This creamy pumpkin mac and cheese recipe comes together in one pot. It’s really quite easy to make. You don’t even drain the pasta cooking water.
Thanks to the pumpkin, this dish is extra creamy, golden and flavorful. Naturally, it’s lighter than your typical homemade mac and cheese. On cool fall evenings, this mac and cheese will warm you up without putting you to sleep.
This easy autumnal pasta recipe will delight the whole family. Leftovers reheat well for the next few days, and even freeze well enough for our toddler’s future meals.
This recipe is a derivative of my Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese recipe, which has been a big hit. While that recipe relies on roasted butternut squash for depth of flavor, this recipe calls for canned pumpkin purée.
To make up for the roasted flavor, this recipe benefits from deeply toasting spices in butter—pumpkin spice blend, garlic powder and onion powder. Then, we cook a can of pumpkin purée in the flavored butter for a minute before adding pasta and water. Later on, we’ll stir in some cream cheese, sharp cheddar cheese and Parmesan. The end result is magical.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Ingredients
You’ll find the full recipe below. Here’s what you should know about the key ingredients before you head to the store.
Canned Pumpkin Puree
This recipe conveniently uses up one entire can of pumpkin purée. Be sure to buy plain pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie filling, which contains sugar and spices.
Not all canned pumpkin purée is created equal. I’ve enjoyed this recipe with Whole Foods 365 brand, and Libby’s is reliably good as well.
You have quite a few options here. For best results, choose a noodle that cooks in about 8 minutes or less, according to the package directions. We used casarecce for these photos, or you could use macaroni noodles for a more traditional mac and cheese look. Other options include cavatelli, fusilli, pipe rigate, etc. To make this recipe gluten free, we successfully used Jovial brand’s brown rice-based fusilli.
Tip: “Short-cut” pasta refers to compact noodle shapes, as opposed to long strands like spaghetti or fettuccine.
We’ll stir cream cheese directly into the pot. The cream cheese makes this pasta ultra creamy, lightly tangy, and luxurious. You’ll use half of a standard block of cream cheese for this recipe. Spread the extra on tomorrow morning’s toast!
Cheddar Cheese and Parmesan
Use a high quality, sharp cheddar cheese so you can really taste the cheddar in the end result. Parmesan cheese further amps up the flavor. Dust your individual servings with a little more Parmesan, if you’d like.
Tip: Grate your own cheese rather than buying pre-shredded cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is coated in powder that can cause the cheese to clump when it melts (plus it’s more expensive, per ounce).
Butter and Spices
You’ll also need butter, pumpkin spice blend, garlic and onion powder, water and salt. Pumpkin spice blend is absolutely key in this recipe because pumpkin alone doesn’t offer much flavor.
Tip: See the note below the recipe to make your own pumpkin spice blend from ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove or allspice. You can make exactly as much as you need for this recipe by following the note, or follow my pumpkin spice blend recipe to make extra spice blend for your pumpkin bread and pumpkin muffins.
Watch How to Make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
Serve a green salad on the side. Try my Super Simple Arugula Salad, Favorite Green Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Pepitas, or any improvised salad with a classic vinaigrette.
This recipe yields a lot of pasta (eight servings). It reheats well for packed lunches and leftover dinners. I’ve even frozen the leftovers in this large silicone ice cube tray—once reheated in the microwave, the texture isn’t quite the same, but it’s still nice enough for our toddler to enjoy.
Love this pumpkin mac and cheese?
Here are more savory squash recipes to try. For pumpkin treats, check out my pumpkin recipe roundup.
- Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- Creamy Pumpkin Marinara
- Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup
- Perfect Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
- Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Please let me know how your pumpkin mac and cheese turns out in the comments! I love hearing from you.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegetarian
Creamy pumpkin mac and cheese will warm you up on cool fall evenings. This easy autumnal pasta recipe comes together in one pot and tastes incredible. Recipe yields 8 servings (quite a lot!) and leftovers are great.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin spice blend*
- 1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
- 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 1 pound short-cut pasta (pipe regate, macaroni noodles, casarecce, cavatelli, fusilli)
- 5 cups water
- 1 teaspoon fine salt, to taste
- 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
- 8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup (2 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pumpkin spice, garlic and onion powders and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the butter is very fragrant and you see many little brown flecks in the pan. Stir in the pumpkin and let it cook for a minute, while stirring.
- Pour in the pasta, water and salt. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, remove the lid and set the timer for 8 minutes.
- Cook, stirring often (more often as the time goes on), until the timer goes off. Turn down the heat as necessary to avoid scorching but maintain a steady simmer. When the time goes off, do not drain the water. Stir in the cream cheese. Continue simmering until the cream cheese has melted and the pasta is al dente (careful when you taste, it’s quite hot), about 4 to 5 more minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low. Add the cheddar and Parmesan, and stir until the mixture is melted and creamy. Remove the pot from the heat.
- Season with salt, to taste (I usually add ¼ teaspoon or more). Serve the pasta in bowls with extra Parmesan grated on top, if desired. Leftovers keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 5 days (or freezes relatively well for up to 3 months).
Recipe adapted from my Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese.
*Pumpkin spice amounts: To make just enough pumpkin spice for this recipe, use ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and a little pinch of allspice or cloves.
Make it gluten free: Gluten-free pastas vary widely. Choose a spiral-shaped gluten-free brown rice pasta, such as fusilli, over other pasta types (my tester was pleased with Jovial brand). Stir gently and don’t cook the pasta any longer than necessary or it may start to lose its shape.