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Kid-Friendly Mac & Cheese Recipe

Cheesy, vegan, & delicious kid-friendly mac and cheese!

kid macaroni and cheese

Grown ups love this mac and cheese because it is packed with nutrition and is a wholesome option for lunch or dinner that you can feel good about serving to the entire family.

And kids love this mac and cheese… because it just tastes really good!

With the recent controversy surrounding boxed macaroni and cheese, after an article in The New York Times revealed that high concentrations of potentially harmful chemicals may be present in boxes from brands such as Kraft, I wanted to come up with a healthier alternative to boxed mac and cheese that’s actually GOOD for you, without all the artificial colors and flavors.

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wagon wheel pasta

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raw cauliflower

Okay, so the photo totally gave it away.

Yes, there’s cauliflower in here… and carrot too!

The cauliflower thickens the sauce and adds creaminess without the saturated fat of heavy cream, while the Vitamin A-packed carrot gives it that classic cheesy color without any unnatural food dyes or preservatives.

And yet, if you don’t already know beforehand that the veggies are in there, you won’t be able to tell.

Vegan Mac And Cheese With Cashews

I adapted this recipe from a pasta alfredo recipe posted on the blog awhile back, but the inspiration to use carrot (and also wagon wheel pasta) actually came from a packaged product I often see at Whole Foods but have never tried, called Kidfresh Wagon Wheels Mac + Cheese.

One day, while in the frozen section of the store (probably looking for ice cream!), the Kidfresh box caught my eye with its claim of “Creamy Cheese Sauce With Hidden Vegetables.”

After inspecting the ingredients out of curiosity and seeing that carrot was the hidden vegetable, I was too intrigued not to try adding carrot to my own homemade cheese sauce.

They were definitely on to something, because it worked really well!

Kid Friendly Mac And Cheese Recipe
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Kid-Friendly Mac & Cheese Recipe

Cheesy, vegan, and delicious kid-friendly mac and cheese that's packed with nutrition.
5/5 (1)
Total Time 25 minutes
Yield 5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cauliflower florets
  • 2/3 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 cup unsweetened milk of choice or nondairy creamer
  • 2 tbsp oil or buttery spread
  • 3/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp salt (I like 1 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup cheese-style shreds or nutritional yeast

Instructions

  • *This sauce can go on anything you wish! If you want to make macaroni and cheese, it will cover about 5 servings of pasta (uncooked 10 oz total pasta).
    Bring first six ingredients to a boil in a medium pot. Cover and lower to a simmer 25 minutes or until the vegetables are fall-apart tender. Stir in the yeast or cheesy shreds until melted. Pulverize completely, using an immersion or regular blender. Add a little more milk of choice for a thinner sauce. I can’t vouch for the taste if you omit the oil or buttery spread, as I’ve not tried that omission.
    View Nutrition Facts

Notes

Also be sure to try this Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce.
 
 

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5/5 (1)

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Published on October 19, 2017

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33 Comments

Leave a comment or reviewLeave a rating
  1. Whitney says

    *Gasp!* Yum!!! I love cheese sauces made with vegetables! I once did a different one with yellow zucchini squash and carrot (which is delicious), but not cauliflower, yet! I am DEFINITELY making this as soon as we get some more cauliflower!! And wagon wheels–best kind of mac and cheese ever, not only for their great shape, but because they hold more sauce!
    Thank you, Katie!

  2. Kat says

    Now you just need a version that has lower Sodium. People who have Heart Disease are limited to 2,000 mg of sodium a day. One serving of this dish uses 1/4 of your daily allowance. Meal planning/eating is quite challenging. No one seems to be considering sodium levels. Oprah’s new side dishes have the same problem. I’m not wasting my limit on a 1/2 cup side dish.

    • Kathryn says

      You could always use just a dash, or eliminate the sodium completely. The recipe does say, “to suit desired taste” so use what you’re comfortable with. Katie makes the recipes as she likes them and gives options for her readers. I say the salt amount in this recipe is an option. And of course, play around with your seasonings. I think some garlic, a little pepper, maybe a squirt of mustard would be really tasty in here.

