Hidden Veggie Healthy Mac & Cheese

This gluten free Hidden Veggie Healthy Mac and Cheese is my favorite mac and cheese to date. It’s made with a creamy cheese sauce that sneaks in veggies! It’s kid and adult-friendly and so delicious!

Absolutely nobody will be able to tell that you snuck cauliflower and butternut squash into the sauce of this fabulous mac and cheese!

Healthy Mac and Cheese

Gluten Free Mac and Cheese with Pecan Breadcrumbs

This Hidden Veggie Gluten-Free Mac & Cheese is the perfect alternative to conventional mac and cheese. Sneak those veggies into the creamy, cheesy sauce (bonus if you add in the broccoli) and you’ve got the perfect, sneakily healthy comfort food.

This recipe takes just 30 minutes to come together and results in a pasta dinner that’s hearty, creamy, and comforting! No one will know that it’s made with veggies! We all love this dish!

Ingredients Needed for Veggie Mac and Cheese:

This easy mac and cheese recipe is packed full of delicious ingredients and, of course, hidden veggies! Here’s what you’ll need:

Creamy Cheese Sauce

  • Butternut Squash and Cauliflower: cooked and blended squash and cauliflower create a super creamy base for the cheese sauce. Plus, hidden veggies! 
  • Olive Oil: used to brown the squash and cauliflower before steaming to add a little extra flavor..
  • Seasonings: a simple way to add so much flavor to the cheese sauce. Don’t skip the cinnamon. Trust me! 
  • Veggie Broth and Milk: adds flavor and richness and thins the cheese sauce into a, well, sauce!
  • Cheese: I use shredded parmesan and shredded cheddar to make the cheese sauce more cheesy. 
  • Butter: adds flavor depth to the sauce.
  • Dijon Mustard: provides the rich sauce with a little bit of tangy spice.

Other Ingredients

  • Pasta: I use 1 pound of gluten-free pasta. Just use your favorite! Not gluten-free? Regular pasta works great, too!
  • Broccoli: the broccoli is not quite as hidden as the other veggies, but the cheese on top covers it enough to trick the kiddos! You can totally omit this!
  • Additional Cheese: we’re topping the mac and cheese off with more shredded cheddar and parmesan, because you can never really go wrong with more cheese, right?!

Pecan Breadcrumbs

A fun take on traditional breadcrumbs that are easy, delicious, and nutritious!

  • Pecan Pieces: you can easily make the pecan pieces by grinding them up in a food processor until they reach a sand-like consistency.
  • Seasonings: give the pecan bread crumbs some extra flavor with a simple blend of cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, and sea salt.

How to Make Healthy Mac and Cheese

This easy and kid-friendly dinner comes together in just 30 minutes!

  1. Cook the veggies: In a large skillet, heat oil, then add in squash, cauliflower, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Cook until fragrant, then add in veggie broth and cover. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. 
  2. Cook the pasta and broccoli: Cook the gluten-free pasta according to package instructions and steam the broccoli florets. Run the pasta under cold water and toss with a drizzle of oil.
  3. Make the sauce: In a high-speed blender, combine squash, cauliflower, and veggie stock. Add in cheeses, milk, butter and mustard, then blend until creamy.
  4. Bake: In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked pasta, steamed broccoli, and the cheese sauce. Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish, top with cheddar and parmesan, and bake at 350ºF for 10 minutes.
  5. Top, broil, and serve: In a food processor, combine pecans, cayenne, chili powder, garlic powder, and sea salt. Sprinkle the pecan bread crumbs over the mac and cheese and broil on low until golden-brown.

What is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese?

I like to use a combination of shredded cheddar and parmesan to give this veggie mac and cheese its cheesy flavor and texture.

However, any creamy and melty cheese works great! Try gouda, gruyere, brie, goat, etc.

A bite of Hidden Veggie Gluten Free Mac and Cheese

Does Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese Taste the Same?

Well… YES! Of course, this cheese sauce has hidden veggies, so it is not going to taste like the mac and cheese you get out of the box. But for homemade, I think it’s even better! You still get that rich, creamy, delicious cheese sauce, but with all of the health benefits of veggies mixed right in. 

As far as the gluten-free noodles go, the texture is never going to be quite the same as regular flour pasta, but you can definitely find varieties that are very similar. 

This veggie mac and cheese may be healthier, but we’re not sacrificing any flavor over here! 

Pecan Breadcrumbs!

A handful of pecans (about 19 halves) is a good source of fiber, thiamin, zinc, and an excellent source of copper and manganese – a mineral that’s essential for metabolism and bone health.

Pecans also have power-packed protein and in every 1-ounce serving, you’ll get 12 grams of “good” monounsaturated fat, with zero cholesterol or sodium, making this dish even more nutritious!

