Pumpkin Sage Mac and Cheese with Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping

plate of pumpkin mac and cheese with sage breadcrumb topping, mini pumpkin behind plate

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This pumpkin sage mac and cheese is one of my favorite fall comfort food recipes! The creamy pumpkin cheese sauce is gently flavored with warm fall spices like nutmeg and thyme. Then it's topped with crunchy brown butter sage breadcrumbs and garnished with fried sage leaves.


Units Scale
  • 1 lb. short pasta, i.e. medium shells
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 cups sharp white cheddar, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1 cup Monterey jack, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sage + whole leaves for garnish
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs


  1. Cook pasta as directed on the package to al dente, then drain (but do not rinse) and set aside.

Make Pumpkin Cheese Sauce:

Make Brown Butter Sage Breadcrumb Topping:

  1. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Continue to cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the butter is lightly browned and develops a nutty aroma. Remove from heat.
  2. Add the chopped sage and breadcrumbs to the pan, and stir to combine. Set the pan over low heat and lightly toast, stirring constantly, until golden brown.
  3. Top the pumpkin mac and cheese with the toasted sage breadcrumbs and serve immediately. 


  • Wipe out the pan with the breadcrumbs and reuse to fry sage leaves for garnish. (For easy instructions on how to fry sage leaves, see the blog post above)
  • For a baked pumpkin mac and cheese, cook the pasta a little shy of al dente. Then bake at 350 covered with aluminum foil for 20-30 minutes. It will be a little drier and not as creamy as the stovetop directions since the pasta will absorb some of the sauce.
  • To make a half batch, simply halve all of the ingredient amounts. The directions will remain the same.