Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is brought to you by the double fist pump.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

  • Sneaking in your cocktail order just before Happy Hour ends: Double fist pump.
  • The cute shoes on clearance are actually your size: Double fist pump.
  • Your favorite dance tune is on the radio when you turn on the car: Double fist pump.
  • The outrageously decadent pasta you’re shoveling in your face turns out to be good for you: QUADRUPLE FIST PUMP!

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is creamy, dreamy, cheesy pasta love, gone deceptively light.  While I can’t promote Pumpkin Mac and Cheese as a health food per se, you will be hard pressed to find another healthy mac and cheese recipe that tastes this rich, while actually being reasonably good for you. We owe this double fist pump-worthy miracle to two super ingredients: pumpkin puree and my favorite healthy cooking weapon, Greek yogurt.

The pumpkin puree and the Greek yogurt add guilt-free depth and body to the sauce. Fear not, cheese still represents—surely you know this Wisconsin resident well enough to realize I would never deny you cheese. Extra-sharp cheddar and Parmesan bring big cheese taste, but a little of these two flavor-jammers goes a long way. When the gooey cheddar melts with the creamy pumpkin sauce, the pumpkin flavor mellows and the cheddar steals the spotlight. This is macaroni and cheese afterall. All is well with the world.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

We enhance our luscious pumpkin cheddar sauce with a touch of nutmeg to complement the pumpkin’s natural flavors, as well as a subtle kick of cayenne and dry mustard, just to keep everyone awake.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Now, we could leave our velvety Pumpkin Mac and Cheese as is and live happily ever after, but mac and cheese is meant to be comfort food. Enter crispy bacon and caramelized onions to add an extra layer of flavor and richness. Plus, adding caramelized onions to anything renders it instantly appropriate to serve at a fancy dinner party.

Do serve Pumpkin Mac and Cheese at your next fancy dinner party. A fancy dinner party with Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is wayyyyy more fun than a fancy dinner party without it. Just ask anyone—they’ll agree. You are about to be the Hostess of the Year.

Now, let’s talk topping. No self-respecting baked mac and cheese dish would be complete without that gloriously golden Parmesan breadcrumb crust. At our apartment, I insist on being the one to dish out the Pumpkin Mac and Cheese, because I relish that first moment of crashing the serving spoon through the wondrous breadcrumb crust  to reach the creamy, saucy noodles underneath.
Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Plus, when I serve Pumpkin Mac and Cheese, I can strategically sneak any excess topping onto my own plate. I call this the “cook’s privilege.”  (The cook’s privilege logic also applies to brownie batter that’s left on the beaters, excess frosting, and the largest slice of pie.)

Dive right on into a big bowl of velvety Pumpkin Mac and Cheese. Be sure to sneak yourself an extra scoop of the crusty golden topping, and set your fork down for one reason only: to give the double fist pump!

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions and Bacon is comfort food light, done right. With Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree, and extra sharp cheddar, this baked pasta dish tastes completely creamy and indulgent, yet is still reasonably healthy. With a crunchy Parmesan breadcrumb topping, this baked macaroni and cheese is total perfection!

Yield: Serves 4-6

Prep Time: 35 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes


  • 4 ounces bacon (4-5 pieces)
  • 3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups yellow onion, thinly sliced (about 1 large)
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups nonfat milk
  • 1 cup low-sodium canned chicken stock (if homemade, skim off fat)
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 13 ounces whole wheat elbow macaroni (or other short pasta such as penne or rigatoni)
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1/3 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt (I use Chobani)
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup), divided
  • 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs


  1. Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Arrange bacon slices in a single layer on a flat oven-proof rack, then set the rack atop the prepared baking sheet. Bake bacon for 20 minutes, until crispy. Once cooked, set bacon between two paper towels and pat dry. Once cool enough to handle, chop into rough pieces and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium high. Add onions and sautee just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low and continue to cook onions until caramelized and tender, stirring occasionally. Let the onions cook for at least 10 additional minutes, or up to 30 minutes as you prepare the rest of the recipe.
  3. In a deep, wide saucepan, combine pumpkin, stock, and milk, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in mustard, salt, pepper nutmeg, and cayenne.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and 1 tablespoon kosher salt, then cook just until al dente according to package instructions. Drain, then transfer noodles to a large bowl. Pour pumpkin sauce over the top, then stir in the cheddar, Greek yogurt, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Fold in all of the caramelized onions and reserved bacon.
  5. Lightly coat a 9-inch square, deep baking dish or a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Transfer the pumpkin noodle mixture to dish. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the noodles. Cover dish with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until lightly browned and crisp on top, 30 to 35 minutes more. Serve immediately.

