Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese


A meal the whole family can agree on can be hard to come by, but this one definitely makes the cut. Better yet it’s easy to make and if you happen to already have some cooked chicken sitting in the fridge or freezer then you’ve got a meal in no time.

Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese | Cooking Classy

I made this to be much lighter than a traditional mac and cheese by using low-fat milk and no cream, using only a small amount of butter, and using reduce fat cheddar cheese. Plus, I added a bonus of a protein and veggie to make it more of a meal in one, and so there’s actually some nutrition in there. I actually prefer a mac like this vs one with all the fat because it’s not so heavy and I feel fine about eating it, I mean with 4 1/2 cups broccoli how could it be bad :)? If you insist on making this richer you could use regular fat cheddar and replace a little of the milk with cream (if doing so I’d reduce the flour by 1 Tbsp).

One more delicious, perfectly creamy and filling dish to add to the rotation. Enjoy!


Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese | Cooking Classy


Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese

5 from 1 vote

Yield: About 5 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes


  • 9 oz large shell pasta , dry (3 1/4 cups)
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts , cooked and shredded into small bites size pieces
  • 12 oz broccoli florets , diced into small bite size pieces (4 1/2 cups once diced)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups low-fat milk
  • 6 oz 2% reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese , shredded (1 1/2 cups)*
  • 1 oz parmesan cheese , finely shredded (1/3 cup)


  1. Boil pasta according to directions listed on package adding broccoli during last 3 - 4 minutes of boiling, drain well (reserve 1/4 cup pasta water, just in case you want to thin pasta sauce).
  2. Meanwhile, in a pot melt butter over medium heat then stir in flour. Cook mixture stirring constantly for 1 minute. While whisking vigorously, slowly add in milk, then season with onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium-high, cook mixture, stirring constantly until it boils and thickens. Remove from heat, allow to cool for 1 minute then add in cheddar and parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Add drained pasta and broccoli and chicken and toss to evenly coat. As it sits it will thicken, you can thin it with a few tbsp pasta water if desired.
  3. *If you want a stronger cheddar cheese flavor use 8 oz. You can also use extra sharp cheddar.
  4. Recipe Source: Cooking Classy

Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese | Cooking Classy Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese | Cooking Classy Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese | Cooking Classy


  • Laura (Tutti Dolci): I’m craving comfort food and a big bowl of this pasta would be just perfect! September 11, 2014 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Liz @ Floating Kitchen: Yum! I’m loving this one pot meal! And bonus points that it has tons of broccoli in it! Looks perfect for fall! September 11, 2014 at 2:04pm Reply

  • Emily van Kampen: Nice recipe! It is also suited for kids who are not fond of strong flavors, but it seems tasty for adults at the same time. September 11, 2014 at 2:37pm Reply

  • Trisha @ Home Sweet Homemade: Awesome! I love how you just cook everything in one pot, and it is all wholesome, real ingredients!

    This looks right up my ally, I will def be trying this one! September 11, 2014 at 5:23pm Reply

  • Chelsea @ A Duck’s Oven: This dish comprises all of my favorite things. Broccoli is totally the best veggie and any excuse to eat mac and cheese and have it be a little healthier is fantastic! Yummy! Pinned for dinner this week :) September 12, 2014 at 2:22am Reply

  • Cooking Trials- Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells & Cheese | from a cannon heart: […] this recipe on pinterest initially and then followed the link to Cooking Classy, attached here: . While I was there, I also took a look around and believe I will be going back to this site, many […] September 19, 2014 at 10:57am Reply

  • Kristin: I made it with old cheddar, real aged parmesan, and a lot of pepper. I also didn’t pre-cook the broccoli so it stayed nice and crisp. I recommend keeping your noodles on the more aldente side. September 21, 2014 at 5:25pm Reply

  • Tori: This looks absolutely delicious!I was just curious on how you cook your chicken to keep it juicy? October 7, 2014 at 9:24pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: There are a few ways I cook chicken but this time around I just boiled it. Broth or water + salt is usually all I use. November 4, 2014 at 10:39pm Reply

  • CeCile Gilbertson: Could I use frozen broccoli instead of fresh with this? October 12, 2014 at 6:20pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I think fresh is best (but I almost always say that :), you could use frozen I would thaw and drain it first. October 15, 2014 at 11:02pm Reply

