This Pumpkin Mac and Cheese was a complete fake-out for my kids. It looked so orange and creamy that they actually thought it was boxed macaroni and cheese. They scarfed it up!
Then I asked them if they could guess what the secret ingredient was and I saw a look of dread on my kid’s face. SECRET INGREDIENT?! Why would there be such a thing in a delicious macaroni and cheese?
Of course, the answer is PUMPKIN!
I really love cooking with pumpkin, but shy away from pumpkin SPICE stuff which tends to be overly sweet for my tastes. People forget though that pumpkin can work really well in savory dishes (see also this pumpkin curry which is top notch).
Why use pumpkin in Mac and Cheese
You can’t exactly taste the pumpkin in this creamy macaroni and cheese, but it gives the sauce a rich thickness that makes it delicious. Once you know there’s pumpkin in it then you can find it on your tastebuds though.
For simplicity, I would recommend just using canned pumpkin for this recipe over roasting your own pie pumpkin.
- Want to take your mac and cheese to the next level? Try these Pimento Mac and Cheese Bites!
What cheeses work best in this recipe?
For the cheese in this recipe, I used two kinds. Monterey Jack which is readily available and melts great and raclette which is a little harder to find but is super creamy and melts into beautiful cheese pulls of deliciousness. If you can’t find raclette you can also use Gruyere or just double the Monterey jack in the recipe or substitute a good sharp cheddar cheese for the raclette.
Making the pumpkin cheese sauce
I like to start this recipe with some diced shallot and butter. The shallots just make the savory notes in the recipe more complex. It goes really well with the pumpkin and everything. Don’t skip it!
Once the shallots have softened in the butter, it’s cream sauce time. Whisk the all purpose flour into the butter to form a classic roux and once that has cooked for a minute, slowly whisk in the milk to form your sauce. Then whisk in the spices and pumpkin. Remember to use 100% pumpkin puree and NOT pumpkin pie filling.
Now for the cheese! Lots of cheese!
This sauce is SO creamy and delicious. I could think of a million things to put it on. It would go great on any baked pasta dish. I think you could even use it as a creamy lasagna sauce actually. Or queso??? Hmmm…
You should taste the pumpkin cheese sauce at this point and adjust to your liking. It could probably benefit from a pinch of salt and pepper but you might also like a pinch of garlic powder, dry mustard, or even some fresh-grated nutmeg which are all classic in cheese sauce recipes.
Making the stovetop Mac and cheese
Sometimes I like to bake my mac and cheese to get crispy and delicious crust on the dish, but nothing can be the creaminess of making the macaroni and cheese on the stovetop.
Cook your macaroni until it is al dente in salted water. Drain your noodles and add them to your cheese sauce. Stir them together really well until the sauce completely coats all the pasta.
I could eat this right out of the pot!
What to serve with your pumpkin mac and cheese
If you want a garnish for this pumpkin mac and cheese, you could sprinkle bowls with some toasted pumpkin seeds or crispy panko breadcrumbs or garnish with some fresh sage.
If you want to serve this a different way, you can transfer the macaroni and cheese to a buttered baking dish, top with breadcrumbs, and bake it at 400˚ F until it’s browned and crispy on the edges.
The baked option is nice if you want to make the mac and cheese in advance because you can just pop the dish in the oven 20-25 minutes before serving.
How to reheat this recipe
I would use the oven to reheat any leftovers. If you transfer leftovers to a greased or buttered casserole dish, you can pop them in the oven from the fridge and let them bake at 350˚F for about 30 minutes to reheat the recipe. That’s ultimate comfort food right there!
To reheat this pumpkin mac and cheese on the stovetop, add a splash of milk to the macaroni and stir over low heat until it comes back to life.
Savory Pumpkin Lovers, leave me a comment and share this dish! It’s perfect for fall!
Creamy Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- 12 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium shallot, diced
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 6 ounces raclette cheese or gruyere cheese, grated
- 6 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated
- Pumpkin seeds, garnish
- Breadcrumbs, toasted (optional)
- Cook macaroni according to package. Be sure to not overcook the macaroni or it’ll get mushy in the final dish. When the macaroni is cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and prevent sticking.
- In a large pot over medium heat, add butter and shallots. Cook for 2-3 minutes until shallots soften. Then whisk in flour to form a paste. Cook for another 30 seconds.
- Slowly whisk in milk (room temp is best). The mixture will thicken as it warms. Be sure to whisk constantly to avoid lumps. When milk is whisked in completely, continue to cook sauce, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Then turn heat down to medium-low.
- Stir in pureed pumpkin, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add grated cheese and continue to cook sauce until cheese is melted.
- Add macaroni and stir to combine and warm the macaroni. If sauce seems too thick, add milk by the ¼ cup to thin it out and make it creamy. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
- Serve mac and cheese straight out of the pot for the very creamy version, garnished with pumpkin seeds or crispy breadcrumbs.
- Optionally, transfer mac and cheese to a buttered baking dish, top with breadcrumbs, and bake at 400˚ F. for 15-20 minutes until the top is browned and edges are crispy.
- Leftover mac and cheese keeps well in the fridge for up to a week. For best reheating, add to a pot or skillet with a splash of milk and reheat on low until creamy again OR rebake the mac and cheese at 350˚ F. until warmed through.