Ham and Kale Hot Dish

Scooping out a serving of the ham kale hot dish from a casserole.

If you like cheesy casseroles with bits of smoked porky goodness and a crunchy crumb crust, this Southern Ham and Kale Hot Dish should be on your radar! It’s a super-easy homestyle mac and cheese casserole embellished with chunks of diced ham and green ribbons of fresh kale. This cheesy macaroni bake feeds a crowd!

diced onions for hot dish.

As a Southern native, I’ve grown up with a certain vernacular.  Words, phrases and yes, a little twang, that were ever present throughout my childhood, y’all.  I thought I’d dispensed with those idioms since I’d moved to Florida until my husband pointed them out to me very early in our courtship.  To be clear, Scott is Midwestern through and through but he’s got a few of those little gems too…’ you betcha!’

sauteeing onions, kale and garlic until tender.

So when our two worlds collided some years ago, we had several of those “what did you say?” moments.

 I remember once while we were visiting his family in Minnesota, my daughter was hanging out with her cousins and Scott’s niece, Anna, asked her if she wanted a “pop”.  Emily froze.  She looked at Scott quizzically.  Did she want a “pop?”  What was a pop?  She wanted so much to fit in with her older cousin, but had no idea if she was agreeing to be the butt of a private joke.  Her eyes pleaded with Scott.  Did she want a pop? 

Newsletter Signup
Join our community of food lovers!

Get my latest recipes, helpful kitchen tips and more good things each week in your inbox.

adding chunks of ham to the greens.

It turns out that yes, she did.  He explained that a “pop” in the Midwest is a “soda” in the South.  Oh!  Just like a hot dish in the Midwest is a casserole in the South.  Oh. Didn’t know that.

Making a roux for the sauce.

Making Southern Ham and Kale Hot Dish

  1. Cook the macaroni to al dente.
  2. Saute the onions and kale until tender and stir in the chunks of ham.
  3. Whisk together the butter, flour and cayenne pepper in a heavy bottomed pot. Cook the roux for one minute until bubbly and fragrant.
  4. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Cook for one minute, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thick. Remove from heat
  5. Add the grated cheese to the bechamel sauce and stir until the cheese is melted.
  6. Stir the noodles into the kale mixture and mix to combine.
  7. Add the noodle mixture to the kale mixture, stirring until well blended.
  8. Pour the casserole mix into a prepared baking dish and top with breadcrumbs.
  9. Bake and serve.
cheese sauce for the Southern Ham and Kale Hot Dish

No canned soups were harmed in the making of this casserole

If you’re not familiar with hot dish, they’re usually made with canned soups (think cream of mushroom) and stick-to-your-ribs ingredients like ground chuck and tater tots.    I’m sure I made a face the first time he told me about them.  But I love my husband and since it’s been so cold lately,  I decided to make him a version of this Midwestern specialty, using some of my regional staples and NO CANNED SOUP.   So, this is my Southern Ham and Kale Hot Dish, y’all!

mixing macaroni with the cheese sauce.

Let’s be honest, this is little more than a few mix-ins to a standard mac and cheese, but it eats like meal. It’s a little bit healthy and a little bit not. Balance. that’s what I’d call it. A macaroni casserole for every day — or maybe every week.

adding kale mixture to macaroni.

With big chunks of ham and tender macaroni in a lush mornay sauce and yes, a few handfuls of fresh kale (eat your veggies) you really can’t go wrong.  If you’re not a kale junkie, like me, you can easily sub in some frozen sweet peas.

making buttered breadcrumbs in a food processor.

Making Buttered Bread Crumbs

  1. In a mini prep food processor add chunks of bread, a pat of butter and fresh parsley.
  2. Blitz until the bread has been reduced to crumbs and the parsley is chopped. (The butter gets dispersed over the whole mix and voila — buttered breadcrumbs.
  3. Top the casserole with a liberal amount of topping and bake.
Topping Southern Ham and Kale Hot Dish with breadcrumbs.

  I don’t care where you’re from – this Southern Ham and Kale Hot Dish is a winner, you betcha!  