      • Abby: frozen veggies are actually better for you October 29, 2015 at 11:59am Reply

      • Rob L.: What is used in the picture above? Fresh or frozen broccoli? March 6, 2016 at 7:47pm Reply

  • Friday Finds 10.17 | BHG Delish Dish: […] whole family will adore Cooking Classy‘s Creamy Broccoli Chicken Shells and Cheese. I always eat my veggies with a side of cheese, don’t […] October 17, 2014 at 8:01am Reply

  • Lyndsey: I made this tonight exactly as written and I’m sorry to say it was very blah. Not enough flavor. Like, at all. It’s too bad because it has three of my fave things: pasta, broccoli and cheese. October 21, 2014 at 7:15pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: You could definitely add in more sharp cheddar to taste and that should do the trick. I was just trying to keep it a little healthier so chose not to add in more. October 21, 2014 at 7:19pm Reply

    • Jill: Try a dash or two of Worcestershire sauce. It really brings up the flavor of the cheese and adds some depth without being obvious. October 26, 2014 at 7:47am Reply

    • Mary Ellen: It may have a lot to do with what type of cheese. Cabot extra sharp is excellent with tons of flavor. November 3, 2015 at 8:18pm Reply

  • Jill: (Some people use mustard powder in cheese sauce, but I prefer Worcestershire.) October 26, 2014 at 7:52am Reply

  • Noelle: I used 8 oz. of sharp cheddar, plus sautéed my chicken with a clove of minced garlic. I tasted and adjusted with the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper then garnished with a sprinkle of cayenne and it had plenty of flavor to me! This is a great comfort dish plus you can me it extra easy on yourself and just use a steam-in-the-microwave bag of broccoli. Definitely making again! October 28, 2014 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Anna: I used 8 oz sharp cheddar as well, and it was great as is, though I did follow Noelle’s advice and added just enough cayenne to help make the flavors pop. I can never use fresh broccoli fast enough, so I just used some chopped frozen broccoli and it turned out great! It’s definitely a comfort food dish :)
    Oh! And I used whole wheat pasta, which I’m convinced makes all pasta dishes 100x better November 15, 2014 at 5:47pm Reply

  • Julie G.: I tried this dish and everything is good but I with steamed broccoli instead of raw would be better! Thanks for sharing! November 27, 2014 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Becky: A healthy way to fix bland mac and cheese is with a bit of unseasoned tomato sauce. Just add it slowly to taste. It doesn’t taste like tomatoes, it just brightens the flavor. Also, more vegetables! Win-win. January 11, 2015 at 9:14am Reply

  • Caitlin S: Oh my goodness! We made this tonight and it is AMAZING! my hubby grilled the chicken and we did not have garlic powder so we did a lot of garlic salt and it was so good! Thank you so much!! January 29, 2015 at 6:39pm Reply

  • Mary: I made this tonight and it honestly turned out awful. The measurements are all off (9oz does not = 3 1/4 cups, 12oz does not = 4 1/2, 6oz does not = 1 1/2 cup and 1oz does not = 1/3 cup), when you add that amount of flour to that amount of melted butter if makes a thick almost paste like thing that will not mix with the other ingredients no matter how hard you try and I honestly had no idea how much milk to mix in since the measurements are so inconsistent. It was overall bland, the broccoli underdone and the noodles overdone since I had to cook the broccoli a little longer (and it was still underdone). How anyone actually got a good meal out of this mixed up mess I’m shocked. January 30, 2015 at 7:53pm Reply

    • Malloryt: You obviously don’t know how to cook. Adding that much flour to butter makes what is called a roux and it ends up thickening your milk to make it a sauce. October 28, 2015 at 6:30am Reply

  • Molly: I had the same experience as the previous posted, Mary. The flour and butter made a dough-like paste that made the sauce chunky no matter how much I whisked. I used 3c of milk like it said and it was so bland and awful. I will not make this again! February 9, 2015 at 5:59pm Reply

