Creamy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Kale

Creamy butternut squash mac and cheese is your weeknight answer to a satisfying, lightened up meal. This recipe is meat-free, full of flavor, and makes great leftovers!

butternut squash macaroni and cheese with a wood spoon

You’ve probably heard of macaroni and cheese made with a cheesy butternut squash sauce before. I was never convinced that sauce, made primarily from squash, could produce the same comforting taste that classic macaroni and cheese sauce does. I’m sorry but squash: you will never be cheese.

However. This sauce is unlike anything I’ve ever had before. It’s exquisite! All you taste is this wonderfully creamy, rich, cheesy sauce that has a light sweetness with plenty of flavor. Pureed butternut squash replaces the need for cups and cups of cheese, butter, and cream. And this replacement makes a much more waistline-friendly base for your meal. Poured over whole wheat pasta and tossed with kale, you have yourself a perfectly satisfying chilly weather meal.

butternut squash macaroni and cheese in blue bowls with a fork

This Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Is

  • Packed with veggies and whole grains
  • Incredibly flavorful
  • Creamy and comforting
  • Delicious as leftovers
  • Freezer-friendly (see recipe note)
  • A healthier alternative to regular mac and cheese

butternut squash and milk in a saucepan with a spatula

Overview: How to Make Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Here’s a quick walk through of how you’re going to make it.

  1. Soften the butternut squash. Boil, then simmer the squash with milk, vegetable or chicken broth, and garlic. I usually use skim or 1% milk, but your favorite milk (dairy or non dairy) works. The garlic will really infuse flavor into the squash during this stage.
  2. Make the pasta. Cook the pasta just until al dente– or when the pasta is still a little firm. Add the kale (optional) and cook for another minute or two. Drain the pasta and kale, then set aside.
  3. Make the squash/cheese sauce. Puree the squash mixture (squash and liquid) in a blender with a little Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper. Pour the puree into a large bowl and add shredded cheese.
  4. Add the pasta. Add the pasta and kale to the bowl and stir until combined. Pour everything into a large baking dish. Top with breadcrumbs and an extra sprinkle of cheese.
  5. Bake. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until bubbly on the sides.

cheese sauce in a glass bowl for butternut squash macaroni and cheese

What Cheese Do I Use?

For truly remarkable macaroni and cheese, I like to use a combination of cheeses. I recommend white cheddar, regular sharp cheddar, and a fun cheese like smoked gouda or Gruyere. Grate it at home so it’s soft and fresh. (I love this particular cheese grater.) White cheddar is actually my favorite in my regular mac and cheese recipe!

butternut squash macaroni and cheese in a skillet

butternut squash macaroni and cheese in blue bowls with a fork

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butternut squash macaroni and cheese with a wood spoon

Creamy Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Kale

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Yield: serves 8-10
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Creamy butternut squash mac and cheese is your weeknight answer to a satisfying, lightened up meal. This recipe is meat-free, full of flavor, and makes great leftovers!


Ingredients

  • 4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 1 large squash)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (300ml) vegetable broth or chicken broth (I use low sodium)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups (300ml) milk*
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound uncooked whole wheat penne pasta (or any shape/variety)
  • optional: 1 – 2 cups (70-140g) kale, roughly chopped with stems discarded
  • 1/4 cup (60g) plain Greek yogurt*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 heaping cups (150g) shredded cheese (I like gruyère or white cheddar)*
  • optional: 1/3 cup (30g) whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • optional: chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Combine the squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. You want the squash very tender, so pierce it with a fork to make sure it is quite soft. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375°F (191°C).
  3. Begin the pasta. I usually do this as the squash is simmering. Boil enough water for your pasta (check the package directions), then add a pinch of salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta just until al dente– or when the pasta is still a little firm. Add the kale, and cook for another minute or two. Drain the pasta and kale. Set aside.
  4. Pour the warm butternut squash mixture (squash + liquid) into a blender. Add the yogurt, salt, and pepper. Secure the lid and blend until smooth. Pour into a very large bowl and stir in the cheese until combined. It’s ok if the cheese does not fully melt. Taste the sauce– if you’d like more salt/pepper/garlic, add more.
  5. Add the pasta and kale to the bowl and stir until combined. Pour everything into a large casserole dish, a 9×13 baking pan, or a 12-inch oven-safe skillet. Top with breadcrumbs and an extra sprinkle of cheese, if desired.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly on the sides. Serve with a sprinkle of parsley on top. Leftovers keep well in the refrigerator for 5-7 days.

