Recipes | Comfort Food

Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese

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Did the title get you excited? Every time I see the words “Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese” I admit that my salivary glands respond on their own and I cannot wait to dive in! This is like a classic mac and cheese bumped up a notch or two. You do make a from-scratch cheese sauce, beginning with a butter/flour roux, but then in addition to lactose-free milk you whisk in Live Free Ranch Dressing! Read on for more info.

Main image Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese on white plate with fork; grey quartz surface
Are you excited? We are! Low FODMAP, gluten-free pasta with homemade cheese sauce enhanced with ranch dressing – and bacon!

Ranch Dressing As Ingredient

Folks go crazy for ranch dressing and if you aren’t aware yet, we are here to tell you about Live Free Ranch Dressing, which happens to be dairy free as well as lab tested and certified low FODMAP. You can read more about this company and their other products in our interview with the owners.

Live Free Ranch bottle with mac n cheese in background
Live Free Ranch Dressing is great on salad, but why not cook with it?

Ranch dressing is great on a leafy green salad, but it is so much more. Ranch lovers use it as a dip for vegetables – and even pizza (yes, that is a thing). We like it as a dip for Stuffed Potato Skins! But what about using it as an ingredient in a recipe? As a component?

Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese in glass dish, also plated on white plate with fork
Homemade cheese sauce, with a difference. The addition of ranch dressing. We even added it to the breadcrumb topping.

Getting Creative

Being a professional recipe developer for over 30 years is one of my proudest accomplishments. I am good at what I do. Folks ask me how I come up with things. I have to tell you, I am not sure LOL. Sometimes I literally dream about a combination of ingredients. Other times I taste a dish at a restaurant or sample a new commercially prepared product and I want to recreate it – or what I think is an even better version. Any which way it begins, not a day goes by when I am not creating recipes in my mind, if not actually in our Test Kitchen.

I was pondering ways to showcase Live Free Ranch Dressing and knew that I wanted something fantastic, even a little over-the-top. Something that would make all of you go, “Whoa, I never thought about ranch dressing in that way!” Macaroni and cheese is such a beloved classic that this concept of adding ranch dressing and bacon came to me pretty quickly. The addition of chicken added protein and made it much more of a main dish, as opposed to a side dish. And, then adding the ranch dressing to the panko topping was pretty inspirational, if I say so myself.

Bacon Can Be Low FODMAP

And I doubled up on the bacon. Actually tripled up. Crumbled, crisp bacon goes in the casserole, in the topping and then I used some bacon fat to grease the pan. That last technique is optional, but why not? While fat is not a FODMAP, it can be a gut irritant for some of you with IBS. In that case, this dish might not be for you. Always eat to your tolerances.

To choose the best bacon, check out our article Is Bacon Low FODMAP? Not all is.

I think you will love this super-special mac ‘n cheese. And it is easy to make, too!

overhead image of Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese in glass dish, forks alongside. Bottle held in hand in foreground
Live Free Ranch Dressing is lab tested and certified low FODMAP by FODMAP Friendly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Ranch Dressing?

Ranch dressing was invented by Steve and Gayle Henson at their dude ranch – the Hidden Valley Ranch – in Santa Barbara, CA in 1954. That brand is still available and might even be the one you are familiar with, but it contains high FODMAP ingredients such as garlic, onion, and lactose-heavy dairy products.
 
Luckily for us FODMAPers Live Free Foods has a FODMAP Friendly lab tested and certified low FODMAP Creamy Ranch Dressing (as well as a Zesty Italian Dressing). You can read more about the brand in our interview with owners Justin and Patricia Yin.

Ranch dressing is, of course, fantastic on a simple green salad, but here we show you how to get creative with our Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese. 

What Is The Best Pasta To Use?

Best pasta? It depends on the recipe! And that means taking both shape and ingredients into consideration. For this recipe I like classic elbow shape, small ziti or penne.
 
I am partial to rice-based pasta for this recipe for best texture and neutral flavor. I like Jovial and Tinkyada brands and they have both yielded great results. 

Live Free Ranch bottles 2

What If I Don’t Have Live Free Ranch Dressing?

The recipe was developed with Live Free Ranch Dressing and we highly recommend that you use it if you can. If you do not have any at hand, you can use our homemade version of Low FODMAP Ranch Dressing.

How To Make Our Ranch Mac and Cheese

Preheat oven to 350° (180°C). Coat a 13-inch by 9-inch (33 cm by 22 cm) casserole with nonstick spray; or do what I did and use bacon fat. Just brush it around the inside of the pan. (Obviously you have to have made the bacon already).

Cook macaroni according to package directions until al dente; drain well and return to pot (instead of dirtying an extra bowl).

