Hidden Veggie Mac & Cheese

4.81 from 26 votes

Hidden veggie mac and cheese is a classic comfort food with a twist. The cheese sauce is made by blending veggies while adding nutrition. Enjoy a delicious and healthy meal in every bite!

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Hidden veggie mac and cheese takes classic macaroni and cheese to the next level! This family-friendly vegetable mac and cheese recipe has what the kids love–pasta in a creamy, cheesy sauce– and the nutrient-rich veggies you love to serve them. Plus, it’s so easy to make, using just one pot and a blender, and gets a healthy dinner on the table fast!

Bowl of hidden veggies mac and cheese.

Table of Contents

  1. Recipe At a Glance
  2. Ingredients to Make Hidden Veggies Mac and Cheese
  3. Popular Substitutions & Additions
  4. How to Make Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese
  5. Tips for Making the Best Veggie Mac and Cheese
  6. What to Serve With Vegetarian Mac and Cheese
  7. How to Store & Reheat Hidden Veggies Mac and Cheese
  8. Frequently Asked Questions
  9. More Vegetarian Recipes:
  10. Hidden Veggie Mac & Cheese Recipe

I’ve combined veggies with mac and cheese before, such as with this Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese and Broccoli Mac and Cheese. But this hidden vegetable mac and cheese holds a special place in my heart, because it brings not one but two veggies to the table–and they make the sauce SO creamy! Carrots and cauliflower, pureed and added to the hidden veggie pasta sauce along with cheddar, make such a creamy, irresistible vegetable mac and cheese. This is one for the keeper files!

Recipe At a Glance

Cuisine Inspiration: American
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Vegetarian
Key Flavor: Savory and cheesy
Skill Level: Easy

Summary

  • One pot preparation: This vegetarian mac and cheese recipe uses an easy stovetop method where you cook the pasta right in the sauce. The starches the pasta releases while cooking help make an extra creamy sauce–plus, no colander to clean!
  • Creamy, velvety sauce: The sauce is so creamy! It starts with a classic roux of butter and flour, and then the milk, water, and pasta are added to the pot. While the pasta cooks, the sauce thickens, getting creamier and creamier. Then, the shredded cheese, along with the blended carrots and cauliflower, are stirred in for even more creaminess!
  • Easy weeknight recipe: It’s so simple to whip up this mac and cheese with veggies by cooking the veggies, making the sauce, and cooking the pasta. It’s on the table in only 35 minutes – perfect for busy weeknights!
  • Healthy comfort food: Mac and cheese might just be the ultimate comfort food, but it’s not generally considered healthy–until now! With nutritious cauliflower and carrots, this comfort food gets a vitamin-packed upgrade.

Ingredients to Make Hidden Veggies Mac and Cheese

Ingredients for recipe in individual bowls: shredded cheese, butter, flour, elbow macaroni, carrots, cauliflower, salt and pepper, water, and milk.
  • Cauliflower: You’ll need one small head, cut into florets. 
  • Carrots: Peel them with a carrot peeler, then roughly chop. They don’t have to be neat–you’ll be pureeing them!
  • Butter: I suggest unsalted butter, if you have it, so you have better control over the salt level in the recipe. If you have salted butter, I recommend using less salt than the recipe calls for, then adjusting for taste at the end as needed. 
  • Flour: Use all-purpose flour for best results. 
  • Milk: 2% milk works, or use whole milk for the richest sauce.
  • Elbow pasta: For the classic macaroni and cheese experience! Plus, elbow pasta is the perfect pasta for mac and cheese because the sauce clings so well to the outside and the hollow centers.
  • Cheddar cheese: Medium-sharp cheddar cheese makes a flavorful mac and cheese, but if you prefer a sharper cheddar, that will work too!
  • Swap out the pasta: If you have another kind of medium, tubular pasta, feel free to use it! Penne and shells are both great options.
  • Try a different cheese: Gruyere cheese is excellent in mac and cheese as it melts just like cheddar. Including a little smoked cheddar adds another savory note. 
  • Mix up the veggies: Swap in cubed butternut squash or sweet potatoes for some or all of the carrots.

How to Make Hidden Veggie Mac and Cheese

It’s so easy to make this healthy mac and cheese with veggies! First, you blanch the veggies, then they head to the blender to puree. Then you’ll return the pot to the stove to cook your sauce and pasta, and finish by stirring the pureed veggies along with cheese into the pasta. That’s it!

Blanch the Vegetables

  1. Cook veggies in water until tender.
  2. Use a slotted spoon to remove the vegetables from the cooking water.
  3. Transfer the vegetables to your blender along with some of the cooking water for easier blending.
  4. Puree until smooth and velvety.
4 image collage making recipe: 1- cauliflower and carrots in a pot, 2- after cooking with a slotted spoon lifting some up, 3- adding blanched veggies to a blender, 4- after blending.

Make the Sauce and Cook the Pasta

  1. Start the roux. First, melt the butter in the pot, then add the flour, salt, and pepper.
  2. Cook the roux until it’s light brown and smells nutty.
  3. Add the milk and pasta.
  4. Cook until the pasta is tender.
  5. Add the pureed veggies and the cheese.
  6. Stir until the veggies are incorporated, and the cheese has melted for a smooth and creamy mac and cheese.
6 image collage making recipe in one pot: 1- butter, flour and seasoning in pot, 2- after browning roux, 3- pasta and milk being added, 4- after combining, 5- after pasta is cooked with cheese and veggie puree added, 6- after combining.

