A simple mac and cheese recipe for babies, toddlers and kids! This stovetop mac and cheese is mixed with finely chopped kale for additional texture and nutrition. Perfect for baby led weaning and for babies and toddlers who are exploring new textures. Kale is a super healthy food for children and this cheesy, comforting pasta is the perfect introduction to it!
This recipe was originally published in August 2018 but has been updated in July 2022 with new photos and a video. The recipe has not been altered.
It’s always a win when you can get your toddler to polish off a bowl full of greens. Kale, spinach, chard… frankly these are things that I wouldn’t touch until I was well into my 20’s so I push hard to make them seem appealing and normal to the kids. Incorporating them into pasta sauces is always a good strategy.
This kale mac and cheese has always been a hit in the baby and toddler years, though realistically my oldest child decided aged 4 that nothing green would ever be acceptable to her, so I am not promising that it’s a magic bullet forever, but get it in them while you can!
Health Benefits of Kale for Babies, Toddlers + Kids
… Or, why I am so obsessed with adding kale to baby and toddler food.
- Kale is very nutrient dense. So. Many. Vitamins.
- It is a source of plant based iron. (Especially important for vegetarian tots!)
- Full of antioxidants.
- Lots of fiber.
Making Kale Mac & Cheese for Babies / Baby Led Weaning
- Babies who are moving up to table food and feeding themselves will love playing with (and hopefully eating some of) this kale mac and cheese. It’s soft, creamy, and a little sticky. The sauce has some extra chewy texture from the kale, but chopped finely enough to be manageable.
- Play around with pasta shapes depending on how well your baby can grasp and chew. You might choose fusilli or penne for babies without a pincer grasp (to suck on and gum down) or small macaroni or mini shells for babies with their pincer grasp.
Making Kale Mac & Cheese for Toddlers
- If your toddler is learning to use their own utensils, try adding some shredded mozzarella to make this mac and cheese extra sticky – it will help them get it (and keep it) on the fork!
- When serving to your toddler, you may want to add in a couple of their favorite veggie side dishes. Chopped cherry tomatoes, peas + corn mix, squash or roasted peppers would work great.
- This is probably not likely to work for a pickier toddler who is wary of greens in general, because the kale is pretty loud and proud in here and the taste does come through.
- However, those who just don’t like the usual texture of greens may respond well to this. The kale is chopped so finely it doesn’t overwhelm the mouth with the same tough chewiness it would if it were just sautéed or steamed.
So let’s Make Kale Mac & Cheese
I’ve made this recipe as straightforward as possible for you, because let’s face it, we never want to invest too much energy when trying out new recipes for our babies and toddlers. So all we have to do is saute some kale, chop it up tiny in a food processor, and then make a one pot macaroni and cheese to add it to. One pot macaroni and cheese involves cooking the macaroni in milk – it combines with starch from the pasta to form a creamy white sauce base, so you don’t need to drain it, just add your cheese and kale in and watch it all come together!
More Baby & Toddler Meal Ideas
Kale Mac & Cheese | For Babies, Toddlers + Kids
- 3.5 oz (100 g) Kale
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 2 cups (200 g) dry macaroni
- 2.5 cups (590 ml) whole milk
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 9 oz (250 g) grated cheddar cheese
- First, you’ll cook your kale. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add your garlic and kale, in batches, until it’s softened and wilted. Add a twist of lemon juice and then remove from the heat.
- In a food processor, pulse the kale until it’s chopped into tiny pieces.
- Now make the macaroni and cheese. Pour the macaroni and milk into a saucepan. Heat, stirring very frequently, until the milk begins to bubble. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Continue to stir at regular intervals. You may need to add more milk depending on how thick your macaroni is. If your macaroni isn’t cooked by the time your milk has cooked down, you’ll need to add more.
- Once the macaroni is cooked al dente, stir in the mustard and cheese until melted through. Assess the texture. If it’s too thick and sticky, add more milk to make it creamier.
- Finally, stir in the chopped kale.
Photos updated to reflect more recent styling + new video added!