BTW, my favorite way to cook a bunch off bacon is in the oven. Place on a sheet pan in a cold oven. Set oven to 425°F (220°C) and allow bacon to cook as oven preheats. The bacon will be done at approximately the same time as the oven comes to temperature (with some variance with different ovens).

Cooked bacon on sheet pan

For Sauce, Pasta & Chicken: Meanwhile, in a separate medium saucepan, melt butter over low-medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in the milk. Adjust heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until thick and glossy, about 2 minutes. Whisk in Live Free Ranch Dressing (or our homemade version), then stir in cheddar, Monterey jack and Parmesan cheeses. Pour over pasta in large pot.

folding cheese sauce into cooked pasta for mac n cheese

Add chicken to pot along with about half of the bacon (do this by eye) and scallion greens and fold everything together until thoroughly mixed.

folding cooked bacon into mac n cheese in bowl

Scrape into prepared pan.

For Breadcrumb Topping: In a small bowl stir the panko together with the melted butter, Live Free Ranch Dressing, and remaining bacon.

panko topping with bacon for mac n cheese in glass bowl

Scatter evenly over the pasta and chicken.

mac n cheese ready to bake with panko bacon topping

Bake uncovered for about 30 to 35 minutes or until topping is golden brown and casserole is bubbling.

overhead image of Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese in glass dish, forks alongside

Sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve.

overhead image of Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese in glass dish, and on white plate

FODMAP Information

Our recipes are based on Monash University and FODMAP Friendly science.

  • Butter: Both Monash University and FODMAP Friendly have lab tested butter. Monash states that a low FODMAP Green Light portion is 1 tablespoon or 19 g and also states that “butter is high in fat and does not contain carbohydrates (FODMAPs)”. FODMAP Friendly gives it a “Pass” at 1 tablespoon or 19 g. Both recommended serving sizes are presented as part of healthy eating guidelines, not as maximum FODMAP serving size. Fat can affect guy motility and trigger IBS symptoms in some people. Eat to your tolerance.
  • Cheese: Many cheeses have low FODMAP serving sizes. The low FODMAP diet is not a dairy-free diet. Hard cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano have been lab tested by Monash University and are low FODMAP in 40 g amounts.
  • Dairy: The low FODMAP diet is not a dairy-free diet. It is, however, low in lactose. Many dairy ingredients are low in lactose, such as heavy cream and many cheeses.
  • Lactose-Free Dairy: Lactose-free dairy, such as lactose-free milk or lactose-free cream cheese, has lactase enzyme added that breaks the disaccharide molecules and creates a more digestible dairy product, from a lactose perspective. The resulting product is not dairy-free, but it is lactose-free. Some products might have miniscule amounts of lactose remaining, but the amount is small enough for the product to be labeled as lactose-free. For instance, Breyers Lactose-Free Vanilla Ice Cream states it is 99% lactose-free, while Lactaid Vanilla Ice Cream states it is 100% lactose-free.
  • Pasta: You have to read labels, but there are many low FODMAP gluten-free brands of pasta available. Use what is called for in individual recipes. Our go-to is rice-based pasta. Monash University and FODMAP Friendly have both tested “gluten-free” pasta, but they do not specify what the pasta was made from. Monash says gluten-free pasta is low FODMAP at 145 g or 1 cup cooked; FODMAP Friendly lab testing suggested 2 cups or 146 g cooked is low FODMAP. Monash has also lab tested pasta made from rice, which they list under “rice stick” and it is low FODMAP at 220 g, which no Moderate or High FODMAP amounts given. 
  • Scallions: The green parts of scallions are low FODMAP as determined by Monash University lab testing and can be used to add onion flavor to your low FODMAP cooking.

Please always refer to the Monash University & FODMAP Friendly smartphone apps for the most up-to-date lab tested information. As always, your tolerance is what counts; please eat accordingly. The ultimate goal of the low FODMAP diet is to eat as broadly as possible, without triggering symptoms, for the healthiest microbiome.

Main image Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese on white plate with fork; grey quartz surface
4.75 from 4 votes

Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese

Did the title get you excited? Every time I see the words “Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese” I admit that my salivary glands respond on their own and I cannot wait to dive in! This is like a classic mac and cheese bumped up a notch or two. You do make a from-scratch cheese sauce, beginning with a butter/flour roux, but then in addition to lactose-free milk you whisk in Live Free Ranch Dressing! 

