November 06, 2012

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Apples and Caramelized Onions

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Apples and Caramelized Onions

Now that I’ve seen my first official snowfall of the season and have broken out my winter hat and gloves, all I can think about are warm and cozy meals, and when it comes to comfort food, it doesn’t get much better than mac and cheese!

But as you’ve probably guessed from the title, this is no ordinary mac and cheese! And even though it might sound a little weird, I promise that it works!

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Apples and Caramelized Onions

This mac and cheese has a ton of flavour going on – there’s pumpkin puree, pumpkin beer, sautéed apples, caramelized onions, and smoked applewood cheddar cheese – and it all works together so well!

I can never decide if I prefer stovetop or baked mac and cheese, so I tried this both ways. I stopped after cooking it on the stovetop and dug in to test it out. You'll probably want to do the same thing because it’s so hard to resist at this point, and I certainly wouldn't blame you!

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Apples and Caramelized Onions

Or you could keep going; sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top and throw it in the oven so you get a crunchy topping with cheesy goodness underneath - it really just depends on how you like your mac and cheese. I loved it both ways!

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Apples and Caramelized Onions

I loved that the dash of maple syrup and addition of apples added a touch of sweetness to cut the richness of the cheese, but there wasn’t an apple in every bite so it was like a fun surprise every time you ate one! I also like the smokiness that the applewood smoked cheddar added, but if you don’t like smoky cheeses (my sister complained about the smell every time I heated it up), you could just use a regular sharp cheddar cheese, or I think gruyere would work well too!

You’re probably wondering why there are strange green things in my pasta, but that’s just because I used this tri-colour vegetable pasta:

vegetable pasta

I realize this isn’t exactly a healthy meal, but with the vegetable pasta instead of regular pasta, the addition of pumpkin, apples, and onions, and using low fat milk, I like to think that it’s at least better for you than a lot of other mac and cheese recipes.

And I certainly had no problem finishing this whole dish by myself (though not all at once, of course!)

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Apples and Caramelized Onions

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with Apples and Caramelized Onions

Adapted from Her Campus, who adapted from Rachel Ray

Serves 4-6


8oz dry macaroni pasta (I used tri-colour vegetable pasta)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 apple, diced (I used Red Delicious)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup pumpkin beer
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1/2 cup evaporated 2% milk (regular 2% milk would work too)
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 cup pumpkin puree
1-1/4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (I used applewood smoked cheddar and I used 1-1/2 cups to use it up)
~1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, optional


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions, stir to coat with oil, and let cook, stirring occasionally, about ten minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let cook another 5 minutes or so and then add the chopped apples.  Continue to cook apples and onions, stirring occasionally, for an additional 15 minutes or so, until onions are caramelized and apples are softened and golden brown.  Set aside.

About ten minutes before your onions and apples are done cooking, you can start the roux.  Add butter to a medium saucepan and let melt over medium heat.  Add flour to the melted butter and whisk continuously for about a minute. Raise heat a bit and add the beer.  Reduce until almost evaporated and mixture is quite thick, then whisk in the maple syrup and milk.  Season with mustard powder, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.  Let cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Whisk in the pumpkin then whisk in the grated cheese until incorporated.

Stir together the pasta, cheese sauce, onions, and apples.  At this point, you can serve the mac and cheese as is for a stovetop version, or you can bake it.  If you choose to bake it, spread it into an 8x8 glass baking dish and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.  Bake in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, let cool slightly, then serve.


  1. I gasped when I saw this post. Because this? Is absolutely amazing. Wow. It does sound like a lot, but I believe you that it works!

  2. I just made my annual Pioneer Woman's Mac & Cheese last Thursday. It's a Halloween tradition, but David was in class so we had to push it off a day. This looks so festive and delicious! 

  3. Yes, oh my goodness, with this cold weather I've been craving something like this. Looks amazing!!

  4. That's a fun tradition!  Mac and cheese definitely has to be something I save for a special treat or when I really need some comforting :)

  5. yum yum yum yum yum!!!!! that is all :)

  6. So many flavours going on in this dish - it's definitely not an ordinary mac and cheese! I do admit that I wasn't a fan of the smoky cheese, but if it had a different kind of cheese then I'd happily eat it!

  7. This...does not sound strange to me. sounds like EXACTLY what I wish I were having for dinner!

  8. You basically just put all my favorite things into one recipe. This looks absolutely delicious! 

  9. I made this for our "pre-holiday" dinner.  I used butternut squash instead of pumpkin.  Even my VERY carnivoris hubby enjoyed it.  It makes a ton, tastes great right out of the oven, but even better as a leftover.  Very yummy.  Thanks!

  10.  Thanks, Holly, I'm so glad to hear you both liked it as much as I did!  Butternut squash sounds like a great alternative!


Ingredient Index

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Blogging tips