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One Pot Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

This one pot Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is a simple-to-make pasta dish, perfect for fall days during pumpkin season. It’s creamy, delicious, and so incredibly satisfying. Easy cleanup with one pot and ready in 30 minutes or less!

Side view of pasta bowl with Pumpkin Mac and Cheese and fresh thyme sprigs

It’s fall comfort food at it’s best!

There isn’t many mac and cheese recipes I don’t love. When combined with butternut squash or pumpkin, it’s autumn in a bowl, and has a hint of sweetness from the squash and an undertone of smoky flavor from the spices like paprika. I think is wonderful. Creamy and delicious.

Plus, when you’re craving a simple, comfortable meal that you can curl up by the fire with, this is most assuredly that!

Top view of Pumpkin Mac and Cheese in a white Dutch Oven

What to Love about Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

I’m intentionally limiting myself to 3 bullet points. Because honestly, I could go on and on about what to love about this dish. Here’s my best brief effort:

  • Creamy, velvety texture with a hint of pumpkin sweetness.
  • Makes a great Thanksgiving side dish.
  • It’s definitely ranks as a “seconds” kind of meal!
Top view of Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Ingredients on a round wood board

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Ingredients

This simple, one pot meal, is filled with simple ingredients without sacrificing flavor. The specific ingredient measurements are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

Here’s what you need to make this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese:

  • Butter for a hint of richness. I like to use salted butter for flavor but both salted and unsalted works fine.
  • Garlic for a punch of flavor
  • Dried thyme: Although I’m using dried thyme you can substitute fresh if you have it on hand. You will need about 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme if using.
  • Short cut pasta: I’m using medium shells but any short cut shape works fine as does gluten free pasta.
  • Milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • Cream cheese for richness
  • Pumpkin puree: be sure you’re using pure pumpkin instead of pumpkin pie mix
  • Shredded cheese: I’m using sharp cheddar but choose your favorite cheese for mac and cheese.
  • Seasonings: Onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Questions

What is short cut pasta?

Short-cut pasta is perfect for use with hearty sauces, like ragus, vegetable sauces, tomato sauce, and even pumpkin sauces. Examples of short cut pasta are penne, rigatoni, farfalle, orecchiette, shell pasta, and macaroni.

Which cheese goes best with pumpkin?

Gorgonzola pairs really well with pumpkin, as does goat cheese as it offsets the sweetness of pumpkin. Other pairings that work well are Gruyère cheese, Fontina, Gouda, Mozzarella, Havarti or Muenster. I’m particularly fond of sharp cheddar cheese but a combination of a few of these are delicious too.

Can you make this one-pot pumpkin mac and cheese ahead?

Stovetop pumpkin mac and cheese is best when served immediately. Once refrigerated, the texture isn’t quite the same. That being said, I store leftovers in individual containers for quick lunches and for me, it’s quite delicious!

How to Make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

All you need is one pot, like a Dutch oven, for this stovetop dish. The simple step-by-step instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post, but here’s a brief overview of how easy this pasta is to make.

  1. In a large pot, sauté garlic and dried thyme in butter.
  2. To the pot add the pasta and 4 cups of water; bring to a boil and add salt. Cooking for 8 minutes.
  3. Without draining the water, stir in the milk, cream cheese, and pumpkin; cook until the cream cheese has melted and the pasta is al dente.
  4. Stir in the cheese, and remaining seasoning and cook until the shredded cheese has melted. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

More Mac and Cheese Recipes You May Also Enjoy

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Side view of Pumpkin Mac and Cheese in a pasta bowl with fresh thyme
Side view of pasta bowl with Pumpkin Mac and Cheese and fresh thyme sprigs

One Pot Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

This one pot Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is a simple-to-make pasta dish, perfect for fall days during pumpkin season. It's creamy, delicious, and so incredibly satisfying. Easy cleanup with one pot and ready in 30 minutes or less!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 pound pasta (macaroni, shells, etc.)
  • 1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy, I used coconut milk)
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 (15-ounce) canned pumpkin puree
  • 1½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the butter has melted add the minced garlic and dried thyme; sauté for about 30 seconds.
  2. To the pot, add the pasta and toss in the butter garlic mixture. Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and cooking, stirring occasionally for 8 to 9 minutes. Without draining the water, stir in the milk, cream cheese, and pumpkin; cook until the cream cheese has melted and the pasta is al dente.
  3. Remove the garlic and stir in the shredded cheese, onion powder, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, and nutmeg until the cheese has melted and the pasta is creamy. Remove from the heat.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add up to 1/4 cup water or milk to thin the pasta if necessary.

Notes

Pasta:

  • I'm using medium shell pasta, but any short-cut pasta works equally well. Think Penne, Rigatoni, Farfalle, Orecchiette or Macaroni.

Cheese Choices:

  • I love sharp cheddar cheese in most mac and cheese recipes. But you can substitute your favorite cheese, or use 1 cup of 2 varieties. Gouda is also a nice choice.

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Did you make this recipe?

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In developing this meal, I consulted recipes from New York Times, Food & Wine, and Half Baked Harvest.

2 Comments

    1. Hi Barbara, I don’t remove the minced garlic. If you like the flavor of the garlic, but no the garlic itself, you could smash the garlic cloves making them easy to remove at the end.

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