Notes

  1. Freezing Instructions: Great freezer recipe! Prepare the recipe through step 5, cover tightly, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature, and continue with step 6. Or prepare the dish in full and freeze up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, bring to room temperature, and bake at 350°F (177°C) for 20 minutes or until warmed through.
  2. Milk: Any milk works. I typically use skim or 1%, but any dairy or nondairy milks are great.
  3. Yogurt: I always use nonfat Greek yogurt, but low fat or full fat work too. Instead of Greek yogurt, try 1/4 cup of cream cheese. A little more rich, but definitely worth it.
  4. Cheese: I like to use closer to 1 and 2/3 cups of cheese. Lots of varieties work here! You can also sprinkle the top of the dish with more shredded cheese before going into the oven in step 5.
  5. Adapted from Cooking Light.

Keywords: mac and cheese, butternut squash mac and cheese

67 Comments

  1. Oh Sally this looks amazing! I will definitely be giving this recpie a whirl this weekend (along with a batch of cookies). When I blend the sauce would it be okay if I used my nutribullet? Would it affect the sauce if I had to blend it in batches? Thanks! 

    1. Yes, definitely ok to blend the sauce in batches!

  2. Sally, while your desserts and candies ( just got the book and made peanut butter cups!) are yum, your food recipes are mind blowing. Lightened up chicken noodle soup – insane good. Made from scratch green bean casserole – I’ll never go back to canned! Seriously folks. If you haven’t tried the green bean casserole, do it. You’ll eat the whole thing. By yourself. Maybe consider a dinner recipe book in the future? And please post more food posts – I always can’t wait to try them. 

  3. Just made this and boyfriend and myself INHALED it! It was so delicious and not massively heavy. I added half a teaspoon of chilli flakes to the butternut squash as it cooked, and used greens instead of kale and it is . Thank you Sally! 

  4. I made this and EVERYONE loved it…my husband though it was regular mac n cheese.  I also saved part of the “sauce” and ate it as soup, it makes a delicious cheesy butternut squash soup.  Amazing all around.

  5. Jennifer Noseworthy says:

    I made this over the weekend for my family and they loved it! Even my 2 yr old gobbled it up saying ‘num!’

  6. Just made this over the weekend and it was amazing. I’ve never cooked with Butternut Squash before, but I liked how creamy it made the sauce before I even added any cheese. I kept everything in the same pot and just used my immersion blender instead of using the actual blender. So easy, and less dishes after you are done. I also added spinach instead of Kale because that is what I had. It turned out great though! Thanks for the recipe this is going to be a staple and a dish I make for Thanksgiving!

  7. Just made this for lunch today and it was AMAZING! My three kiddos downed their entire plates, including my 1 year old who is so picky he survives on bananas and crackers. I used cheddar and Monterey jack because that’s all I had on had, but next time I’m going to try the “fancier” cheese Sally suggests. This is definitely a keeper! Thank you!

  8. Would broccoli be a good substitution for the kale? I just got some kale in my CSA bag but gave it to my neighbor because I couldn’t think of how to use it! Luckily I saved the butternut squash!

    1. I made it with broccoli yesterday! So, yes. I used about 2 cups of chopped broccoli.

  9. I just made this tonight and it is amazing!! The best part is that my son ate it and didn’t know there was squash in it. 

  10. I just made this tonight….oh. my. gosh. It took everything in me not to eat half of the pan! Probably one of the best mac and cheese dishes I’ve ever made, and it’s not even all cheese! Definitely a new staple for these cooler months. It was also my first time cooking with butternut squash…I think my roommate fully enjoyed watching me try to cut it! lol! Thanks so much for this recipe, and hope to see you on the book tour!

  11. Just made this and I’m eating it right now. Amazing.

  12. So good, Sally! Thanks! I subbed in peas because I had no kale or broccoli and it’s great. I gave my one year old some and she kept signing “more”!!

  13. I just made this with zoodles. Obviously omitted the baking so they wouldn’t turn into mush. It was surprisingly good 🙂

  14. This looks amazing!! Could I make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the fridge?

    1. Yes, definitely! Up to 4-5 days is just fine.

  15. My sis came over for dinner last night so I made this. It was SO. GOOD. We loved it, my husband said it was spectacular and was the best pasta sauce he’d ever had. I very happily had the leftovers for lunch today and can’t wait to have them again for dinner tonight! 

