Skip to Content

Mac and Cheese with Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Rich and creamy homemade smoked cheddar cheese sauce, a breadcrumb topping, and sautéed Brussels sprouts with bacon result in a rich and harmonious dish. The perfect side for Thanksgiving, this mac and cheese with Brussels sprouts and bacon, is sure to impress. Gluten-free adaptable.

Top down shot of pan of mac and cheese with decorative wooden spoonful of mac.

Jessica Halverstadt is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Beings that Thanksgiving is now only a month away, that’s right ONE MONTH, I think the time has come to start bombarding you with dishes fit for the holiday.

It wasn’t too long ago I discovered that many families include mac and cheese in their annual Thanksgiving feast. It makes perfect sense that they would. I mean, we’re talking about a meal that consists of lots of warm and comforting dishes.

And mac and cheese fits the bill. In fact, I would dare to say that it’s the ultimate comfort food.

One of my favorite ways to show gratitude on Thanksgiving is to share delicious and impressive food with my friends and family. As I’ve said before, food is my love language and it’s a pretty awesome one if I do say so myself.

When it comes to sharing food with those I love, it can’t be just any old dish. Rather, it has to be the best of the best.

And let me tell you, this mac and cheese is just that! It is so much more than your run of the mill shells with cheese. How you ask?

First off, the cheese sauce is ultra creamy and is made with smoked cheddar. To amp up the smokiness even more is some smoked paprika and….

BACON!!!!

Because who doesn’t love bacon in their mac and cheese? Especially when it’s paired with Brussels sprouts. The two are a match made in heaven.

The sautéed Brussels sprouts add a delightful touch of sweetness and plenty of crunch to offset the soft savory creaminess of the mac.

Crowning this rich dish is a breadcrumb topping mixed with thyme to bring some herby freshness.

Biting into this mac and cheese gives you a big ole mouthful of fall flavors. It is definitely deserving of a spot on your Thanksgiving table this year and every year after. I know it will have its place on mine.

Tablescape with pan of mac and cheese with scattered salt, Brussels sprouts, and yellow dish towel.

So what do you need to make this dish? ( + substitutions)

Ingredients for mac and cheese with Brussels sprouts and bacon (see recipe card).
  • Thick-cut bacon: Regular bacon would work, but we all know thick-cut is where it’s at. More bacon is always better.
  • Brussels Sprouts: They are in season right now!!! For this recipe small to medium size Brussels work best. You will need to trim off the stem then quarter them.
  • White onion: One word: AROMATICS.
  • Garlic: See above ↑
  • Unsalted butter: You could certainly use salted butter instead. I opted for unsalted because I was concerned the salt content would be too high because of the bacon. It’s easier to add salt than to take it away.
  • Cream cheese: I recommend cutting it into cubes so it will melt faster. And if you’re thinking ahead, bringing it to room temperature first will speed up this process even more.
  • Heavy whipping cream: Could sub for half-and-half.
  • Smoked cheddar: Sharp cheddar and white cheddar are suitable alternatives.
  • Mustard powder: A common ingredient in mac and cheese, mustard or mustard powder, helps cut the richness of the dish by adding a little tang resulting in a more balanced flavor profile.
  • Ground black pepper: Black pepper also helps balance the richness of this dish.
  • Smoked paprika: To amp up the smokiness just a little bit more.
  • Ground nutmeg: Nutmeg adds some warmth to the dish and lends to the autumn vibe.
  • Salt: Gotta salt that pasta water. It is one of the keys to flavorful pasta.
  • Pasta shells: Feel free to switch up the noodles to what you have on hand or what you prefer. I like shells for mac and cheese because the cheese nestles all up in there. Since this recipe does not contain any flour, it can easily be adapted to gluten-free by opting for a gluten-free pasta.
  • Breadcrumbs: It’s so worth the extra time to make them yourself and it’s really simple. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay bread slices (4 ounces is enough for this recipe) on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes flipping halfway through. Remove from the oven and transfer to a food processor fitted with a blade attachment along with one teaspoon garlic powder, a teaspoon of onion powder, and a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves. Pulse until desired consistency is reached. You can use whichever type of bread you would like. I used sourdough.
  • Fresh thyme: For balance and freshness.

