Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese! A healthier, lightened up version of your childhood favorite. A super simple and quick recipe here – no baking required! Gluten-free friendly using your favorite pasta. Kid-friendly, mom-approved.
Guys I did a thing…
I put butternut squash in my mac & cheese… And it’s pretty awesome.
Now I come from a family who gets pretty particular about their mac & cheese. My Nana used to make a delicious recipe. And then my mom started making it. And now my dad has taken over the mac and cheese making with his own homemade baked recipe – so good, but soooo much butter.
Of course nothing wrong with a little indulgent mac & cheese every now and then. But I was intrigued by the healthy butternut squash mac & cheese recipes floating around the interwebz and wanted to give it a fair shot.
My verdict? I think it’s pretty damn good!
I can’t say the rest of my family would be on board with this because they’re mac & cheese freaks but I like to think they’d at least humor me.
Healthy Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
So we’re going to get right to it and I’m gonna give it to you straight: you can still taste the butternut squash a little bit.
I mean we’re using a good 4 cups of butternut squash cubes, for goodness sake. I may be a healthy food blogger but I am not a magical sorceress. So if you don’t care for butternut squash, I can’t say with confidence you’ll still be on board with this healthy mac and cheese.
BUT if you DO like butternut squash and you like mac and cheese… This version is pretty freaking awesome.
what you need
- butternut squash
- milk of choice
- ghee (or coconut oil)
- garlic powder
- onion powder
- cheese of choice
- goat cheese (optional)
How To Make Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
It’s actually quite simple.
To make the sauce you’re just simmering the cubed butternut squash in milk and vegetable stock (or chicken). That takes about 15 minutes or so. Once slightly cooled you blend together everything that was in the pot in a blender or food processor until smooth.
While the squash is simmering you can also prepare the pasta. I used regular cavatappi pasta, but you can also choose a whole grain or a gluten-free blend – just make sure you cook it al dente (undercooked).
Once the pasta has been cooked you are just adding everything together in one pot – butternut squash sauce, cheese, and pasta.
I used a mix of colby and gouda cheese, but if you are dairy-free you could certainly sub a dairy-free shredded cheese blend as well. I bet it would work wonders.
I mean LOOK AT THAT COLOR. My only complaint is that it kind of *looks* like Velveeta sauce. But that isn’t the butternut squash’s fault for being such a naturally bright color. We should be blaming Velveeta here… For tricking us as children into thinking that stuff was real! Right?
Well now it is real and we’re just using butternut squash. And maybe we’re tricking kids this time with the healthy stuff…
Am I making any sense?
I really enjoyed this butternut squash mac & cheese. I mean no, it’s not the real deal made with heavy cream and butter and allll the cheese. But it’s a great healthy alternative to when you’re craving mac and cheese but want something a little bit lighter.
I love being able to make recipes that give you the best of both worlds!
- 4 cups butternut squash; peeled, seeded and cut into 1” cubes
- 1 cup low sodium broth (vegetable or chicken)
- 1 cup milk of choice*
- 1 lb macaroni pasta– whole grain, gluten-free, your pick (I used cavatappi shape)
- 2 TBS butter or ghee**
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 4oz goat cheese (could omit if you dislike)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 TBS tapioca starch (optional but adds thickness)
- 6oz shredded cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)– choose your favorite. I used part colby, part gouda
Watch this video for how to cut a butternut squash. I also like to warm up the squash in a preheating oven (250ºF) for about 10-15 minutes, so it is easier to cut into.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the cubed butternut squash, broth, and milk. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until squash is tender – test with fork. This should take about 10-12 minutes.
- Meanwhile add pasta to large pot of boiling water. Cook according to package instructions, but 1 minute less than fully cooked. You want the pasta to be slightly undercooked, or al dente. Drain in colander and set aside.
- Once squash is tender add squash mixture, including all liquid, into a blender and purée until smooth.
- In the large pot that was used to cook the pasta, add ghee or coconut oil. Melt over medium heat then add the squash purée. Add goat cheese, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Stir until combined and goat cheese is melted. Then add tapioca starch if using. Stir until smooth.
- Add shredded cheese and pasta into pot with sauce, gently stirring until combined.
- Dish mac and cheese into bowls garnishing with pepper, breadcrumbs and parsley if desired. Enjoy!
*You could use a non-dairy milk here if you’d like, and then also dairy-free shredded cheese to make this recipe dairy-free/vegan.
**Sub with coconut oil if going for the vegan version.
Store leftovers in container in fridge, enjoy within 3-4 days.