OMG. THIS PUMPKIN MAC AND CHEESE literally became one of my favorite new meals during Pumpkin Week 2020. 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.
It quickly became an AK reader fav, so you know I had to reshare it this fall!
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.
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Ingredients in pumpkin mac and cheese
This incredible pumpkin macaroni 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 recipe 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 unsweetened almond milk in the sauce but you could also use cashew milk or regular milk.
- Cheese: we’re using both sharp cheddar cheese and grated parmesan cheese because what’s a mac and cheese without multiple kinds of cheese?! I recommend shredding and grating them from a block so that the cheese gets nice and melty.
- 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. See below for gluten free swaps.
Customize your pumpkin mac and cheese
This healthy pumpkin macaroni and cheese recipe is easy to customize based on your taste preferences! Here are some easy swaps I can recommend:
- Make it 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.
- Keep it gluten free: make sure to use gluten free pasta noodles, a gluten free all purpose flour and gluten free breadcrumbs. More ideas on this below!
- Go vegetarian: simply omit the bacon and make the rest of the recipe as is.
Jazz up your breadcrumb topping
I love a good traditional breadcrumb topping on mac and cheese, but you could also substitute crushed-up tortilla chips, potato chips or even buttery crackers! Using grain or gluten free chips is a great swap for keeping the recipe gluten free as well.
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.
- Make a roux. In the pan you cook your bacon & spinach in, add butter and place over medium heat. Once it’s 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.
- Thicken the sauce. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and stir every so often, until the sauce thickens up.
- Stir in cheese & spices. 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.
- Add pumpkin. Finally, stir in the pumpkin puree. Your sauce is good to go!
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 the 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!
You can store any leftover pumpkin macaroni and cheese in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days. Simply reheat in the microwave.
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
Get all of my pumpkin recipes here!
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
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!
- 10 ounces dry cavatappi (or shells, or whatever pasta you have on hand, even gluten free!)
- 12 ounces bacon
- 6 ounces fresh spinach
- For the pumpkin cheese sauce:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour (or whole wheat flour or all purpose gluten free flour)
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or cashew milk or regular milk)
- ½ cup finely grated (not shredded) parmesan cheese
- ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- For the topping:
- ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, gluten free if desired
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Spray a 2-quart baking dish or 9x9 inch or 11x7 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.
See the full post for tips, tricks & ways to customize this recipe!
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats
This post was originally published on October 6th, 2020, and republished on October 24th, 2022.
This was incredible! I used chickpea noodles instead and it was delicious!
Perfect! Love that 🙂
This. Is. FANTASTIC. The sauce was truly everything, so creamy and silky! We subbed bacon for tempeh bacon and added mushrooms and caremelized onions to the sauce and it was out of this world. Make it now!!
Perfect! Love those additions – sounds amazing.
I enjoyed the mac and cheese. I ate it with the Chicken green chili verde. It was yummy. My husband likes traditional mac and cheese better. He liked it with the chicken verde.
Love that! Sounds like a great dinner.
I’m obsessed with this recipe. It’s so creamy and cheesy and delicious! I read the ingredients incorrectly and used shredded Parmesan, but it came out great still! Highly recommend this one!
Perfect! The coziest dinner 🙂
I followed the recipe to a T and it came out AMAZING! So creamy and decadent, it was hard not to eat it all in one serving 😅 Definitely going to be making it again!! Thanks for another killer recipe Monique 🙏🏻
So happy to hear that! New fav dinner 🙂
So good!! My whole family loved it, even the neighbor came to have some!
So happy to hear that!
Wow wow wow! I was excited but a little unsure when I read this recipe, and couldn’t be happier that we gave it a go! I used Banza’s cavatappi chickpea pasta and almond milk. I would probably double the spinach next time because I love packing with veggies, but would do nothing to the flavor profile – perfectly rich and creamy!
Perfect! So happy you enjoyed!
This was phenomenal! It was so good, after dinner my husband said maybe we could just have a second helping for dessert lol!
The only thing I changed or adjusted was the spinach. I cooked it down as instructed and decided I wanted more greens in this dish so I chopped some raw spinach up and added about 3 more oz in. It turned out just fine!
This recipe was super delicious! Easy to make and as my husband stated “great for all the basic chicks.” It was husband approved and fed the two of use for 8 meals. Highly recommended!!