How do you make mac & cheese w/ Brussels sprouts & bacon? ( + tips)

Heat a large sauté pan to medium heat. Add the bacon and fry for 15-20 minutes until crispy.

To prep the pasta: Fill a pot with 4-6 quarts of water. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add your pasta and cook according to package instructions. You should aim for al dente pasta.

Add the onions and Brussels sprouts and sauté for 10 minutes or until tender. As the Brussels sprouts soften, use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently break them apart. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute.

Brussels sprouts and bacon in sauté pan.

Transfer to a colander over the sink to drain excess grease.

Preheat broiler to high heat (500 degrees).

Add the butter, cream cheese, cream, mustard powder, black pepper, paprika, and nutmeg to the same pan you cooked the bacon and Brussels sprouts in and whisk until melted and fully combined. Add two cups of smoked cheddar and whisk until melted and fully combined. Remove from heat and set aside.

Top down shot of cheese sauce in sauté pan.

Once the pasta is finished, turn off the heat and transfer one cup of the pasta water to the pan with the cheese sauce, then add the noodles using a slotted spoon or use a colander to drain. Add the Brussels sprouts and bacon mixture and stir until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mac and cheese in sauté pan prior to breadcrumb topping.

Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish or cast-iron skillet lightly coated in oil. Top with the remaining cheddar and sprinkle on the breadcrumbs in an even layer. *If you didn’t follow my recipe above for homemade breadcrumbs, mix your breadcrumbs with the fresh thyme leaves first.

Top down shot of mac and cheese prior to baking.

Broil for 3-4 minutes until just golden brown. Keep a close eye on it so the topping doesn’t burn. Let rest for several minutes then serve warm.

How to store

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to four days.

Cast-iron pan of mac and cheese with spoon laid across it with towel and Brussels sprouts on table.
Close-up of wooden spoonful of mac and cheese with Brussels sprouts and bacon atop a pan of mac and cheese.

More autumn-inspired side dishes:

  • Roasted Sweet Potato Salad w/ Beet Chips & Cranberry Vinaigrette: This hearty autumn salad is perfect for Thanksgiving. It combines greens, roasted sweet potatoes, crispy beet chips, red onions, goat cheese, and sunflower/pumpkins seeds tossed in a fresh tangy cranberry vinaigrette. Vegetarian and gluten-free.
  • French Onion Potatoes: These easy, versatile, and flavorful French onion seasoned potatoes can be roasted or grilled making them a great gluten-free side dish for your next barbecue or a weeknight dinner.
  • Goat Cheese Mashed Cauliflower w/ Sautéed Leeks: This easy goat cheese mashed cauliflower is creamy, garlicky, and topped oniony sautéed leeks. It’s a wonderful low-carb alternative to mashed potatoes and a perfect side dish to share with a crowd. Naturally gluten-free and vegetarian.

If you make this mac & cheese w/ Brussels sprouts & bacon I’d love your feedback. Please leave a comment and/or a rating below as I greatly value your opinion. Or snap a pic and tag me on Instagram @taoofspiceblog. Love, light, and happy cooking ya’ll ♥

Close-up top down shot of mac and cheese in cast-iron pan with decorative wooden spoon.

Mac & Cheese w/ Brussels Sprouts & Bacon

Yield: ~12 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Rich and creamy homemade smoked cheddar cheese sauce, a breadcrumb topping, and sautéed Brussels sprouts with bacon result in a rich and harmonious dish. The perfect side for Thanksgiving, this mac and cheese with Brussels sprouts and bacon, is sure to impress. Gluten-free adaptable.

