My kids are pretty picky, but I think even the best eaters go through a picky phase. Not all kids will eat vegetables, or at least not consistently. I’ve managed to get my picky kids to eat them by hiding vegetables in food. They’ll eat the food gladly, without even realizing they’re there!
Unfortunately, you can’t just throw random vegetables into what you’re making. There’s a bit of an art to hiding vegetables in food. They truly need to be hidden vegetables. My kids are amazing, if the vegetables aren’t perfectly hidden, they will find evidence of said vegetable and then refuse to eat the food. They can find anything.
1. Choose the Vegetable Carefully
Some vegetables are pretty easy to hide simply because of their taste. Look for subtle flavors that are easily influenced by other ingredients, rather than vegetables that have a strong flavor.
I’ve found that zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower and carrots are very easy to hide in foods because of their flavors and the wide array of textures that they can be prepared into.
Spinach seems like it would be easy to hide in multiple foods, but depending on how it is prepared spinach can take on a bitter taste that makes it easy to find. Kale can also be difficult to hide.
2. Start Small
When you first start hiding vegetables in a dish your family is already familiar with, you should start small. Add a little bit, then a little more the next time. The gradual changes will be harder to notice than a sudden change in a favorite recipe. If you’re preparing a new recipe, feel free to add all of the vegetables the first time.
3. Keep Texture and Color the Same
A major differences in texture and color will call attention to your vegetable immediately! I’ve found a lot of recipes online calling for hiding broccoli in scrambled eggs. Really? You don’t think the bright green will stick out and your kids will be on to you? Instead try cauliflower in your eggs, as the white is much closer to the color of the eggs.
One of my favorite hidden vegetables recipe is Spaghetti Sauce with Zucchini and Squash. The squash and zucchini take on the color of the sauce, and most of the vegetable breaks down easily. The only part my kids have ever called out is the green skin of the zucchini, but that looks just like basil when cooked.
4. When in Doubt, Use a Purée
If you’re not sure you can overcome a texture issue, take texture out of the equation. By steaming or boiling a vegetable and then creating a purée with the vegetable, you can put it into almost any dish. From mac and cheese to a muffin, that purée can go almost anywhere.
5. Bake It
There are a lot of baked items that can handle hiding vegetables. Try adding vegetables to muffins that are already a bit textured or add a purée even to your chocolate cake!
If you’re looking for great cookbooks that feature hidden vegetables in food, here are a few great options:
The Sneaky Chef by Missy Chase Lapine
Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld
Baking with Vegetables