Delicious!! I added extra cheddar cheese and Parmesan 🙂 will be making this for thanksgiving!
Absolutely delicious. My son had two servings ! This will definitely be a Recipe for the books. Thank you !
Amazing! Such a great dinner 🙂
This dish was incredible!!! It was warm, comforting, and I still felt good after eating it. Everyone in the family loved it, even my vegetable opposed 7 year old ate it and said the spinach in it was so good! Huge mom win, thank you for another winner of a recipe!
Amazing! I’m glad it was a hit!
I knew this recipe would be good, but it was phenomenal. So goo-ey and cheesy and it was so big of a hit that I made it twice this week.
I made with banza shells & oatmilk because it’s what I had on hand.
Such a great dinner! Glad you loved it!
This Mac and Cheese is amazing!! I added extra spinach (I just used the whole bag I got) and it was still very cheesy and creamy! My whole family enjoyed it. Delicious! Thank you Monique.
Perfect! So glad it was a hit!
This was delicious! I added a little bit extra cheddar, and I couldn’t wait to dig in so I broiled it for a few minutes rather than baking it. I will be making it again! Thanks for the great recipe!
Love it! Such a great dinner 🙂
SO GOOD. I used banza chickpea penne for extra protein but the base macros are still impressive for a pasta dish. I recommend using the sharpest cheddar you can find if you want it to taste really cheesey, although a milder cheese might let the pumpkin flavor through more. Either way, this is delicious and much healthier than a normal mac and cheese!
Made this dish for a group dinner with friends, and it was a hit! The pumpkin adds an extra creaminess that is so delicious. I recommend over cooking your bacon to add a bit of a crunch. Highly recommend giving this one a try!
So happy to hear that! Great tip with the bacon 🙂
JUST WOW. Brought to a cookout & it was LOVED by everyone. I used 1/2 of the bacon as a friend is vegetarian. Wanted her to be able to eat without messing up her tummy too much.
Tip – Use an exactly 10oz box of pasta!! I had a pre-opened 16oz box (with some noodles gone) and used the remaining. It was a bit too much pasta, making it slightly dry. Although the guests didn’t think so, I’d opt for exactly the right amount so the sauce turns out extra saucy after baking next time. Thinking I will bring to Thanksgiving!
Great recipe, tastes amazing! I added a few minutes of broil at the end to get a crispy top
Love it! Such a great dinner.
I saw this a few weeks ago and finally got around to making it tonight. It was SO good, as is every recipe of yours I’ve tried. I served it with a roasted chicken and veggies (also your recipe) and will use both in meals throughout the week. My partner tastes the sauce before it went in the oven to bake and said he wasn’t sure about it but when it was finished he kept going back for more.
Amazing! So happy you both loved it!
Yum! I halved this recipe to make 4 servings. I forewent the spinach and subbed in frozen cauliflower instead. Also swapped turkey bacon for regular bacon, and used the 50% less fat sharp cheddar cheese from Cabot. I used elbow pasta, which came out great. I personally didn’t think the pumpkin jumped out much, but this dish was still incredibly tasty and came together in a snap.
Perfect! The pumpkin is meant to be subtle 🙂 glad you enjoyed!
This looks delicious! If you don’t have spinach can you substitute another vegetable like broccoli or peas? Thx!
Absolutely! Either would be delicious 🙂
soooo good, definitely adding to my recipe rotation. I love how the pumpkin isn’t too overpowering ♥️
Absolutely! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
This was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! AMAZING!
Wow! This was delicious! I wasn’t sure how the pumpkin flavor would marry with the others, but I’m so glad I gave it a try. It yields a subtle sweetness and earthiness to the dish (think butternut squash) I think a lot of people are only used to utilizing canned pumpkin in a sweet recipe, I’m glad to try it another way. I was short on bacon, so I used about half of the amount, but through in the drippings for a fatty flavor boost. Not a low cal moment, I know, but I have no regrets!
Absolutely! So glad you gave it a try and loved it 🙂
Made this tonight for dinner. This was excellent! Made exactly as instructed. So so good. Another great recipe. Thank you!
Perfect! So glad you enjoyed!
Made this the other night with a friend and it was delicious! Will definitely be making again.
So happy to hear that!
TO. DIE. FOR.
Trust me, just make it.
So glad you loved it!
