Broccoli and Cauliflower Recipes Even Kids Will Love
Just add butter and plenty of salt, for starters.
As a lifelong lover of both broccoli and cauliflower, it’s hard for me to have empathy for people — often, little people with strong opinions and woefully limited vocabularies — who aren’t fans. You guys! This is delicious! Just try it! I think the real reason people big and little don’t dive right into a broccoli or cauliflower dish is because they just never had it the right way. (And there’s definitely more than one right way.)
Like anything, you just need to know how to make broccoli and cauliflower recipes tasty enough for the whole family. First things first: Expand your methods beyond boiling and steaming. Both methods highlight the less-appealing aspects of the brassica family (which includes broccoli and cauliflower as well as kale and cabbage). That is to say, the kitchen doesn’t smell so great when you boil or steam them. The culprit? Sulfur.
Luckily, you have many, many tools at your disposal — the oven, for one, plus the wok and the food processor. Here are some of the best cooking techniques to help you get more kid-friendly vegetable recipes on your menu.
One thing with broccoli is that it's really easy to overcook — and once it's overcooked, there's little you can do to fix it, aside from maybe putting it in a soup. (Even then, who wants gray broccoli soup? Not me). Broccoli is best when it’s still a little crisp — al dente, as they say — and still beautifully bright green.
Instead of boiling or steaming, consider the following methods:
1. Stir-fry: With stir-fry, you cook the broccoli quickly, over high heat, so it actually spends little time directly on the pan. So long as you serve the broccoli immediately, it will maintain its bright green color and a little crunch.
Quick Chicken And Broccoli Stir-Fry
2. Roast: Drizzled with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper then slipped into the oven on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, roasted broccoli is nearly perfect — without having to slather it in a cheese sauce. As-is, roasted broccoli is a low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free side dish that just about anyone will enjoy (although, like any dish, it may take a few tries to catch on with picky eaters.)
What’s really great about roasting is how easy it is to change up the flavor profile, as seen in these healthy recipes:
Bacon Roasted Broccoli
Asian Sesame Roasted Broccoli
Garlic Roasted Broccoli
3. Blanch and shock: Blanching-and-shocking is perfect for serving broccoli cold — particularly when compared to raw crudité, which can be dry and unappealing. "Blanching" just means dropping the broccoli in boiling water for less than a minute. "Shocking" means plunging the broccoli in ice water immediately after to stop the cooking. (And, not incidentally, to lock in the bright green color).
Blanching is also a good cooking method if you want to add broccoli to pasta dishes like chicken alfredo — toss the broccoli in the pasta and sprinkle it with Pecorino Romano just before serving and you have perfectly cooked broccoli mingled with deliciously creamy pasta. What kid — or adult, for that matter — could say no to that?!
Barely-Blanched Broccoli Salad with Feta and Fried Almonds
Lemon Garlic Paleo Broccoli
Cauliflower gets a lot of love these days — and for good reason! It's mild in flavor, it goes with just about everything and, if you're the type to sneak in veggies behind your kids’ back, it can often seamlessly mix with other food.
That said, here are a few tips and recipes for serving it solo:
1. Roast: Like broccoli, roasting cauliflower at 400 degrees Fahrenheit with olive oil, salt, and pepper for 10 minutes brings out the best in the beloved brassica. There isn't much risk of overcooking it. In fact, the crispy brown bits are especially nutty and delicious.
Simple Roasted Cauliflower
Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower
Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower
2. Rice: "Riced" cauliflower can be found at almost any grocery store, but it's easy to do at home if you have a food processor. Just put the cauliflower florets in the bowl and pulse until you have what looks like rice. Steam or sauté, top it with melted butter and you have a suitable substitute for, ahem, rice.
Cilantro Lime Cauliflower "Rice"
3. Mash: The potato, while delish, is not the healthiest vegetable. So, if your family likes mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower is a great alternative. The cooking method is more or less the same, but you don't have to worry about overmixing — just make sure that the cauliflower is cooked until it's soft.
