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With its creamy, cheesy flavor and tender pieces of kale, this kale mac and cheese recipe is the perfect balance between kid-friendly and good for you! It has all the flavors kids love with extra nutrients packed in. It’ll become your family’s new favorite!

Kale mac and cheese in a white bowl with a white spoon in it.

Kale Mac and Cheese for baby

Most kids absolutely love mac and cheese, and for good reason! It’s really the ultimate comfort food.

The noodles are tender and flavorful, and the cheese sauce is absolutely delicious. But the boxed stuff isn’t always the best option since it’s generally very high in sodium with highly processed ingredients.

Although I often like to make this 5-Ingredient Mac And Cheese for my kids, this mac and cheese with kale is such a great alternative. The kale easily takes on the flavor from the cheese sauce, so it’s a great subtle way to serve extra greens without a fuss! 

Kale mac and cheese in a large pot.

kale mac and cheese

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Why We Love This Baby Mac and Cheese with Greens

  • Healthier alternative: Have you looked at the nutrition facts on the box of mac and cheese lately? Even the “better for you” versions tend to be heavily processed with a high sodium content. Fortunately, this healthy mac and cheese for toddlers and babies uses a few simple swaps to make it lower in sodium, higher in fiber, and more nutritious. But it still has that creamy cheesy flavor everyone loves!
  • Great for baby led weaning: Yes, babies can have mac and cheese! Babies can eat noodles at around six months old. If you’re serving this macaroni and cheese for a baby, I recommend cooking the noodles until they’re a little more tender and skipping the salt. You can even sub in different noodles that are easy for them to hold.
  • Easy way to eat extra greens: It can be a battle to convince young kids to eat greens! Fortunately, they cook down incredibly well into pasta recipes like this one. The kale is chopped in very tiny pieces, so it really just melds into the sauce, kind of like broccoli cheddar soup. Honestly it’s such an easy way to add extra greens, you’ll want to make it all the time!

Ingredient Notes

Individually portioned ingredients for the kale mac and cheese with text labeling each ingredient.
  • Olive oil: You’ll need a little oil to saute the garlic and kale for a few minutes.
  • Kale leaves: Remove the tough stems and blitz the cooked kale pieces into small pieces. You can also use thawed frozen kale in a pinch.
  • Garlic: A little minced garlic can add so much flavor!
  • Elbow macaroni pasta: Instead of regular macaroni noodles, use a fiber-enriched or whole-wheat version.
  • Butter: Just like the regular stovetop mac, a little butter adds a nice silky texturePlus, the extra fat can help better absorb those fat soluble vitamins.
  • Evaporated milk: I like to use partly skimmed milk for a rich, creamy flavor without the high-fat content.
  • Grated cheddar cheese: Shred your sharp cheddar cheese for easy melting. You can even use your food processor attachment blade for this! Feel free to add a little Parmesan cheese for a stronger cheese flavor.
  • Salt & black pepper

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Cook and Chop the Kale

  1. Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and kale. Add a splash of water and cook until it’s softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the kale until it’s chopped into tiny pieces.

Step 2: Make the Mac & Cheese

  1. Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling water according to package directions until al dente, about 7-9 minutes. Drain off the excess water and set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter with 1 cup evaporated milk.
  3. When butter is melted and mixture is hot and steaming, turn the heat down to low. Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan and stir well.
  4. Add about a quarter of the shredded cheese. Stir until melted and combined. Repeat until all of the cheese is added and noodles are coated with cheese sauce.

Step 3: Stir in Kale & Serve!

  1. Stir in the chopped kale. Add remaining 1/2 cup of evaporated milk to make it creamier.
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve warm.
Keep scrolling to the recipe card below for the full printable recipe!

RECIPE TIPS

  • Be sure to remove all stems before cooking and blending the kale. You just want the kale leaves. The stems tend to be very tough and will not break down properly when processed, so they may leave stringy pieces in the mac and cheese.
  • Be sure to add the cheese slowly and make sure that it’s all melted before adding additional cheese to prevent clumping.
  • This mac and cheese thickens up and becomes less creamy as it sits. It tastes best when freshly made. I recommend buying an extra can of evaporated milk so that you can add more as needed when reheating.
  • If you prefer a smoother cheese sauce with less pieces of kale, you can also try blending the kale with the evaporated milk/butter sauce in step 4, then add it back to the pot and add in the cooked noodles. Gradually add in the cheese until smooth and melted. Blending the kale right into the sauce will result in more of a green mac and cheese!
  • Any type of kale will work! Baby kale is a great option, but feel free to use curly kale, lacinato kale, purple kale, etc.
A close-up of a spoonful of the kale mac and cheese with a bowl of it in the background.

