With a super easy method that only requires one pot, you can have this easy Broccoli Mac and Cheese ready for family dinner—or a kids meal. It cooks in about 20 minutes and has a solid dose of nutrients and deliciousness.

broccoli mac and cheese in white and colorful bowls

Broccoli Mac and Cheese

I am forever look for new pasta recipes to share with my family because while I love buttered pasta as much as the next person, I really do love a little more flavor. Enter: Broccoli Mac and Cheese!

This recipe requires minimal pots and equipment, cooks quickly, and is really versatile to help you use what you have on hand and prefer–as in fresh or frozen broccoli, added spices or simpler.

I did my best to make sure that any leftovers reheat to the same creamy consistency (thank you cream cheese!) and that you don’t have to make a roux.

We usually have this as a vegetarian dinner, but I can also attest that it’s delicious with a little ham or a fried egg on top. Or cubes of cooked chicken or white beans. YUM.

ingredients in broccoli mac and cheese

Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need a handful of ingredients. Here’s a look:

  • Milk: I usually use whole milk for maximum creaminess, but low fat milk would work too if that’s what you have.
  • Broth or water: I prefer to use reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth here. Water works if you don’t have broth.
  • Pasta: A shorter shape, like elbows, mini farfalle, or ditalini, is best for the timing in this recipe. Adjust the timing if you use a larger or smaller shape.
  • Broccoli: I prefer the steam-in-the-bag frozen kind here since it eliminates the need for a second pot.
  • Cheddar cheese: Shredded cheese makes this ingredient easy to add.
  • Butter
  • Cream cheese: This helps the mixture stay creamy, even during reheating.
  • Optional spices You can add onion powder for additional flavor if you like.

TIP: I prefer to use steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli, but you can also use fresh. See the Notes at the bottom of the recipe for the info at the end of this post for those details.

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Gluten-free: Use a favorite kind of gluten-free pasta. The one from Barilla would be my choice here.
  • You can use regular frozen broccoli, steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli, or fresh broccoli. You’ll want to chop fresh broccoli into florets.
  • Use reduced-sodium vegetable broth to make this vegetarian.
  • You can also stir in frozen peas at the end, rather than using broccoli, if you prefer.
how to make broccoli mac and cheese step by step

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at how to make this recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for the full information.

  1. Add the milk and broth or water to a pot and bring to a simmer. You’ll start on high heat and turn it down to about medium.
  2. Stir in the pasta and let it cook until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, warm the broccoli according to the package directions and cut up with scissors if you want smaller pieces. (That is optional!)
  4. Stir the broccoli, cheese, butter, and cream cheese into the pasta mixture. When you stir everything in, the liquid won’t be fully absorbed yet, but it will soon be so don’t worry. Serve warm.

TIP: The size of the pasta you use may alter the cooking time slightly, so you can check it for doneness and cook for an additional minute or two if needed if you use a larger shape than I did.

broccoli mac and cheese in pot

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of pasta works best for this?

I prefer to use elbows or mini shells or another shape that’s a similar size. If you go much bigger or smaller, it may take more or less time to cook. (If you go with a smaller shape, it may wind up much saucier than what’s shown here.)

What kind of broccoli do you use?

I like to use steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli so that I don’t need to get out a separate pot. I steam it according to the package directions in the microwave and drain it.

Then I cut it up into smaller pieces with kitchen shears. You can also steam fresh broccoli in a pot fitted with a steamer basket if you prefer.

Can I make this ahead of time?

The cheesy texture of this pasta is smoothest and best served right after cooking, but the leftovers reheat really nicely. I added in some cream cheese to the mixture to help with this and the mixture stirs up nicely when warmed from being cold.

(My kids like to take the leftovers for lunch the next day—I pack it in a thermos for school!)

broccoli mac and cheese in blue kids bowl

How to Store and Reheat

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Warm for 30-60 seconds, or until warmed through stirring halfway through for even heating, in the microwave. If the mixture seems very firm when you pull it out of the fridge, sprinkle the top with water before reheating.

Best Tips for Success

  • The size of the pasta you use may alter the cooking time slightly. This recipe was tested with elbow pasta, so any kind that’s a similar size should work the same.
  • I prefer to use steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli to cut down on pots, but you can also steam fresh broccoli in a pot fitted with a steamer basket.
  • I don’t often call for a half of pound of pasta, but this is very filling so I went with a smaller amount here to avoid a ton of leftovers. But if you want to use a full pound, you can click the “2x” in the recipe card to adjust it up.
  • Add the optional spices to add more flavor as desired.
  • You may also like Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese, Avocado Pasta, and Creamy Broccoli Pasta.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this recipe if you try it, so please comment and rate the recipe below!

