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Butternut squash mac and cheese is tender macaroni in a velvety, creamy, butternut squash cheese sauce baked with crispy Panko topping. It's the perfect side or entree for cool-weather dinners.
Why you'll love this recipe
- This creamy, dreamy entree comes with nutritious benefits from the butternut squash.
- This winter squash is available most of the year, fresh or frozen.
- It's a crowd-pleaser for family dinners and holiday meals.
- This easy recipe is suited for any cooking level.
- It can be served as a main dish or side. It pairs well with baked spiral ham, juicy New York strip steak, turkey sloppy joes, and roasted holiday turkey breast.
Butternut squash mac and cheese is a nutritious spin on a popular comfort food. The velvety cheese sauce tastes rich and indulgent, yet half its volume is actually butternut squash, meaning there is less dairy, which means less fat and more nutrients than your classic mac and cheese.
- Butternut squash - This key ingredient adds nutty flavor, velvety texture, volume, and nutrients to mac and cheese.
- Dried pasta - I recommend using sturdy pasta such as elbow macaroni or, as you'll see in my photos, I'm partial to cavatappi for this recipe.
- Water and salt - You'll need these to cook the butternut squash and the dried pasta.
- Butter - Fat is required to make a roux for cheese sauce. Oil can be used in place of butter.
- All-purpose flour - This helps thicken the base for the cheese sauce.
- Milk - This builds the roux into a bechamel, establishing the cheese sauce's structure.
- Monterey jack cheese - The fat and moisture content makes this cheese velvety and easy to melt. Use your favorite cheese or cheese blend.
- Grated Parmesan cheese - Adds a rich flavor and helps thicken the sauce for mac and cheese.
- Black pepper - Adds depth of flavor. White pepper can also be used.
- Nutmeg - A classic spice for flavoring mac and cheese.
- Salt - Add to taste (you may not need any).
- panko bread crumbs + oil - When baked, this creates a crispy texture on the mac and cheese surface for the perfect texture contrast.
How to make butternut squash mac and cheese
Enjoy these step-by-step instructions and get the full, printable recipe below.
Step 1. Boil butternut squash in salted water until fork-tender and transfer out of pot. Boil pasta in the same water until al dente, then drain. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2. Return the saucepan to the stove with a medium-heat setting. Melt butter. Add flour and whisk for 1 minute. Add splashes of milk and whisk continuously until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Step 3. Add both cheeses and whisk until smooth.
Step 4. Add cooked squash to the cheese sauce and blend until smooth and creamy. Add black pepper, nutmeg, and add salt to taste.
Step 5. Fold in cooked macaroni. Transfer to prepared baking dish and top with oil-tossed panko.
Step 6. Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and top begins to brown. Switch the oven to broiler mode to brown the surface. Cool mac and cheese at room temperature for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley and serve warm.
Recipe tips for success
- Save time by using pre-cut, fresh butternut squash or frozen packaged squash (use package directions for cooking time).
- I find the stick blender most convenient for this recipe, but any heat-safe blender will work. Alternatively, use a potato masher to mash squash before adding it to the sauce.
- To make ahead, follow the recipe up to assembly. Then, cover and refrigerate the mac and cheese for up to 24 hours. Rest the dish at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking to prevent thermal shock and resume baking instructions.
- When doubling this recipe, use a 13 x 9 casserole dish.
- I kept the flavors classic, simple, and kid-friendly for this recipe. So, feel free to add sauteed onions or seasonings such as garlic, paprika, Cajun seasoning, etc. Crispy bacon adds savoriness and flavor depth.
- Use any shredded cheese, such as mozzarella, provolone, Gruyere, Swiss, white cheddar, or any combination thereof.
- Turn this into a 30-minute recipe by skipping the baking step and serving butternut squash mac and cheese right off the stove!
- Fried sage is a lovely garnish for this entree. Make it by heating two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry ten sage leaves until crispy. Cool on a paper towel and scatter over the entree.
Easy side dish recipes
- Sauteed Green Beans
- Easy Green Bean Casserole
- Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted Mushroom Recipe
- Baked Asparagus Recipe
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1 pound Butternut Squash peeled and cubed (3 cups)
- 8 ounces Elbow Macaroni (uncooked) I used Cavatappi
- 4 cups Water for boiling pasta + ½ tsp Salt
- 3 tablespoons Butter
- 3 tablespoons All Purpose Flour
- 1 ½ cups Milk
- ⅛ teaspoon Black Pepper
- pinch Nutmeg
- 4 ounces Monterey Jack Cheese shredded (1 cup)
- ¼ cup Grated Parmesan
- Salt to taste
- ¼ cup Panko Bread Crumbs + 1 teaspoon oil combined
- Parsley chopped
- Coat baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- Bring salted WATER to a boil on high heat. Boil BUTTERNUT SQUASH 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. Use a skimmer to transfer squash into colander.
- Add PASTA to the boiling water and cook to al dente (firm) texture because it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Return saucepan to stove with medium-heat setting.
- Add BUTTER to saucepan and melt. Add FLOUR and whisk for 1 minute.
- To this, add splashes of MILK, whisking continuously until flour is absorbed. This mixture should be smooth and creamy.
- Add SHREDDED CHEESE and PARMESAN. Whisk until smooth.
- Add cooked SQUASH to cheese sauce. Use a stick blender to puree until smooth. *see recipe footnote about blending options.
- Season with BLACK PEPPER and NUTMEG. Add SALT, to taste.
- Combine cooked PASTA with cheese sauce and transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle PANKO evenly over the surface.
- Bake uncovered 25 minutes, or until sauce is bubbly and top begins to brown. Switch oven to broiler mode to brown the surface.
- Cool at room temperature for 10 minutes. Garnish and serve warm.
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