Home | Healthier Mac and Cheese for Kids with Butternut Squash

Healthier Mac and Cheese for Kids with Butternut Squash

by Heather

Looking for a healthier mac and cheese kids won’t turn away? You found it! This better-for-you version is made with a butternut squash cheese sauce (yes, real cheese in here!), nourishing bone broth & your favorite noodle shape. This healthy mac and cheese for kids is perfect to pack in a lunch bag or to whip up and enjoy at home. PS – the whole family will love it too!

Healthier Mac and Cheese

Healthier Mac and Cheese for Kids with Butternut Squash

I grew up eating the blue boxed mac n cheese. It was the only one I liked and it felt like such a treat when we got to have it.

Chances are, once your kids get a taste of the boxed stuff too, they may turn their nose up to fancy homemade mac n cheese.

While I won’t say this is a copycat recipe to the boxed kind, it’s pretty darn tasty AND filled with more nourishing ingredients.

And I say if we’re going to make mac n cheese, let’s make it even better than the traditional mac!

Gluten free healthy mac and cheese recipe

Butternut squash cheese sauce

This is where the good stuff comes in. Our cheesy sauce (a kid favorite!) is made with butternut squash and bone broth, plus a few other ingredients.

What I LOVE about the sauce is that’s it’s easily made in the blender!  A traditional recipe will have you making a roux with butter and flour, and then adding the milk and cheese in for a creamy sauce.  Not this easy recipe!

This butternut squash cheese sauce is made without flour and butter, which makes keeping this recipe gluten-free easy. More about that below!

Why you’ll love this healthier version of Mac and cheese

Hidden veggies – Butternut squash blends perfectly in the cheesy sauce and adds a really yummy flavor!  It’s an easy way to introduce butternut squash into a recipe.

Easy to make sauce – You can’t beat a sauce made in the blender.  It’s quick to make and is perfect every time.

Delicious and family friendly – Kids, adults, and everyone will love this recipe!  It a favorite comfort food recipe that is a better-for-you option!

Great for meal prep – If you like to get ahead and simply your week by making food in advance, this recipe works well for it!  Leftovers keep well and reheat beautifully.

gluten free Mac and cheese

Gluten free healthy mac and cheese recipe

With our sauce needing no flour, you can easily keep this mac n cheese gluten-free by simply choosing a gluten-free pasta. Here are favorite options to try:

Don’t need it gluten-free noodles? Try einkorn pasta or whole wheat pasta for a fun twist!

How to make hidden veggie Mac

What you’ll need for healthy macaroni and cheese

Scroll down to view the recipe card below for the full ingredients list, nutrition facts, and step-by-step instructions.

How to make hidden veggie Mac 

  1. Begin by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.  Drain the cooked pasta and set aside while the sauce is made.
  2. Add 2 inches of water to a pot and place a steamer basket over top.  Bring to a boil.  Add the frozen butternut squash in, cover, and steam for 10-12 minutes, until the butternut squash is cooked tender.
  3. Once the butternut squash is tender, add the butternut squash, broth, sour cream, shredded cheese, garlic granules, sea salt, and pepper into a blender and blend until smooth and a creamy texture.  You can also blend in a food processor just as well.
  4. Pour the butternut squash sauce into a drained pot, and add the cooked pasta.  Warm everything together over medium heat for a few minutes to get the cheese warmed through, and serve the healthy mac and cheese for kids!
butternut squash Mac and Cheese

How to store leftover Mac and cheese

Once leftover Mac and cheese is fully cooled, if can be added to an airtight container and stored in the fridge.  It will keep well for up to 5 days and can be reheated on the stovetop, in the oven in a casserole dish, or in the microwave.

You can also free this healthy mac and cheese! When the easy meal is cooled to room temperature, add to a freezer bag, label it, date it, and keep frozen for up to 6 months.

Defrost overnight in the fridge, and reheat on the stovetop, in the oven in a casserole dish, or in the microwave.

Packing mac n cheese in a lunchbox

My kids are PUMPED when I send mac n cheese along in their lunch bag. I have 3 of these 10-ounce thermoses and love them!

TIP to keep hot foods hot in a thermos!

Add boiling water into the thermos for a few minutes before you add the heated mac n cheese. Once you’re ready to add it in, simply pour out the hot water and add the food. This will help keep the food warmer for longer!

Read my lunchbox meal planning strategy.

What to serve with Mac and cheese

If this is a new food, it’s always a good idea to serve something familiar with the new meal so that kids have something they know to eat.

Here are some favorite sides, veggies, and main course proteins that are great options to serve with this great recipe!

healthy mac and cheese for kids

Substitutions

Below you’ll find a list of substitutions that will work well in this easy stovetop mac recipe. 

If you try something different out, please leave a comment below letting us all know how it turned out!

Elbow pasta – Any type of pasta shape will work for this recipe!  You can opt for a traditional elbow pasta, or go for a fun shape!

Frozen butternut squash – Fresh butternut squash will work here too!  For a different starchy veggie, try sweet potato or pumpkin!

Chicken bone broth – Regular chicken broth and vegetable broth will work in place of bone broth.  If you don’t have any broth, water will work as well, but you’ll want to increase the seasonings a bit to replace the lost flavor.

Sour cream – Both greek yogurt or cream cheese are good substitutes for sour cream.  They add creaminess that is important for the cheese sauce.

Cheddar cheese – Colby jack cheese, medium cheddar cheese and parmesan are all good options to include.   Feel free to a do a mixture of different types of cheese.

Garlic granules – Garlic powder or onion powder are good options to swap in for the garlic granules.

Healthier Mac and Cheese

More healthy pasta recipes you’ll love

Healthier Mac and Cheese
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5 from 1 vote

Healthy Mac and Cheese with Kids with Butternut Squash

Looking for a healthier mac and cheese kids won't turn away? You found it! This better-for-you version is made with a butternut squash cheese sauce (yes, real cheese in here!), nourishing bone broth & your favorite noodle shape. This healthy mac and cheese for kids is perfect to pack in a lunch bag or to whip up and enjoy at home. PS – the whole family will love it too!
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time12 minutes
Total Time22 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: butternut squash, goat cheese, Pasta
Servings: 6
Calories: 341kcal
Author: Heather

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Begin by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.  Drain the cooked pasta and set aside while the sauce is made.
  • Add 2 inches of water to a pot and place a steamer basket over top.  Bring to a boil.  Add the frozen butternut squash in, cover, and steam for 10-12 minutes, until the butternut squash is cooked tender.
  • Once the butternut squash is tender, add the butternut squash, broth, sour cream, shredded cheese, garlic granules, sea salt, and pepper into a blender and blend until smooth and a creamy texture.  You can also blend in a food processor just as well.
  • Pour the butternut squash sauce into a drained pot, and add the cooked pasta.  Warm everything together over medium heat for a few minutes to get the cheese warmed through, and serve.
Did you make this recipe?Be sure to tag me @fitmamarealfood or tag #fitmamarealfood!

Nutrition

Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 10mg | Sodium: 213mg | Potassium: 158mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 120IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 1mg
Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese

If you try this healthy homemade macaroni and cheese recipe, I’d love it if you left a star rating and comment below letting me know how it turned out!

Heather

Originally published November 2021. Updated July 2023.

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