Creamy Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
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 5-year old’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.
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 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.
- 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 1/4 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.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
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 flour into the butter to form a classic roux and once that has cooked for a minute, slow 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. IDEAS!
But, for now, let’s keep it simple.
Stir in your cooked and drained macaroni and you are pretty much done! You can eat mac and cheese right out of the pot!
If you want a garnish for this pumpkin mac and cheese, I recommend some toasted pumpkin seeds or crispy breadcrumbs.
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.
Savory Pumpkin Lovers, leave me a comment and share this dish! It’s perfect for fall!