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This ultra-'cheesy' mac and cheese is made from pumpkins — and it's 100 percent plant-based

When paired with spices and plant-based milk, pumpkin becomes as creamy as processed American cheese.

Photo Credit: Anthony Underwood

If you're looking for the perfect plant-based meal that doesn't feel like one, look no further than this pumpkin mac and cheese.

Anyone else love that boxed pasta dinner from the 1980s where you brown a pound of ground beef, throw in an orange powder packet, and water? Let's give it up for Hamburger Helper! It's a childhood favorite, and don't we all get a little nostalgic around Halloween? 

Well, here's a great way to get all that nostalgic flavor on your plate without all that processed stuff. And psssssst! No one — not even your picky kids — will know that it happens to be completely plant-based.

Photo Credit: Anthony Underwood

The secret to getting the rich body of a creamy, gooey, cheesy sauce without the dairy may be in your kitchen cabinets already … it's canned pumpkin puree!

Pumpkin is high in fiber, and packed with nutrients like potassium, vitamin A, and iron, but paired with some spices, a plant-based milk (like oat or almond), cashews, and nutritional yeast, it becomes as creamy as processed American cheese!

To be clear, this dish does not taste like pumpkin. It tastes like a cheeseburger and macaroni had a delicious, cheesy baby.

The recipe is simple: sauté onions, garlic, and sage, then add your favorite plant-based meat to brown. Toss some cooked pasta with the mixture and smother it all in a blanket of luxurious pumpkin "cheese" sauce.

Photo Credit: Anthony Underwood


  1. The sauce thickens as it sits, so if you're making this ahead, have some water or vegetable stock to thin out the sauce to keep it creamy and saucy.

  2. You can add about 2 cups of cooked vegetables to bulk up the dish (and make it a complete meal). If you're looking for a festive pumpkin-y flavor, add some cubed, roasted butternut squash … but mixing in steamed/roasted broccoli florets or spinach would be great choices, too.

For more delicious dinner ideas, entertaining tips, and fabulous new food finds, subscribe to What's 4 Dinner?, a free weekly newsletter written by Anthony Underwood (@underwa) and Elizabeth Karmel (@elizabethkarmel).

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