Mac and Cheese with Peas (Favorite Shortcut Toddler Meal)

mac and cheese with peas in pink bowl


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This easy recipe is one of our very favorite shortcut toddler meals. It comes together quickly, you’re not actually making anything from scratch, and it’s a complete and satisfying meal. Hip, hip, hooray!

mac and cheese with peas in pink bowl

Mac and Cheese with Peas

I’m going to start right off the bat by saying that this is sort of a non-recipe recipe and I realize that many of you can figure this out on your own. BUT: I have gotten so many questions about how to exactly make Mac and Cheese with peas that I figured I’d just go ahead and spell it all out.

This is, hands down, one of our go-to toddler meals.

It’s a nice option to have on hand for busy weeks or days when you want a meal that you know is very likely to be a hit with the kids.

It’s easy, delicious, and is a quick vegetarian meal that the kids adore. And if you want to make it from scratch? I have an option for that down at the end too!

ingredients in mac and cheese with peas

Ingredients You Need

To make this recipe you’ll need:

  • Annies Mac and Cheese: This is the brand we like, but any other boxed kind is fine too.
  • Frozen peas
  • Milk: I use whole milk here, but lowfat or nonfat will also work if that’s what you have.
  • Butter

Ingredient Substitutions

  • If the kids don’t love peas, you can use frozen corn or broccoli or veggie medley if you prefer. You’ll want to cook broccoli, green beans, or veggie medley separately and then stir into the pasta. (Corn and peas thaw instantly when you drain the pasta over top of them.)
  • You can stir in any cooked fresh veggie you like too.
  • Dairy-free: Look for a nondairy or vegan boxed mac and cheese and use a vegan butter and nondairy milk.
  • Gluten-free: Look for a gluten-free boxed mac and cheese.
how to make mac and cheese with peas step by step

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a look at how to make this recipe. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the specifics.

  1. Place the frozen peas into a colander.
  2. Cook the pasta. Drain right on top of the peas, which thaws and warms them almost instantly.
  3. Make the cheese sauce.
  4. Stir in the pasta and peas.

TIP: There is nothing better than a kids meal that streamlines the amount of pots you’ll need to wash!

pink bowl of mac and cheese meal

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of mac and cheese is best?

We like the Annies Mac and Cheese shells for this since the peas sit so nicely inside the pasta shape.

Can I make this ahead of time?

Sure thing. Just reheat before you plan to serve it.

My kids hate peas—what can I use instead?

You can add any steamed vegetable (steam in the bag frozen veggies work well for this) like broccoli, veggie medley, sweet potato, or carrots.

What can I add to plain mac and cheese?

Frozen peas work so well for this since they thaw and warm almost instantly when you drain the pasta over them in the colander. Plus they add vegetarian protein and flavor.


How to Store

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and reheat for 30-60 seconds in the microwave.

Best Tips for Success

I’d love to hear your feedback on this if you try it, so please comment below to share!


Mac and Cheese with Peas (Fav Shortcut Toddler Meal)

Amy Palanjian

With an easy method and a yummy, satisfying result, this quick toddler meal is one of our go-to shortcut kids meals.

Prep Time 5 mins

Cook Time 8 mins

Total Time 13 mins

Course Dinner

Cuisine American

Servings 2 -4

Calories 120 kcal



  • 1 box Annies Mac and Cheese (or whichever brand you like)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter


  • Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes, or as directed on the box.

  • Place the frozen peas into a colander in the sink.

  • When the pasta is cooked, drain over the peas.

  • Return the pot to the heat and turn the heat to low. Add the butter, milk, and cheese packet from the box. Whisk to combine and thicken for 15-30 seconds.

  • Stir in the pasta and peas and serve warm.


  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and reheat for 30-60 seconds in the microwave.
  • Double the recipe to make a larger amount for more kids.
  • Warm and pack in a thermos for an easy hot lunch for kindergarten or school.
  • Do take the minute to stir the cheese sauce over low heat to allow it to thicken.
  • Place the peas into the bottom of the colander so they warm through without having to get out an extra pot.
  • Trade in another veggie as you like.


Calories: 120kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 5gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 15mgPotassium: 199mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 754IUVitamin C: 29mgCalcium: 37mgIron: 1mg

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