Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

Like most kids, my boys love macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, they are a bit less enthusiastic about healthier foods. So I found a great way to sneak a vitamin-packed fruit into their favorite food. I took my recipe for baked macaroni and cheese—which I came up with by combining a few other recipes I’d found over the years—and added pumpkin to it. (Yes, pumpkin is a fruit. I was surprised, too!) And it turned out delicious!

The first time I served my new concoction, my boys gobbled up the mac and cheese like they always had. I don’t think they even noticed a difference! Bwahahahahaha—I’m so sneaky! My hubby and I could barely notice the pumpkin, either. It definitely makes the mac and cheese a bit creamier and maybe even a little sweeter. Now, we never make macaroni and cheese without it!

Here’s the recipe so you can trick—I mean, try it out on—your own kids!


1 lb. penne pasta (You can use whole-wheat penne.)
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 2/3 tbsp. flour
2 2/3 cups two-percent milk
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 1/3 cup shredded Colby/Monterey Jack cheese (You can use this blend or just Monterey Jack.)
1 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2/3 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
1/3 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 13×9-inch baking pan.

2. Cook the pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, melt 3 tbsp. of butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour.

4. Slowly whisk in the milk; cook until thick.

1 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

5. Add the pumpkin purée and mix well. Remove from heat.

2 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

3 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

6. Add cheeses, salt, and black pepper.

4 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

5 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

7. Combine the sauce with the pasta. Pour into the baking pan.

6 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

8. Melt the remaining 3 tbsp. of  butter in a saucepan and toss in the breadcrumbs.

7 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

9. Top the macaroni with the breadcrumbs.

10. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

8 Pumpkin Mac and Cheese Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese


  1. Heather says

    This is great! I try to add veggies whenever I can to my foods to make them healthier by boosting my veggie/fruit intake.
    Such perfect timing, I’ve been wanting Mac & cheese, staring at that pasta for a week and just thinking how to make a healthy version. I love adding pumpkin puree into soups, it’s great in mixed fruit smoothies, and in pasta sauce that can be too acidic for some children and adults. I never thought of pumpkin Mac & cheese.
    I’m retired and cooking for myself now tends to be a chore now and usually boring. You might not have planned this, but your site isn’t just for young families. I certainly enjoy your site very much. At 57,I can even relate to the “terrible twos” article – pretty much the same reactions but now due to menopause and some of the downsides of retirement. LOL! Yes, I know what your thinking, I never would have believed it myself, but there really are downsides.
    I look forward to your emails, they cheer me up and have great ideas! Thanks, I don’t know how you do it all!

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