OMG. THIS PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE for #AKPumpkinWeek is literally my favorite new meal. Both Sidney and I chowed down on it for a few days. Well, Sidney actually shoved it in his mouth in less than 5 minutes, but that’s my son.
This pumpkin mac and cheese is creamy, cheesy, full of vitamins, and savory with a slight hint of sweetness from pumpkin. I promise you’re going to fall in love with how fabulous it is! The combination of pumpkin, cheddar and parmesan is simply divine.
Ingredients in pumpkin mac and cheese
This incredible pumpkin mac and cheese bake has everything you could want in a dinner: sneaky veggies, a pumpkin cheese sauce and of course, bacon. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Pasta: I like using cavatappi in this pumpkin mac and cheese recipes but feel free to use traditional shells, large elbows or whatever pasta you have on hand. Your favorite gluten free pasta will work well, too!
- Bacon: the savory bacon adds such incredible flavor when paired with the pumpkin cheese sauce. Of course feel free to omit to keep this dish vegetarian.
- Spinach: who doesn’t love a sneaky boost of veggies? We’re adding plenty of spinach but the kids won’t even notice.
- Butter: you’ll add a bit of butter to the pumpkin cheese sauce and to the crumb topping. Feel free to use vegan butter if you’d like.
- All purpose flour: a little all purpose flour will help thicken the cheese sauce. You can also use whole wheat flour or all purpose gluten free flour.
- Almond milk: I like to use an unsweetened almond milk in the sauce but you could also use cashew milk or regular milk.
- Parmesan cheese: be sure to use grated parmesan cheese instead of shredded so it gets nice and melty.
- Sharp cheddar cheese: what’s a mac and cheese without layers of shredded cheddar? YUM.
- Spices: we’re adding salt, garlic powder & freshly ground black pepper to the sauce for the perfect flavor balance.
- Pumpkin puree: the star of the pumpkin cheese sauce! You can use canned pumpkin puree or make your own with this tutorial.
- Panko breadcrumbs: you’ll mix some breadcrumbs with butter to get a deliciously crispy topping. Feel free to use gluten free breadcrumbs if desired.
How to make pumpkin cheese sauce
Truly the star of this mac and cheese recipe is the incredible pumpkin cheese sauce. It has sweet & savory elements that you’ll fall in love with.
- In the pan you cook your bacon & spinach in, add in 2 tablespoons of butter and place over medium heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in a little bit of the flour and then slowly add in milk, a little bit at a time, alternating with the flour and vigorously whisking away any lumps.
- Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and stir every so often, until the sauce thickens up.
- Once the sauce has thickened up a bit, turn off the heat and stir in garlic powder, parmesan and cheddar cheese. salt and LOTS of freshly ground black pepper.
- Finally stir in the pumpkin puree.
How to make dairy free pumpkin mac and cheese
If you want to make this pumpkin mac and cheese bake dairy free, feel free to use vegan butter, a dairy free milk of choice (like the almond milk listed) and dairy free parmesan cheese & cheddar cheeses. You can also use my vegan cashew cheese sauce and add in pumpkin puree, which I think would be fabulous.
How to make gluten free pumpkin mac and cheese
This lightened up pumpkin mac and cheese can easily be made gluten free! Just make sure to use gluten free pasta noodles, a gluten free all purpose flour and gluten free breadcrumbs (or substitute crushed up gluten free tortilla chips, potato chips or crackers).
Make ahead healthy pumpkin mac and cheese
- Prep it ahead of time: feel free to make this pumpkin mac and cheese ahead of time and bake it a day or two later! Simply make the recipe as directed, except do not add the breadcrumbs. Instead, cover with foil and place in fridge until ready to bake. Once ready to bake, add the breadcrumbs as directed and bake. You make need to add 5-10 minutes of extra baking time.
- Freezer friendly option: if you want to make this pumpkin mac and cheese ahead of time, simply make the recipe as directed, except do not bake it with the breadcrumbs on top. Instead, put it in a freezer-safe container pan like these, cover and place in a freezer safe bag until you’re ready to bake. Once ready to bake, thaw out the pumpkin pasta bake in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, bake as directed!