Ingredients

  •  8 slices thick-cut bacon, sliced lengthwise then cut into 1/2 inch pieces 
  • 10 ounces Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and quartered 
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced 
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed 
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
  • 12 ounces smoked cheddar, shredded, approximately three cups, divided, could sub for sharp cheddar or white cheddar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper + more to taste 
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt + more to taste
  • 1 pound pasta shells, make sure to choose a GF pasta if you wish to keep this dish gluten-free 
  • 1 cup bead crumbs (see notes for my recipe) 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced thyme 

Instructions

  1. Heat large sauté pan to medium heat. Add the bacon and fry for 15-20 minutes until crispy.
  2. To prep the pasta: Fill a pot with 4-6 quarts of water. Add the salt and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add your pasta and cook according to package instructions. You should aim for al dente pasta.
  3. Add the onions and Brussels sprouts and sauté for 10 minutes or until tender. As the Brussels sprouts soften, use a wooden spoon or spatula to gently break them apart. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute.
  4. Transfer to a colander over the sink.
  5. Preheat broiler to high heat (500 degrees).
  6. Add the butter, cream cheese, cream, mustard powder, black pepper, paprika, and nutmeg to the same pan you cooked the bacon and Brussels sprouts in and whisk until melted and fully combined. Add two cups of smoked cheddar and whisk until melted and fully combined. Remove from heat and set aside.
  7. Once the pasta is finished, turn off the heat and transfer one cup of the pasta water to the pan with the cheese sauce, then add the noodles using a slotted spoon or use a colander to drain. Add the Brussels sprouts and bacon mixture and stir until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish or cast-iron skillet lightly coated in oil. Top with remaining cheddar and sprinkle on the breadcrumbs in an even layer. *If you did use my recipe for breadcrumbs, quickly mix your breadcrumbs together with the thyme leaves prior to topping the mac and cheese.
  9. Broil for 3-4 minutes until just golden brown. Keep a close eye on it so the topping doesn't burn. Let rest for several minutes then serve warm.

Notes

    • For the breadcrumbs: You can use whichever type of bread you would like. I used sourdough. Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay bread slices (4 ounces is enough for this recipe) on a sheet pan and bake for 20 minutes flipping halfway through. Remove from the oven and transfer to a food processor fitted with a blade attachment along with 1 teaspoon garlic powder, a teaspoon of onion powder, and a tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves. Pulse until desired consistency is reached.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 18 Serving Size: 3/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 361Total Fat: 24gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 633mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 16g

The nutritional information provided is computer generated. It is only an estimate and intended for informational purposes only. Nutrition details may vary depending on various factors such as origin, freshness of ingredients, etc

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram

Archana

Wednesday 4th of November 2020

Sounds yummy but I will leave out the bacon and try making it, This is one delicious yum mac and cheese I will enjoy any day, not just thanksgiving ;D

Jessica Halverstadt

Thursday 5th of November 2020

Thanks, it definitely can be eaten anytime, not just Thanksgiving!!!

Michelle Frank | Flipped-Out Food

Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

My family does mac and cheese for Easter, but not Thanksgiving. It makes perfect sense, though—for the reason you mention! I love that you include sprouts in your mac. The only way I can get my family to eat them is to hide them in something else! This breadcrumb topping is so delicious.

Jessica Halverstadt

Thursday 5th of November 2020

Thanks!! My kids surprisingly loved this mac and cheese, Brussels sprouts and all, so hopefully, yours will too. Mac and cheese for Easter is a great idea....I mean I could pretty much eat it every day. I think I'll add it to our menu next year.

Biana

Monday 2nd of November 2020

I love mac and cheese, and am liking this is new spin on it! Will be definitely trying it out soon.

Jessica Halverstadt

Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

I promise you won't be disappointed. Let me know how it turns out!

Melanie varey

Monday 2nd of November 2020

I love Mac and cheese and variations of the classic recipe. This is a festive twist- will be trying!

Jessica Halverstadt

Tuesday 3rd of November 2020

Yay, hope you enjoy it! It's a mighty fine twist.

Sabine

Monday 2nd of November 2020

I would have never thought of adding Brussels sprout to pasta, let alone mac n cheese. What a great idea. This dish looks so tasty and delicious. Can't wait to try.

Jessica Halverstadt

Monday 2nd of November 2020

Thank you, Sabine! The combo is superb. Hope you like it!

Skip to Recipe