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Easy and Fun Toddler Mac and Cheese

This delicious Toddler Mac and Cheese recipe with pears and broccoli is the easiest pasta for toddlers and also works as some of the best pasta for babies. It’s ready in 15 minutes, only uses one pot, and combines fruits and vegetables!

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While this is a toddler mac and cheese recipe that’s great as a cheesy pasta for toddlers, it really wins because it can appeal to the whole family, too.

Isn’t that what we all want? A 15 minute family-friendly recipe?

Something easy, requires no thinking, and is great for those mid-week Wednesday dinner slumps.

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Why You’ll Love Todder Mac and Cheese

  • A cheesy pasta for toddlers means pasta for the family, too. Because we want to eat what they eat, right? A great part of intuitive eating for toddlers.
  • One pot – You only need one pot, can use frozen broccoli, and it is ready in less than 20 minutes! 
  • Freeze for later – You can always freeze extras for later! They make for great frozen meals for toddlers.
  • A fun new way to serve vegetable recipes for toddlers – We call this the pairing method. We’re pairing a favorite (mac and cheese) with a new flavor/vegetable, for safety and better acceptance.

Ingredients

  • Pasta – I love shells, but any shape your kids love!
  • Butter – If you’re dairy free, opt for a vegan butter or you could use avocado oil or even coconut oil.
  • Milk – This helps keep it creamy, but you could also opt for a plant-based milk
  • Cheese – Any cheese that you like and enjoy will work. The great thing is that since the cheese will melt, you can use string cheese, shredded cheese, cheese slices, etc. We love cheddar, mozzarella or gouda!
  • Pears – If you don’t have or like pears, a good substitute is apple – fruity and sweet.
  • Broccoli – Frozen works just as well as fresh. You could also choose peas or frozen green beans as other veggie alternatives.
ingredients for toddler mac and cheese in white bowls

Maybe your child won’t eat broccoli or pears by themselves, but they’ll eat them in this cheesy pasta recipe.

This is the best pasta recipe for picky toddlers.

Broccoli for baby led weaning is such a nutrient-rich offering for babies and kids.

Ingredient Upgrades for Macaroni and Cheese for Baby

Pasta dishes for toddlers are so versatile and easy to spruce up with nutrients. A blanket of possibilities, as I tell my clients.

If you want to serve this macaroni and cheese to baby, consider some substitutions and adjustments.

  • Vegan or plant based substitutions – If you are dairy free or vegan, use your favorite plant-based alternatives!
  • Breastmilk or formula – If you plan on serving this to a baby, you can leave some ingredients out, like salt, and use breastmilk or formula for the liquid.
  • Beans or lentils – Add more protein and fiber by adding these little guys in, or try some of these lentil recipes for toddlers or kid friendly bean recipes!
  • Protein pasta – Sometimes we love to get more protein/fiber by using a bean-based or legume-based pasta. It doesn’t taste any different but adds significantly more protein and fiber! Plus, it adds a subtle sweetness. Sweetpotato for babies are wonderful!

This is a great baby led weaning pasta for 6 months and above. And as babies age, you can switch up the shape, texture and consistency too.

baby eating carrots and vegetables in high chair

Whether you’re looking to serve pasta for 10 months baby or a macaroni recipe for a 1 year old, this is your recipe!

And you can cater your cheese pasta sauce for babies however you’d like. 

How To Make Mac and Cheese For Toddlers

Making mac and cheese for toddlers is typically a hit. Kids love it because it’s comforting, predictable and creamy!

However, most kids may or may not love a veggie-rich option, except they’ll love this one.

Pasta sauce is usually hit or miss, but most kids enjoy a cheesy sauce, which is why this easy toddler mac and cheese recipe is a winner. 

two white bowls with homemade toddler mac and cheese with pears and broccoli

Making this cheesy pasta sauce for babies is also very nutritious.

They are getting some fat, which is important for brain development, calcium and Vitamin D through the milk and cheese sauce.

Plus, it’s a great flavoring for small pasta shapes for babies. 

I usually serve any toddler pasta recipe for baby deconstructed, anyway, since you’re usually introducing foods slowly on a timeline.

Best Pasta for Babies

This baby mac and cheese works great for all kids and is a great way to use pears for baby led weaning.

While baby led weaning foods can feel scary at times, as long as you’re being safe about the foods you’re introducing, it’s a completely natural experience for babies.

I prefer using shorter pasta shapes (ie – penne, macaroni, elbows) vs. longer strands like spaghetti or linguini because they are more compact.

Personally, I feel like they are easier to chew and feel more comfortable in terms of choking. I use shells if I’m making a toddler pasta salad too. 

toddler eating a mac and cheese

According to the CDC, though, spaghetti doesn’t pose a true choking hazard and you can definitely cut it into smaller pieces. So, it’s really what you’re comfortable with!

This also works as an easy pear recipe for kids, if that’s a new food (fruit) you’re looking to introduce.

Pears and cheese go really well together (and wine, ahem), so this toddler pasta recipe is a match made in heaven. 

Since you’re making the sauce from cheese and milk, it’s a healthy pasta sauce for baby and for kids, without additives and preservatives in store-bought pasta sauces. 

FAQ

Can I make this in the instant pot?

I tested this toddler mac and cheese on the stovetop, but I’m sure you can make it just as quickly in the instant pot.

Can you freeze cheesy pasta for toddlers?

Yes! To freeze this toddler mac and cheese, just let it cool before storing it in a freezer-friendly ziplock bag or container. You can freeze for up to 3 months. 

Keep in mind that the University of Georgia Extension states that foods that you’re planning to reheat can and should be slightly undercooked before moving to the freezer, since you will be reheating. When ready to reheat, just place it in a big pot on the stove and reheat until everything is cooked. You can also add more cheese if you’d like. 

Can I use vegan cheese or a cheese substitute?

Absolutely! If you live in a dairy free house, or have a dairy free baby, you can absolutely use a vegan or plant-based cheese for the same, creamy results.

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Yield: 4 servings

Toddler Mac and Cheese with Pears and Broccoli

mac and cheese with pears and broccoli in two white bowls on white counter

This Toddler Mac and Cheese with pears is the easiest pasta for toddlers and also works as some of the best pasta for babies. It's ready in 15 minutes, only uses one pot, and combines fruits and vegetables!

Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 14 minutes

Ingredients

  • 12 oz pasta (I used shells)
  • 3 Tbsp butter, divided
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar and mozzarella)
  • 1 bag frozen broccoli
  • 2 pears, diced
  • Salt, to season
  • Pepper, to season
  • Paprika, to season

Instructions

    1. Cook pasta according to directions. Drain (I like it slightly al dente since we’ll be heating it more shortly).
    2. While pasta is draining and cooling, add bag of frozen broccoli to pan and heat with 1 Tbsp butter.
    3. Add drained pasta back to pot and add remaining butter, ¼ cup milk, pears and 1 cup cheese of choice and diced.  I was pretty liberal with these amounts.
    4. Top with more diced pears if desired.

Notes

To freeze, let cool before storing it in a freezer-friendly ziplock bag or container. You can freeze for up to 3 months. 

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 304Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 337mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 11g

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  1. This is a fantastic recipe and creative post, Sarah. My wife plans on making this when our Grandson visits next week!

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