  • Michelle: I made this tonight and the whole family loved it- the whole family, which hardly ever happens. I used 8 oz of sharp cheddar and a healthy squirt of Dijon mustard, which I always do with any mac and cheese recipe. To the reviewers who were complaining of the flour and butter “paste”…. I’m perplexed. Um, that’s what a roux, or bechamel, or white sauce, always starts with. You whisk the milk in. Like the directions say, you whisk vigorously. It shouldn’t be lumpy, that would be operator error. I measured the pasta in ounces, so no comment on the cups vs. ounces issue. 9 oz of shell pasta was the perfect amount for this. I also chose to steam the broccoli separately so I could control the amount of done-ness. For the chicken, I used part of a rotisserie chicken. Will be making this again. February 11, 2015 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Shannon: I just made this dish and it turned out great! I measured everything the way it was except for the garlic and onion powder., I eyeballed those! I did use a cup of heavy whipping cream and two cups of milk because I had to use up the open cream! Alittle more broccoli could have been added! It was alittle bland, but nothing I couldn’t fix. Next time I will add alittle more seasoning to it. I think it’s more of a personal taste preference! Overall, this was very good and simple to make! Thanks for posting :-) February 15, 2015 at 3:22pm Reply

  • B Martinez: Jaclyn, nutritional information is very important for me. Do you have any for this dish? February 18, 2015 at 5:21pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Sorry I don’t, since I’m not a nutritionist I’m not comfortable adding that info. February 23, 2015 at 7:05pm Reply

  • Nicole: Made this tonight and it was excellent! I added at least triple the garlic and onion powder and a good amount of salt to pump up the flavor. Also sauteed my chicken in EVOO, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. I’d definitely make this again! I’m also cracking up at the roux comments, I guess the people who ended up with a paste have never seen a roux before, LOL! February 18, 2015 at 6:05pm Reply

  • Sarah: It was a nice idea and the pictures are lovely, but it was so bland! And definitely not a one pot recipe. It was not bad . . .just “whelming” according to my husband. We won’t be making it again. February 22, 2015 at 8:19am Reply

  • Courtney: I liked this over all! I used medium cheddar so it was a bit bland, but nothing that using sharp next time can’t fix. For those complaining about the flour and butter being too lumpy, a traditional roux is equal parts butter and flour… I increased the butter to 4 T (gasp!) to the quarter cup flour and it was beautiful! March 9, 2015 at 6:10pm Reply

  • Lydia: I like this recipe because you can tweak it and it still turns out. I usually follow recipes to a T. My roommate and I used 12oz of pasta, 1 head of broccoli, 1.25 lb of chicken (that’s what was in the package), 2 cups of 2% milk, 1 cup of cream, and more cheese (extra sharp cheddar) than called for. I agree with some commenters that it was bland, but I just added more salt and pepper once it was on my plate. Next time I’m going to use more chicken and try adding Caribbean jerk seasoning. March 10, 2015 at 11:52am Reply

  • Mary Ann: Don’t waste your time. Followed recipe to a “t”…no taste. March 12, 2015 at 4:50pm Reply

  • Brooke: It didnt turn out perfect for me i had a hard time with the butter and flour it was so clumpy! next time ill have to use more butter, and i should have used more chicken cause it got lost in there! but it was a good dish April 8, 2015 at 6:17pm Reply

  • Sarah Scevour: This was so good… perfect comfort food. Wonderful left over. May 1, 2015 at 7:58am Reply

  • jennifer: I saw this on Pinterest and made it tonight. It was easy,i followed it exactly and it was really good! My 11 year old loved it,which is great,ill be making it again:) Thank you! May 14, 2015 at 5:56pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for leaving feedback Jennifer! I’m happy to hear your family liked it! May 17, 2015 at 10:33am Reply

  • Diane: Is there a recipe box on this site so that we can save the recipes without printing them out? June 3, 2015 at 7:09am Reply

  • CAC: Another GREAT Dinner!
    I love this site. You are my go to chef!!!
    I follow your recipes to the point and I am never disappointed.
    Today I had my last garden tomato of the year. So chopped it up and added it to the pot.
    Great all the way around!
    Thank you! October 6, 2015 at 3:56pm Reply

  • Maria: This recipe is amazing! I used leftover rotisserie chicken, & gouda cheese instead of cheddar. So delicious! Even my picky teenager devoured it! Thx for sharing! October 7, 2015 at 7:55am Reply

  • Tortilla: Very disappointed! Tastes awful 😩 kinda like chicken Alfredo… October 8, 2015 at 4:25pm Reply

  • Melissa: Recipe was bland. Boyfriend did not like it and neither did i. I don’t think I would even try again just to tweak the ingredients. Wish I would have read the comments before making.

