The Foodie Dietitian Blog

Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N’ Cheese with Sage Breadcrumbs

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the National Pasta Association and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

This lightened version of the classic comfort food staple, mac n’ cheese, screams fall with the sweet taste of sweet potato and the earthy, savory flavor of sage. Plus, this Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N’ Cheese is packed with nutrient-powerhouse produce, making it the perfect well-balanced pasta dish. 

The perfect fall comfort food. Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N' Cheese with Sage Breadcrumbs | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

I think I’m having a pumpkin hangover. You know the feeling, right?! When you get really excited that fall is officially here and go on a pumpkin bender, eating, cooking, and pinning ALL THE THINGS PUMPKIN. And then you kinda crash and realize you’ve been neglecting all the other amazing produce of fall.

Sweet Potato Mac N' Cheese | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

Although seriously tempted to break out the pumpkin (I’ve still got some leftovers from last week’s Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Bowl), I decided to be an equal opportunity fall produce enthusiast and make a dish featuring a different kind of orange – the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes are not only deliciously sweet, they’re packed with fiber, potassium, and vitamins A and C.

Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N' Cheese-1

Did you know that October is National Pasta Month?! I LOVE pasta. Not just because I’m Italian and it’s in my DNA, but because it’s an awesome foundation to build a healthy meal. Choose 100% whole-wheat pasta, pile on some veggies and lean protein, and you’ve got yourself a well-balanced meal, my friend. I also don’t hate that pasta won’t break the bank and that you can easily make large batches so that you have leftovers for the week.

Sweet Potato Mac N' Cheese | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon Print

Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N’ Cheese

  • Yield: Serves 8


This lightened version of the classic comfort food staple, mac n’ cheese, screams fall with the sweet taste of sweet potato and the earthy, savory flavor of sage.


For the Mac N’ Cheese:

  • 1 lb whole-wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 1/2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups 1% milk
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, skins removed
  • 2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Sage Breadcrumbs:

  • 1 1/2 cups plain panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • 2 1/2 tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • Salt & pepper to taste


For the mac n’ cheese:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places and place in oven to bake for 45-60 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
  2. Preheat broiler and adjust oven rack toward the top of the oven.
  3. Boil 4 quarts of water and 1 tbsp salt in a large pot. Once water is boiling, add pasta and cook approx. 8 minutes (or according to instructions on package). Drain pasta and set aside.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Add kale and toss to coat. Add 1/3 cup water and cover for about 5 minutes. Remove cover, give the kale a stir, and sauté until water has evaporated and kale is slightly wilted. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  5. In a large pot, heat butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add flour and cayenne pepper and whisk until it thickens, forming a roux. Whisk in the milk and continue whisking until milk reaches a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and continue to whisk the milk for about 5 minutes, or until it begins to thicken.
  6. Remove from heat and whisk in the sweet potato. Using an immersion blender, blend in the sweet potato until smooth consistency. Whisk in the cheese and dijon mustard. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  7. Transfer pasta to a baking dish and top with sage breadcrumbs. Place baking dish under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

For the Sage Breadcrumbs:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix breadcrumbs and sage. Add melted butter and toss to combine.
Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N' Cheese | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

Not only is this mac n’ cheese rocking nutrient-packed kale and sweet potato, it’s also a lightened up version of this comfort food classic. With the addition of sweet potato puree, you only need about 1/2 the amount of cheese that’s usually called for. And I used 1% milk instead of half & half or whole milk and still got the richness and thick sauce I was jonesing for.

Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N' Cheese | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

I love the flavor combos we’ve got happening here too. I added a touch of cayenne for a tiny hit of heat to balance out all the sweet. And the sage breadcrumbs adds that earthy, savory taste that pairs so well with sweet…and makes you think of Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potato & Kale Mac N' Cheese with Sage Breadcrumbs | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

I seriously think this dish MUST make it on my Thanksgiving menu this year. It was that seasonally comforting.

For more cheese and pasta goodness or other Thanksgiving inspiration, check out some of these recipes below:

Healthier Hemp Pecan Pie

Healthier Hemp Pecan Pie

Vegan Butternut Squash Soup | The Foodie Dietitian @karalydon

Vegan Butternut Squash Soup with Cardamom

Butternut Squash and Sage Crostini square

Butternut Squash and Sage Crostini square

Looking for more pasta inspiration? Check out some of the other creative dishes by fellow Reduxers below!
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I’m a nutrition coach and yoga teacher helping people to learn to love food again. I love cooking, taking pictures of my food and traveling around the world. Follow my blog for delicious, seasonal vegetarian recipes and simple strategies to bring more yoga and mindfulness into your life. And check out my e-book to learn how to improve your health through nutrition and yoga. Show me what deliciousness you make! Tag me @karalydonRD on Instagram.


  1. This looks absolutely incredible!! If my patients that preferred vegan diets wanted to make this, would almond milk make a good substitute for the dairy? Can’t wait to try!

  2. Made this tonight for dinner- It blew away our Sunday blues!! So many delicious flavors and it was surprisingly filling! It even won over the ‘picky eater’ in the house. I used whole grain pasta that also had protein in it- 17g per serving! This was perfect for a snowy evening. Can’t wait for leftovers in tomorrow’s lunch

  3. So disappointed!! This recipe is a lot of work to make and in the end does not taste that great. Not sure you can really call it mac & cheese… the sweet potato is pretty overpowers the cheese quite a bit and the mustard is just a really odd addition. Makes for a huge, dense, and heavy dish. Would not recommend.

    • Hey Sofia – thanks for your feedback. Sorry to hear this recipe didn’t meet your expectations! You’re right, this recipe does call for a decent amount of prep but the good news is you can prep the kale and mashed sweet potato ahead of time. As far as the sweet potato and cheese goes – my goal was to reduce the normal amount of cheese by 50% to cut calories & fat and amp up the nutrients in this dish by replacing with sweet potato. And my intention was to include enough sweet potato so that you actually taste it :). And as far as the dijon mustard goes, it’s actually a pretty common (although perhaps counterintuitive) ingredient in mac n’ cheese (you might see it listed as dry mustard) as it just adds a bit more depth to the other flavors. Hope you’ll enjoy some of the other recipes I have on the blog!

  4. this is such a great idea! Perfect for fall! Yum!

  5. How did I miss this post? I love this recipe! I can tell already that it’s filled with great flavors. Must try this out on my pasta-loving family 🙂

  6. Omg! This looks amazing. I will definitely give it a try. I think my 17 month old would love it too!

  7. I do butternut squash mac n cheese all the time so why not sweet potato?? And so digging those sage breadcrumbs…

    • Sage breadcrumbs FTW! Seriously, they were the icing on the cake. And you can’t have cake without icing, IMO. 🙂
      You and Jessica have convinced me to try Bnut squash next! I bet it’s as delish.

  8. can you use your recipe genius skills to make me a dairy-free version? and mail it to me? k great.

  9. I am so team sweet potato! Loving all the kale & orange veg with this Recipe Redux contest!

  10. Kara – this looks absolutely divine! Love all of the fall flavors.

  11. This looks so creamy and comforting! What a great fall dish!

  12. This looks fabulous! I will definitely have to try this out – I love that you stuck it under the broiler to get those breadcrumbs all crispy. Yum 🙂

  13. Don’t you just love using orange root veggies in mac n cheese?! My version with butternut squash puree is a fam favorite! This looks delish too!

  14. Yum! Some of my very favorite fall flavors in one dish. Love using sweet potato or pumpkin to replace some fat. Thanks for the recipe!

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