  3. Paula says

    I’ve made the cauli alfredo sauce a million times but I actually liked this even better! I doubled everything except the earth balance (just used one T total) and since I’m kid-free added canned chipotles in adobo sauce. Tossed it into the vitamix and blended until super creamy and served it over a giant bowl of roasted brussel sprouts for a decadent, high volume/low cal dinner to offset the rest of my weekend indulgences 🙂

  4. Tiff says

    Sooo good!!! My 2 year old and I have had this for dinner already.. twice! The sauce made a lot more than I expected it to (about 3x more) so we froze it, defrosted it last night, reheated on the stove and it tasted just as good! It’s by far the best vegan mac n cheese I’ve tried, not only the taste, but the fact that it contains only minimal amount of vegan cheese (that stuff is so full of chemicals) and much less calories as well! We used Trader Joe’s brown rice/quinoa Fussili pasta and it was amazing. A+++ / 5 Stars

  5. Jessica says

    Can you use regular shredded cheese? We are not vegan but I love the idea of sneaking veggies into one of my kids favorite foods. I hate the boxed mac and cheese, so full of junk so this would be a great alternative!
    Thanks!

    • Jason Sanford says

      Yes, in any of Katie’s recipes where it says cheese shreds of choice, that is fine to use whatever ones you want, as many of her readers are not vegan and make the recipes to suit their own needs.

  6. Sandy says

    Hi, thank you so much for this recipe! I made this and it was absolutely delicious! It didn’t pass off for the real Mac and cheese with my kids, but they loved it as another pasta dish. As for me, I don’t even like pasta and I’ll be making this again today ?

  7. Michelle says

    Since becoming vegan three years ago I have tried at least 7 different macaroni and cheese recipes and I have never been satisfied. I always scroll by this recipe because it uses cauliflower and I’m not a fan, but I tried it tonight and I’m so happy with the outcome. It was delicious and my child asked for a second helping, so it must be true! And it got him to eat some vegetables for once, an added bonus! I also have some leftover cheese I’m going to use for a taco casserole tomorrow.

  8. Tina says

    Love this recipe. If you can post more kid-friendly ones that would be awesome. My 6 year old had no idea there were veggies in the sauce.

  9. Jessica says

    So I went meal-prep crazy yesterday, and made a few recipes of Katie’s. I’m eating this one as we speak! Wagon wheels and all!
    I used soy milk and nutritional yeast for mine. I also found that the veggies did not need to cook as long as it says in the recipe, but that’s not a big deal. It easily pureed into a creamy sauce, and it’s SO GOOD! Even my omnivorous bf likes it! I haven’t tested it on his kids yet, but I think I’ll introduce it to them as “cheesy gravy,” as it reminds me more of a gravy than mac n cheese, and they’ll have the option to use it on their veggies as well as pasta. Maybe then they’ll actually WANT to eat their veggies! 😉

  10. Michelle says

    Do I drain the water after I cook the vegetables and then add milk in? Or am I adding it all together? Or no water ? ?

  11. Roxie says

    This Mac is so good! My husband (who prefers standard American food) even went back for seconds, and my son wants it for lunch tomorrow too. This is now my go-to Mac and cheese recipe, thanks Katie you are awesome!

  12. Torrie says

    Every sauce of yours I’ve ever made is so perfect and spot-on I could easily forget the pasta & devour the sauce with a spoon. NEVER thought I’d say “forget pasta”. Even my grandmother who notoriously hates cauliflower loved this. Thank you for creating recipes I can feel good about feeding myself and my toddler!

  13. Cindy says

    Kid-Friendly Mac & Cheese lives up to its name! This is one of the very few dishes that everyone in my family loves: kids and grown ups alike. I love that it uses vegetables for the sauce, too. Thanks for coming up with an easy recipe that my family gets excited to eat!

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