Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

5 from 78 votes

This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is a lightened version of the recipe but with added servings of vegetables and less cheese - it's creamy and comforting!

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If you’re a mac and cheese lover but want to add a nutritional twist, let me introduce you to this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese! The stand out here is definitely the butternut squash, which blends into a creamy cheesy sauce that’s as comforting as it is nutritious. You won’t believe how well the squash’s natural sweetness plays with the traditional flavors of mac and cheese. Plus, this squash macaroni and cheese is great for sneaking in some added veggies into your kiddos diets – they won’t even notice!

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese in white bowls
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This mac and cheese with butternut squash starts with classic elbow macaroni and gets an upgrade with a blend of spices, including mustard powder and a pinch of cayenne for that extra kick. The butternut squash is cooked in vegetable broth to keep it light, and a splash of milk adds to the creamy texture. Of course, I can’t forget the cheddar cheese that pulls everything together.

Will your kids notice? Probably not! Butternut squash has a golden color that makes it a natural for blending into a sauce for mac and cheese. The flavor adds a subtle sweetness to the dish, but I think that’s a bonus.

This butternut Mac and cheese is definitely kid-approved—and you’ll love it too!

RECIPE VIDEO TUTORIAL

This recipe for butternut squash mac and cheese has been slightly modified from the video to use butter instead of oil, a little less broth, and swaps out the gruyere for cheddar cheese. Both versions work and you can follow along with similar steps!

Recipe at a glance

Cuisine Inspiration: American
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Vegetarian
Key Flavor: Cheesy and savory, with a very subtle note of sweetness
Skill Level: Intermediate

Summary

  • No Roasting: Some butternut squash mac and cheese recipes have you roast the squash first. This tacks on a lot of cooking time, and because the squash caramelizes and the flavor intensifies in the oven, it adds a lot more sweetness and squash flavor to the dish. 
  • Smooth, Cheesy Sauce: This is not one of those recipes that replaces the cheese entirely with squash! You’ll get the cheesy flavor you (and your kids) love by adding lots of shredded cheddar, which melts into the butternut squash sauce to create creamy, dreamy results.
  • Easy Enough for a Weeknight: Butternut squash macaroni and cheese might sound like the kind of recipe with a lot of steps and a long cooking time, but this dish comes together in just 30 minutes, including prep! It’s made entirely on the stovetop, with no baking needed.
  • Kid-Approved: Of course, the ultimate test is: will your kids eat it? I can’t answer that question for you, but my kids love this recipe!

Ingredients You’ll Need to make Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Bowl of fresh cut butternut squash
  • Butternut Squash: You’ll need to peel it, scoop out the seeds and pulp, then cube it. Because butternut squash is a pain to peel, sometimes I just cube the squash, then use the knife to slice off the skin.
  • Elbow Macaroni: A classic choice for macaroni and cheese! This shape is the go-to because the little holes in the middle fill up with cheese sauce, giving you maximum cheesiness in every bite. It’s also a great size for toddlers!
  • Onion + Garlic: Onion and garlic add some savory depth. A standard yellow onion is perfect here.
  • Vegetable Broth: Cooking the squash in vegetable broth instead of water adds a lot more flavor. Chicken broth is fine too if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Milk: Milk is the base of our creamy sauce. Use any kind you have in the fridge, although whole milk will give you the richest results.
  • Cheese: I recommend using an everyday kind of cheddar. While aged and extra sharp cheddars are flavorful and delicious, they don’t always melt very smoothly. 
  • Butter: Unsalted butter gives you more control over the flavor of the recipe. If you have salted butter on hand, you can use that; just dial back the added salt.
  • Seasonings: Salt, pepper, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper.
  • Make a Crispy Topping: Do you love the crispy breadcrumbs on top of baked mac and cheese? You can get that same effect with stovetop butternut mac—just toast panko breadcrumbs in a skillet with a splash of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle this mixture over each serving of butternut squash mac and cheese.
  • Add Broccoli: If your family loves broccoli mac and cheese, you can steam some fresh or frozen broccoli and fold that into the butternut squash macaroni and cheese just before serving.
  • Use Pumpkin: You can swap a pie pumpkin for the butternut squash, as the flavor is similar. 
  • Try Another Cheese: I don’t recommend swapping out all of the cheddar cheese, but you can swap out half with another variety. I’ve made this recipe with gruyere, which my family enjoyed!

How to make Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

  1. Cook the onions in a skillet with the melted butter until they’re softened.
  2. Add the butternut squash, garlic, salt, pepper, mustard powder, and cayenne pepper and cook until the garlic and spices are fragrant.
  3. Pour the vegetable broth into the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook until the butternut squash is fork tender.
  4. Blend the squash mixture with an immersion blender until a smooth, creamy sauce forms. Whisk in the milk.
  5. Add the cooked pasta and cheese.
  6. Stir until the pasta is well-coated and the cheese has melted smoothly into the sauce.