95 Responses to “Pumpkin Mac and Cheese”

  1. Liz @ The Lemon Bowl — October 31, 2013 @ 7:13 am (#)

    Fist pumps all around!

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 10:19 am

      Oh yeah!!!!! I know you are a lady who can appreciate a good fist pump :) PS. I wish we were neighbors so I could bring you an entire dish of this once you have your little lemon!

  2. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health — October 31, 2013 @ 7:54 am (#)

    pumpkin sauce with pasta is a big part of my diet lately – need to try this mac n cheese version..

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 10:18 am

      Pasta pumpkin sauce is just the bees knees! I’m already planning to make more this week. I need to check your recipe files :)

  3. steph@stephsbitebybite — October 31, 2013 @ 8:03 am (#)

    YES!!! Oh man I’ll be fist pumpkin all the way to the last bite

  4. Rachel (@rachelcooksblog) — October 31, 2013 @ 8:07 am (#)

    I need to make this, yesterday.

  5. Ali @ Inspiralized — October 31, 2013 @ 8:33 am (#)

    I can practically smell this cooking! Yummy – happy halloween!

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 10:17 am

      And now I can smell it cooking at your suggestion Ali. Craving pumpkin mac n cheese at 10 am? Check.

  6. Tieghan — October 31, 2013 @ 8:34 am (#)

    Oh i want this!!! Our heat is broken and if is freezing and snowing and all I want it cheesy comfort!

  7. Ashley - Baker by Nature — October 31, 2013 @ 8:36 am (#)

    Major fist pump to you for this one, sister!!!

  8. Meghan @ The Tasty Fork — October 31, 2013 @ 9:00 am (#)

    Oh, so now you’re testing my will power!! This will be back on my list of recipes to make when I introduce healthy carbs back into my diet!! Pinned to my Fun Foods Board. YUM!!

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 10:17 am

      Thanks Meghan! If you do need a moment of carb reprieve, this mac and cheese is totally the way to go (sorry to tempt you!)

  9. Nancy P.@thebittersideofsweet — October 31, 2013 @ 9:01 am (#)

    I am currently obsessed mac and cheese! But this has pumpkin in it! Oh my!! Need to try!!

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 12:31 am

      Nancy, if you are a mac n cheese lover, this dish was made for you. Thanks so much!

  10. Heather Disarro (@heathersdish) — October 31, 2013 @ 9:16 am (#)

    So. What time shall I come over for dinner? ;)

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 12:30 am

      Heather, you are ALWAYS invited. We usually eat around 8…I just can’t get myself organized any earlier, lol

  11. Natalie @ Tastes Lovely — October 31, 2013 @ 10:30 am (#)

    Oh my gosh! Just last night I made macaroni and cheese and was thinking, I wonder if this would be good if you added pumpkin? And you made it! How did you read my mind?

    I love using greek yogurt too, makes it much healthier. Great idea. The one I made last night may or may not have had 5 cups whole milk & 4 cups of shredded cheese in it. Whoops! : )

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 12:31 am

      Natalie, I think you + pumpkin mac n cheese are meant to be! PS: “5 cups whole milk & 4 cups of shredded cheese” <—I bet it tasted outrageous! holy cow.

  12. DessertForTwo — October 31, 2013 @ 10:38 am (#)

    Did you, perhaps, use Ohio cheese for this? ;)

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 12:30 am

      Girllll, you know me too well! :)

  13. Megan {Country Cleaver} — October 31, 2013 @ 10:49 am (#)

    Girl friend this is definitely double fist pump worthy!!

  14. Tina @ Tina's Chic Corner — October 31, 2013 @ 11:24 am (#)

    Lol…double fist pump…that’s awesome.
    I love anything having to do with mac and cheese and this is a perfect rendition this time of year. Yummmmm!

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 12:29 am

      Thanks so much Tina! Let’s double fist pump our way to a third serving, shall we?

  15. Courtney — October 31, 2013 @ 11:35 am (#)

    Finding shoes on clearance that are your size truly is an occasion for a double fist pump? Also, cheesy comfort food that I can call healthy (ish) AND serve at dinner parties! High fives all around.

  16. consuelohoneyandfigs — October 31, 2013 @ 11:35 am (#)

    I love how you used greek yougrt to lighten this up and it still looks mouth-watering! This sounds amazing and I wish it was my dinner tonight.
    Ooooh and if there’s anythng that I love more than mac & cheese, it’s definitely the cook’s privilege, duh. I love to lick the beaters ;)

  17. happyvalleychow — October 31, 2013 @ 12:03 pm (#)

    What an awesome recipe! Definitely want to try this, sooo creative :)

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

  18. Janet — October 31, 2013 @ 1:47 pm (#)

    I made homemade Pumpkin Spice Creamer the other day and I have some pumpkin left so I was going to throw it in some mac-n-cheese. Great minds think alike(Or so they say)

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 12:28 am

      Great minds DO think alike Janet! And homemade pumpkin spice creamer?? That sounds just fabulous! Love the idea of something made from scratch vs. the store bought alternative. I’m definitely going to need to find a recipe and try it out myself.