Makes: 10 Servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Author: Dédé Wilson

Ingredients:

Pasta, Sauce & Chicken:

  • 12- ounces (340 g) low FODMAP gluten-free elbow, penne, or ziti pasta, cooked al dente
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons low FODMAP gluten-free all-purpose flour, such as Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free Baking Flour
  • 1 ½ cups (360 ml) whole lactose-free milk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) preferably Live Free Ranch Dressing, or our Low FODMAP Ranch Dressing recipe
  • 5- ounces (140 g) shredded cheddar cheese; you can use mild, medium or sharp; yellow or white cheddar
  • 2 ½- ounces (70 g) shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 7- ounces (200 g; about 1 ¼ cups) coarsely chopped or shredded low FODMAP cooked chicken
  • 6 strips meaty bacon, cooked crisp, divided
  • 2 tablespoons minced scallion greens

Breadcrumb Topping:

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° (180°C). Coat a 13-inch by 9-inch (33 cm by 22 cm) casserole with nonstick spray; or do what I did and use bacon fat!
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente; drain well and return to pot (instead of dirtying an extra bowl).

  3. For Sauce, Pasta & Chicken: Meanwhile, in a separate medium saucepan, melt butter over low-medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in the milk. Adjust heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until thick and glossy, about 2 minutes. Whisk in Live Free Ranch Dressing, then stir in cheddar, Monterey jack and Parmesan cheeses. Pour over pasta in large pot. Add chicken to pot along with about half of the bacon (do this by eye) and scallion greens and fold everything together until thoroughly mixed. Scrape into prepared pan.

  4. If you would like to freeze the casserole, do so at this time. Wrap very well with plastic wrap, then with foil. Defrost in refrigerator overnight, bring to room temperature, then proceed with topping and baking.
  5. For Breadcrumb Topping: In a small bowl stir the panko together with the melted butter, Live Free Ranch Dressing, and remaining bacon. Scatter evenly over the pasta and chicken. Bake uncovered for about 30 to 35 minutes or until topping is golden brown and casserole is bubbling. Sprinkle with parsley, if using, and serve.

Notes:

FODMAP Information

Our recipes are based on Monash University and FODMAP Friendly science.

Butter: Both Monash University and FODMAP Friendly have lab tested butter. Monash states that a low FODMAP Green Light portion is 1 tablespoon or 19 g and also states that “butter is high in fat and does not contain carbohydrates (FODMAPs)”. FODMAP Friendly gives it a “Pass” at 1 tablespoon or 19 g. Both recommended serving sizes are presented as part of healthy eating guidelines, not as maximum FODMAP serving size. Fat can affect guy motility and trigger IBS symptoms in some people. Eat to your tolerance.

Cheese: Many cheeses have low FODMAP serving sizes. The low FODMAP diet is not a dairy-free diet. Hard cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano have been lab tested by Monash University and are low FODMAP in 40 g amounts.

Dairy: The low FODMAP diet is not a dairy-free diet. It is however, low in lactose. Many dairy ingredients are low in lactose, such as heavy cream and many cheeses.

Lactose-Free Dairy: Lactose-free dairy, such as lactose-free milk or lactose-free cream cheese, has lactase enzyme added that breaks the disaccharide molecules and creates a more digestible dairy product, from a lactose perspective. The resulting product is not dairy-free, but it is lactose-free. Some products might have miniscule amounts of lactose remaining, but the amount is small enough for the product to be labeled as lactose-free. For instance, Breyers Lactose-Free Vanilla Ice Cream states it is 99% lactose-free, while Lactaid Vanilla Ice Cream states it is 100% lactose-free.

Pasta: You have to read labels, but there are many low FODMAP gluten-free brands of pasta available. Use what is called for in individual recipes. Our go-to is rice-based pasta. Monash University and FODMAP Friendly have both tested “gluten-free” pasta, but they do not specify what the pasta was made from. Monash says gluten-free pasta is low FODMAP at 145 g or 1 cup cooked; FODMAP Friendly lab testing suggested 2 cups or 146 g cooked is low FODMAP. Monash has also lab tested pasta made from rice, which they list under “rice stick” and it is low FODMAP at 220 g, which no Moderate or High FODMAP amounts given.

Scallions: The green parts of scallions are low FODMAP as determined by Monash University lab testing and can be used to add onion flavor to your low FODMAP cooking.

Please always refer to the Monash University & FODMAP Friendly smartphone apps for the most up-to-date lab tested information. As always, your tolerance is what counts; please eat accordingly. The ultimate goal of the low FODMAP diet is to eat as broadly as possible, without triggering symptoms, for the healthiest microbiome.

Course: Dinner, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American

Nutrition

Calories: 539kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 268mg | Potassium: 15mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 102IU | Calcium: 131mg | Iron: 1mg

All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more. For a more detailed explanation, please read our article Understanding The Nutrition Panel Within Our Recipes.

overhead image of Low FODMAP Chicken & Bacon Ranch Mac and Cheese in glass dish, forks alongside with bottle of Dressing

This Recipe Was Generously Sponsored By Live Free Foods