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Pumpkin Pepper Jack Macaroni and Cheese

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The perfect combination of savory, cheesy goodness with just a bit of spice. Pumpkin pepper jack macaroni and cheese is a delicious and fun side dish that will have them asking for seconds.

serving bowl filled with mac and cheese topped with bacon crumbles and chives

This recipe has everything you’d want in a gourmet macaroni and cheese. There’s the pasta, the cheese, the bacon… and the pumpkin! Even if you’re skeptical, you should do yourself a favor and give it a try.

     I created this recipe on a whim. When thinking pumpkin, my brain naturally tends to think sweet.

      There’s the cheesecake stuffed pumpkin bundt cake, pumpkin ooey gooey butter cake and even pumpkin pie baked oatmeal for a more virtuous treat.

measuring cup of pumpkin and block of pepper jack cheese.

       Now don’t get me wrong, I know pumpkin works in savory food as well. We loved Lisa’s pumpkin soup and apple ale pumpkin chili after all. But it’s just not where my brain tends to go.

        Instead of just whipping up pumpkin dessert after pumpkin dessert, I thought it would be fun to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit.

pumpkin, cheese and milk in large cast iron pot.

         Now adding squash to macaroni and cheese isn’t completely foreign to us. I made an acorn squash macaroni and cheese years ago.

       But this time pepper jack was calling my name. I don’t know why really, but pumpkin pepper jack macaroni and cheese was tumbling around in my head.

pot full of pumpkin pepper jack cheese sauce.

      At first I thought it was a wonderful idea, but then I wasn’t so sure. So I did what one does when faced with a dilemma and looked on pinterest for recipes.

       I figured I’d read some comments and reviews and see if other people think combining pumpkin and pepperjack is a good idea.

       Unfortunately I didn’t find much. I suppose I could have taken that as a sign that it shouldn’t be done, but instead I forged on.

pot of creamy and slightly spicy pumpkin mac and cheese.

       Do you know what? I’m glad I did! This recipe has the perfect balance of savory saltiness from the bacon, earthiness from the pumpkin and creamy cheesy spice from delicious pepper jack cheese.

      Now my husband thinks he doesn’t like pumpkin. Little Dude avoids pepper jack for fear of it being too spicy.

     So I pulled a sneaky kitchen magic trick and made it when neither were looking.

      My boxed mac and cheese loving guys enjoyed it. They went back for seconds even! Good thing I neglected to tell them what it was!

serving bowl of creamy stovetop pumpkin mac and cheese.

      The pumpkin gives the mac and cheese a natural orange color. It also keeps the mac and cheese from feeling too dry.

      The cheese added just a bit of spice and that creamy cheesy goodness you’d expect in a good macaroni and cheese.

       I highly advise you don’t skip the bacon. That smokiness really ties the whole thing together.

     While I’m sure it would be good without, it is great with it. Though I can’t say I’m surprised, it is bacon after all!

      So we’ll see if my husband spies these pictures on social media and notices the title… it’ll be interesting to see what he says! 😉

dinner plate with pork loin, mac and cheese and cinnamon apples
Yield: 12 Servings

Pumpkin Pepper Jack Macaroni and Cheese

pot of creamy and slightly spicy pumpkin mac and cheese.

The perfect combination of savory, cheesy goodness with just a bit of spice. Pumpkin pepper jack macaroni and cheese is a delicious and fun side dish that will have them asking for seconds.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons bacon grease (or butter)
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces pepper jack cheese
  • 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 16 oz box of pasta, cooked al dente
  • 6 slices crispy bacon
  • optional: red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Cook your pasta to al dente, drain and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, melt bacon grease or butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for a minute or two, stirring frequently.
  3. Continue stirring while pouring in the milk. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the mixture starts to simmer and thicken and then drop the heat to low.
  4. Cube or grate the pepper jack cheese. Stir the cheese, pumpkin, mustard powder and garlic into the thickened milk.
  5. Heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.
  6. Stir in al dente pasta. Add a splash or two additional milk if needed.
  7. Chop the crisp bacon and stir most of it in, reserve a Tablespoon or so for garnish.
  8. Adjust salt and pepper to your liking and add some red pepper flakes if you want it spicy!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 233Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 269mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 11g

All nutritional information is estimated and will depend on the exact ingredients you use.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to see it! Share a picture on Instagram or Pinterest and tag me @carleecooks to let me know how it went!

The perfect combination of savory, cheesy goodness with just a bit of spice. Pumpkin pepper jack macaroni and cheese is a delicious and fun side dish that will have them asking for seconds.

Share with your friends!

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No Bake Pumpkin Cheesecake
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