    The directions were easy and the pictures were helpful however the recipe just did not work for me October 20, 2015 at 8:54pm Reply

  • Laura: Made this for company tonight (except no chicken because it was a side for our meal) and it was fabulous!! I added 1/2 tsp salt and pepper as well as additional garlic and cheese. The texture was fabulous and my granddaughter who does not eat vegetables even ate the broccoli. Thank you Jaclyn for another fabulous recipe. I’m a big fan of your site! November 3, 2015 at 8:04pm Reply

  • Karen: This was easy to make… I cooked the chicken in some Franks Hot Sauce and it tastes great November 8, 2015 at 3:17pm Reply

  • Dawn: I just made this recipe and it was delicious! Very easy to make and all of the ingredient proportions are correct. My personal opinion, but i would make sure to add enough salt and pepper (probably more than you would think) just to bring out some extra flavors or it might be a little too bland. Otherwise, wonderful comfort food recipe that I will definitely make again! December 2, 2015 at 7:04pm Reply

  • Dani: I just finished making this – so glad I did! It’s delicious!

    First of all – I’m not sure why people are so concerned over the sauce. This was my first time making ANY sauce and I just followed the directions and it worked fine.

    I did add some worcestershire sauce (I didn’t measure, just add and taste until it seemed right).
    I also did not have any cheddar – just a “mexican blend”. I used that and I think the cheddar would have been better. It was still very good though! Just a much more mild flavor.
    I topped it with parm cheese and green chili tabasco (I can’t help it – green tabasco is amazing.)

    I think in the future I will probably add some peppers and fresh onion. This would also be amazing with bacon (what isn’t – but still!) or even steak!

    The possibilities are endless. Thank you for the great recipe. :) December 14, 2015 at 2:51pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m glad you liked it Dani, thanks for your comment :)! December 14, 2015 at 9:19pm Reply

  • Victoria: I just made this recipe tonight, and it is soooooo good!!!! It’s a perfect “sit at home on the couch and study/watch Netflix” kind of dinner! I will say, though, that it did take me longer to make than the time described. This is probably because I have no idea how to make a roux and I baked my chicken. Even though my roux came out pastey and gummy, it eventually dissolved into the sauce. For those that are complaining about the flavor, maybe you are expecting a BAM kind of flavor like easy mac….. This tastes like good, home made mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken! Being a cheese lover myself, I didn’t even think twice about adding the whole bag of sharp cheddar cheese! Thanks so much for the wonderful recipe! March 2, 2016 at 5:27pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: Thanks for the great review Victoria! March 2, 2016 at 11:28pm Reply

  • Angel: I make this s lot and it is a hit even with my pickiest child ! I love how versatile it is. I add different cheeses….and steam my broccoli. I was wondwrong if anyone has tried it with a little chicken stock instead if all milk? I was thining 2 cups of milk and one cup of chicken stock . Think it might worl ? Again thank you for sharing this is delish! July 5, 2016 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Angie: This is really good. We have this in our regular rotation now! October 12, 2016 at 5:01pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so happy these that Angie! October 13, 2016 at 10:58am Reply

    • Jaclyn: I’m so happy that Angie! October 13, 2016 at 10:58am Reply

  • Rob: Hi – is that broccoli fresh or frozen in your pictures? November 7, 2016 at 8:34pm Reply

    • Jaclyn: It’s fresh November 8, 2016 at 10:01am Reply

    • Jaclyn: It’s fresh. November 8, 2016 at 10:01am Reply

  • Melo: Can I use oat flour instead of all purpose flour? March 5, 2017 at 1:04pm Reply

  • Ady: Has anyone tried with canned brocolli cheese soup September 6, 2017 at 8:28pm Reply

  • Lynda: Loved it!! I made it gluten free by switching out the pasta and flour for gluten free substitutes. Will definitely make again. December 19, 2017 at 7:40pm Reply

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