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 healthy Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is a fast weeknight lunch or dinner option for toddlers. (And the rest of the family too!)

easy cauliflower mac and cheese Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

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.

And while I’m not a huge fan of sneaking veggies into the food that our kids eat, 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!

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

TIP: You don’t need to stir the cheese sauce together on the stovetop—it simply mixes up in a blender.

ingredients-in-cauliflower-mac-and-cheese

Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need:

  • pasta (any kind you prefer)
  • cauliflower
  • cheddar cheese
  • milk
  • butter
  • pinch of garlic powder (optional)

TIP: 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. It’s certainly easier that way!

how-to-make-cauliflower-mac-and-cheese-step-by-step

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.

  1. Cut the cauliflower into florets if starting with a whole heat.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and cook 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.

Can I make this mac and cheese ahead of time?

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.

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  warmed pasta.

healthy cauliflower mac and cheese in blue bowlWhat kind of pasta is best for this healthy Mac and Cheese?

You can use whichever pasta you want! We like star pasta, alphabet pasta, elbows, and any other smaller shape of pasta in this easy toddler dinner.

And you can use gluten-free pasta, a bean pasta, or regular pasta—they’re all good for this recipe.

Can I use frozen cauliflower?

Sure, you can use frozen cauliflower florets or even cauliflower rice. You’ll just want to shorten the cooking time a little. See the Notes for the full info.

Best Tips for Success

  • 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.
  • You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time if you store it in an airtight container.
  • Stir the sauce into the pasta right before serving.
  • 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 may also like Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, One-Pot Broccoli Mac and Cheese, Veggie Chili Mac, and Baby Pasta.

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

This post was first published November 2018.

cauliflower mac and cheese

5-Ingredient Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Use yellow or white cheese according to your child's color expectations!
4.94 from 15 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)
  • 2/3 cup milk (warmed slightly)
  • 1 pound pasta (such as elbow or other mini pasta shape)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • pinch garlic powder (optional)

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!

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Comments

  1. Do you think I would be able to store small portions of this in the freezer in souped cubes? I was thinking of making a big batch and then just unthawing one cube on pasta night?

    1. I think so, though it’s possible the pasta would be softer the second time around. Should work otherwise though!

  2. 5 stars
    This is my son’s new favorite! So easy to prep, freeze and pull out to serve. 5/5 stars for sure! ⭐️

    1. It should work. It may be harder to remove it with a slotted spoon from the water, so you may want to cook it separately and drain it in a colander.

  3. 5 stars
    I added peas for an extra veg and made dairy free (soy milk and lactose free butter) – this recipe is so delicious and loved by our 17 month old house princess. Thank you Amy – your website, recipes and the love you put into ensuring a variety of cooking options have saved this wee household in Auckland New Zealand

  4. 5 stars
    My picky 20 month old LOVED this! Anything even semi-healthy that he will gobble up will definitely stay in our rotation and I love that this used cauliflower as the thickening agent, so smart! Thank you so much.

  5. Will try it tomorrow! My 17months toddler started to refuse from veggies((( just broccoli
    May be you have some advice how to warm without microwave? Usually a put the meal into pan with a tiny amount of water and stew for some minutes

    1. I have only tried storing it in the fridge (and it works well there!) so I can’t say for sure. It might separate a little when it’s thawed but if you stir it up and maybe sprinkle a little extra cheese on top it’s worth a try!

    1. I wouldn’t freeze it, but you can make the sauce 3-5 days ahead and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. Once ready, prepare the pasta, warm the sauce slightly, and stir it together.

      1. It’s totally fine to freeze this, I’ve frozen quite a few batches. My son loves this stuff ?

  6. Great recipe!!!!….although you might want to suggest an organic, whole grain pasta or shirataki noodles instead of the white pastas you’ve mentioned above. Eating white pasta is like eating a bowl full of sugar, making your cauliflower Mac and cheese very unhealthy. Thanks!!!

    1. For the record, I didn’t see anywhere where she specifically recommended white pastas. The choice is always yours- we use whole wheat or lentil for most dishes and they’ve worked great with her recipes. Thanks Amy, for another great dish!

  7. 5 stars
    Hi there, the whole thing is going fine here and ofcourse every one
    is sharing data, that’s in fact excellent, keep up writing.