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Creamy pumpkin mac & cheese shown on a white ceramic plate, topped with brown butter breadcrumbs & crispy sage leaves.

Creamy Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Brown Butter Sage Breadcrumbs

  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 55 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: serves 12-14 generously 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes, Main Dish, Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop, Baked
  • Cuisine: American


Creamy Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Brown Butter Sage Breadcrumbs! Pasta is tossed into a velvety, rich pumpkin cheese sauce made with warm fall spices & 3 types of cheese, finished with crispy brown butter sage breadcrumbs, & baked until bubbly & perfect. Perfect for the best cozy dinner this fall, or to serve as a festive side dish at Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving.



for the Brown Butter Sage Breadcrumbs:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 16 large fresh sage leaves
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan

for the Pumpkin Mac & Cheese:

  • 16 ounces short pasta of choice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 14-ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 2024 large fresh sage leaves, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
  • 2 teaspoons ground mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 12 ounces gruyere, freshly grated & divided (about 2 cups)
  • 12 ounces sharp white cheddar, freshly grated & divided (about 2 cups)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season


PREP: Before you start cooking, read this recipe start to finish & prep the ingredients you need – measure the flour, milk & spices, chop the garlic, grate the cheese, etc. The breadcrumbs & cheese sauce are time-sensitive & both come together very quickly once you start cooking. Pumpkin Mac & Cheese ingredients arranged on a light blue surface: pasta shells, milk, spics, cheddar, parmesan, cream, gruyere, butter, flour, garlic, nutmeg & fresh sage leaves.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish & set aside.
  2. Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, cooking 2-3 minutes under al dente (“al dente” cooking time is typically included in package directions). Drain the pasta & set aside.
  3. Make the brown butter sage breadcrumbs: Add the butter & sage leaves to a medium pot over medium-high heat. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the butter browns & the sage leaves become crispy. Remove from the heat. Add the panko breadcrumbs, stirring to coat in the browned butter. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a medium bowl, adding in the parmesan & stirring to combine. Set aside.
  4. Make the roux: Carefully wipe the pot used to make the breadcrumbs with paper towel, wiping out any browned butter or breadcrumb residue. Place the pot back over medium heat & add the butter. Once melted, add in the flour, whisking vigorously to eliminate any lumps in the roux. Cook the roux for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Add the garlic & cook 30 seconds, until fragrant.Creamy Pumpkin Mornay sauce in a large white pan with a wooden spoon stirring it. The pan sits atop a light blue surface, next to a checkered linen & fresh sage leaves.
  5. Build the pumpkin mornay sauce: Slowly add the milk & heavy cream into the pot, whisking constantly to eliminate any lumps in the roux. Cook 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened to the point that it coats the back of a spoon (nappe). Add the pumpkin, fresh sage, ground mustard, ground nutmeg, & cayenne, stirring to combine. Add ¾ of the gruyere & sharp white cheddar (1 ½ cups each) & the grated parmesan, stirring to combine. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted. Remove from the heat. Taste & season with additional kosher salt or ground black pepper, as desired.
  6. Pumpkin mac & cheese assembly: Add the cooked pasta to the pumpkin mornay sauce, stirring to coat. Carefully transfer the pumpkin mac & cheese to the prepared baking dish. Top with the remaining gruyere & sharp white cheddar (½ cup each) & sprinkle the brown butter sage breadcrumbs over top. Cover with foil & bake.Pumpkin Mac & Cheese topped with Brown Butter Sage Breadcrumbs in a large white baking dish.
  7. Bake the pumpkin mac & cheese for 25-30 minutes, removing the foil in the last 5 minutes of baking time, until the cheese is melted & the breadcrumbs are toasty.
  8. Serve immediately. Enjoy!Creamy pumpkin macaroni & cheese plated on white ceramic plates. The plates sit atop a light blue surface, next to a checkered linen & fresh sage leaves.


  • Storage: Leftover pumpkin mac & cheese will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave for 2-3 minutes. 
  • Make-Ahead: Pumpkin mac & cheese can be assembled up to 3 days in advance & baked off just before your Thanksgiving dinner. To make ahead of time, complete Steps 2-6 of Recipe Directions, above. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bake as directed in Steps 1 & 7, above, adding an extra 15-20 minutes to baking time, until the mac & cheese is heated through the center & bubbling around the edges.
  • Portions: As written, this pumpkin mac & cheese recipe yields a large batch, serving 12-14 generously as a side dish. If you’re serving a smaller crowd this year, there are 2 options:
    • Scaled back: To serve up to 6 as a side dish, halve the recipe. Assemble in an 8×8 baking dish & bake as directed in Step 7, for 25-30 minutes or until the mac & cheese is heated through the center & bubbling around the edges.
    • Make it a mini: To serve a cozy crowd of up to 4 as a side dish, quarter the recipe. Assemble in a 9×6 baking dish. bake as directed in Step 7, reducing baking time to 15-20 minutes or until heated through the center & bubbling around the edges.

Keywords: pumpkin mac & cheese, pumpkin macaroni and cheese, fall recipe, baked, side dish, pasta recipes, Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving