Not too long ago, my friend sent me a snapshot of a recipe from Pinterest. She told me this Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole was one of her family’s very favorite recipes. She asked me if I could take a look at the recipe and see how to lighten it up. Of course, I was happy to, and I am very excited to share with you this Macro-Friendly Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta.
If you have never had Chicken Cordon Bleu before, you’re in for a delicious treat! To prepare this dish in its original form, you take a chicken breast and stuff it with ham and Swiss cheese. Then, the chicken is coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried. Crispy exterior, gooey cheesy, what’s not to love?
I did a little digging into where the recipe came from, and it seems to have originated as a type of schnitzel in Switzerland. Ironically, the phrase “Cordon Bleu” is a french term. The translation means “blue ribbon,” which speaks to how delicious this entree is!
When I first peeked at the recipe that my friend gave to me, what first stood out to me was it was already packed with protein. That is always a good start from a macro-counters perspective! There are major protein sources in this recipe- cooked chicken, ham, milk, and swiss cheese.
The other thing that stood out to me was that there were some major fat sources! HA! From using both white and dark meat chicken to plenty of melty cheese to butter in both the sauce AND the topping, I knew that scaling down the fat was going to be a major goal for this recipe.
- Chicken Breast. Instead of using meat from a whole chicken, I decided to go with just chicken breast. This helps save some fat while keeping the dish high in protein. Speaking of the chicken breast, I included in the recipe the weight for raw chicken in this recipe. I did this because cooked chicken breast can vary WIDELY in macro-counts (just scan MyFitnessPal if you don’t believe me!). When you cook your chicken yourself, it leaves the guesswork out of the macros. I cooked my chicken in the air fryer, but you can use whatever preparation you prefer.
- The Sauce. To make the sauce lighter, I first started by reducing the amount of butter and flour used to thicken the sauce. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could get a thick enough sauce by scaling back on these ingredients, but it turned out just fine. I’m sure it’s not quite as rich as the original recipe, but the sauce still has plenty of flavors thanks to the addition of lemon juice, paprika, and dijon mustard. It’s so yummy!
- The Cheese. This swap helped save a ton of calories! Instead of using full-fat cheese, I opted to use one of my favorite cheeses that I pick up from Costco. It is a light swiss cheese from Jarlsberg, and it has killer macros. Just 50 calories 2.5F/1C/7P for a slice! Before you add the cheese on top, I recommend breaking each cheese slice into four. This helps make sure the cheese is easier to separate when scooping it out. If not broken up, it tends to come out in one big slice!
- The Topping. To help lighten up the carbs and fat from the topping, I opted to use less overall bread crumbs. This helps save some carbs, but I still thought it had plenty of crunchy texture. I also coated the breadcrumbs in less melted butter to help cut back on the fats. If you want to save even more carbs and fat, you could omit the breadcrumb layer. However, we all loved the texture it added.
- Spaghetti Squash for Volume. I actually prepared this dish several times before, and while it was delicious, it wasn’t a very big serving. To add some volume to this dish, I decided to prepare it instead as a “pasta,” using spaghetti squash. If I’ve lost you at the mention of spaghetti squash, don’t worry! I have made this recipe so that it is a basic sauce and then you can add to it whatever noodles you might like. I’m thinking Banza would also be great here. Or, you can do a mixture of both traditional noodles and spaghetti squash.
Breaking Up the Tasks
This is a meal that does have some steps to it. To help break up the time, I’d recommend cooking the spaghetti squash and chicken earlier on during the day or even the day before. You could also assemble this dish in the morning (except for the breadcrumbs) and then stick it in the fridge until you’re ready to bake it. Simply add the breadcrumbs and bake.
The macros for 1/6 of the bake are rounded to 10F/19C/36P and 311 calories. We like to round out this meal with an extra veggie for volume and usually some fresh bread.
To find the number of grams for the serving size, first, remember to weigh the dish you will bake this in (mine was 1523 grams). Then, weigh the dish with the cooked ingredient inside (mine was 3305 g). Subtract the weight of the dish (3305-1523= 1782 g of the bake). Finally, divide the weight of the cooked food by the total number of servings (1782/6= 297 g). If you are looking for a ballpark amount to use, this will work. As you’ll see below, I used a little bit less than a pound and a half of chicken breast, so your dish might vary slightly in weight.
Macro-Friendly Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
For the Bake
- ~ 1.5 lbs raw chicken breast (mine was 644 g)
- 4 ounces deli ham, roughly chopped (112 g. I used Kirkland extra lean ham)
- 5 slices light Swiss Cheese, with each slice cut into four pieces (Jarlsberg was the brand I used)
- 670 g spaghetti squash, cooked
For the Topping
- 30 g Italian bread crumbs (I used the Great Value brand)
- 1/2 T melted butter (7 g)
For the Sauce
- 2 T butter (28 g)
- 2 T flour (15 g)
- 480 g 1 % milk ( 2 cups)
- 1 T lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1.5 T Dijon Mustard
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt, or more, to taste
- freshly cracked pepper, to taste
- First prepare the spaghetti squash. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the spaghetti squash flat side down onto a baking sheet or 9X13 pan. Bake in a preheated oven for 40 minutes or until it is tender. After it has cooled, use a fork to pull strands of spaghetti squash and set aside.
- While the spaghetti squash is baking, cook the raw chicken until no pink remains. You can do this with whatever method you prefer. I used my air fryer (360 degrees for about 20 minutes, but will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken breast) . After the chicken is cooked, dice it into bite-sized pieces.
- Preheat an oven to 350 degrees.
- For the sauce, begin by melting the butter over medium heat. Once it is melted, sprinkle the flour on top. Whisk the flour into the butter mixture and keep whisking for about 2 minutes to help cook out the raw flour taste. Do not allow the mixture to brown.
- After the 2 minutes, slowly stir in the milk, whisking to combine. Continue whisking until all the flour is incorporated into the milk. Allow the sauce to cook over medium heat, stirring very frequently, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken.
- After the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, turn the heat down to low. Add in the lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, paprika, and pepper, whisking to evenly combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper or lemon juice as necessary. I usually do add more of each of these! Turn off heat.
- In a large bowl, combine cooked spaghetti squash strands, diced chicken, diced ham, and the sauce. Stir until completely combined.
- Spray a medium-sized casserole dish with cooking spray. Add in the spaghetti squash mixture evenly in the baking dish. Evenly lay out the swiss cheese in the casserole dish.
- In a small bowl, melt the additional butter in a microwave for about 10-15 seconds. Add in the breadcrumbs and stir to evenly incorporate them into the butter. Sprinkle the buttered breadcrumbs over the cheese layer evenly.
- Bake in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly all over and beginning to brown. Allow to rest for 15 minutes for the casserole to thicken. Serve and enjoy!