Healthy Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese in Baking Dish

This healthy pumpkin mac and cheese is comforting, indulgent, and much better for you than an average mac and cheese. I made this dish for a Friendsgiving last year and knew it would become an autumn staple in my house — whether for entertaining or a cozy night in. Have it with my spinach salad with lemon dressing and parmesan and dinner is served!

You can easily prepare this dish the day before serving, completing all but the final breadcrumb-browning step. The day of, top the mac and cheese with the breadcrumbs and reheat in the oven for about twenty minutes.

Pumpkin Mac and Cheese in Small Bowl

What makes this pumpkin mac and cheese healthier?

Don’t get me wrong: this pumpkin mac and cheese is indulgent. A luscious pumpkin cheese sauce coats every bite of noodle, and the crunchy breadcrumb topping brings the dish over the top. But just a few simple swaps allow us to create a creamy dish that won’t leave you feeling completely weighed down afterward:

  • Whole wheat pasta. I used an adorable pasta shape called “chiocciole,” which translates to snails. I recommend a shape with a hole through the center (like elbows or chiocciole) to create more opportunities for cheese in every bite.
  • Olive oil roux. The base of this healthy pumpkin mac and cheese is a roux made with olive oil instead of butter.
  • Mixture of regular and reduced fat cheese. The pumpkin adds a lot of richness to the sauce, so we can afford to use some reduced fat cheese without losing flavor or texture.
Pumpkin Cheese Sauce in Pot

If you make this mac and cheese, please let me know in the comments how it turns out! Leave a comment and rating below, or find me on Instagram @a_tavola_kitchen.

Recipe adapted from Food 52’s Chipotle Pumpkin Mac and Cheese.


Healthy Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

This healthy pumpkin mac and cheese is a great dish for dinner with friends or a cozy night in. 

  • Author: A Tavola Kitchen
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American


  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a dash for breadcrumb topping
  • 2 tbsp flour (I used whole wheat, but all purpose will also work)
  • 1 cup 2% milk 
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flake
  • 1/2 tsp salt, plus more for pasta water
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper 
  • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard 
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin 
  • 1 cup reduced fat sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded 
  • 1/3 cup gouda cheese, shredded 
  • 8 oz whole wheat pasta 
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs 


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta in salted water according to package instructions, about 1 minute short of al dente. Reserve about a cup of pasta water in case you want to thin the sauce out later on.
  2. Meanwhile, begin the cheese sauce. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium-high flame. Once hot, add flour and stir constantly until raw flour smell dissipates, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  3. Remove the pot from the flame and whisk in milk. Return pot to flame and allow milk to simmer and thicken, about 1 minute. 
  4. Stir in red pepper flake, salt, pepper, and dijon mustard.
  5. Add pumpkin and cheeses, stirring all the while. Simmer until you’ve reached your desired consistency; this probably won’t take more than a few minutes.
  6. Strain pasta and mix into pot with cheese sauce. If desired, use some reserved pasta water to loosen sauce.
  7. In a small bowl, drizzle about 1 tsp of olive oil over the breadcrumbs. This will allow for more even browning. Preheat broiler.
  8. Transfer pasta mixture to a baking pan and cover generously with breadcrumbs. 
  9. Put pasta under broiler for a few minutes until the breadcrumbs are crispy and browned.


  • You can use pre-grated cheese in this recipe, but the texture won’t be as creamy. Pre-grated cheese usually contains some additives to prevent caking, which then interfere with the melting process. 
  • If serving this dish while entertaining, it’s easy to prepare the day before. Complete steps 1-6, and the day of top with breadcrumbs and heat in oven at 350 for about 15-20 minutes. You may need to turn the broiler on at the end to brown the breadcrumbs. 
  • Recipe adapted from Food 52’s Chipotle Pumpkin Mac and Cheese.
CategoriesDinner Vegetarian

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