Gluten Free Mac and Cheese

Tips and Notes for 

  • Shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheeses contain an anti-caking agent that can result in a gritty texture when it’s melted. For ultimate creaminess, shred it yourself.
  • Make it cheesier. Feel free to add as much (or as little) cheese as you like to the cheese sauce. Make it your own!
  • To steam broccoli, cut it into florets and place a steamer insert into a pot. Add water, cover, and bring to a boil, then place the florets into the pot. Steam for 4-5 minutes or until fork tender. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  • Cook the pasta al dente. Since we’re baking the pasta too, I recommend boiling it al dente according to package instructions so as not to overcook it in the oven.
  • Add more veggies. If you’re not really trying to hide the veggies, feel free to add more right into the mac and cheese with the broccoli. Peas, mushrooms, bell peppers, you name it!
  • Leftover breadcrumbs? They would also be delicious on top of baked salmon, roasted veggies, braised artichokes, stuffed peppers, salad, or as a breadcrumb mixture for eggplant parmesan

Serving Suggestions

You can serve this veggie mac and cheese on its own as a meatless entree or use it as a side dish next to your favorite protein.

How to Store

Leftover gluten-free mac and cheese will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. To reheat, warm in the microwave or on the stove with a splash of broth to moisten. 

More Cheesy Pasta Recipes

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Gluten-Free Hidden Veggie Mac & Cheese with Pecan Breadcrumbs

This gluten free Hidden Veggie Healthy Mac and Cheese is my favorite mac and cheese to date. It’s made with a creamy cheese sauce that sneaks in veggies! It’s kid and adult-friendly and so delicious!

  • Author: Lexi
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 8 1x

Ingredients

Scale

Creamy Cheese Sauce:

  • 2 heaping cups butternut squash, diced
  • 2 heaping cups cauliflower florets, cut small
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, more to taste
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk of choice, use more if your sauce if looking really thick
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, more as desired and more for topping
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, more as desired and more for topping
  • 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Other Ingredients:

  • 1 16-ounce package of gluten-free pasta, cooked according to package instructions
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, steamed (see notes)
  • 1/3 cup additional cheese, for topping
  • Pecan Breadcrumbs:
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces, finely ground in a food processor until sand-like consistency
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. Heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in butternut squash, cauliflower, sea salt, black pepper, and cinnamon. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Pour in vegetable broth and cover the skillet. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and let cool.
  2. While butternut squash cooks, cook pasta according to package instructions and steam the broccoli. Once pasta is done cooking, strain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Mix with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil to prevent the pasta from sticking and set aside.
  3. Add the butternut squash, cauliflower, and what is left of the vegetable stock into a high-speed blender. Add cheeses, non-dairy milk, 3 tablespoons grass-fed butter, and dijon mustard. Blend until creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
  4. Place pasta and steamed broccoli in a large mixing bowl. Pour 1/2 cup of sauce at a time over pasta and broccoli until the pasta is well coated and as cheesy as you like it. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as desired!
  5. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Pour Mac & Cheese into a baking dish. Top with the additional cheddar and parmesan cheese and bake for 10 minutes, until cheese is melted.
  6. While the Mac & Cheese is baking, make the pecan breadcrumbs: Pulse pecans in a food processor until a sand-like consistency is achieved. Mix in optional spices if using.
  7. Once the Mac & Cheese is done, sprinkle with pecan breadcrumbs and broil on low for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • When tasting your sauce, feel free to add more cheese to it!
  • You can omit the cayenne, chili powder, and garlic powder in the pecan topping if desired!
  • The cheese sauce yields 4 cups. You might have about 1 cup leftover depending on how cheesy you like your mac & cheese! Store the leftover cheese sauce in your fridge for up to one-week.
  • Steam Broccoli: Cut broccoli into 2-inch florets. Place a steamer insert into a medium pot. Add a little water, cover and bring the water to a boil. Place broccoli florets in the pot and steam for 4 to 5 minutes, or until fork tender. Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Add to pasta once cooked.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 8
  • Calories: 467
  • Sugar: 4.2g
  • Sodium: 429mg
  • Fat: 37.5g
  • Saturated Fat: 9g
  • Carbohydrates: 24.3g
  • Fiber: 7.1g
  • Protein: 14.1g
  • Cholesterol: 29mg

Did you make this recipe?

Share a photo and tag us — we can’t wait to see what you’ve made!

This post was originally shared in 2017 in sponsorship with the American Pecan Council. All thoughts and opinions are always 100% my own! I love pecans and the farmers who grow them! Thank you for continuing to support LCK and the brands I work with!

11 comments
April 27, 2022

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11 Responses

  1. This recipe is fantastic! I love that it feels indulgent, but is so full of vegetables! The recipe as written makes a LOT of sauce, but I froze the rest to have on hand for the next time a mac-n-cheese craving hits.

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