  16. Made this yesterday…. amazing! My boyfriend wasn’t sure about dinner with no meat, but he ate it too with no complaints! lovely and cheesy without the cheese calories! yay!love your recipes Sally!! 

  17. I made this for dinner, it was a hit. I divided the dish into two pans, one topped with a bacon crumble-breadcrumb and the other plain, both were delicious and eaten by picky kids. I used gruyere and cheddar since I could not decide which to use, it was fantastic. Ever thin of adding nutmeg? I did to the bacon topped one, brought it up one notch!

  18. I just made this and WOW, my whole house smells like garlicky goodness!!!! I have to admit I was very skeptical about using the butternut squash but honestly if I wasn’t the one who made it, I would have NEVER known it had squash in it!!!! My boyfriend and I aren’t big on Kale, so I roasted some broccoli with garlic, s+p and olive oil and tossed that in the mix before baking. All I had on hand was smoked cheddar so I used that and it was perfect. I cant wait for my boyfriend to try this for dinner tonight, I’m not going to tell him theres squash in it until AFTER he eats!! Thanks for another killer recipe, Sally!!!

  19. I received a food box with squash and kale in it. What to do, what to do??? Then I see this recipe. My new side dish!!!  I made it for dinner but we had to do a taste test,  my two year old wanted seconds. Can’t wait for dinner time so we can have it with baked chicken. I’ll do broccoli next time. Came out perfect and I’m not one to follow recipes.  I kinda eyeballed it and it still turned out great

  20. Needed a potluck dish for a wetland restoration work party last minute & this was a big hit. Half the group asked about it and a few for the recipe. Sent them here with a warning they may get addicted. 🙂 New fave way to use the wonderful butternuts. Easy too! Very tasty & healthier. Double love.

  21. Hi Sally – just wanted to say I tried this a couple of days ago and both my husband and I love it – what a brilliant recipe – I can’t believe I’ve finally found something that uses this many veggies that he likes!

  22. Oh my gosh! I just made this and am never going back to regular Mac’n’cheese ever! It was so creamy and you would never ever know that the base is squash. I am sharing this with my friends and family.  AWESOME!

  23. Thank you so much for this recipe! My sister and I made it today with almond milk, and used half and half white cheddar and emmental cheese (less lactose!). We also roasted the squash since we don’t have a blender and it turned out great. So delicious! 🙂

  24. Wow this looks delicious!!! Can you taste the squash? How well does cheddar cheese work? Thanks!

    1. You can sort of taste the squash. It really just gives the sauce a slight sweetness.

  25. I am eating this as I type and it is delicious!  The only thing I did was add cayenne pepper and some cholula hot sauce

  26. Hi Sally! I love your recipes! I recently made your caramel apple pie for a “friendsgiving” and it was a big hit! I am planning on making this mac & cheese for actual Thanksgiving but I have a make ahead question. I see that you give advice to freeze it but I am wondering if I make it a day before, will it be OK in the fridge over night? I work nights and would love to make it fresh thanksgiving morning but unfortunately I won’t have time. I was also thinking about just making the sauce the night before and then cooking the pasta and combining it all together Thanksgiving morning. Any advice you have is truly appreciated! Thanks and happy holidays!

    1. Julia, you can make the sauce and pasta separately the night before, then just combine it all and bake on Thanksgiving morning. That’s what I do from time to time.

  27. Hi Sally,

    This looks delicious! I do have a couple questions though – would shredded mozzarella work as the cheese, or would it not be flavorful enough? Also, if I were to cut up some cracker cheese, would that work as well? Sorry if these are dumb questions, I never made mac and cheese before!

    1. Both cheese options are OK! I’ve tried this with so so so many cheeses! All fabulous.

  28. Oh my gosh — this is amazing!!  The butternut squash adds the perfect amount of sweetness and lightness to this dish, so that the cheese isn’t just heavy, like it would be by itself.  I’m not the biggest fan of kale, so I subbed it out for broccoli, and it was really good.  I’m glad you mentioned to use white cheddar, because I think that it has that extra bite that orange cheddar doesn’t, so it gave it the kick that mac and cheese needs 🙂  Thanks!!

  29. Hey Sally! Do you think I could use an immersion blender with the same results as a blender? I I don’t like putting anything warmer than room temperature in my blender.

    1. Yes, an immersion blender works! A few readers emailed me about it with great results.

  30. Made this tonight and I loved it! Even my husband was like, “Is this one of those clean/healthy macs?” Me, “yes” him: “Hey, it’s actually really good!” Now the only problem is who will get to eat the leftovers!!!

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