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.
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.
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:
- Spinach Salad
- Barbecue Meatloaf Muffins
- Creamy Chipotle Tomato Soup
- Easy Grilled Chicken Breast
- Easy Arugula Salad
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:
Can I use a different vegetable?
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.
How can I spice up mac and cheese?
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.
How do you keep mac and cheese creamy?
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.
Should you rinse your pasta after straining?
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 and Carrot Mac and Cheese
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- 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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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.
* 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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