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This creamy, dreamy butternut squash mac and cheese is so tasty! It boasts less cheese and more fiber and vitamins than the standard.

Butternut squash mac and cheese
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Welcome to our new favorite way to use butternut squash in a recipe. Butternut squash mac and cheese! Why add this mighty squash to your favorite pasta? Well, three reasons. The first is simply to have an excuse to use this fall ingredient in your kitchen! Butternut squash also lets you use less cheese and adds fiber to this traditionally starchy dish. But most of all…it’s just delicious. The squash gives the cheese sauce a sweet undertone and makes it extraordinarily creamy. Ready to get started?

Ingredients in butternut squash mac and cheese

First things first: this butternut squash mac and cheese has cheese in it. Yep, it’s designed as a way to use less cheese: not no cheese altogether. If you’re looking for a vegan mac and cheese, head to our Vegan Green Chili Mac we wrote for Washington Post! It’s incredibly tasty. But if you’re on board for the less cheese, more fiber version: let’s go! Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Butternut squash: Fresh is best: because it has the best flavor and texture!
  • Pasta: Any short shape works!
  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable broth
  • Spices: chili powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper
  • Milk
  • Cheese: there are a few different options: see below!
Butternut squash mac and cheese

3 advantages to making butternut squash mac and cheese!

What do you get when you add butternut squash to mac and cheese? So much goodness! Here are the particulars on this butternut squash mac and cheese:

  • Reduces the standard recipe by over 1000 calories! Compared to a standard homemade mac and cheese, this recipe removes half the cheese, all the butter and flour, and 1 cup of the milk. That’s a savings of over 1000 calories (or 125 calories per serving for 8 servings).
  • Adds fiber. 1 cup of butternut squash has 7 grams fiber (source), so each serving has about 12% of your daily need.
  • Adds Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and other vitamins. 1 cup of butternut squash has 457% of your daily Vitamin A and 52% of your daily value of Vitamin C (source). You get half that in each serving of this butternut squash mac and cheese!

How to cut butternut squash: some tips!

Now, we know: cutting a butternut squash can be daunting. It is for us too! But over the years, we’ve developed some best practices that make it much less painful. Here are a few tips for how to cut the squash for this butternut squash mac and cheese:

  1. Watch the video: First, watch this quick video of How to Cut Butternut Squash.
  2. Use a serrated peeler: A serrated blade makes it easier to peel the tough skin than a normal vegetable peeler, which easily slips. Here’s the serrated vegetable peeler we use.
  3. Cut off the neck and chop it separately from the base: Don’t cut the entire squash together. Chop off the neck, then peel it and chop into squares! Do the same for the base. 
Roasted butternut squash

Can you substitute frozen butternut squash in mac and cheese?

Technically yes, but we don’t recommend it. You can use 4 cups frozen butternut squash in this recipe instead of fresh. However, fresh such better flavor that we don’t recommend frozen. Here’s what to know:

  • The flavor is much better with fresh. When it comes to fresh vs frozen squash: fresh is better every time. Frozen is not nearly as flavorful: but it does work in a pinch!
  • Make these changes with frozen if you must: Use only 1 ½ cups veggie broth for simmering and simmer for 5 minutes until the squash is tender. Omit the milk. Add additional kosher salt to taste. But instead of frozen butternut squash, we recommend this…

Meal prep tip: peel and dice the squash in advance!

If you do want to speed up this recipe: don’t use frozen squash. Simply peel and dice the butternut squash in advance! You can place it in a sealed container and refrigerate until you make the recipe, 2 to 3 days. It makes the recipe so much easier!

What cheese to use

There are lots of options for the cheese in this butternut squash mac and cheese! Here are a few options, in order of our preference:

  • Smoked gouda. It’s unique, but it adds a smoky nuance to the flavor and makes it taste completely irresistible.
  • Sharp cheddar. This one is the classic mac and cheese choice. It’s always tasty and you can combine it with the two cheeses below.
  • Monterey jack (with cheddar): Monterey jack is a great choice to mix with cheddar: it adds just the right cozy comfort food vibe. Go half cheddar and half Monterey jack.
Butternut squash mac and cheese

Variation: make it gluten free!

Another plus for butternut squash mac and cheese: it’s easy to make gluten free. Many mac and cheese recipes use flour and butter to make a roux, a way to thicken a cheese sauce. It makes for a lusciously creamy sauce, but it does have flour. This recipe is simple to make gluten free with a simple swap of pasta. You can use:

  • Gluten free pasta made with gluten-free flour
  • Legume pasta made with lentil or chickpea flour. This type of pasta alternative is becoming easy to find at your local grocery.

Ways to serve with butternut squash mac and cheese

Make the pasta, make the sauce, and bam: you’ve got a delicious and healthy dinner idea! How to round out the meal? We’d suggest adding a quick and easy vegetable to add even more fiber and nutrients. Some serving suggestions for butternut squash mac and cheese:

Butternut squash mac and cheese

This butternut squash mac and cheese recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten free pasta or legume pasta.

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Butternut squash mac and cheese

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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5 from 1 review

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 as a main, 10 to 12 as a side 1x
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This creamy, dreamy butternut squash mac and cheese is so tasty! It boasts less cheese and more fiber and vitamins than the standard.


  • 1 pound small pasta shells* (gluten free or legume pasta as desired)
  • 4 cups peeled and diced butternut squash** (about 1 medium squash: not frozen!)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
  • 2 cups vegetable broth 
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup 2% milk
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded smoked gouda cheese (or sharp cheddar cheese, or equal parts cheddar and Monterrey Jack)
  • Seasoned Italian breadcrumbs or plain breadcrumbs, optional


  1. Prep the squash and garlic: Peel and dice the butternut squash. Mince the garlic.
  2. Cook the pasta: Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente. Start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes. Drain the pasta. (If it finishes before the sauce, add it back to the pot with a drizzle of olive oil so it doesn’t stick.)
  3. Make the sauce: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat; add the garlic and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, or just until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Carefully add the squash and vegetable broth to the skillet and stir to fully combine. Add the chili powder, nutmeg, kosher salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Cover and bring it to a high simmer, bubbling constantly, then cook 20 minutes until the squash is tender. 
  4. Blend the sauce: Carefully add the squash and all liquid to a blender. Add the milk and blend until smooth. Pour the sauce back into the pot. Stir in the shredded cheese and stir with a spoon until it is melted (gently heat it over low heat if it doesn’t melt right away). Taste and add additional salt as desired.
  5. Serve: Pour the sauce onto the pasta. Taste and add a few more pinches salt as necessary. Serve immediately, sprinkled with breadcrumbs if desired.


*We like making half the pasta (8 ounces) and saving half the sauce for later to make with fresh pasta.

**Using frozen squash is not nearly as flavorful. To save prep time, peel and dice the squash in advance, and refrigerate it until making the recipe (up to 2 days).

  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

More butternut squash recipes

Butternut squash is a winter squash with personality! It turns everything to gold. Here are a few more butternut squash recipes:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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1 Comment

  1. J Hatch says:

    I have made this twice now. I love it! So creamy good. I put in broccoli, red bell pepper, carrots, whatever veggies I have to make it a little healthier. ( I hope!). And it is so colorful.
    It’s classic comfort food, and freezes well.
    First time I used all smoked Gouda. Second time I blended four different cheeses. I like the blend best.
    Thank you!