Tips for making butternut squash mac and cheese

  1. Cook pasta al dente, or one minute shy of the recommended cooking time. You want the pasta to be slightly under cooked because it’s going to continue to cook when we toss it in the warm sauce. This is especially true if you’re going to finish off the butternut squash mac and cheese in the oven before serving.
  2. Grate your own cheese for the cheese sauce. Store-bought shredded cheese has anti-caking agents which can prevent the cheese from melting efficiently and sticking together in the sauce. Since we’re using a small amount for the recipe, it’s best Also, it can sometimes have a powder residue or grainy texture from those caking agents.
  3. Use pre-cut butternut squash or frozen squash to make the recipe faster. Since we’re pureeing the butternut squash with the broth and milk, the texture and freshness doesn’t matter too much so feel free to substitute.
  4. Swap the vegetable broth for more milk. I like the combination of vegetable broth and milk for a mix of salty flavor and creamy richness. You can just use all milk, which will make it lighter in color and more creamy. Alternatively, you could just use vegetable broth to save on calories.
Final pasta recipe in the pot to show the texture

What to serve with Butternut Mac and Cheese

You can eat this mac and cheese by itself, it’s delicious and there’s extra servings of veggies in it! Or, serve it as a side dish with a main. (this can be updated)

How to store & reheat Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Store any leftover butternut squash macaroni and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium-low heat; add a splash of broth if needed to loosen the sauce. You can also reheat it covered in a baking dish in a 350ºF oven until it’s warmed through.

How long will Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese last in the fridge?

Leftovers will keep for 4 to 5 days, but they’re best on the first day.

Can i freeze Mac and Cheese With Butternut Squash?

You can freeze squash mac and cheese in an airtight container or tightly covered casserole dish. Let it thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat according to the instructions above.

Frequently asked questions

How do you make butternut squash mac and cheese vegan?

To make it vegan, I would recommend using unsweetened non-dairy milk and adding nutritional yeast to the sauce instead of the shredded cheese. If you know of a good quality vegan cheese that melts well, you can also swap that in.

Can I bake this butternut mac and cheese?

Unless you’re adding a breadcrumb topping I do not recommend baking the uncooked macaroni in the sauce. The noodles will not cook properly and you’ll end up with some over done, and some under done. For the breadcrumb topping, bake at 350ºF, until golden brown about 10 to 15 minutes or just give place it under the broiler for a minute or two. I wouldn’t recommend a long baking time, as the sauce will start to thicken—just bake long enough for the topping to turn golden.

Can I use another pasta shape?

Yes! Any pasta shape you like for macaroni and cheese will work for mac and cheese with butternut squash. Shells and rotini are two classic choices, and orecchiette is also great.

Two mug bowls of the butternut mac and cheese

If you’re skeptical about adding butternut squash to your mac and cheese, just know that when pureed, butternut squash adds and incredible creaminess to the pasta. And that means that you don’t need as much cheese in the recipe. This is a great way to lighten up the dish without missing out on the flavor or comfort factor.

For more squash recipes

If you’ve tried this feel good Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!

This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese recipe was published on November 7, 2019. It has been updated with new photos and a slightly modified recipe using 2 cups of cheddar cheese instead of gruyere and a little less broth.

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is a lightened version of the recipe but with added servings of vegetables and less cheese – it's creamy and comforting!
5 from 78 votes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 395
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
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Video

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 3-4 cups butternut squash peeled and cubed
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus more for salting pasta
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente.
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, 5 minutes.
  • Add the butternut squash, garlic, salt, pepper, mustard powder and cayenne pepper, and cook until the mixture is fragrant, 5 more minutes.
  • Add the vegetable broth to the skillet, bring to a boil and cook until the butternut squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Blend all the ingredients using a hand immersion blender until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Then whisk in the milk until well combined.
  • Fold the cooked pasta and shredded cheese into the pureed sauce and stir to combine.

Notes

This recipe has been updated to use extra cheddar cheese instead of gruyere.
Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 4-5 days in the fridge, but the consistency is best on the first day. 
Freezing Instructions: You can freeze mac and cheese by placing it in a casserole dish and covering it with foil or placing into a freezer safe container. Thaw it in the fridge before reheating in the oven.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.
  • To make it gluten-free, you can use any gluten-free pasta of your choice.
  • Use other types of cheese in place of cheddar if you’d prefer.

Nutrition

Calories: 395kcal, Carbohydrates: 42g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 4g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 53mg, Sodium: 491mg, Potassium: 445mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 8019IU, Vitamin C: 16mg, Calcium: 364mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine American

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Comments

  1. Ivonne R McDonald says:

    Squash is not my favorite vegetable; however, I made this recipe and loved it! I added some yellow mustard and used low-sodium chicken broth. It was delicious! Thank you for such a tasty dish. Now I can enjoy squash!

    1. Yumna says:

      Yay, so happy you found a way to enjoy seasonal squash!

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