  19. Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry — October 31, 2013 @ 2:06 pm (#)

    I am glad you told about cooks privilege because i want third and fourths of that crunchy topping.

  20. Kelli @ The Corner Kitchen — October 31, 2013 @ 3:13 pm (#)

    Oh man, I’ve been thinking about pumpkin mac & cheese for weeks! And, now it’s right here in front of me….and happening in my kitchen a-sap!

  21. Nora (Buttercream Fanatic) — October 31, 2013 @ 4:26 pm (#)

    Thanks for lightening up one of my favorite dishes, with such a festive seasonal flavor! I’ll fist bump to that!

  22. shashi @ http://runninsrilankan.com — October 31, 2013 @ 6:37 pm (#)

    This is definitely a very elegant, lighter version of Mac N Cheese – beautiful idea for a dinner party – thanks for sharing Erin

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 12:26 am

      Why thank YOU for commenting. And if you throw a party and serve mac and cheese, I so want to be there!

  23. Luv What You Do — October 31, 2013 @ 10:09 pm (#)

    Oh yum! This looks delish!

  24. Angie@Angie's Recipes — October 31, 2013 @ 11:29 pm (#)

    Mac and cheese…an ultimate comfort food. This is perfect for the season.

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 12:25 am

      Thanks so much Angie!! I couldn’t agree more :)

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  26. tanya — November 1, 2013 @ 8:07 am (#)

    I am all for the “cook’s privilege”! I’d be taking extra topping too…and probably an extra serving the mac and cheese as well. This is awesome Erin!

  27. Jessica @ A Kitchen Addiction — November 1, 2013 @ 9:10 am (#)

    Amazing! This is my kind of comfort food!

  28. Katie from Katie's Cucina — November 1, 2013 @ 10:32 am (#)

    yum and a double fist pump all the way for this recipe! I love pumpkin everything :)

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 11:24 am

      Me too Katie! I’m still waiting to get tired of it…but then I picked up two more cans at the store this morning. Love live the squash love!

  29. Taylor @ greens & chocolate — November 1, 2013 @ 1:10 pm (#)

    Yessss! Love this, and love fist pumping! (almost wrote pumpkin instead of pumping…obviously I have a pumpkin problem)

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

      Nothin’ wrong with a little pumpkin on the brain. I almost did the same thing writing this post!

  30. Sarah — November 1, 2013 @ 2:49 pm (#)

    ummm, yes please! i love pumpkin. and mac. and cheese! delish!

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 4:23 pm

      Sounds like this mac has your name all over it! Thanks Sarah!

  31. Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough — November 1, 2013 @ 3:28 pm (#)

    I want the quadruple fist pumps in mah belly!

    Wait, that’s not right.

    I want all the pumpkin mac and cheese in mah belly!

    • Erin Clarke — November 1st, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

      Let’s get mac and cheese in the bellies and fist pumps in the air! <–Probably one of the weirdest sentences I’ve ever written. Love it.

  32. Marie @ Not Enough Cinnamon.com — November 2, 2013 @ 2:13 am (#)

    Greek yogurt is definitely your best ally when trying to cook a bit lighter. This mac and cheese looks sooo yummy Erin!

    • Erin Clarke — November 2nd, 2013 @ 12:38 pm

      Totally agree! Thanks so much Marie. Have a great weekend!

  33. Aimee @ ShugarySweets — November 2, 2013 @ 1:18 pm (#)

    Double fist pump indeed!

    • Erin Clarke — November 3rd, 2013 @ 11:57 am

      Thanks Aimee! I’m still all about the cheese :)

  34. Christy @ My Invisible Crown — November 2, 2013 @ 4:07 pm (#)

    I love pasta like everyone else on the planet and adding pumpkin (another killer ingredient) is genius!

    • Erin Clarke — November 3rd, 2013 @ 11:58 am

      Thanks Christy! I seem to be tossing pumpkin into just about everything these days, and this mac and cheese has been one of my favorites to date.

  35. Mary Frances @ The Sweet {Tooth} Life — November 2, 2013 @ 9:35 pm (#)

    I love it when clearance shoes fit me ;) And I also love it when pasta is healthy!! Pinning this, it looks and sounds amazing! Creamy comfort food is the best in cold weather!