What a great recipe! I used a while bag of spinach instead of just 6oz (always love adding more veggies to dishes) and the ratio of veggies to pasta was good. Also recommend cooking your bacon crispy so you get a nice crunch!
Absolutely love your recipes!!
Perfect! Glad you enjoyed!
How many days ahead can you make this without freezing! I made it last night (Monday) to bake Thursday and forgot to move it to freezer after it cooled in fridge. Should I move now or is it just safe to stay in the fridge!
Sorry for the delay here! It should be fine about 1-2 days in advance. I hope it turned out well!
I made this as a side dish for Thanksgiving and it was the perfect addition! The cheese sauce is sooooo yummy. Of all of the Thanksgiving leftovers I am most excited to eat more of this. Will definitely be making again!
Love it! One of my favs, too 🙂
Really great Mac & Cheese recipe when you want to venture out of the traditional box a bit. I made it for Thanksgiving and it was a hit! The spinach made me feel like it was nutritious as well 😉
Absolutely! Gotta love a little veggie kick 🙂
I made this recipe for Thanksgiving, per the request of my husband who loved it the first time I made it. Such a perfect combination of flavors and the pumpkin gives the mac such a nice color. The whole family loved it! Will 100% be making again. This time though I used original nutpods instead of milk and DANG the creamy factor was unreal!
Amazing! So happy to hear that!
Made this for dinner last night – so easy and delicious! Can’t even taste the sneaky veggies with the pumpkin added. Will definitely make this again – thank you!
Absolutely! Glad you enjoyed 🙂
This recipe is out of this world! I loved it so much. You can’t taste the pumpkin in case you don’t like it, but the pumpkin gives the sauce such a creamy and thick texture so it definitely feels like your eating something that’s loaded with cheese.
Absolutely! Glad you enjoyed!
Wow this mac n cheese was BOMB! You have to make this! Best mac n cheese I’ve had of a long time! I ate it with Monique’s vegetarian chili and they were the perfect combination!
So happy you loved it!!
Yummy! This was easy to make! It was nice to have everything cooked in one pan (aside from pasta). Will keep on our normal rotation for sure
Amazing! So happy you enjoyed 🙂
Made this recipe twice now. The first time we followed it exactly and it was amazing. The second time we made it we didn’t have pumpkin puree so we used sweet potato puree instead…. Equally as delicious! Pro tip, we add truff hot sauce on top for an all-round party in the mouth, And we just so happen to have a batch of Moniques trix bars in the fridge for dessert… Double party in the mouth!
Perfect! And that hot sauce sounds amazing. Delicious with twix bars for dessert!
This mac & cheese was fantastic! The pumpkin flavor wasn’t very strong, it more or less just added some additional veggie power. Personally, I hate the mess of cooking bacon in a pan, so I baked it in the oven first but it still came out nice and crispy!
Super super tasty and really fun to make! Me and my husband loved it ♥️ I also added Red Leicester cheese as well because, well, CHEESE!
This has become a staple in my house! So easy and my (kinda-picky) husband loves it! As does my 1 yr old. The sauce is SO creamy and I love that the whole family is getting some veggies in. Thanks for the great recipe, Monique!
This Mac n cheese was AMAZING! I have made it twice now and it never disappoints. I used frozen spinach because it’s what I had on hand and it turned out great!
HOLY SMOKES!!! I just made this tonight and yet again my mind is blown by one of your recipes, Monique! This was simple, but also something I could make from whole ingredients-and left both mine and my husband’s tummies happy! Do yourself a favor and make this recipe! <3
Amazing! So glad you both loved it!
I am not a follower of diet fads or particularly healthy eating meal plans and am certainly not vegan/vegetarian but I do love vegetables and preparing my food in as healthy a way as possible by incorporating lots of veggies and just wanted to say this looks absolutely delicious! I’ve never considered using pumpkin to make a sauce for pasta but am definitely going to give this a try. Will be adding in extra veggies like mushrooms, peppers and zucchini too. Gosh that sauce may just become my favorite pasta sauce ever, it truly looks incredible! Thanks for this. Hello from South Africa!
Love that! This one’s great for customizing with your fav veggies. Enjoy!
I saw this and was like- I MUST MAKE. But I’m df so I combined your “ The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese You’ll Ever Eat” and this. Essentially made that cheese sauce- added 1 c. Pumpkin to it and no jalapeño and followed this for all other details!