servings-of-broccoli-mac-and-cheese-for-family

One-Pot Broccoli Mac and Cheese

The method on this recipe is streamlined to cut down on dish washing. Add the optional spices for more flavor if you like! Double it to make more.
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dinner
Calories 475kcal
Servings 4 -6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk (I use whole milk)
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or water)
  • 8 ounces elbow or mini shell pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounces frozen broccoli (I use the steam-in-the-bag kind)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (feel free to double this!)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder (optional)

Instructions

  • Add the broth and milk to a large pot set over high heat. Bring just to a boil, then reduce to medium-high.
  • Stir in the pasta and salt, and simmer for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the pasta is just soft. (The liquid will not be totally absorbed and that is okay—it will be by the end of the process!)
  • Meanwhile, steam the broccoli in the bag (or steam it on the stovetop if using fresh broccoli). Drain the broccoli and cut it up roughly with kitchen scissors.
  • Turn the heat off and stir the cheese, broccoli. butter, cream cheese, and salt into the pasta mixture. Taste and season with additional salt as needed. Serve.

Video

Notes

  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Warm for 30-60 seconds, or until warmed through, in the microwave.
  • The size of the pasta you use may alter the cooking time slightly. This recipe was tested with elbow pasta, so any kind that’s a similar size should work the same.
  • I prefer to use steam-in-the-bag frozen broccoli to cut down on pots, but you can also steam fresh or regular frozen broccoli florets in a pot fitted with a steamer basket. Fill your pot with 2 inches of water, add the steamer basket, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the broccoli, cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes or until broccoli is just tender. Add to the recipe.
  • I don’t often call for a half of pound of pasta, but this is very filling so I went with a smaller amount here to avoid a ton of leftovers. But if you want to use a full pound, you can click the “2x” in the recipe card to adjust it up.
  • Add the optional spices to add more flavor as desired. Adults may also like to top their serving with crushed red pepper or hot sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 475kcal, Carbohydrates: 55g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 53mg, Sodium: 584mg, Potassium: 622mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 1058IU, Vitamin C: 63mg, Calcium: 395mg, Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this tonight but was too lazy to precook the broccoli so I increased the broth to 2 cups and then finely chopped the broccoli and put it in when I put the pasta in and it cooked perfectly (I also used 2.5cups of spiral Chickpea pasta)

    It was SO good, both my kids (and I) loved it

  2. 5 stars
    I made this for lunch, and it was just as easy as the boxed version! I even shredded the cheese from a block, but left out the broccoli because #toddlers.

  3. 5 stars
    This was absolutely delicious. My one and three year old loved it (as did my husband and me). I am wondering if anyone has made it with pre-shredded cheese? I know sometimes the pre-shredded stuff doesn’t work great in recipes like this, so I shredded a block. But I’m curious if anyone has had success with the easier option!

    1. Awesome! I’ve only ever made it with shredded cheese from the store and it’s melted in just fine. (I know even cheese companies will say it doesn’t always melt as well, but I haven’t had any issues. The photos here are all with that type.)

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe is perfection. I make it almost weekly. It works great in an instant pot. My mom was visiting us a few months ago and I made it as a side to go with salmon. My mom now makes it regularly for her and my dad. It’s become a family favorite.

  5. 5 stars
    This is my favorite Mac and cheese recipe that I make. It’s easy, very delicious, and love the added broccoli. I one time made it with peas instead of broccoli(because that’s what I had), still tasted good, just prefer the broccoli. Highly recommend

  6. 5 stars
    Hi Amy! Thanks so much for this recipe ◡̈ I just wanted to highlight that some of the metric measurements are incorrect. 8 ounces of pasta is actually 200+g, not 450g 🙁 and 1 cup of cheddar cheese would be around 180g!

    The first time I made the recipe, it was perfect because I did the conversions separately. But this time I followed the website’s conversions and ended up with a massive pot of bland-tasting pasta which I had to keep adding liquid to. After which I did a check and realised the mistake.

    But otherwise… I’d make it again! My girl loves it. Just wanted you to know so you can make the changes ◡̈ thanks so much!!

  7. YUM!! Thank you for this recipe! So much healthier than packaged Mac and cheese and almost just as easy! I used chickpea noodles and it turned out so good. And I love that I didn’t have to make a big mess in the kitchen! It made a good amount too. This will definitely be on rotation here. 😊

  8. I used Colby Jack instead of cheddar and it just coagulated… I next time I’ll use cheddar, and hopefully it will turn out better than this time.

  9. Is there a way to achieve creaminess without using cream cheese? Can you taste it once it’s all been mixed? My little is not a fan of it but okay with other cheeses!

    1. You can leave it out if you don’t want to use it. It does add some creaminess and it helps the texture when it’s reheated, but I have made it both ways and I am not sure that my kids have been able to notice. (You can’t taste it though since the amount is small though, if that’s helpful to know.)

  10. Food allergy mom here! I made this with oat milk, dairy-free butter, dairy-free cream cheese, and dairy free cheddar shreds (So Delicious brand). My husband who usually won’t eat food with “fake cheese” in it went back for seconds! Such a great recipe, even with substitutions!