The Best Mac
You've Ever Had

One of the best things about fall, besides the chill in the air, football and Ocktoberfests, is the resurgence of comfort food. There's something about the colder temperatures and brightly colored falling leaves that really give me a hankering for rich casseroles and a hearty chili or two. Growing up, my mom's baked macaroni and cheese was my favorite comfort food. To give this popular dish even more flavor, I added fall's hottest ingredient -- canned pumpkin.

Pumpkin mac and cheese

In my neck of the woods, canned pumpkin is liquid gold. You can't find it anywhere. I had to search four grocery stores before I found a can in stock. Naturally, I bought about 15 cans to ensure I don't run out this season. Because my pantry is spewing with this stuff, I've been adding it to just about everything. You name it -- cakes, casseroles, pizzas, hamburgers, cocktails and, of course, macaroni and cheese. I love my macaroni and cheese extra creamy, and unfortunately, you sometimes lose that when you bake it. However, the addition of the canned pumpkin added more creaminess to the cheese sauce, keeping it extra gooey even after 10 minutes of baking. In addition to the creamy texture, the pumpkin pie spice adds such a unique flavor and incredible aroma. Bring this to your next tailgate party or to your family's Thanksgiving meal for a fabulously fall side!

Baked Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Farmer's Market organic pumpkin

Yields: Six 1 cup servings


  • 8 ounces of uncooked noodles (I used rotini)
  • 1 cup of canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup of light cream
  • 4 tablespoons of Neufchatel cream cheese
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (divided)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup of panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
  • Cooking spray


  1. Cook pasta until al dente, about eight minutes in boiling water. Rinse and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
  3. Meanwhile, heat cream and pumpkin in a sauce pan on medium heat, until thickened.
  4. Reduce heat to low and slowly whisk in cheese until completely melted. The sauce will be quite thick.
  5. Add in 1/2 pumpkin pie spice, cayenne pepper and salt and pepper. Add pasta and stir it into the pumpkin-cheese sauce and mix until thoroughly combined.
  6. Pour mixture into the greased dish. Sprinkle panko, parmesan cheese and rest of the pumpkin pie spice to completely cover the top of the macaroni. Add in more cayenne if you want a spicy crust.
  7. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until bread crumbs have browned.

Traditional vs. Modern Thanksgiving

More pumpkin recipes

Pumpkin spice latte
Pumpkin enchiladas, pumpkin chili, pumpkin pie martini and more
Crockpot pumpkin butter


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Comments on "Baked pumpkin mac n cheese"

Alicia September 20, 2012 | 2:27 PM

Am I the only one that finds this mixture a little odd? I would never consider putting pumpkin in my mac and cheese. You all seem very brave.

Heidi @ November 02, 2011 | 2:35 PM

This mac is pretty amazing! I gave it a try and was very pleased with how it turned out. I double the recipe to fill my casserole dish and so that I have leftovers. =9 The third time I made it (yup, I like it so much I've already made it three times!) I added some crumbled bacon into the mix and sprinkled on top. Nom nom nom. Fabulously tasty!

Alayna @ October 06, 2011 | 11:46 AM

This looks so good. Great use of pumpkin!

Anne@frommysweetheart September 28, 2011 | 7:07 PM

I love pumpkin so much that I am so open to adding it to just about anything! This is the first recipe I've seen for mac and cheese. And I am so intrigued!!! I imagine it gives such a sweet/savory component to it...which I would love!

Kelly September 28, 2011 | 10:58 AM

Great article Claire, this looks delicious!! :)

Kimberly @ Badger Girl Learns to Cook September 28, 2011 | 10:58 AM

Wow! This looks great. I have never seen the combination before but it totally makes sense. Love it! Great post!

Alida September 28, 2011 | 10:48 AM

i love pumpkin season, and this looks like a different yet delicious way to enjoy fall's liquid gold. :)

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