    • Erin Clarke — November 3rd, 2013 @ 11:55 am

      Isn’t just the best?? Thanks Mary Frances, and I totally agree on the cold weather comfort food. When winter hits, creamy comfort is my recipe for happiness :)

  36. Monet — November 2, 2013 @ 10:15 pm (#)

    Now this is an inventive pumpkin recipe! I love mac and cheese and I love pumpkin. Clearly, you made this for me :)

    • Erin Clarke — November 3rd, 2013 @ 11:54 am

      How did you know Monet?? ;-)

  37. laurasmess — November 3, 2013 @ 12:05 am (#)

    Oh YUM. I don’t actually make mac and cheese (it’s not really an Australian thing) but Aaron loves it so I might swing him your recipe! I think his favourite at the moment has bacon in it, just with a normal cheese sauce… but he loves pumpkin so he’d swoon at the recipe with bacon PLUS pumpkin!! Genius! Thanks E xxx

    • Erin Clarke — November 3rd, 2013 @ 11:54 am

      Thank YOU Laura! I think any mac and cheese lover would enjoy this cheesy baked goodness, especially with the bacon too :)

  38. Chocolate Shavings — November 3, 2013 @ 4:54 pm (#)

    This is right up my alley for the colder months — and love the colour too!

    • Erin Clarke — November 4th, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

      Thanks so much! Creamy pasta is my weapon again chilly winter weather.

  39. Stephie @ Eat Your Heart Out — November 3, 2013 @ 8:52 pm (#)

    Cook’s privilege also applies to the center piece of cornbread (growing up, my mom cooked her cornbread in a square cast iron skillet, so she always got the middle piece with no edges). (That was going to be a better story than it ended up being.)

    Do cook’s privileges also mean you can hog this all to yourself if you want?

    • Erin Clarke — November 4th, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

      Stephie, I like your mom’s style. I’m totally doing that to my kids.
      And if you are the cook, I say munch to your heart’s content!

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  41. Mandie — November 7, 2013 @ 3:46 pm (#)

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. Everyone loved it! Thanks for the great recipe.

    • Erin Clarke — November 7th, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

      Mandie, I am soooo excited that you like this recipe! Hearing from readers who enjoy what I post makes my day, so I really appreciate your sharing your review. Thanks so much!!

      • Kevin — October 23rd, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

        Made this tonight except with light cream instead of milk. I also added browned ground turkey so I didn’t have to cook anything else and almost doubled the sauce. Pretty awesome casserole type thing. Thanks for the recipe. I never would’ve thought to use pumpkin and the kids loved it

        • Erin Clarke — October 23rd, 2014 @ 9:15 pm

          Hi Kevin, I’m so happy to hear that you and your family enjoyed this mac and cheese! Thanks so much for taking time to let me know how it turned out, and the ground turkey is a great idea. Enjoy the leftovers too :)

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  52. Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward — March 20, 2014 @ 2:24 pm (#)

    I am making this tonight, with extra crispy topping (to keep the peace!).

    • Erin Clarke — March 20th, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

      I 1,000% support extra topping Shanna!!! Hope you guys loved it. Thanks so much for trying the recipe!

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  55. Natalie @ Obsessive Cooking Disorder — September 13, 2014 @ 1:42 pm (#)

    yum. I’m craving savory pumpkin recipes

    • Erin Clarke — September 14th, 2014 @ 7:12 pm

      Sweet or savory, I am a pumpkin lover and will take them all! Thanks so much Natalie!

  56. Jonna Bollenbacher — October 13, 2014 @ 11:37 pm (#)

    Made this today for seven people and they all loved it! The best part is that there is some left for tomorrow. thank you so much for this yummy recipe.

    • Erin Clarke — October 14th, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

      Jonna, I am so SO excited to hear that! Thanks so much for letting me know, and I hope you enjoy the leftovers too :)

  57. Tony — October 24, 2014 @ 9:19 am (#)

    I can’t wait to make this for tonight’s dinner. I love that the recipe has bacon in it. There’s nothing that can’t be made better with the addition of bacon. I will also use 4 Italian Cheese Cheez-It’s in place of the panko crumbs. There’s no such thing as too cheesy.

  58. rebecca — October 26, 2014 @ 7:19 am (#)

    I made this for a fall harvest party that we had two weeks ago. It was such a success that I made it again last night for family dinner. Now my mother-in-law says that I will have to bring it to Thanksgiving dinner. You don’t taste the pumpkin, it is just rich and creamy. My husband couldn’t believe it as he was originally adamant about not wanting pumpkin in his mac and cheese. It is amazing, thank you so much for the wonderful recipe.

    • Erin Clarke — October 26th, 2014 @ 10:49 pm

      Rebecca, I can’t tell you how happy this comment makes me! I would be honored if this dish became a part of your Thanksgiving dinner, and I’m so glad that you and your family enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know, and have a great day!

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