Keto Mashed Cauliflower
Kid-friendly broccoli recipes
While broccoli and cauliflower are delicious on their own, they're each incredibly flexible. Here are a few broccoli recipes that take you beyond the basics.
Best-Ever Broccoli Cheese Soup
Broccoli cheese soup is a pretty consistent crowd-pleaser, whether you’re 7 or 70. Like any proper kid-friendly broccoli recipe, this one from Yummly doesn’t skimp on the salt or dairy.
I mean, they’re called tots for goodness sake. What kid could resist? This easy recipe, from The Two Bite Club, comes together in about 35 minutes. They work as a healthy sub for tater tots or serve them as an appetizer with dip (or fine, ketchup).
Broccoli Parmesan Fritters
Related to tots, but slightly more mature. For Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen, fritters are the way to any toddler’s heart (or stomach). “I have a theory that you can tuck almost any finely chopped or shredded vegetable — be it potatoes, zucchini, or an Indian-spiced mix — into a savory pancake, fry it in small mounds until crisp on both sides, serve it with a dollop of a sour cream or yogurt sauce and they will be inhaled,” she writes. And it’s the truth.
Broccoli and Orzo
Broccoli and pasta just go together, but orzo makes it extra fun. Why? It’s small. And cute. This Skinnytaste recipe makes for a kid-friendly side or a meal on its own.
Sheet Pan Teriyaki Sesame Chicken and Broccoli
A kid-friendly sheet pan dinner is music to any parent’s ears — and this weeknight fave is super flexible. Broccoli is the focus here, but you can add any of your kid’s favorite veggies. In a rush? Frozen broccoli is fine! And I’ve almost never seen a kid turn down teriyaki sauce and rice.
Kid-friendly cauliflower recipes
Cauliflower is equally versatile (and tastes just as good with cheese!) Here are a few of our favorites:
Kids love soup. This cauliflower chowder from Damn Delicious is a lot like that other kid-friendly staple, potato soup — just a bit healthier. Garnish with plenty of bacon, keep the parsley optional, and no one will be any the wiser.
Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo
Seriously, 87,000+ Yums can’t be wrong. On the surface, this kid-friendly recipe from Detoxinista has everything kids love: Pasta? Check. A creamy white sauce? Check. But this one’s also naturally vegan and Paleo-friendly thanks to the magic of cauliflower. Mind. Blown.
Macaroni Cauliflower Cheese
Some people don’t believe in hiding veggies in other foods. I, for one, am willing to do a little sleight-of-hand. Given cauliflower’s mild taste, it’s easy to slip into more kid-friendly dishes, like this cheesy recipe from the BBC. You just blend cooked cauliflower into the cheddar cheese sauce. (Bonus: you can also make it vegan.)
Loaded Cauliflower Casserole
This kid-friendly cauliflower recipe from An Affair from the Heart doesn’t mess around. Think of it like a loaded baked potato, minus the potato, plus cauliflower. It’s low-carb, but I bet your 4-year-old doesn’t care.
Orange chicken is a kid-approved take-out staple in my house. For this healthier, vegetarian, at-home version, just skip the red pepper flakes and ignore that it comes from Spicy Southern Kitchen.
Broccoli and cauliflower recipes for advanced taste buds
Not all children just want cheese and bacon on everything. For those more discerning taste buds, here are some more mature — but still kid-friendly — vegetable recipes.
Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower
For a slightly older kid who can handle a little heat, buffalo cauliflower is a fun (albeit messy) finger food to add to the mix. The first time I ordered buffalo cauliflower in a hip, vegetarian-friendly restaurant in my neighborhood, I was pretty skeptical. But only until I took the first bite. If there’s anything that can soak up the deliciousness that is Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and butter (aside from meaty chicken wings) it’s cauliflower. (You can also make it vegan).
Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe
You could make this with regular broccoli — and you totally should. But for more mature taste buds that aren’t afraid of a bit of bitterness, broccoli rabe really takes it to the next level.
Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry
You control the spice here, so it’s not hard to make this delicious vegan curry recipe with bell peppers and coconut milk from the Last Food Blog for an adventurous kiddo.