Always a winner when it’s a AK recipe. Thanks team 🙂
Oooh that is BRILLIANT! Love that! Happy you enjoyed it 🙂
This pumpkin mac and cheese was amazing!!! I used banza chickpea pasta and it turned out great. Plus it was a hit with my toddler!!
Love Banza! So happy you guys enjoyed this one 🙂 Thanks for the review, Joanne!
This is the perfect combination of wholesome and light. Love the taste that the pumpkin adds!
Me too! Happy you enjoyed it 🙂
Super tasty! Not a super strong pumpkin flavor but really good. I LOVE mac n cheese and loved the spin on this one. Will certainly make again!
Yay! So glad that you enjoyed it 🙂
Thanks for this amazing recipe!! So creamy and full of seasonal deliciousness. I followed the recipe exactly but doubled it for a dinner party. I’m glad I made extra – everyone wanted to take home the leftovers!
Made this for my partner, who was highly skeptical of having pumpkin in his mac & cheese. He loved it, of course! Had three servings and deemed it “great” at the end of the meal.
I used 8oz of pasta instead of 10oz, and added 8oz of frozen cauliflower florets. I also used turkey bacon instead of regular bacon. Yum!
Haha YAY glad that this one won him over! Love the idea of cauliflower in here 🙂
This was a phenomenal dinner recipe we enjoyed last night! My husband is lactose intolerant, so I used almond milk and some vegan cheese shreds in place of cheddar and parm. It was SO good! And pretty easy to put together honestly. Even my 10 month old devoured it! Thank you!
Amazing. The Parmesan makes it so delish! Great way to use all the extra pumpkin I have, might be the best Mac and cheese ever and I’ve tried a lot of recipes 🙂
😍 So thrilled to hear that!! Thanks so much for the review.
I’d like to make this and sub the spinach with brussel sprouts, would you recommend I adjust the sauce amount?
Good question! Feel free to increase the sauce by about 25% to make sure you have enough to coat everything 🙂
Can anyone tell me if you could use a 1/2 package of well drained frozen spinache?
Depends how big the package is! You’ll need 6 ounces 🙂
Delicious! An indulgent version of Mac and cheese (due to bacon). I like the addition of pumpkin. Reheats really well. Sadly, my kiddo didn’t want to try it but that means more for me!!
I want to make this and I’m thinking of subbing gouda/smoked gouda, or possibly gruyere, in for the parmesan. Do you think that would work well with the other flavors in the dish?
Ooh I bet that would be incredible! Yes!
Wonderful comfort food. Can’t wait to make it for family gathering!
I balked at the instructions re cooking the pasta according to package directions: unsure if the water should be salted. I did but next time will do less salt in the water and the sauce. as there is plenty from the cheeses and bacon.
The topping is listed as optional but in my opinion, it really adds a lovely crunch. If you don’t want the extra cheese, maybe leave it out of the panko mixture?
You can salt your pasta water, yes! Happy you enjoyed it 🙂
Great recipe to use pumpkin. Everyone ate it up!
SO happy to hear that! Thanks so much for leaving a review 🙂
Have made this recipe 3 times now and we really like it. Such a good fall comfort food that still has some nutritional value.
I’m so glad you love it!! Yay! Thanks for leaving a review 🙂
This is my most favorite savory AK recipe, (Tahini brownies, which go well with this, are the favorite sweet recipe.) I’ve made it and shared it a lot. It is truly the best mac and cheese ever. Come to think of it, I have bacon in the freezer. I must make this again this week. Thank you for always sharing the best recipes!! 🙂
Ahh this is amazing! SO glad you are enjoying this recipe, Debbie ❤️
What a brilliant way to add veggies! I am obsessed with this 🙂
This was insanely good! I doubled the recipe of the sauce and put it in the freezer so I can make it another time.
Perfect! So glad you enjoyed this recipe ❤️
So comforting and yummy! I listened to some previous commenters and used two full bags of spinach and added a caramelized onion and WOW… 10/10!!
So happy to hear this! Glad you enjoyed this recipe ❤️
This is So Good!!! Will definitely be making again.
Yay! I am excited to hear you are loving this recipe ❤️
This recipe was incredible. The pumpkin made it so creamy. Comfort food all the way. I omitted the bacon because I wanted this as a side dish. I would definitely make again.
Ahh this is so great, glad you are enjoying this recipe ❤️