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. Hey Sally!
    Do you think I could substitute the butternut squash with a mixture of carrots and parsnips? Sadly squash is out of season where I live…

    1. I’m sure that would work!

  2. My husband and I made this last night and it was so so so good! I kid you not, we were both skeptical. In fact, I kept saying, “Don’t think of this as butternut mac and cheese, think of this as a completely different dish that happens to have macaroni, cheese, butternut, etc.” But it turned out better than we could have ever imagined! This recipe is a keeper. Thank you!

  3. Found this recipe last minute but all I happened to have on hand was a canned Butternut Squash Bisque, so I gave it a shot…delicious!! I just browned some garlic in a little oil, added the soup (which has the broth and milk already added), then added the cheese/pasta per the recipe. I’m sure the full squash version is even better but this was an easy and tasty alternative for a quick Tuesday night dinner after work! Thank you for the inspiration, I will definitely be making the full version when I have a little more time! Bonus: it still made enough for dinner for three plus lunch the next day!!

  4. OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS!! I have been wanting to try this recipe for quite a while now and finally got around to it. I am almost speechless due to the deliciousness! Even my picky dad likes it and declared it “a small little Olive Garden dish!” I only made half of the recipe and used trader joe’s pre-cubed squash. I used spinach instead of kale and used sharp cheddar and parmesan cheese. I sprinkled the dish with some extra cheese, italian breadcrumbs, panko breadcrumbs, and some dried parsley before baking. It is also very good when you add some chicken and frizzled onions! Thanks for another mind-blowing recipe Sally! You are incredibly amazing!

    PS: I made your sky high apple pie muffins this morning and they were also phenomenal!

  5. Have made this twice now with sharp cheddar and topped with panko bread crumbs and it is sooooo good! I’m obsessed! Thanks for such a yummy recipe!

  6. I made this once before and it was delicious! Both my picky husband and my toddler loved it. I added some smoked turkey sausage which made it not as healthy 😉 but very good! I was planning to make it again this week and was wondering if you think I could put it all together the night before, then bake it the next day for dinner? Would it still be good? 

    1. Oh, definitely! I’ve done it before and baked the next day.

  7. Made this last week for dinner and *almost* fooled my husband that it was regular ol’ mac n cheese! Loooved this recipe, can’t wait to make it again!

  8. Just made this the other night and it was delicious! I added broccoli instead of kale- amazing!

  9. This was one of the best macaroni and cheese recipes I’ve ever made. My boyfriend ate it and loved it even though he hates vegetables. It was a sneaky way to make a dish healthy, yet delicious. I will definitely add this to my regular rotation of dishes. The only thing I changed was that I swapped the kale with spinach. I also recommended this to my sister, who’s fiance also refuses to eat veggies.

  10. Wow, wow! This is a delicious, rich, satisfying dish. I thought 16 oz of pasta was too much and reduced the quantity slightly, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly as written. What an excellent way to get more vegetables into our diet! For those who don’t much care for kale, I think broccoli would be a perfect substitute.

  11. I have made this in the past and it came out great but I just made it and the sauce was very thin and soupy. Is this normal? I did use frozen butternut squash, so I am not sure if that is the reason for it.

    1. It definitely could be from the frozen squash. If you thaw it it first try blotting the excess liquid before using it.

  12. Can we use vegetable broath instead

    1. Yes, definitely!

  13. Thank you for inspiring me to try new recipes! Do you think this really needs to go into the oven or could you serve without? I put it in the oven maybe a few minutes too long and it dried out a bit. Thanks! I also have made your corn chowder and love it!

    1. Hi Christine! You can skip the oven step. I encourage baking to melt the cheese and toast the breadcrumbs on top. 🙂

  14. Made this last week and just had to come back to say how good it was. My interest was piqued but I was skeptical…I will definitely make it again..it just hit the spot warm and comforting without being too heavy. Thanks, Sally!

  15. nancy g visconti says:

    This sounds delish…..do you think adding some fresh cranberries might be good? Nancy

    1. Thanks Nancy! I haven’t tried this recipe with cranberries but if you do let me know how it goes 🙂

  16. nancy g visconti says:

    Hi Sally,
    Well I didn’t try cranberries…yet…but, this IS what I did last night.

    I’m 80 & wrestling with a hard squash is not for me so… I halved & roasted it. Scooped out & put in blender. Meanwhile, sauted half an onion & 3 garlic cloves.Added most to the blender. I had a box of Criminis. I sliced & added them to the saute pan WITH Marsala wine.After the squash with your additions was blended, I mixed in the mushers. I proceeded with your recipe [only no Kale] & baked…..It was delicious.
    Thanks for your recipe, I’ll try cranberries next time….& Kale too. Nancy

  17. Thank you so much for this recipe!! My toddler LOVES this, as does the rest of my family! I Have been making it often over the last couple years, and recently started making it in muffin tins and freezing for meal size portions for my little girl. Delicious!!

  18. I have a bunch of frozen butternut squash from my garden – do you think I should boil that separately first or directly in the milk like you described with fresh?

    1. Hi Daryl, I recommend thawing the frozen squash, then blotting the excess liquid before using it as directed in the recipe.

  19. Stacey Janusz says:

    Hi, can I use sour cream?

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Stacey, We haven’t tested it but sour cream should work in place of the Greek yogurt. Let us know if you try it!

  20. Hi Sally! Absolutely love your all your tips, tricks and baking expertise! I made a few of your baking recipes, my go to’s!! I loved the flavors of this mac and cheese and it’s a recipe I will make again. I think I will avoid the baking and topping, the pasta soaked up a lot of the creamy goodness by the time it browned, so it was a bit dry. Thank you so much for all the treasured ideas and goodies! I now use fried dried strawberries and freeze dried apples in so many things-after making your strawberry cake!
    You are a treasure!
    Lana

  21. Hi Sally! In step 6, do you bake covered or uncovered? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Reem, you can bake uncovered, but if it starts to brown too quickly feel free to tent it with foil towards the end of the bake time. Enjoy!

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