With a simple cheese sauce—no standing and stirring over the stove here!—a solid dose of veggies, and a super creamy final result, this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is a fast lunch or dinner option for toddlers. (And the rest of the family, too!)

cauliflower mac and cheese on teal spoon

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

This mac and cheese is a family favorite and is one of our go-to comfort food recipes. By adding the cauliflower right to the cheese sauce, we’re able to tuck a veggie right into the sauce without having to make a side dish to go with dinner.

I love using cauliflower in the cheese sauce since it acts as a thickener without the need to use a flour-based roux…which can be tricky to make with a little one underfoot. And the vegetable has such a mellow taste that you still get to enjoy the flavor of the classic dish. (I tell the kids what’s in the mix since I want them to know that they like cauliflower.)

This is one of our favorite kids pasta recipes because it’s both yummy and easy. And it works with just about any shape of pasta or macaroni your kids like, so you can let them pick a shape or use one you’re in the mood for.

(You may also like this Creamy Chicken Pasta, which is similar to this mac and cheese but with the addition of chicken.)

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Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need the following ingredients.

ingredients-in-cauliflower-mac-and-cheese
  • Pasta: You can use any kind of pasta you prefer, though we like this with smaller shapes such as elbow macaroni or ditalini.
  • Cauliflower: You can start with a head of cauliflower, precut cauliflower florets, or even cauliflower rice. We cook it until tender, so all are possible to use.
  • Cheddar cheese: I use shredded cheddar cheese, in white or yellow according to what the kids prefer, in this cheese mixture.
  • Milk: We use whole milk in our house, but any type will work if you use another. If using nondairy milk, just be sure it’s unsweetened and plain.
  • Butter: Butter adds richness and flavor and melts right into the cheese sauce.
  • Pinch of garlic powder: This is optional to add extra flavor to the mac and cheese.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at the process involved in how to make this quick Cauliflower Mac and Cheese recipe. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to the recipe to see the full details.

how-to-make-cauliflower-mac-and-cheese-step-by-step
  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets if starting with a whole head.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook over medium heat in a saucepan until soft. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower.
  3. Add it to the blender with the milk, cheese, butter, salt, and garlic powder. Blend until smooth.
  4. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water from Step 1 and cook. Drain and return to the pot with the cheese sauce.

TIP: You can stir in some of the sauce and save the rest for later if you want to make it less cheesy/saucy to please the kids.

healthy cauliflower mac and cheese in blue bowl

How to Store

You can make the sauce up to 3 days ahead of time if you store it in an airtight container. Warm the sauce for 15-30 seconds in the microwave and stir into the cooked and drained  warm pasta.

If you want to make this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese ahead, I’d recommend making the cheese sauce and storing it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook the pasta.

Best Tips for Success

  • We prefer short shapes of pasta such as elbow macaroni, ditalini, pastina, or small shells.
  • Omit the garlic powder if you’re at all worried the kids may not like it. Or use onion powder or black pepper as you like.
  • To make this dairy-free, use plain nondairy milk and dairy-free cheese.
  • Stir the sauce into the pasta right before serving.
  • Swap in another cheese if you prefer, such as gouda, pepper-jack, or gruyere. (We always stick with sharp cheddar cheese!)

I’d love to hear your feedback if you make this recipe, so please comment below!

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cauliflower mac and cheese on teal spoon

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese (5-Ingredient)

With a simple cheese sauce—no standing and stirring over the stove here!—a solid dose of veggies, and a super creamy final result, this Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is a fast lunch or dinner option for toddlers. (And the rest of the family, too!)
4.99 from 81 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dinner
Calories 317kcal
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 1 small head cauliflower (stem discarded and chopped into small pieces; or about 4 cups florets)
  • cup milk (warmed slightly)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • pinch garlic powder (optional)
  • 1 pound pasta (such as elbow or other mini pasta shape)
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Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until soft when poked with a fork.
  • Use a fine-mesh strainer or slotted spoon to remove the cauliflower and add to a blender. Add the milk, cheese, butter, salt, and garlic powder if using. Blend until smooth.
  • Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water from Step 1 and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot.
  • Stir the cheese sauce into the pasta and serve warm.

Video

Notes

  • Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Warm for 30-60 seconds in the microwave to serve.
  • You can make the cheese sauce up to 3 days ahead and store it in an airtight container. Warm for 15-30 seconds in the microwave before stirring into the pasta.
  • Use whichever kind of pasta your family likes best.
  • I usually buy blocks of cheese and grate the cheese since it tends to be less expensive, but you can use purchased grated cheese if you prefer.
  • Omit the garlic powder if you’re at all worried that the kids may not like it.
  • Stir the sauce into the pasta right before serving.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 317kcal, Carbohydrates: 46g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 9g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 24mg, Sodium: 213mg, Potassium: 317mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 262IU, Vitamin C: 24mg, Calcium: 149mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

This post was first published November 2018.

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Super easy to make, which I’m thankful for.
    My toddler still didn’t eat it but at least I didn’t spend hours on it.

  2. 5 stars
    I just made this mere minutes ago and it’s a huge hit! My daughter was licking the spoon with the sauce on it, haha!
    I used frozen riced cauliflower in place of fresh (steamed) and just defrosted in the microwave until it was thawed.
    I used unexpected cheddar shreds as the cheese and added a splash of chicken broth before blending; served with diced chicken on top.
    Will definitely keep this easy, delicious recipe in our rotation!
    Thank you!

  3. 5 stars
    I just made this mere minutes ago and it’s a huge hit! My daughter was licking the spoon with the sauce on it, haha!
    I used frozen riced cauliflower in place of fresh (steamed) and just defrosted in the microwave until it was thawed.
    I used unexpected cheddar shreds as the cheese and added a splash of chicken broth before blending; served with diced chicken on top.
    Will definitely keep this easy, delicious recipe in our rotation!
    Thank you!

  4. 5 stars
    I recently discovered this recipe and it is amazing! So far I made it with cauliflower and butternut squash! So great for my almost 10 month old on pasta using all different veggies and even cheeses! Thank you!

  5. 5 stars
    I took this recipe and ran with it to make a few personal preference tweaks! I put a 12oz bag of frozen cauliflower and 2 shredded carrots in the instant pot and pressure cooked them on high for 1 minute with 10 oz water. Once complete, I vented the IP and stirred in 8oz of freshly shredded cheese, 1/4 tsp of garlic, and 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast flakes. I turned the pot off once melted and stirred in 1/4 cup of whole milk yogurt. I served on top of penne noodles with a sprinkle of salt for the adults. LOVED. I will make a double batch and freeze next time!

    1. 5 stars
      Oops! I forgot to mention that I used an immersion blender to blend up the water and vegetables after I pressure cooked them. THEN I added the cheese and spices 🙂

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