Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Super cheesy homemade mac and cheese with a secret healthy ingredient – pumpkin! Using pumpkin puree in this delicious fall pasta adds extra creaminess and richness to this dish. Plus, this pumpkin mac and cheese is ready in less than 20 minutes! 

close up of a plate of mac and cheese with a cheesy pumpkin pasta sauce. The plate is surrounded by springs of fresh rosemary, blocks of cheese, mini pumpkins, and a serving bowl of more pumpkin mac and cheese.

Have you ever tried pasta with pumpkin sauce? Oh buddy, it is SO GOOD. This pumpkin mac and cheese is the bougie fall pasta you didn’t know you needed.

Pumpkin is a nutrient dense and low calorie food that adds a lot of health benefits to your skillet mac and cheese. Pumpkin is loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Enjoy pumpkin in a savory way this fall with this pumpkin mac and cheese. This cheesy, rich, and filling meal will be a new favorite! If you love this recipe, you’d also love Creamy Pumpkin Pasta with Boursin Cheese too!

TELL ME ABOUT THIS SKILLET MAC AND CHEESE WITH PUMPKIN

Level of difficulty: Easy.

Flavor: Cheesy goodness with a teeny-tiny hint of pumpkin. 

Time: It will take you approximately 20 minutes to make this pasta with pumpkin sauce.

ingredients needed to make pumpkin mac and cheese

INGREDIENTS NEEDED

  • Water – for cooking the pasta
  • Whole Wheat Rotini (or short pasta of choice, see “Pasta Options for Pumpkin Mac and Cheese” section for alternative options)
  • Salted Butter – if you have unsalted butter, you’ll just need to add a little salt too
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Canned Pumpkin Puree – NOT pumpkin pie filling! You can also use homemade pumpkin puree if you make your own
  • Milk of Choice – I use 2% dairy milk
  • Cheese – I use a mix of rosemary gouda, cheddar gruyere, and shredded parmesan cheese when I make this pumpkin mac and cheese. However, there are lots of great cheese options for stovetop mac and cheese! See the “Recipe Substitutions and Variations” section note “Try Different Cheese” for all kinds of options
  • Paprika
  • Ground Pepper
  • Ritz or Club Crackers (or buttery cracker of choice)

PASTA OPTIONS FOR PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE

You have several options for the type of pasta to use in this creamy vegetarian pasta recipe:

  • Whole Wheat Pasta – this is the pasta I’ve chosen to use in this recipe because I try to incorporate more whole grains into my diet. Whole wheat pasta is also higher in fiber, higher in protein, and higher in vitamins and minerals than enriched pasta.
  • Regular Pasta – not into whole grain pasta? No worries! Select your favorite standard pasta and enjoy.
  • Gluten Free Pasta – selecting a gluten free pasta is a great option if you’re serving this dish to someone with celiac disease. 
  • Chickpea or Lentil Pasta – there are more and more plant-based pastas on the market these days. Selecting a lentil or chickpea pasta can be a great way to add more plant-based protein and fiber to your diet!

There are also several shapes of pasta that work well in this recipe. I recommend choosing one of the following:

  • Rotini – this is the shape I’ve chosen for this skillet mac and cheese with pumpkin
  • Elbows – this is the classic macaroni shape
  • Small or Medium Shells
  • Fusilli 
  • Rotini 
  • Penne 
  • Farfalle (aka Bowtie) 

Not seeing your favorite pasta shape on this list? You can still give it a try! Just make sure to review the cooking time recommended on your pasta’s packaging to ensure you do not overcook it.

16 image collage showing how to make pumpkin mac and cheese on the stove

See a quick story series on this delicious pumpkin mac and cheese here!

WHAT IS A ROUX?

You will notice this recipe calls for you to make a roux, but what is it? A roux is generally a mixture of equal parts flour and fat that is cooked together over low or medium heat to help thicken sauces. A roux can also prevent clumping from occurring, resulting in silky smooth sauces.

OVERVIEW: HOW TO MAKE SKILLET MAC AND CHEESE WITH PUMPKIN

  1. Cook the pasta per package instructions.
  2. While the water boils for your pasta, toast the cracker crumb topping. Crush the buttery crackers and toast in a small pan over medium heat for 2-4 minutes, until just aromatic and starting to brown (keep a close eye on them, they can go from nothing to burned pretty fast if you’re not paying attention). Set aside for serving.
  3. While the pasta cooks, make the roux by melting the butter in a large high-rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour and mix continuously until a light slurry forms (1-2 minutes).
  4. Make the pumpkin sauce. Add in the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine. Slowly add in the milk, whisky continuously to combine. Once well mixed, allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes to thicken, stirring occasionally.  Once thickened enough to leave a coating on your stirring spoon, add in the shredded cheeses, pepper, and paprika and stir to incorporate and melt.
  5. Add the cooked pasta. When the sauce is ready, add the cooked and drained pasta to the sauce and stir to combine.
  6. Serve and top with toasted cracker crumbs. Enjoy!
close up of a plate of mac and cheese with a cheesy pumpkin pasta sauce. The plate is surrounded by springs of fresh rosemary, blocks of cheese, mini pumpkins, and a serving bowl of more pumpkin mac and cheese.

RECIPE VARIATIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Try different cheeses: I use a combination of a local cheddar gruyere and a rosemary gouda plus some shredded parmesan in this recipe (*chef’s kiss*). Depending on where you live, you may not have these exact same options (I realize I do live in cheese paradise in Wisconsin). But don’t worry! There are lots of great cheese combinations you could use to make this skillet mac and cheese with pumpkin. For the 8oz of shredded cheese in this recipe (not including the parmesan, that one’s easy to find), a few combinations suggestions I would recommend include:
    • 2oz sharp cheddar, 2 oz gruyere, and 4 oz rosemary gouda (this would be very similar to the cheese I have used)
    • 4oz sharp cheddar cheese, 4 oz gouda
    • 4oz sharp cheddar cheese, 4 oz gruyere
    • 8oz sharp cheddar cheese (for the cheddar lover!)
      • Note: if you’re skipping the rosemary gouda, I would recommend adding in some dried rosemary. It’s a really lovely compliment to the pumpkin. I would start with a Tablespoon and adjust according to your taste.
  • Cracker Topping Alternatives: the toasted Ritz or Club cracker crumbs add a wonderful crunch to your pumpkin mac and cheese. If you’d prefer, you could toast bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs with a little butter or olive oil instead. Or skip it if the crumbs on top are not your thing.
  • Adding herbs. I use a rosemary gouda when making this, and absolutely love how the rosemary and pumpkin compliment one another in this recipe. An alternate herb that would be great in this recipe is sage!

MODIFICATIONS FOR DIETARY RESTRICTIONS: GLUTEN-FREE

This stovetop mac and cheese with pumpkin is vegetarian as written, and can be modified to be gluten free with a few substitutions.  

  • Make this into a gluten free pumpkin mac and cheese recipe by swapping out a few recipe items. First, select the gluten free pasta of your choice. Next, replace the flour in the roux. Common substitutes for flour in roux are cornstarch or arrowroot powder, and it is recommended to mix either with water prior to create a ‘slurry’ before adding it to your pan to make your roux. And lastly, use a buttery gluten free cracker for your topping.

Because this specific pasta recipe relies on butter, milk, and cheese for the sauce, I am not outlining ways to make this vegan or dairy free as it would be a completely different recipe. If you are well-versed in dairy-free substitutions, you are more than welcome to try to modify.

close up of a plate of mac and cheese with a cheesy pumpkin pasta sauce. A hand is shown digging into the pasta. The plate is surrounded by springs of fresh rosemary, blocks of cheese, and a serving bowl of more pumpkin mac and cheese.

EQUIPMENT NEEDED

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close up of a plate of mac and cheese with a cheesy pumpkin pasta sauce. The plate is surrounded by springs of fresh rosemary, blocks of cheese, mini pumpkins, and a serving bowl of more pumpkin mac and cheese.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Meredith
Super cheesy homemade mac and cheese with a secret healthy ingredient – pumpkin! Using pumpkin puree in this delicious fall pasta adds extra creaminess and richness to this dish. Plus, this pumpkin mac and cheese is ready in less than 20 minutes!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 8 mins
Cook Time 12 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Mains
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Calories 527 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • water to cook pasta
  • 16 oz whole wheat rotini*
  • 3 tablespoon salted butter
  • 3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 , 15oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
  • 4 oz rosemary gouda cheese, shredded*
  • 4 oz cheddar gruyere cheese, shredded*
  • ¼ C shredded parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper + more for serving if desired
  • 10-12 Ritz crackers, crushed

Instructions
 

  • Cook the pasta per package instructions.
  • While the water boils for your pasta, toast the cracker crumb topping. Crush the buttery crackers and toast in a small pan over medium heat for 2-4 minutes, until just aromatic and starting to brown (keep a close eye on them, they can go from nothing to burned pretty fast if you’re not paying attention). Set aside for serving.
  • While the pasta cooks, make the roux by melting the butter in a large high-rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the flour and mix continuously until a light slurry forms (1-2 minutes).
  • Add in the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine. Slowly add in the milk, whisky continuously to combine. Once well mixed, allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes to thicken, stirring occasionally.  Once thickened enough to leave a coating on your stirring spoon, add in the shredded cheeses, pepper, and paprika and stir to incorporate and melt.
  • When the sauce is ready, add the cooked and drained pasta to the sauce and stir to combine.
  • Serve and top with toasted cracker crumbs and enjoy!

Notes

*You have several pasta options for this pumpkin mac and cheese recipe.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta
  • Regular Pasta.
  • Gluten Free Pasta
  • Chickpea or Lentil Pasta
There are also several shapes of pasta that work well in this recipe. I recommend choosing one of the following:
  • Rotini – this is the shape I’ve chosen for this skillet mac and cheese with pumpkin
  • Elbows – this is the classic macaroni shape
  • Small or Medium Shells
  • Fusilli 
  • Rotini 
  • Penne 
  • Farfalle (aka Bowtie) 
 
*There are many options for cheese for the recipe! If your store does not have the exact cheeses listed, here are alternative options for the 8oz of shredded cheese listed (this does not include the parmesan, as that is a common cheese):
  • 2oz sharp cheddar, 2 oz gruyere, and 4 oz rosemary gouda (this would be very similar to the cheese I have used)
  • 4oz sharp cheddar cheese, 4 oz gouda
  • 4oz sharp cheddar cheese, 4 oz gruyere
  • 8oz sharp cheddar cheese (for the cheddar lover!)
    • Note: if you’re skipping the rosemary gouda, I would recommend adding in some dried rosemary. It’s a really lovely compliment to the pumpkin. I would start with a Tablespoon and adjust according to your taste.

Nutrition

Calories: 527kcalCarbohydrates: 60gProtein: 21gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 12gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 59mgSodium: 444mgPotassium: 205mgFiber: 8gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 11550IUVitamin C: 4mgCalcium: 332mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
*Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means at no additional cost to you I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links. However, please know that I strive to provide links to products that I actually use and wholeheartedly recommend whenever possible.
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