to make at home. Simply cook some fresh or frozen lobster tail, chop it into bite-sized pieces, and stir it into your favorite macaroni and cheese recipe.

For an extra indulgent twist, try adding some truffle oil or grated Parmesan cheese to the mix.

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Vegetarian Protein Options For Mac And Cheese


Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh has a nutty flavor that adds depth to the overall taste of the dish.

It’s also high in protein, making it a healthy addition.

To get your tempeh ready for your mac and cheese dish, cut it into thin strips and give it a deliciously flavorful marinade by mixing together soy sauce, honey, and garlic and letting it soak overnight.

A particularly interesting way to give your mac and cheese an extra boost is to crumble tempeh over the top as a garnish or add it directly into the cheesy sauce.

The texture pairs well with pasta and adds an extra layer of flavor complexity.


It has a neutral flavor, making it the perfect canvas for seasoning or marinating before adding it to your dish.

Crumbled tofu can be used similarly to ground beef in recipes like taco mac and cheese or BBQ pulled pork mac and cheese, while sliced tofu can be grilled or pan-fried before being added as a topping.

By using vegetarian protein sources like tofu instead of meat options like bacon or sausage, you can make your meal healthier without sacrificing taste. Vegetarian options offer plenty of nutrients while reducing the negative health impacts associated with eating red meat.


They have a nutty flavor and slightly firm texture that complements the creamy nature of the dish.

To make a chickpea salad, you can mix cooked chickpeas with chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion and herbs like parsley or mint.

So next time you want to try something different with your mac and cheese meal, consider adding chickpeas into the mix or serve up an easy chickpea salad alongside it.

The Importance Of Adding Protein To Mac And Cheese

Protein helps promote fullness, boosts energy levels, and aids in muscle growth and repair.

Benefits Of Protein

Incorporating protein into your mac and cheese brings a wealth of nutritional benefits to this classic comfort food. For starters, protein plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of your muscles, bones, and skin.

It also supports various cellular functions that keep our bodies running smoothly.

As an added bonus, proteins can elevate the flavor profile of your beloved mac and cheese with their unique textures and tastes. For instance, crispy bacon adds an irresistible crunch while tender chicken amps up the meal’s heartiness.

How Protein Complements The Dish

It also has some practical benefits, such as helping you feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time.

Protein is an essential nutrient that serves many functions in the body, from building and repairing tissues to making enzymes and hormones.

But what kind of protein goes best with mac and cheese? The short answer is that there are plenty of options! Bacon, ham, sausage, chicken, shrimp or lobster all make great additions to macaroni and cheese for meat lovers out there.

For vegetarians or plant-based eaters looking for non-meat options tempeh tofu or chickpeas provide ample amounts of vegan-friendly proteins that will taste amazing when paired with Mac n Cheese’s cheesy goodness.

Pairing Protein With Mac And Cheese

There are many delicious protein options that pair well with mac and cheese, such as bacon, chicken, shrimp, lobster, and sausage.

Bacon Mac And Cheese

Bacon mac and cheese is a popular dish that combines crispy bacon bits with creamy, cheesy pasta for the ultimate comfort food experience.

To prepare this dish, start by cooking up some crispy bacon in a pan or oven.

Not only does adding bacon to your mac and cheese provide delicious flavors, but it also adds protein to this classic comfort food dish. Bacon is an excellent source of protein which provides energy, helps build muscle mass, and supports healthy skin and hair growth.

Buffalo Chicken Mac And Cheese

The spicy kick of buffalo sauce pairs perfectly with the creaminess of melted cheese, creating a mouthwatering combination.

This protein-packed dish can be made using either shredded or diced chicken, depending on preference.

As mentioned in [IMPORTANT FACTS], there is no one definitive protein that goes best with mac and cheese, but buffalo chicken is definitely worth trying out for those who enjoy bold flavors.

It is perfect for game day gatherings or just when you want something comforting and flavorful for dinner.

