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

127 Comments

  1. Ok, I’m sold, will have to try this! I happen to have sweet potatoes on hand but not butternut squash so I’ll try a little substitution!

  2. I’ve been trying to find a recipe which will teach me to like butternut squash and this might be it. I’ve hated it to now but hiding it as a cheese sauce has convinced me to give it another go 

  3. Heather (Delicious Not Gorgeous) says:

    i love butternut squash and am always down for new ways to stick it into dishes (: the yogurt sounds like it’d make things nice and creamy (another plus!).

  4. I love this, I often make pasta with butternut squash sauce, I find the flavor and the consistency of the sauce perfect. I have to try it with kale as well, maybe, jusy maybe top it with crunchy pancetta.

    1. Will be fantastic with pancetta.

  5. I can’t wait to try this!!!  I may sub Tolerant red lentil penne for the whole wheat pasta. I hope it still turns out delicious. 

  6. Im speechless!!! This looks amazing!

  7. This looks KILLER! I could so go for a huge bowl of it right now. Mac and cheese is already the perfect Fall comfort food so adding butternut squash is perfect! Yummmm!

  8. Wow! This IS going into my meal prep this weekend to have for next week.. sounds delicious and indulgent without actually being so! yummm thanks sally :))

  9. 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!

  10. I love using squash for mac n’ cheese. My immersion blender is a total lifesaver, too, because then everything can get pureed in the pot and I can be very lazy. It’s the best kitchen tool EVER.
    And leaving out kale is not cool. It gives the dish so much color and it’s green, so you can feel good about yourself for eating it!

    1. I still need to get an immersion blender. I can’t believe I don’t have one yet!

  11. 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. 

    1. Ahh so happy you tried the peanut butter cups first. Great choice!

      I love your enthusiasm about my non-dessert recipes! And the idea of a cooking cookbook sounds like fun. 🙂

  12. Layla @Gimme Delicious says:

    This mac and cheese looks super yummy and creamy. What a great way to incorporate squash into a dish kids will love!

  13. Oh my goodness, I can’t wait to try this! I’ve been looking for a lighter way to make mac and cheese. I like to get creative with my cheeses. So far, my favorite combo is American, cheddar, mozzarella and Gruyere. *Pins to recipe board*
    I had to break up my recipe boards, thanks to you, so now I have a Recipes–Sweets board and Recipes board 🙂
    Also, I made your chocolate chip pumpkin bread last night (with twice as many chocolate chips as the recipe calls for, because…chocolate). I took it to the bar where I play Quizzo with me, and it was a hit with my team, our rivals and the wait staff!
    In other news, I’ll be seeing you on Saturday!

    1. Liz, can’t wit to meet you!

      Twice the chocolate chips. I like your style. Hope you LOVE this macaroni and cheese recipe!

  14. Oooohhh!!
    Vgetarian and Nut free! Perfect for my family!

  15. This dish sounds amazing! I can’t wait to make it for dinner this week. I haven’t cooked with butternut squash very much before, what is the easiest way to peel it and do you need to cook it a little before you cube it and put it into the sauce to simmer?

    1. No cooking before peeling/cubing it. Angela, here’s a helpful link with instructions! This is how I learned as well. http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/how-to-peel-cut-butternut-squash

  16. With the Canadian Thanksgiving right around the corner, I believe I found the perfect recipe to bring to the family dinner! Thanks for this delicious, mouth watering recipe!

  17. I love when the men fall for a meatless dish! I’m not sure I could sneak the kale past my fiancé, but he loved butternut squash mac when we first tried it.

  18. Wanna make this and some apple cider sangria for a girl’s night?! 😉 But seriously, this looks SO good. I had pumpkin macaroni and cheese for the first time last year and nearly died. It’s SO CREAAAAAAAMY! I love it. All I need to do is sub this with veggie broth and maybe I’ll convert my meat and potatoes dad into a #meatlessmonday lover?!!!

    1. I have to tell you Laur… I’ve only had pumpkin mac & cheese one time in my entire life. And it was incredible. I need to have it again asap!

  19. Jessie @ Chasing Belle says:

    I made a recipe very similar to this one last week but I baked it afterwards and included spinach. I will have to try yours with kale. Such a great hearty and healthy substitute to traditional mac n cheese! 

  20. Kathy Piccarreto says:

    Since we both love butternut squash, I will definitely try this with a low fat white cheddar and gluten free pasta. Sounds wonderful!  Thanks. 

  21. My fiancé is such picky eater, but he loves mac n’ cheese, so I can’t wait to make this for him. I hoping he won’t notice it’s “healthy,” and just eat it all up. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  22. Will the flavor still be the same if we use vegetable broth? Or is there another substitution?

    1. Veggie broth is just fine.

  23. Eliza @ Flour Power Girls says:

    Hi Sally- this looks absolutely incredible! I <3 butternut squash but my sister does not. oh well. she'll have to live, because I definitely want to make this for dinner! Yum! I also am always looking for a new opportunity to try your recipes (a little tricky right now because I am going no sugar…), so thanks for a great savory recipe.

    1. Thanks Eliza– hope you BOTH enjoy it!

  24. I haven’t been to TJs in waaaaaay too long. Now I have to go since I can’t live without pumpkin spice cookie butter. 😉

    Let me know if you try this!

    1. I had a feeling you hadn’t been there in awhile given all of the activity surrounding the cookbook. This is just like the regular crunchy cookie butter…but with the added awesome of pumpkin pie spice. Hope you take a few minutes for yourself to run out and try some. (I also finally tried Bergers…OMG…even better chilled. It is like pure fudge on top of a cookie…)

  25. Ashley @ Fit Mitten Kitchen says:

    This sounds sooo awesome. I’m the same way, not always a huge fan of pasta, but mac & cheese is something I can ALWAYS get on board with. I neeed to try this.
    (And I love your mini crocks! So cute!!)

  26. Oh fall, how I have missed you and mac and cheese. This sounds amazing! 

  27. 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! 

    1. Well that was a fail – turns out I can’t use emojis to demonstrate that it is perfect!

    2. Perfection!

  28. Had to try this ASAP, so I used what we had, no time to waste getting to the store! Sweet potatoes, spinach, sharp cheddar and Parmesan. It’s in the oven, T minus 20 minutes….

  29. 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.

    1. I don’t blame you for eating the warm sauce straight up with a spoon! Happy the dish was a success!

  30. 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!’

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