Cheddar and Carrot Mac and Cheese

Cheddar and Carrot Mac and Cheese features all the cheesy deliciousness of your favorite comfort food, with hidden veggies your kids won’t even notice. This nutrient-rich twist on a classic is flavorful, wholesome, and ready in under an hour.

321 CALORIES52g CARBS5g FAT19g PROTEIN
2 Comments

Now, typically I have no problem listing out every ingredient in my recipes to whoever wants to know. However, when it comes to mac and cheese—people tend to be more on the closed-minded side. I get it, it’s an iconic comfort food dish. It’s sacred.

This is why it gives me immense pride to watch as my loved ones chow down on this dish, with zero clue that I’ve hidden a pound of carrots inside. Yes, you read that correctly. A pound of carrots. Once everyone has devoured the food on their plates, my face stretches into a devilish smile as I reveal my secret ingredient.

Jaws drop, eyes widen, and heads tilt—but they still go back for more. If you are a parent of kids who think they’re allergic to vegetables, this is the perfect dish. My girls don’t exactly jump for joy at the sight of carrots, which is how I came up with the brilliant idea of hiding it in one of their favorite meals.

The girls get a meal they love and a healthy dose of veggies, it’s a win-win. This delicious Cheddar and Carrot Mac and Cheese has been a huge lifesaver in my home on more occasions than I can count. Try it out and see for yourself! This Broccoli Mac and Cheese is another winner.

Carrot macaroni and cheese on a bowl with a cheddar cheese sauce and elbow macaroni.

Key Ingredients

This super-secret carrot-infused mac and cheese relies on just 4 simple ingredients:

  • Baby carrots: Pureed carrots give this dish its robust, orange color, but in a very secretive, nonchalant sort of way. They are also loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, adding tons of health to the dish.
  • Pasta: When it comes to mac and cheese, people tend to be very particular about the pasta shape they use. I like to use shells, but you can use any shape you prefer.
  • Cheddar cheese: This recipe calls for reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Feel free to switch it up by replacing it or adding another type of cheese. Some of my favorite choices include mozzarella, gouda, and gruyère.
  • Breadcrumbs: I like to use plain regular breadcrumbs, but any kind you like will work. If you like an extra crunch, feel free to use panko breadcrumbs.

Veggie Macaroni and Cheese Recipe Tips

  • For a little extra creaminess, you can add butter. This will help mask the carrot flavor even more, but I found that it wasn’t even necessary to please my kiddos.
  • As mentioned, you can mix up the cheeses to your personal liking. Aged cheddar works well with the carrot puree, but gruyère, pecorino, and aged gouda are fabulous choices as well.
  • For those looking for an extra kick, drizzle your bowl of mac with some sriracha or hot sauce. Alternatively, try sprinkling some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper in with the sauce!
  • Choose pasta shapes that will hold onto the sauce. I’ve found that shells, corkscrews, rotini, or anything with ridges works fairly well.

What to Serve With Mac and Cheese

This dish pairs wonderfully with anything you would normally serve mac and cheese with. From grilled chicken and steak to meatloaf and wings, you really can’t go wrong. Mac and cheese is super versatile and pairs well with many dishes. Here are a few of my favorite dishes to serve with mac and cheese:

Vegetable macaroni and cheese made with carrots and cheddar cheese in a bowl with a fork and knife.

Recipe Variations

Here are some great ways to mix up this dish:

  • Add protein. To make this dish a bit more filling, try adding some protein! I’d recommend grilled chicken, pork, or even pieces of bacon.
  • Make it low-carb. For a low-carb alternative, try using chickpea pasta, zoodles, spaghetti squash, or even roasted cauliflower.
  • Add roasted vegetables. For the ultimate veggie mac and cheese, try adding roasted mushrooms, broccoli, or bell peppers.

Storage and Leftovers

To store leftovers, seal the dish in an airtight storage container and refrigerate for 3 to 5 days.

To freeze, seal the dish in an airtight storage container and freeze for up to 3 months. Reheating is super easy, making this a perfect dinner option for when you’re short on time.

To reheat, place the dish in a microwave-safe container and heat for 3-4 minutes. If the mac and cheese is already thawed, it should only take 1-2 minutes. You could also reheat using a stovetop, heating the dish in a covered pan over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this dish:

Sure! This would work great with butternut squash or cauliflower as well. The most important thing is that you choose a vegetable that is nice and smooth as a puree. Vegetables like broccoli or greens would add a gritty texture.

Spices are probably the easiest and most affordable way to add additional flavor. For this dish in particular, you can easily add a few basic spices that you probably already have at home. Some of my favorite spices to add to mac and cheese include garlic powder, paprika, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.

Many people think that cooking your noodles in milk instead of water can help to make the final product creamier. If you decide to try it out, let me know if you think it helps! Normally I find the best way to add creaminess to mac and cheese it to add some additional milk or cream.

The answer here is no, there’s no need to rinse your noodles after straining them. Rinsing will actually wash away the starch on the noodles, which is what helps to bind all that delicious cheesy sauce to the pasta.

Cheddar macaroni and cheese with a creamy carrot and cheddar sauce in a bowl and in a baking dish.
The Recipe
Cheddar carrot macaroni and cheese in a baking dish with crispy breadcrumbs on top.

Cheddar and Carrot Mac and Cheese

PREP TIME: 5 Min
COOK TIME: 40 Min
TOTAL TIME: 45 Min
2 Comments
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Ingredients

USMETRICS
  • 8 oz high fiber pasta shells
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp bread crumbs
  • Salt and pepper

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Instructions

(Hide Photos)
1

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the carrots in a microwave safe container with 1/2 cup water. Cook on high for 5-7 minutes or until soft. You can also lightly boil them with the pasta until soft.

Steamed carrots on a green steamer basket.
2

Meanwhile cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Take the pasta out when it is al dente. Drain and reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid. Return to the pot.

Elbow macaroni cooking in a pot and a slotted spoon.
3

Place the carrots with any remaining liquid in a blender. Add the 1 cup of cooking water from the pasta. Blend until smooth. Add the carrot puree to the pasta and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. The sauce should thicken. Turn the heat down to low and stir in the 1.25 cups of cheese. Stir until creamy and season with salt and pepper.

Carrot puree and cheese being added to pasta in a skillet.
4

Pour into a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20-25 minutes until sides are bubbling. Broil for the last 2-3 minutes if you want a crispier top.

Carrot and cheddar macaroni and cheese in a white baking dish.
Nutritional Facts
Serving Size: 1.25 cup (177g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 321
Calories from Fat 39
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 5g
7%
Saturated Fat 2g
11%
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 11mg
4%
Sodium 432mg
19%
Total Carbohydrate 52g
17%
Dietary Fiber 9g
34%
Sugars 7g
Protein 19g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

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About the authorMeet Kristen McCaffrey
Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans. Learn More
2 Comments
On Cheddar and Carrot Mac and Cheese
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kellie
January 29, 2022 - 08:43
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5
Just made this and it is very good. Not sweet like a lot of similar recipes calling for milk. I had some issues with my sauce, since I used leftover carrot pulp from my juicer and day old Rigatoni that I had coated in olive oil (no pasta water). It was thin and not creamy. I did like the taste however so I will try again using smaller, fresh noodles and baby carrots. I used extra sharp, full-fat cheddar and grated parmesan instead of breadcrumbs on top.
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Kelly
May 14, 2018 - 18:53
Add a Rating:
5
YUM! :D This was delish and it was light... but filling! I seasoned with pepper and garlic salt. Easy to make and a great twist on mac & cheese.
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