More pumpkin recipes to try
Vegetarian Spinach Pumpkin Lasagna
Spicy Black Bean Chicken Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sour Cream Sauce
Slow Cooker Pumpkin Peanut Butter Chicken Soup
Healthy Pumpkin Bread with Maple Glaze
Saucy Baked Pumpkin Pasta
See how to make the pumpkin mac and cheese
AK Pumpkin Week Giveaway
As always we’ll be hosting a fun giveaway to win a $200 gift card to Sur La Table so you can stock up on baking supplies/pans or whatever your heart desires, AND a gorgeous cutting board of your choosing from Sonder LA! To enter:
- Share a photo of ANY AK pumpkin recipes in-feed on Instagram or in our Facebook Group with the hashtag #AKPumpkinWeek. Please note your profile must be public so that we can see your creations.
- The more you share by Sunday 10/18, the greater your chance of winning!
- Winner will be announced on IG stories and in our FB group on Monday, 10/18. USA only, 18 or older to enter.
Bonus Pumpkin Recipe
I’ll also be offering and exclusive, BONUS pumpkin recipe that will be delivered straight to your inbox at the end of the week. This recipe is for my email subscribers only — because I love you guys! Click here to sign up.
I know you’re going to LOVE this healthier pumpkin mac and cheese recipe! Be sure to leave a comment and rate the recipe below if you make it. Thanks for being here — I appreciate you! xo.
Spinach Bacon Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Creamy pumpkin mac and cheese with savory bacon and a boost of veggies from spinach. This easy pumpkin mac and cheese bake is filled with delicious pumpkin spice flavors for a sweet and savory dinner the whole family will love!
dry cavatappi (or shells, or whatever pasta you have on hand, even gluten free!)
- For the pumpkin cheese sauce:
all purpose flour (or whole wheat flour or all purpose gluten free flour)
unsweetened almond milk (or cashew milk or regular milk)
finely grated (not shredded) parmesan cheese
shredded sharp cheddar cheese
salt, plus more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the topping:
shredded sharp cheddar cheese
panko breadcrumbs, gluten free if desired
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Spray a 2-quart baking dish or 9×9 inch or 11×7 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray, or grease with olive oil or butter.
Boil the noodles until al dente, according to the directions on the package. Once done cooking, drain and place in a large bowl.
Cook your bacon: Add bacon to a large skillet or pan and place over medium heat, cook bacon on both sides until crispy and golden brown. If the pan starts to smoke at any point, simply lower the heat. I always cook my bacon on medium low heat. Once bacon is done, blot with a paper towel to absorb excess grease, then chop into bite sized pieces and transfer to the large bowl with the noodles
Drain the grease from the bacon pan, then place the same pan over low heat and cook your spinach: add spinach to pan and cook until spinach wilts, the spinach will absorb any of the small amount of grease remaining on the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and transfer to the large bowl with the noodles and bacon.
In the same pan, add in 2 tablespoons of butter and place over medium heat. Once butter is melted, whisk in a little bit of the flour and then slowly add in milk, a little bit at a time, alternating with the flour and vigorously whisking away any lumps. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and stir every so often, until the sauce thickens up.
Once the sauce has thickened up a bit, turn off the heat and stir in garlic powder, parmesan and cheddar cheese. salt and LOTS of freshly ground black pepper. Finally stir in the pumpkin puree.
Add the pumpkin cheese sauce to the bowl with the pasta, bacon and spinach. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir well to combine, then pour mixture into your prepared baking pan and spread out. Top with remaining ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese if you like extra cheesiness!
In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs with melted butter. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of casserole and bake for 25 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Serves 6.
Prep it ahead of time: simply make the recipe as directed, except do not add the breadcrumbs. Instead, cover with foil and place in fridge until ready to bake. Once ready to bake, add the breadcrumbs as directed and bake. You may need to add an extra splash of milk. Additionally, you make need to add 5-10 minutes of extra baking time.
Freezer friendly option: simply make the recipe as directed, except do not bake it with the breadcrumbs on top. Instead, put it in a freezer-safe container pan like these, cover and place in a freezer safe bag until you’re ready to bake. Once ready to bake, thaw out the pumpkin pasta bake in the refrigerator overnight. Once thawed, bake as directed!
Servings: 6 servings
Serving size: 1 serving (based on 6)
Saturated fat: 11.4g