Make a cozy bowl of pumpkin mac and cheese for all the chilly autumn nights. When you’re in need of a simple 30-minute dinner, make pumpkin macaroni. The satisfying dish is full of rich, creamy sauce, buttery pasta, and earthy fall flavors.
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Delicious pumpkin macaroni and cheese
I’m so excited about October and ALL the pumpkin recipes! Take this pumpkin mac and cheese for example. It’s perfect for those days when you crave something cozy and satisfying, but want it quick and easy too.
The pumpkin cheese sauce is incredibly creamy and luscious, full of fragrant garlic and aromatic cheese. It coats every noodle in a dreamy blanket of fall goodness. You’ll love it!
If you’re using canned pumpkin, the entire dish will come together in well under 30 minutes, making it perfect for any night of the week.
Whether you want a fall-themed weeknight dinner or looking for a quick Thanksgiving side, this pumpkin macaroni and cheese recipe accommodates.
If you love savory pumpkin recipes, you’ll fall in love with this pumpkin macaroni. The recipe uses a lot of pantry staples to make your life a little easier. You can find exact quantities of each ingredient in the recipe card below.
- Pumpkin puree: Store-bought or homemade pumpkin puree will be fine. If I don’t have the time to make my own, I grab a can of Libby’s because it’s so thick and flavorful. So do what works best for you!
- Evaporated milk makes the sauce rich and creamy without adding too much heaviness. You need a 12-oz can.
- Cheese: Get creative with your cheese! Sharp cheddar, along with smoked gouda, fontina, or Monterey Jack, are great options. I personally love gruyere cheese, an aromatic Swiss cheese, because it pairs so well with pumpkin.
- Garlic imparts delicious flavor to the sauce. My recipe calls for fresh garlic cloves, but 1 teaspoon garlic powder will do too.
- Butter to sauté the garlic.
- Salt + pepper to season the sauce. Keep in mind that cheese will also add salt, so don’t overdo it. I add about 1 teaspoon.
- Pasta: Any kind of short-cut pasta will work great, from classic elbow macaroni to penne, rotini, farfalle, or rigatoni. The noodles you see in the photos are called gnocchi shells. I love them because they load up with so much sauce.
What, no flour?
Yes, that’s right, my pumpkin mac and cheese recipe is made without flour or a roux. The sauce gets its thick, creamy consistency from the pumpkin.
Together with the evaporated milk and cheese, it creates a rich, velvety sauce that is a little lighter than your regular mac and cheese sauce. I told you this recipe was easy, right?
How to make pumpkin mac and cheese
Pumpkin mac and cheese is super simple to make. I like to prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking. That way, everything is ready at the same time, and the only left to do is toss the pasta in the sauce. The whole thing takes less than 20 minutes.
#1: Cook pasta
Boil the noodles in salted water, following the package instructions, until just al dente. Be careful not to overcook the pasta.
#2: Drain pasta
Drain the pasta well and stir in 2 tablespoons of butter until melted. The butter prevents the noodles from sticking.
#3: Sauté garlic
In a large saucepan or pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
#4: Cook sauce
Add the pumpkin puree, evaporated milk, salt, and pepper. Bring to9 a swimmer over medium-high heat. The sauce splatters quite a bit, so be sure to stir continuously as you heat it.
#5: Melt cheese
Once the pumpkin sauce is simmering, reduce the heat to low. Stir in the grated cheese until melted and well incorporated.
#6: Add pasta
Remove the saucepan or pot from the heat. Stir in the pasta until every noodle is coated in sauce and well combined. Your pumpkin macaroni and cheese is ready!
Crack chicken casserole is as addictive as the name suggests! Here are a few simple tips and tricks to make it taste even better!
- Salt the pasta water: The first step to delicious mac and cheese is to get the noodles just right. And it all starts with adding salt to your pot of boiling water to ensure the pasta is well seasoned.
- Freshly grated cheese: You definitely want to grate your own cheese from a block for this recipe. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in anti-caking agents. It won’t melt properly and can make the sauce lumpy.
- Avoid high heat after adding the cheese: The main reason why the sauce might curdle or separate is that the cheese split because the heat was too high. To avoid this, reduce the heat to low before stirring the cheese into the sauce.
Variations & add-ins
Pumpkin mac and cheese is perfect as is, but if you want to cook it often, you can easily switch things up to make it fresh and new every time. Check out these ideas!
- Half-and-half: You can substitute evaporated milk with the same amount of half-and-half or use 1 cup whole milk + 1 cup cream.
- Olive oil: Feel free to use olive oil instead of butter for sautéing the garlic and coating the pasta.
- Crunchy topping: Roast panko breadcrumbs in a pan with a little melted butter until golden brown. Sprinkle over individual portions before servings, so it stays crisp.
- Spices: Season your cheese pumpkin recipe with a dash of ground cinnamon and nutmeg. These classic fall spices bring a unique and subtle taste to the dish.
- Herbs: Try adding some sage, thyme, or rosemary when sautéing the garlic. Herbs will add a wonderful, earthy aroma.
- Nuts: For a bit of crunch, garnish your pumpkin pasta with chopped toasted pecans or walnuts.
- Bacon: Crispy bacon goes perfectly with pumpkin and pasta! Crumble the bacon on the noodles before serving.
- More mix–ins: Go wild with additions like pan-fried chicken, spicy sausage, or handfuls of garlicky spinach like in this Tuscan Chicken Mac and Cheese.
Because of its mild, cheesy flavor, pumpkin mac and cheese will pair with many dinnertime favorites, from chicken to turkey and pork. It would be delicious tossed with some lobster or crabmeat, too.
For a meatless option, serve it with roasted broccoli, green beans, sauteed mushrooms, or this scrumptious roasted apple salad.
How to store pumpkin mac and cheese
Pumpkin mac and cheese is fantastic the next day. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will be good for 2 to 3 days.
Reheat pumpkin macaroni
Reheat the pasta in a saucepan over medium heat or microwave for 60 to 90 seconds. If it’s too thick, add a little bit of evaporated milk or water to thin it out.
Can you freeze pumpkin mac and cheese?
Yes, freezing is a great way to store leftovers, keeping them for a busy night when you go no time to cook.
Reasons to love pumpkin mac and cheese
- Taste: Pumpkin mac and cheese has great flavor. Pumpkin is such a versatile cooking ingredient and really shines in this autumn concoction.
- Texture: The sauce is super thick and creamy. Pumpkin creates the same smooth consistency and velvety texture as cream, but without the fat and calories.
- Quick + Easy: The recipe is straightforward to make and takes about 20 minutes to whip up. As long as you keep stirring, this will be a breeze.
More savory pumpkin dishes to try
If you love savory pumpkin dishes as much as I do, then you must try these other ones. There are so many ways to turn pumpkin into a hearty meal.
- Pumpkin Soup without Cream
- Pumpkin Frittata
- Stuffed Mini Pumpkins
- Pumpkin Lasagna Roll-Ups
All the mac and cheese recipes
Here are a few more tasty mac and cheese recipes your family will go crazy over. They are so simple to whip up and the absolute best comfort food!