This Hidden Vegetable Mac And Cheese is perfect for fussy eaters of all ages! Packed to the brim with colorful, nutritious vegetables, it is surprisingly smooth and cheesy. It can be made gluten-free and vegan by swapping a few ingredients.
I have always believed that kids should get used to eating fresh foods with varied textures and flavors. But this is a small battle I choose to lose to win the bigger war – getting them to eat more vegetables than they actually do. While our beloved mac and cheese is one of the ultimate comfort foods, adding veggies to it makes it a healthier weeknight meals. This even makes a great leftover lunch.
- Sneaky Veggies! I live with two of the fussiest eaters ever (the watermelon is too juicy, the jam is too jammy, and the sandwich is not cut right…..you probably know the type!) But this veggie mac and cheese passed the test!
- Loaded with fiber and vitamins: A heap full of vegetables adds a nutritional boost to an otherwise simple dish. Vegetables are packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, making the meal more balanced and healthier.
- Smooth texture: For those who struggle to eat enough vegetables, or do not like the texture, hidden vegetable mac and cheese provides a creative solution. It allows you to enjoy a comfort food favorite while getting a dose of veggies without even realizing it.
- Enhanced Flavor and Color: Carrots and squash add a richer, slightly sweet taste, enhancing the flavor and color.
- Make your own variation:
- Customization: Add your favorite vegetables from zucchini and cauliflower to carrots and peas, the possibilities are vast.
- Vegetarian-Friendly: For vegetarians or those trying to reduce their meat intake, hidden vegetable mac and cheese can be a satisfying and wholesome main course.
- Family-Friendly: It’s a dish that the whole family can enjoy together. Whether you serve it as a side or a standalone meal, it’s a comforting and familiar option for gatherings and weeknight dinners.
- Feel-Good Indulgence: The best part is that you can indulge in a comforting, cheesy dish while still feeling good about consuming more vegetables and offering a healthier version of a classic favorite.
Having a warm cheesy comfort dish which is also healthy is a big yes!
Step-By-Step Process to Make Hidden Vegetables Mac And Cheese.
1. Boil the pasta
In a large saucepan, boil 8 cups of water. Add 2 tablespoons of salt. Once the water starts boiling, add the macaroni pasta to it. Wait for the water to come back to boil, and cook macaroni till al dente about 7 minutes. Place a colander over the sink, and drain pasta carefully. Keep this cooked macaroni pasta aside.
You can run it under cool water to stop it from cooking further. This also helps the macaroni to not stick to each other while it waits to be used.
Water to pasta ratio:
Use 4 cups of water per cup of pasta for the boil and drain method.
Salt to water ratio for pasta
Add 1 tablespoon of salt to 4 cups of water for cooking pasta
So 1 cup of dried uncooked pasta will need 4 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt.
Sticking to this ratio, this recipe uses 2 cups of dried pasta, 8 cups of water, and 2 tablespoons of salt.
2. Purée the vegetables
In a large saucepan, add the chopped vegetables and a cup of water. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes until soft and mushy. You can also pressure-cook the vegetables in a cup of water for 8 minutes.
Purée the cooked vegetables with an immersion stick blender, grinder, food mill, or potato masher. If using a potato masher, pass the vegetables through a sieve to get a smooth consistency. By using the same water for puréeing, you are using up any vitamins that may have leeched into the water during cooking.
3. Cheese Sauce For Mac And Cheese
In a small saucepan or skillet, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat. Use a hand held whisk or a wooden spoon to ensure the butter melts evenly.
Once the butter has completely melted, add the all-purpose flour to the saucepan. Stir continuously to combine the flour and butter until you have a smooth paste-like consistency. Cook until pale white, and avoid browning the flour. It helps to keep the heat on low to medium.
Add the milk slowly while stirring continuously. This will help prevent lumps forming. Keep stirring gently till the milk-flour sauce thickens enough to coat the back of your spoon.
At this point take off the heat. Your white sauce is now ready.
Add the grated cheese and vegetable puree to the white sauce. Stir gently till the cheese has melted.
Now add the cooked macaroni, and stir till well-coated. Serve warm. Since we are going for hidden vegetable look, I have not garnished it with anything suspicious looking! 🙂
Optional Extra Step: You can transfer this Mac and Cheese to a casserole dish, top with cheese (cheddar or parmesan) and breadcrumbs and bake it for 15 minutes till golden.
Prevent cheese sauce from splitting: If your white sauce (thickened butter, flour, milk misture) is too hot and bubbling away, it can split the cheese. To avoid this, turn off the heat first, and then fold in the cheese.
Lumpy White Sauce: Start with warm milk. When the flour is cooked, add about half cup of warm milk and whisk vigorously. Then slowly add the remaining milk stirring continuously. If you do find lumps, simply strain it through a sieve.
Use more neutral tasting vegetables like squash, carrots, zuchinni, cauliflower etc. Cook them till they are mushy, mash them well, and add them to the sauce.
You can make Mac and Cheese on a stovetop. Follow this recipe, and make sure the sauce is thick enough to your liking.
High temperature of sauce can cause the cheese to split. Once your white sauce is thickened, take it off the heat, and then add the cheese.
You can use oil based butter substitute or even olive oil to make the white sauce in.
High temperature can make the cheese curdle and split. Once your white sauce is thickened, take it off the heat, and then add the cheese.
Replace butter with olive oil, or any daity free spread. Use dairy-free alternative to milk such as almond or macadamia milk. You can also swap regular cheese for vegan alternative which is soy/nut based.
Gruyere, Gouda, Parmesan, Fontina, Monterey Jack etc all work. I have used cheddar rather than a stronger smelling cheese like Parmesan or Brie.
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Hidden Vegetable Mac And Cheese
- 2 Cups Macaroni
- 8 Cups Water
- 2 Tablespoons Salt
- 1 Cup Carrots
- 1 Cup Pumpkin
- 1 Cup Cauliflower
- 1 Cup Water
- 3 Tablespoons Butter
- 3 Tablespoons Plain Flour
- 2 Cups Milk Warm
- 2 Cups Cheddar Cheese
- Bring water to a boil, and salt.
- Add macaroni pasta and bring back to boil.
- Cook till al dente about 7 minutes.
- Drain water and keep the pasta aside.
- Add all vegetables to a saucepan.
- Add 1 cup water, cover, and cook for 8-10 minutes till soft.
- Carefully puree the vegetables in a blender or with a stick blender till smooth.
- Season with salt, and keep aside.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter, and add flour.
- Keep whisking continuously for about 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1/4th (about half a cup) of milk at a time and keep stirring.
- The flour will start lumping, which is expected.
- Keep whisking/stirring continuously as you add all the milk.
- Keep stirring/whisking till you get a thick smooth sauce that coats the back of your spoon.
- Take off the heat. Add shredded cheese and stir till completely melted.
Hidden Vegetable Mac & Cheese
- Add the puree to the cheesy sauce, and mix well.
- Add the cooked macaroni to cheese and vegetable sauce and mix well.
- Adjust seasoning and serve warm.
Nutritional Panel: Our nutritional values are calculated by Spooncular API. While we try our best to ensure these values are correct, please confirm these independently.
All information on our website is for general information only. Please consult your doctor if a diet, particular foods, or way of eating is suitable for you.