Lobster Mac And Cheese

To prepare this dish, first cook your pasta according to instructions and set aside while you prepare the lobster. Remove the meat from its shell, then sauté it in butter until cooked through.

In a separate pot, create a roux by whisking together butter, flour and warm milk over medium heat; add seasonings like garlic powder or paprika if desired before mixing in grated cheeses like cheddar or Gruyere until melted into the sauce.

Lobster mac and cheese makes for an unforgettable meal idea – whether served as an indulgent main course at dinner parties or simply as comfort food on cold evenings spent indoors!

BBQ Pulled Pork Mac And Cheese

To prepare this dish, start by slow-roasting the pork in BBQ sauce until it easily shreds apart with a fork.

For those who prefer a vegetarian option, you can replace the pulled pork with smoked tofu or tempeh for a similar smoky taste without any meat. Another great addition to this dish is adding crispy fried onions on top for added crunchiness and texture.

Shrimp And Grits Mac And Cheese

This Southern-inspired variation adds a touch of spice with the addition of Cajun seasoning and hot sauce.

To make this dish, cook up some grits according to package instructions and mix in sautéed shrimp, cooked bacon, green onions, and your favorite variety of shredded cheese.

The combination of tender shrimp with creamy mac and cheese is sure to impress any dinner party guests or satisfy your comfort food cravings. Plus, seafood provides important nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids that benefit heart health.

Tips For Preparing Protein With Mac And Cheese

When preparing protein to go with mac and cheese, try different cooking methods such as grilling or sautéing with various seasonings and spices to add more flavor.

Cooking Methods

There are several cooking methods that can be used when preparing protein to pair with mac and cheese. For meats, grilling or pan-frying are great options to add a crispy texture and enhance the flavor.

Adding seasonings such as salt, pepper, garlic powder, or paprika can also elevate the overall taste of the dish.

For vegetarian options like tempeh or tofu, sautéing in a bit of oil with herbs and spices is an excellent way to add flavor and texture. Roasting chickpeas for added crunch is another delicious option.


Whether you’re adding bacon, chicken, or shrimp, seasoning can make all the difference in enhancing the flavors of your dish.

Try using a blend of spices like paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper for a kick of flavor.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of seasonings until you find what works best for you. And remember that seasoning is not just limited to meat – if you’re opting for a vegetarian protein option like tofu or chickpeas, consider using ingredients like soy sauce or cumin to give it an extra burst of flavor.


Presentation is key when it comes to serving mac and cheese with protein. A well-presented dish not only looks appetizing, but also adds to the overall dining experience.

To make your mac and cheese stand out, why not add a splash of color with a selection of flavorful ingredients?

A great way to make your mac and cheese stand out is to incorporate different textures. Try topping it with some crunchy breadcrumbs before baking to really take it up a notch!

Lastly, think about how you can serve your protein alongside the mac and cheese in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

Remember that ultimately, presentation is all about personal preference and what fits best with your chosen protein option.


Options like bacon, ham, sausage, chicken, shrimp or lobster can complement this savory dish very well.

Vegetarians can choose from nutritious options such as tempeh, tofu or chickpeas. Pairing protein with mac and cheese opens up a world of possibilities for dinner parties and comforting meals alike.


What proteins pair well with mac and cheese?

Proteins that pair well with mac and cheese include bacon, ground beef, shredded chicken, pulled pork, shrimp, lobster or crab meat.

Can I substitute plant-based proteins for traditional animal proteins in my mac and cheese?

Yes! You can use plant-based proteins like tofu, tempeh or seitan as substitutes for animal proteins in your mac and cheese.

These options provide a healthy alternative while still adding essential protein to the dish.

How should I prepare my chosen protein before adding it to my mac and cheese?

How you prepare your protein will depend on the type of protein you have selected. Cooked meats such as bacon or ground beef should be browned beforehand using a skillet on medium heat until cooked through.

Seafood like shrimp or crabmeat should be steamed or boiled separately before being added into the dish.

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