Recipe FAQs

Can babies eat kale?

Yes! Kale is a nutritional powerhouse with a wide variety of nutrients and minerals for your baby’s growing body. It’s generally recommended to start serving dishes with greens around six months old, which is when most babies start solid foods. Since kale, spinach, and other greens can be high in nitrates, some sources do not recommend serving them until your child is eight months of age. 

How do you get kids to eat kale?   

Kale isn’t always on every kid’s favorite food list, right? Fortunately, kale, spinach, and other greens are great for incorporating into soups, stews, casseroles, and more. The green pieces cook down so small they’re often barely noticeable! I also like to add them to smoothieswaffles, and even these green monster muffins. Although most of these recipes call for spinach, kale is a great alternative! 

Is mac and cheese good for kids? 

Unfortunately, storebought mac and cheese tends to be highly processed with minimal nutritional value, so it’s not always the best option to have on a regular basis. It’s also high in sodium and fat with minimal protein or fiber.

Fortunately, homemade mac and cheese is easy to make and can easily be made with healthier ingredients. For example, this version uses partly skimmed evaporated milk for a rich creaminess without using whole milk or half and half. I also like to use high-fiber or whole wheat pasta for extra fiber!

Plus, you can easily adjust the salt content or remove it completely (best for babies and toddlers). This homemade macaroni recipe even adds kale for extra fiber, nutrients, and minerals. It’s a much healthier choice!

Storage Guidelines

  • Refrigerator: Allow any leftovers to cool to room temperature for up to 2 hours, then refrigerate in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • To reheat: Either microwave the mac and cheese or warm it on the stove with an extra splash of milk.
A birds-eye view of the kale mac and cheese in a white bowl.

Serving Suggestions

This kale mac and cheese can be served as an easy entree for those busy days or served as a side dish with these other kid-friendly recipes:

Recipe Variations

  • Try different greens: You could easily make this recipe with other mild-flavored greens, like spinach or chard.
  • Change the noodles: It isn’t mac n’ cheese without the macaroni, but you can easily substitute a different type of noodle! Rotini is great for little hands.
  • Adjust the spices: I generally like to keep this recipe somewhat mild for kids, but you can definitely make it your own! Add some mustard powder, garlic powder, Dijon mustard, or any other spices or seasonings you like.
  • Bake it: Baked mac and cheese is always delicious! Once the pasta and creamy cheese sauce are cooked, they just need to be mixed together, placed in an ovenproof dish, then sprinkled with extra cheese on top. Bake at 350 F until the cheese is gooey and golden brown.
Kale mac and cheese in a small white bowl with a white spoon in it.

More Pasta Recipes

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A spoon digging into a small bowl of mac and cheese with kale.
Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Kale Mac & Cheese Recipe for Babies, Toddlers & Kids

Created by Elysia
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Total Time 33 minutes
With its creamy, cheesy flavor and tender pieces of kale, this kale mac and cheese recipe is the perfect balance between kid-friendly and good for you! It has all the flavors kids love with extra nutrients packed in. It'll become your family's new favorite!

Ingredients
 

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 6-7 cups kale leaves (tough stems removed)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni pasta (I use fiber-enriched or whole wheat)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups partly skimmed 2% evaporated milk, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and kale. Add a splash of water and cook until it’s softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  • In a food processor, pulse the kale until it’s chopped into tiny pieces.
  • Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package instructions until al dente, about 7-9 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter with 1 cup evaporated milk.
  • When butter is melted and mixture is hot and steaming, turn the heat down to low. Add the cooked pasta to the saucepan and stir well.
  • Add about a quarter of the shredded cheese. Stir until melted and combined. Repeat until all of the cheese is added and noodles are coated with cheese sauce.
  • Stir in the chopped kale. Add remaining 1/2 cup of evaporated milk to make it creamier.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Serve warm.

Nutrition

Calories: 356kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 211mg | Potassium: 546mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 7345IU | Vitamin C: 64mg | Calcium: 572mg | Iron: 3mg
A spoon digging into a small bowl of mac and cheese with kale.

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