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 You Need

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

ingredients in broccoli mac and cheese
  • 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.

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.

how to make broccoli mac and cheese step by step
  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.
  • Find more of my favorite toddler pasta recipes.

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

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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 78 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)
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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
    This was amazing and loved by the whole family! Even my som who usually refuses broccoli said it was tasty! I was just wondering though for the nutritional information, how much is considered one serving? Thank you!

    1. I’m so glad to hear that! Nutritional info is 1/4 of the amount made. (Sorry that I don’t have a more precise amount. I try not to encourage anyone to actually measure food unless there’s a medical concern.)

  2. 5 stars
    Delicious! The whole family loved it and I feel good sending this with my daughter to daycare.

  3. 5 stars
    Creamy and so easy to make! Did frozen broccoli and velveta / shredded cheddar mixed. Added some extra salt, pepper and onion powder. Didn’t use cream cheese, velveta was creamy enough. Used chicka boom chick pea pasta for extra nutrition. 18 month old hasn’t tried it yet but I had a bowl right after cooking and loved it!

  4. 5 stars
    I made this for my toddler but it was so good the whole family devoured it. I had to make it again the next day haha. I will be adding this to my recipe box and making this often. I love how fast and easy this was! Thanks for the yummy recipe!!

  5. 5 stars
    Made this for lunch for myself, my husband and 14-month-old and we all loved it! I love that it’s so easy to make and comes together quickly and it’s a one pot meal, not to mention so delicious! 5 stars from me!

  6. The first time I made this, it was awesome…but every time since then has resulted in just a waste. The cheese doesn’t stick to the noodles (little shells), the broth/milk is just soup, and the noodles just sit naked because the cheese will only stick to my spoon while stirring. What am I doing wrong?? PLEASE HELP!!

    1. Same 🙁 First time I made it it came out perfect. The second & third time were disasters. I can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong!

      1. This happened to me as well. Followed the recipe, using double the cheese and diced chicken instead of broccoli. Cooked my elbows for 14 minutes.

  7. 5 stars
    Such an easy, delicious and balanced dish. I love that I prepped this in just under 30 minutes and my 2 year old actually gobbled it up. Thanks so much!

  8. 5 stars
    Thought I’d share a review from my 3yo, who after his first bite said, “everyone in the world will like this!”. 😆

  9. 5 stars
    My kid and my husband adores this recipe! Everytime I do it, he always tells me how delicious it is and it truly is! It is my favourite mac and cheese recipe as its not the unhealthy type. Thanks so much 💗

  10. 5 stars
    Made this today for my selective boys (minus broccoli), and it was a hit. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!

      1. Not a professional here but I would imagine more cream cheese and sub milk for heavy cream?

  11. 5 stars
    So easy and good! I should probably leave a review after my toddler actually eats it lol. I just made this during his nap and I couldn’t stop eating. I will definitely be having more with him when he wakes up. I added fresh broccoli, doubled the cheese (as suggested) and used garlic powder instead of onion. Thanks for the great recipe!

  12. 5 stars
    This is now my favourite Mac and cheese recipe. My 20 month old daughter gobbles this up when I make it. So simple and tasty!

  13. 5 stars
    Omg this is my new favorite website. I didn’t have cream cheese so I used a wedge of laughing cow cheese and it came out great!

    1. I haven’t and I can’t say for sure whether it would work the same. Some alternative pastas need to be rinsed or become mushy if overcooked by even a smidge.

  14. 5 stars
    So yummy and creamy. One of the best homemade Mac and cheese and so easy to make! We’ve made it like 3 times already and will make many more times ☺️☺️

  15. 5 stars
    Made this for the first time last night and it’s in the family rotation NOW! So yummy! I doubled it (1 lb of pasta) so that we had left overs. The pasta was cooked well before all of the liquid was cooked down. I was on the verge of mushy, over cooked pasta with a ton of milk/stock still in the pot. I just went for it: added the cheese and remaining ingredients and continued to cook it on LOW until it all came together. I doubled the cheese (which was a suggestion) and I doubled the cream cheese to give it an extra creamy texture. Added white pepper and doubled onion powder for a more bold flavor. My kids love flavor (thankful!) so I always go for things like that. I can’t wait to warm up left overs for lunch! Thanks, Amy!

  16. 5 stars
    Loved this! Added some pan-seared chicken because my husband likes meat and it turned out great! My toddler ate it and my husband said we should add it to the rotation.

  17. 5 stars
    I’m gluten intolerant and have had success making this so try a corn based gluten free pasta. It was delicious and so easy! Love all of Amy’s recipes!!

  18. 5 stars
    My husband made this for dinner the other night and the flavor was delicious! Both my 3 year old and 1 year old ate it right up. The only issue we had was the sauce didn’t really thicken up nicely. We used whole wheat pasta as that is what we had in the house – do you think that could have caused the issue? It’s definitely a recipe I would like to keep in the rotation so I want to make it work! Thank you!

    1. It’s possible the whole wheat pasta just cooks differently in the liquid. I haven’t tested it with that type of pasta so I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible. Did it stay more soupy? I’m glad your kiddo enjoyed it though!

  19. 5 stars
    Another winner from this site – I subbed almond milk for the regular milk and used another tablespoon of butter in place of the cream cheese (just to use what was in hand) and it still turned out well and was super easy 🙂

  20. 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

  21. 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.

  22. 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.)

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. 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!!

  26. 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. 😊

  27. 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.

  28. 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.)

  29. 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!