The best fall comfort food! This Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is creamy, indulgent, and full of flavor. Vegetarian and easily gluten-free.Jump to Recipe
I have been making some version of this Pumpkin Mac & Cheese for years, but knew I had to get it absolutely perfect before I put it on the website. Topping it with a deliciously buttery breadcrumb situation and broiling it for a couple minutes really put this dish into ideal fall comfort food territory. Seriously, you don’t want to skip this one.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Key Ingredients
Pasta: I use Cavatappi for this mac and cheese, but you can use any shape you like! Shells or Fusili would also be great.
Butter: You’ll need a bit for the cheese sauce and a bit for the breadcrumb topping.
Cheddar Cheese: Freshly grated is best for achieving that perfectly melty cheese sauce! You’ll also want about half a cup for that breadcrumb topping.
Pumpkin Purée: You’ll use a whole can so you don’t have awkward leftovers.
Milk and Cornstarch: You can use whatever milk you like! You’ll whisk it with a couple tablespoons of cornstarch to easily thicken the sauce without messing with a slurry (which just feels like needless extra work to me).
Dijon Mustard: Just a teaspoon for a hint of tangy spice.
Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Salt, and Cayenne Pepper: Spices to finish everything off and really make this dish shine.
Panko Breadcrumbs and Parmesan Cheese: The final two (crucial!) ingredients for the crispy cheesy topping.
What If I Don’t Have a Cast Iron Skillet?
Lately my cast iron skillet has been one of my favorite kitchen tools because it makes transitioning between the stove top and the oven a total breeze. I highly recommend investing in one, as there are plenty of good ones at a decent price point. However, if you don’t have one, no worries whatsoever. You can simply use a large non-stick pan and a 9×13 baking dish instead. Below are some of the key changes to watch for in the recipe:
- The Sauce: You will make the pumpkin cheese sauce in your non-stick pan rather than the cast-iron skillet.
- The Baking Dish: You’ll combine the pasta and the cheese sauce in the pan before transferring the whole thing to a prepared 9×13 baking dish. Top with the breadcrumb mixture at this time before putting it under the broiler.
- The Broiler: While the recipe recommends only broiling the pasta for two minutes (you don’t want it to burn!), it may take slightly longer. This is because your baking dish is not already hot like the cast iron skillet. Be sure to keep an eye on it throughout and remove from the oven when it’s golden brown and bubbling.
If you make the best Pumpkin Mac and Cheese ever, feel free to leave a rating, review, question, or concern. It truly makes my day to hear from you and it helps enormously with Google rankings. You can also connect with me on Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok.
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Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Large Pot
- cast iron skillet or other oven-safe skillet (or a large non-stick pan and 9×13 baking dish)
For the Breadcrumb Topping:
- 2 tbsp butter melted and slightly cooled
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs (gluten-free if needed)
- ½ cup sharp cheddar cheese freshly grated
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese grated
For the Mac and Cheese:
- 1 pound Cavatappi pasta (or your favorite pasta, gluten-free if needed)
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1¾ cup milk of choice (I have used both whole milk and unsweetened almond milk)
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 15-oz can pumpkin purée
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- ¾ tsp garlic powder
- ¾ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
- 2½ cups sharp cheddar cheese freshly grated
- Before you get busy with the other parts of the recipe, make your breadcrumb topping! Toss the breadcrumbs with the melted and slightly cooled butter until combined. Add cheddar and parmesan cheeses and give everything another toss to combine. Set to the side for now.
- Bring a well-salted pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions until just barely al dente (or still firm when bitten into).
- While pasta is cooking, make your pumpkin cheese sauce! Melt butter in a large oven-safe skillet (such as cast iron) over medium heat. Alternatively, you could use a large non-stick skillet.
- Add milk and cornstarch to a bowl or glass measuring cup and whisk until well-combined. Pour this mixture into the skillet slowly, whisking as you go so the milk doesn't scald. Whisk continually for five minutes or so until the milk thickens.
- Once sauce is thickened, fold in pumpkin purée, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, and cayenne pepper. Finally, add in cheese and continue to stir until completely melted and incorporated into the sauce.
- Carefully add drained pasta to the skillet, stir to combine, and top evenly with the breadcrumb mixture. Alternatively, transfer the pasta and cheese sauce mixture to a prepared 9×13 baking dish and top with the breadcrumb mixture.
- Place the mac and cheese under your broiler for two minutes to get that incredible breadcrumb topping is perfectly browned and the cheese sauce is bubbling. Devour!
Photography by Hope Agresti