Upgrade your typical mac and cheese with these salmon mac and cheese bowls. They are perfect for a quick and easy weeknight dinner and something that the whole family will love!
Mac and cheese will forever be one of my favorite meals. I do have an upgraded healthy mac and cheese, a vegan mac and cheese and even a baked mac and cheese recipe on the blog, but whenever I’m craving a bowl of mac and cheese (and don’t have a ton of time on hand for a fancy pasta dish) these salmon mac and cheese bowls are my go-to!
Isaac and I found the idea for this recipe on Self.com and have been making a version of it almost every month since. It just such a cozy and comforting meal that requires minimal prep work, ingredients and time so it’s quickly become a house favorite.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
It’s the perfect recipe for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. From start to finish this recipe comes together in under 15 minutes!
This recipe is loaded with flavor and packed full of protein thanks to the addition of salmon.
It requires minimal ingredients. All you need is your favorite box of mac and cheese, salmon, kale, a little oil and salt + pepper… that’s it!
It’s the perfect family-friendly dinner. Even if your kiddos won’t eat the salmon, try to sneak in some kale for added veggies!
salmon filets – you’ll want two 6 ounce evenly sized filets of salmon with the skin on. I recommend getting individual filets from your grocer but don’t be afraid of frozen filets, either! Flash frozen fish can be just as healthy. Just make sure the salmon is thawed if you are using frozen filets.
lacinato kale – you can use any type of kale or leafy green, but I prefer to use lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale, black kale or tuscan kale. This type of kale is a very dark green and more tender than curly kale. It’s great for uncooked or lightly cooked dishes.
olive oil – you need 1 Tablespoon divided, to rub on the salmon and sauté your kale in. Alternatively, you can use unsalted butter instead of oil for your salmon.
sea salt and black pepper – to bring the flavors of the dish together.
lemon – a slice of lemon for serving elevates this simple salmon dish.
How to Make Salmon Mac & Cheese Kale Bowls
These salmon mac and cheese kale bowls require just 4 simple steps and come together in about 15 minutes! Easy peasy! Here’s how to make them:
Make mac and cheese: Boil water in a large pot and follow instructions on package for making the mac and cheese.
Bake salmon: While the pasta cooks, coat each salmon filet with with 1 teaspoon olive oil and liberally season with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 475°F. Bake salmon for 5-6 minutes. You may need to cook longer, depending on the size of your salmon filets. Turn oven to broil and broil for 1 additional minute, just to get the outside a little crisp and for the salmon to turn golden brown. Another option is to use my air fryer salmon recipe to cook the salmon. It’s so good!
Sauté kale: While salmon is baking, heat 1-2 teaspoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped kale and sauté for 5 minutes or until kale is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve: Remove salmon from the oven and serve. Grab two shallow bowls and plate salmon with fresh lemon slices on top with sautéed kale and a portion of mac and cheese on the side.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can customize it to your liking! Here are some suggestions for variations and substitutions:
Switch up the greens – if you’re not a kale fan or don’t have any on hand, feel free to use your favorite leafy green instead. Spinach would be my second option of greens for this bowl.
Switch up the protein – don’t love the salmon + mac and cheese combo? Swap the salmon for another protein like chicken, tuna, tempeh or tofu. Even cooked chickpeas would probably be delicious!
You sure can! The skin contains the same nutrients found in salmon. Just make sure you’re eating high-quality fish from a reliable source if you choose to eat the skin. Of course, it’s a personal preference and you can just slide the flesh off before eating as well!
How to Store Leftovers
We usually never have leftovers but if you do they should be fine in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. I would recommend storing the mac and cheese and kale and salmon separately.
Reheat everything together on a stovetop or in the microwave.
Follow the package directions for making the mac and cheese.
Meanwhile coat each salmon filet with with a little olive oil (about 1/2 teaspoon per filet) and liberally season with salt and pepper. Add salmon to baking dish and bake for 5-6 minutes. You may need to cook longer, depending on the size of your salmon filets. Turn broiler on and broil for 1 additional minute, just to give the outside a little crisp and for the salmon to turn golden brown.
While salmon is baking, heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chopped kale and sauté for 5 minutes or until kale is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove salmon from the oven and serve. Grab two shallow bowls. Add salmon with fresh lemon slices on top, sautéed kale and a portion of mac and cheese. Enjoy warm.