Ultimate Baked Low Sodium Macaroni And Cheese
Macaroni and cheese is no longer on the naughty list! Commence the happy-dancing and rejoicing! It’s OK, you know you want to. The Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Blue Box is 720 mg per 1 cup serving. So good but sooo bad for sodium. So in order to get it back on the table I had to come up with a low sodium version. My children would have revolted if I didn’t. So after much testing and tweaking, here is the Ultimate Baked Low Sodium Macaroni and Cheese.
Solving The Issue Of Dayglo Cheese
The myth of macaroni and cheese is that it is cheddar cheese in it. First, I don’t think anyone really knows what is in that salt laden packet of “cheese” powder. It definitely isn’t cheddar. Second, most scratch recipes start with a bechamel sauce which is a golden white sauce. Finally, cheddar as an aged cheese, is not typically a good melter on it’s own.
Here at Hacking Salt we have learned that the lowest sodium Cheeses that are typically available to us are Swiss, Emmentaler, Marscapone, and some Ricotta’s. Not typically what you picture as mac n cheese. I would already be steeling myself for hate comments if I delivered up a white Swiss mac and cheese. I think part of it is mental. It has to be the dayglo golden orange color, or it isn’t mac and cheese. Fine! Challenge accepted.
Hacking The Salt But Perfecting The Taste
We needed to copy the ooey-gooey melty goodness with our low sodium version. So we started with our melty cheese sauce. We make a bechamel sauce by creating a roux and mixing in a lower sodium milk option (we use 1%) to give us the rich creamy base. Just like we use in my Low Sodium Swiss Potato Au Gratin.
Next came the spices and seasoning for flavor and color. We were looking to hit a cross between the processed cheese powder and an aged cheddar. We started with notes of onion. I thought that ground mustard would give us the tang and salt flavor. We were close, but we needed earthiness, so out came the paprika. It was almost there. We added Swiss, yes, Swiss.
Trust me on this, it works. You need the nuttiness and casein taste of Swiss which is also the base flavors of cheddar, before they split in direction. Finally, you need the umami that aging gives to cheddar. We tried a few choices, but settled with turmeric. It provides the “aged cheddar” nuance, and better yet, it gives us that super dayglo orange color we need to mentally associate it to the “boxed” version.
To Top Or Not To Top
I could not find a single recipe that didn’t use some kind of bread crumb topping. In fact it is a must have for any Southern recipe for macaroni and cheese that I could find. For our purposes, Panko crumbs are the lower sodium option. I saw several options with bacon crumbled in. You could cook up 4 strips of lower sodium bacon and crumble it up to mix into the Panko. A trendy option, for those that like spice is to add two teaspoons of Sriracha sauce to mix with the melted unsalted butter to coat the Panko crumbs before spreading on the topping.
The Recipe For The Ultimate Baked Low Sodium Macaroni And Cheese
A low sodium version of a classic comfort food
- 1/2 pound Elbow Macaroni
- 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 3 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Turmeric
- 1 Tbsp Powdered Mustard
- 3 cups 1% Milk
- 1/2 cup Yellow Onion finely diced
- 1 large Egg
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1/2 tsp Paprika
- 12 ounces Low Sodium Swiss Cheese shredded
- 1 tsp Black Pepper fresh ground
- 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
- 1 cup Panko Bread Crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling, unsalted water cook the pasta to al dente (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat and drain.
While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. You need to make a roux. Whisk in the flour, turmeric, and mustard and keep whisking for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps.
Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.
Whisk your egg in a cup and slowly add in the egg to avoid scrambling it.
Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.
Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the breadcrumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.