Tips for Making the Best Veggie Mac and Cheese

  1. Use a high speed blender. To get that ultra smooth sauce, you can use an immersion blender, but I find that a high-speed blender is faster and creates a more creamy consistency. When the carrots blend with cauliflower, it actually looks like cheese!
  2. Shred your own cheese. Packaged pre-shredded cheese contains a powdery residue due to anti-caking agents. This can make the sauce grainy, so I recommend shredding your own if you can.
  3. Use pre-cut cauliflower and/or baby carrots. Skip the step of having to cut the vegetables by buying pre-cut veggies. Baby carrots work well too!
Hidden veggies macaroni and cheese in pot with a wooden spoon dipped in and a small bowl of extra veggies on the side.

What to Serve With Vegetarian Mac and Cheese

How to Store & Reheat Hidden Veggies Mac and Cheese

Store leftovers in a container fitted with an airtight lid in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave for 1-minute intervals or on the stovetop over medium-low heat, adding a tablespoon or two of milk to return some creaminess to the sauce. You can also reheat it in the oven; just place it in a baking dish, cover it, and place it in a 350ºF oven until warmed through, 10-15 minutes. 

How Long Will Hidden Veggies Mac and Cheese Last in the Fridge?

Your leftover mac and cheese will be kept for 4 to 5 days.

Can I Freeze Vegetable Mac and Cheese?

To freeze veggie mac and cheese, place it in an airtight container and freeze for up to a month. Thaw it in the refrigerator, then reheat it in one of the ways listed above.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you make this mac and cheese vegan?

Yes! Use vegan butter for the roux, and substitute non-dairy unsweetened, unflavored milk for the dairy milk. You’ll also want to either substitute the cheese with a vegan option that melts well, or you can omit the cheese and add a couple of teaspoons of nutritional yeast to add an umami note.

Can you make it gluten-free?

Two ingredients in this mac and cheese have gluten: The flour and the pasta. To make it gluten-free, try gluten-free 1-1 flour in place of the all-purpose flour, and sub in gluten-free pasta.

Why is my mac and cheese so thick?

If you prefer a thinner consistency after adding the veggies and cheese or when reheating, stir in a tablespoon or two of milk to help loosen the sauce.

Fork lifting up a bite of mac and cheese.

If your family loves macaroni and cheese, this veggie mac and cheese is the perfect way to get a few more nutrients in while keeping the comfort food they crave! You’ll have dinner on the table fast and feel great about what you’re serving them with this kid-friendly Hidden Veggies Mac and Cheese.

More Vegetarian Recipes:

If you try this feel good Hidden Veggie Mac & Cheese recipe or any other recipe on Feel Good Foodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. We would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots, share it on Instagram so we can repost on Stories!

Hidden Veggie Mac & Cheese

Hidden veggie mac and cheese is a classic comfort food with a twist. The cheese sauce is made by blending veggies while adding nutrition. Enjoy a delicious and healthy meal in every bite!
4.8 from 26 votes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 478
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients
  

  • 2 carrots peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 small head cauliflower cut into florets
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus more for water
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pound elbow pasta
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots and cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove from water with a slotted spoon and place in a high speed blender along with ½ cup of the cooking water. Blend until smooth and set aside.
  • Drain the pot, add butter and set over low heat. Once melted, add flour, salt and pepper. Cook butter and flour mixture for 2 minutes, or until it is golden brown and smells nutty. Increase the heat to high, add the milk, water and pasta, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and the milk has reduced to a thick and creamy sauce.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the blended carrots and cauliflower and the cheddar cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted and everything is well combined.

Notes

Storage: Store leftovers in a container fitted with an airtight lid in the refrigerator. Your leftover mac and cheese will keep in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. 
Freezing instructions: To freeze veggie mac and cheese, place it in an airtight container and freeze for up to a month. Thaw it in the refrigerator before reheating. 
To reheat: Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium-low heat, adding a tablespoon or two of milk to return some creaminess to the sauce. You can also reheat it in the oven; just place it in a baking dish, cover, and place in a 350ºF oven until warmed through, 10-15 minutes.

Nutrition

Calories: 478kcal, Carbohydrates: 55g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 12g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 58mg, Sodium: 549mg, Potassium: 486mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 3204IU, Vitamin C: 17mg, Calcium: 379mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine American
Course: Dinner, Entree, Pastas

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Comments

  1. Another GREAT recipe Yumna!
    I didn’t have elbows on hand, so used cavatappi instead. They are thick and curvy and provided the perfect substrate for the cheesy goodness of the sauce. Because I have to be mindful of my salt intake, I cut way back on the tsp. you suggested and added a number of Trader Joe’s seasonings instead:Their Aglio Olio,Umami Blend, and 21 Seasoning Salute added some nice flavor. I am also thinking that some nutmeg might add another character profile to try next time. I’m such a fan Yumna, and always look forward to your posts.

  2. I made this yesterday and my son (a picky eater) loved it. He did’nt even notice the hidden veggies. It is a quick and yummy recipe.

  3. I made this today, ahead of time for grandkids coming over tomorrow. Very creamy, they won’t have a clue there are veggies in the sauce 😊 It’s a little ‘blah’ for me … I will probably sprinkle some Parmesan on for a little more seasoning.