Easy Broccoli Mac and Cheese
This delicious Broccoli Mac & Cheese recipe is perfect for toddlers, kids and adults alike! This kid-friendly pasta recipe is easy to make, and packed with flavor. If you’re wondering what to make for dinner… this is just the thing!
Medically reviewed and co-written by Jamie Johnson, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), and Lauren Braaten, Pediatric Occupational Therapist (OT).
Mac & Cheese with Broccoli
Can we just take a minute and appreciate all the great flavor combinations in our lives? Peanut butter and jelly, apple and cinnamon, chocolate and peanut butter, and now… mac and cheese AND broccoli! 🥦
After making this easy dish, we’re willing to bet you’ll never even think of making mac and cheese
again without its savory and nutritious partner, broccoli.
This easy mac and cheese with broccoli can be made in 20 minutes, in one pot, and is a meal that the whole family will love. Plus, it uses ingredients that you likely already have on hand in your pantry or freezer – and if you don’t, it’s quite versatile – swap out broccoli for peas or another type of cheese for the cheddar.
Broccoli Mac & Cheese Video
Watch this video to see just how easy it is to make this homemade version of the classic dish!
With dozens of dinner recipes for kids to choose from, like my crazy good Chicken Parmesan Meatballs, The Best Kid-Friendly Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese and Healthy Chicken Nuggets with Green Bean “Fries,” there are zero reasons to be in a dinner food slump. If you need toddler and kid smoothie, breakfast or lunch ideas, I have those too, plus plenty of healthy popsicle recipes to choose from as well.
Need More Dinner Ideas? I’ve got your family covered with amazing family-friendly dinner recipes in my best-selling cookbook, Little Foodie: Baby Food Recipes for Babies and Toddlers with Taste.
Reasons to Love this Broccoli Mac & Cheese
- One pot meal
- Made in 20 minutes
- Great for the entire family
- Easily adaptable depending on what ingredients you have
- Loaded with healthy broccoli
- Easy finger food for babies and toddlers
- Perfect for leftovers
- Pasta: smaller types of pasta, such as elbows, rotini, farfalle, fusilli, or penne are best for this recipe
- Cheddar Cheese: is best to be grated by hand, not pre-shredded
- Broccoli: fresh is best, but frozen works well too
- Butter: adds that rich creamy flavor to pasta; use unsalted butter
- Milk: whole milk is best for creaminess, but 1% or 2% milk can also be used. You can also use any plant-based milk, such as plain unflavored almond, oat, soy, or rice milk.
- Spices: Garlic Powder, Onion Powder and Paprika: adjust as needed for your family’s preferences
- Salt: we’re using a very small amount anyway, but feel free to reduce by half as needed
Tip: to make this meal gluten-free, you can use any gluten-free pasta you prefer as well as a gluten-free one-for-one flour mix.
Benefits of Broccoli
Broccoli has a whole host of health benefits!
- The fiber found in broccoli promotes gut health and heart health.
- It helps support your immune system with the help of vitamin C.
- Broccoli is high in vitamin K, which is important in blood clotting.
- The antioxidants found in broccoli may help protect against certain types of cancers.
- Vitamin A and antioxidants found in broccoli promote eye health.
- Cook pasta according to the directions on the box for ‘al dente’. When you have 2 minutes left on your timer, add in the broccoli. Drain pasta and broccoli.
- In the same pot, over medium heat, add the butter and let melt. Add in the flour and spices and whisk until you have a paste (roux). Add in the milk, whisk and let cook for 2 minutes or until thickened to a heavy cream consistency. Turn off the burner.
- Add in the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring until melted. Continue until you have added in all of the cheese and the sauce is smooth.
- Add in the pasta and broccoli and gently stir until combined.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although this broccoli mac and cheese comes together very quickly, you can make it ahead of time. It stores well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stove top and add one tablespoon of milk per cup of mac and cheese to a saucepan. Set to medium heat and stir to break up as it warms.
Smaller types of pasta, such as elbows, rotini, farfalle, fusilli or penne are best for this recipe. The tubular shapes and little nooks and crannies hold onto the creamy cheese sauce so well!
Yes, just know that the texture might be slightly different when you reheat it. You will likely need to add a more milk and/or butter when you reheat it. If you do plan to make a double batch to freeze, you may want to cook the pasta very al-dente so it isn’t too soggy when you reheat it.
This easy broccoli mac and cheese is also incredibly versatile! Here are some of our favorite variations and additions.
- Cooked chicken
- Shelled Edamame
- Quartered cherry tomatoes
- Mozzarella or parmesan cheese
- Stir in a couple of tablespoons of cream cheese
- Top with green onions or crispy panko breadcrumbs
How to Store
Store broccoli mac and cheese leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
- Shredding your own cheese is preferred, as it melts better than pre-shredded.
- Feel free to use sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese for a stronger cheese flavor more similar to traditional mac and cheese or go with a mild cheddar for a softer flavor.
- To make meal prep even quicker, you can go with pre-cut broccoli florets.
- Win over even the pickiest of toddlers and older kids by letting them choose from a couple toppings they can sprinkle over their bowl, such as bacon crumbles, everything bagel seasoning, panko breadcrumbs, or grated parmesan cheese.
Broccoli Mac and Cheese for Baby
If you’re considering serving this broccoli mac and cheese to baby, you’ll want to first make sure that your little one has already been introduced to the common allergens without a reaction (typically wheat in the pasta and the milk and cheese, as they are made from cow’s milk). Although cheese can be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, it’s often very high in sodium. Therefore, it’s recommended to wait and offer most types of cheese regularly until after 12 months of age.
You can set aside some cooked pasta and broccoli for babies under 12 months of age to enjoy this recipe. And even if you forget to do this and baby still seems very interested in trying it, a small serving should be okay. Just make it part of a well-balanced meal and be mindful that you aren’t serving cheese regularly until baby reaches their first birthday.
Babies and toddlers can finger feed this broccoli mac and cheese. You can also mash the mac and cheese a bit on a pre-loaded spoon or offer it pre-loaded on a fork for babies and toddlers who are still practicing utensil use.
Get the recipe: Easy Broccoli Mac and Cheese
- 16 oz pasta
- 2-3 cups broccoli, cut into small florets
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder (optional)
- 1/4 tsp onion powder (optional)
- 1/8 tsp paprika (optional)
- 1/8 tsp pepper (optional)
- 2 cups milk
- 8 oz block of cheddar cheese, shredded
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add pasta, and cook according to the directions on the box for 'al dente'. When you have 2 minutes left on your timer, add in the broccoli. Drain pasta and broccoli.
- In the same pot, over medium heat, add in the butter and let melt. Add in the flour and spices and whisk until you have a paste (roux).
- Add in the milk, whisk and let cook for 2 minutes or until thickened to a heavy cream consistency. Turn off the burner.
- Add in the cheese, one handful at a time, stirring until melted. Continue until you have added in all of the cheese and it is smooth.
- Add in the pasta and broccoli and gently stir until combined.
- Serve and enjoy!
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