Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
This incredibly creamy and smoky Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with sausage and peas is a fall twist on a childhood favorite that’s cooked on the stovetop, meaning it’s quick and easy for a weeknight dinner.
But have you considered eating pumpkin for dinner?
Sometimes when I do small batch baking, I often have leftover canned pumpkin. Sometimes I don’t want to bake another dessert.
In those cases, I make this Pumpkin Mac and Cheese for dinner.
It’s a creamy, smoky mac and cheese that warms you up on a chilly autumn evening. By adding pumpkin, it helps make the homemade cheese sauce even creamier.
There’s paprika that adds an extra layer of flavor with its smokiness and spice plus it keeps the pumpkin from getting too sweet, so don’t leave that out!
Then there’s chicken sausage for some protein and peas for some freshness.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, this macaroni and cheese with pumpkin is all made on the stovetop, meaning it’s fast and ready for an easy weeknight dinner.
Ingredients For Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
To make your macaroni and cheese with pumpkin, you’ll need the following ingredients:
- Pasta: I love using small shells, but you can also use elbow macaroni or penne.
- Butter: The fat used to fry plus the base of your roux (flour paste) to thicken your sauce.
- Sausage: I used precooked chicken sausage as a slightly healthier option, but you can use any precooked sausage you’d like.
- Onion and garlic: Aromatics to flavor the base of your pumpkin sauce
- Flour: Part of the roux that thickens your sauce
- Paprika: Adds a layer of smokiness and cuts through the sweetness of the pumpkin, making your mac and cheese taste more like dinner than dessert
- Salt: Used to season both the pasta water and the sauce
- Milk: Helps make a creamy sauce. I highly recommend using whole milk because the more fat you use, the creamier it’ll be. Using low fat or skim milk will lead to a lackluster sauce.
- Cheddar cheese: Cheddar and pumpkin are a classic pairing as you can see with my pumpkin mashed potatoes
- Canned pumpkin puree: Make sure the can says pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie filling.
- Peas: You can add frozen peas straight from the bag. It won’t take long to heat them up.
Is this pumpkin mac and cheese recipe vegetarian?
For a vegetarian pumpkin mac and cheese, omit the sausage and add mushrooms to bulk it back up.
How To Make Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
To make your stovetop mac and cheese:
- Cook pasta in boiling water as directed on the package until al dente.
- Melt the butter then cook the sausage and onion in a large skillet until the onion has softened. Add the garlic.
- Stir in the flour to coat then slowly whisk in the milk. Add paprika and salt then bring to a boil. Cook until it starts to thicken.
- Whisk in the cheese until melted then whisk in the pumpkin and peas. Add cooked pasta.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese FAQ
The longer the sauce cooks, the thicker it’ll get so if it gets too thick, stir in more milk to thin it out.
Sometimes if your cheese gets too hot while melting it separates and curdles, resulting in a grainy and broken sauce. That’s why I like to remove my pan from the heat before stirring in the cheese. The residual heat is still strong enough to melt it.
If this happens to you, let your sauce cool down then add a splash of lemon juice or milk then vigorously whisk until smooth again.
If this still doesn’t work, you can trying using an immersion blender to smooth it back out.
Yes! Let your food cool down completely first then transfer it to a freezer bag or a freezer-safe container.
To reheat, thaw it overnight in the fridge then either add it to a saucepan or a microwave safe bowl. It should be creamy enough, but if needed add some milk to help thin it back out.
More Mac and Cheese Recipes
Craving more stovetop mac and cheese? Check out these pasta recipes:
- 8 ounces uncooked shell pasta
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup diced precooked chicken sausage
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (preferably kosher)
- 1 cup whole milk, room temperature
- 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese, room temperature
- 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1 cup frozen peas
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add a big handful of salt then add pasta. Cook as directed on the package until al dente, about 10-12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt the butter. Add the sausage, onion, and a big pinch of salt. Cook until onion has softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in the flour to coat and cook 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk then add paprika and salt. Bring to a boil and cook until it starts to thicken, about 3-5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat then whisk in the cheese until melted then whisk in the pumpkin and peas. The longer the sauce cooks, the thicker it'll get so if it gets too thick, stir in more milk to thin it out.
- Once everything is ready, add the pasta to the sauce and stir to coat.
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.