More baked casseroles you’ll love:

Serving Southern Ham and Kale Hotdish

Tried this recipe? Leave a rating and review.

Your comments and shares are invaluable to me and the thousands of readers who use this site daily. If you've made the recipe, leave a star rating and review. We want to hear how you liked it.

We'd love it if you shared the recipe with your friends on social media!

Print Pin
4.43 from 7 votes

Southern Ham and Kale Hot Dish

Macaroni and cheese meets ham and kale in this comfort food casserole!
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword baked ham, kale, macaroni, macaroni and cheese
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 8


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 6-7 kale large ribs, tough stems removed
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • cups ham diced
  • 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon butter divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup cheddar grated or monterey jack cheese
  • 8 ounces macaroni noodles
  • 1 slice bread
  • ¼ cup parsley fresh


  • Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a large casserole dish with vegetable spray and set aside.
  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to package instructions — just until al dente. Rinse and drain the noodles and set aside.
  • Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet add the onions and garlic, cook for 3-5 minutes until tender and translucent. Rinse the kale to remove any grit, chop the kale and add it directly to the pan (don’t dry the water off of the kale – you want a little bit to steam and wilt the kale leaves) and cover tightly with a lid. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally until the kale has wilted. Stir in the ham and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of butter. Add the flour and cook, whisking constantly to combine. Stir in the salt, pepper and cayenne. When the roux begins to bubble, cook for one minute, then gradually whisk in the milk a little at a time. Stir the sauce constantly and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan so it doesn’t stick. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook for 1 minute until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the grated cheese until melted, set aside.
  • Add the noodles to the cheese sauce and stir until well coated. Add the noodle mixture to the kale mixture and mix until combined and transfer to the casserole dish.
  • Tear the bread into chunks and add them to the mini prep food processor. Add the butter and parsley and pulse until bread crumbs are formed. Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly over the casserole and bake for 15-20 minutes until bubbly and browned on top. Serve.


Calories: 406kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 666mg | Potassium: 528mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 4900IU | Vitamin C: 55.3mg | Calcium: 291mg | Iron: 1.8mg

Don’t Forget To “Pin It” For Later!

This easy Southern Ham and Kale Hot Dish is a classic comfort food casserole with a healthy twist. With a cheesy sauce, tender kale & ham it's a winner. #hamcasserole #noodlecasserole #macaroniandcheese

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. 5 stars
    This macaroni and cheese casserole is so good. Love the healthy bit of kale so it doesn’t seem quite so “bad”.

  2. 5 stars
    Delicious. Not a quick recipe but worth the time. Only thing I would do differently is make more breadcrumbs. Great way to use up all that leftover kale.

  3. Tessa Pehanick says:

    5 stars
    This recipe is fabulous for leftover ham, with the addition of kale! This is my first experience with adding parsley and unmelted butter to bread crumbs! Amazing! A great addition to our side dish rotations!

  4. SRBlakely says:

    5 stars
    This turned out great! I made a double batch the very first time to have some to take to a sick friend. She is going to be one happy, well-fed camper. This is definitely going on the dinner rotation, particularly when there is leftover meat to use up. Thanks!

  5. 5 stars
    Thank you very much for sharing this recipe. It was delicious

  6. Nancy/SpicieFoodie says:

    Haha, the whole “pop” and “soda” thing always cracks me up. What a fantastic dish — you got my mouth watering!

    1. Thanks, Nancy – you should have seen the look on Emily’s face!

    1. Absolutely! You could also add some of those sausage-like tempeh crumbles if you wanted to.

  7. Felesha Bell says:

    Oh how yummy does this look! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  8. This definitely has comfort food written all over it!

  9. 5 stars
    We’re in love with this combination of ham and kale; very beautifully done!

  10. Sara Lehman says:

    This looks like the perfect dish to serve on a chilly day like today!

    1. It will definitely take away the chill and make you feel cozy!

  11. foodhuntersguide says:

    This sounds delicious. I’ll need to try making it.

    1. It’s always a hit in our house – and who doesn’t love a good mac and cheese?