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Low sodium stovetop macaroni and cheese

My favorite pre-Meniere's mac and cheese is Alton Brown's baked mac and cheese. The sauce has so much flavor (there's an egg tempered into the cheese sauce!) and it's not dry like most other baked mac and cheese recipes. But every time I tried to modify or recreate a low sodium version (including Alton's recipe), I ended up with something very bland and very dry and still a bit higher in sodium than I'd like (we're aiming for less than 45 mg of sodium per serving). So I decided to convert to stove top methods. The pasta absorbs less of the sauce, so you don't need as much to get the same flavor and better yet, it's fast and can be done in a single pot. I modified Melissa Clark's stovetop Mac and cheese recipe by adding a little water to the cream, some herbs and spices to the cheese mix, and topping with the toasted panko bread crumbs I love from Alton's recipe. The result is 6 cups of creamy, cheesy, crunchy mac and cheese at just 43 mg of sodium per serving. There's no flour or butter, it only takes 30 minutes from start to finish, and it reheats well.

Servings: Makes 6 cups

Sodium: 43 mg sodium per cup

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients: 8 ounces of dry small elbow macaroni

1/3 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons water

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp dry ground mustard

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

pinch of nutmeg

pinch of cayenne pepper

pinch of sugar

4 ounces Swiss cheese, shredded

For the topping: 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

pinch garlic powder

pinch smoked paprike

pinch fresh thyme

1 tablespoon oil or butter

1) Cook the pasta according to the package and set aside. Most of the time, pasta used for mac and cheese or any baked pasta dish is cooked al dente, but we're doing this on the stove so cook the pasta to whatever firmness you like for eating it straight out of the pot.

2) In a small skillet, combine the topping ingredients--panko bread crumbs, garlic powder, smoked paprika, thyme and oil and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the panko is light brown. Transfer the bread crumbs to a small bowl (or else they'll keep cooking and burn) and set aside.

3) In a small pot, combine cream, water, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard, thyme, nutmeg, pepper, and sugar. Whisk until smooth, and then cook over medium heat until it comes to a simmer (don't get it hot enough that it boils). Allow the sauce to simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add the cheese and stir to melt, and then fold in the pasta. Top with panko crumbs and serve immediately.


-If you can tolerate more sodium, add another ounce of Swiss cheese or swap out some of the Swiss for a different cheese. The recipe can take as much as 5 ounces of cheese so use whatever combination fits your diet.

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