This Instant Pot Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is ultra-creamy, super cheesy, and loaded with veggies too! Top it all off with the most addicting Brown Butter Garlic Sage Breadcrumbs and fall in love with your new favorite mac and cheese recipe.
When I started this blog nearly 5 years ago, I proclaimed loudly that I passionately disliked fish and butternut squash.
Well, apparently an adult's palate can keep growing and stretching too because butternut squash is now one of my favorite things ever. Fish, on the other hand – still warming up to it, but I'm trying.
Roasted, pureed, steamed . . . gimme all the butternut squash!
In fact, one of my favorite recipes on the blog is the Butternut Squash Nacho Cheese Sauce, which, if you've been around here long, you're aware of, because I talk about it way too much.
If fact, it was this Squacho cheese sauce that got me thinking one day: Hmmm . . . how could I turn this sauce into an easy one pot mac and cheese?
So I got to work, tweaking spices here, testing different cheeses, and finally took a little inspiration from this Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese to create what I have for you today:
ONE POT BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE!
Yep, one pot plan that cooks your pasta and butternut squash at the same time cuz who has the time or patience to watch two pots?
Now, about the Brown Butter Garlic Sage Breadcrumbs. Is it an extra step and an extra pan to clean? Yes.
Does it completely obliterate my “one-pot” claim? Umm . . . sort of, yeah. But it's optional so . . .
Except it's not optional because the brown butter combined with the fried sage and the crispy panko on top of an autumn-vibe Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is absolutely ridiculous in its awesomeness and if I'm brave enough to break tradition and bring it to Thanksgiving dinner this year, it'll likely be the only thing anyone eats.
To summarize my rant . . . just make the mac and brown butter topping then call me so we can gush for an hour about it while our family decides if mom's gone crazy or not.
Sound like a party?
WHY YOU WILL LOVE INSTANT POT BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE
- ONE POT: Okay, I'm bringing it up again. But in this one pressure cooker pot, you're cooking your pasta, butternut squash, and making your cheesy sauce too. I realize then you'll have to dirty a blender to puree the sauce . . . whatever, you won't be mad after you taste it.
- VEGETABLE MAC AND CHEESE: When you can eat your carbs and cheese and get a serving of vegetables at the same time, it's a good day.
- RICH ORANGE COLOR: Step back fake orange Velveeta cheese, this sauce is bright orange with no dye, just good ol' naturally occurring carotenoids. Thanks again, Butternut.
- BROWN BUTTER BREADCRUMBS: If you love a good crunchy topping on your mac and cheese, you will not want to skip this extra step. Browning butter brings out a unique nutty flavor which then elevates the sage, garlic, and panko to a whole new level too. If you can resist eating it all straight from the pan, it's worth making extra, and then storing it in the freezer for topping all kinds of meals.
- FEELS LIKE FALL: Sweet butternut squash plus rosemary, thyme, and sage has me dreamin' of my favorite season!
HOW TO MAKE BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE IN THE PRESSURE COOKER
- Add pasta, liquids, and spices to the pressure cooker pot
- Top with a steamer basket of butternut squash; pressure cook
- Add cooked squash to the blender with cheese and cornstarch
- Blend until smooth
- Stir sauce into pasta
- Let it sit a few minutes if needed to thicken
SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR DETAILED COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
HOW TO MAKE BROWN BUTTER BREADCRUMBS
- Melt butter in a pan
- Simmer until it foams and browns
- Stir in breadcrumbs and seasonings and stir until browned
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- CHEESE TIPS: I strongly advise using freshly grated parmesan. The pregrated stuff in a green can just doesn't melt very smoothly. For the cream cheese, I love to buy “whipped” cream cheese because it makes a very silky sauce. You can find it with the regular bars of cream cheese. The bars will work great if you can't find the whipped.
- PASTA TIPS: I aim to use whole wheat pasta when I can, but for this recipe, the wheat taste was just too overpowering. Instead I use Brown Rice Pasta which is also a whole grain. If you can't find it, I'd suggest going with a regular white pasta.
- TO BROWN OR NOT TO BROWN THE BUTTER: If you just want to melt some butter, stir in the breadcrumbs, and call it a day, you will still be happy. However, browning butter takes only a few minutes and the nutty flavor is simply irresistible. I'll let you make the call . . . or rather, just call me and I'll come brown the butter for you, my friend.
- BUTTERNUT SQUASH THOUGHTS: There is something truly better about locally grown butternut squash. The flavor is more mild and sweet than any I've purchased at the store. If you can find locally grown at a market, I would grab several. They store well for several months when stored at a cool temperature. Also, to make sure the squash is extra tender for pureeing, cut it small, about 1/2 inch cubes.
- USE A STEAMER BASKET: To get a silky smooth, orange cheese sauce, cooking the butternut squash above the pasta in a steamer basket is essential. If you don't own a steamer basket, you can steam it in the pressure cooker first, then cook the pasta second. Read How to Cook Butternut Squash in the Instant Pot for cooking directions.
- THE SAUCE: When you first stir the sauce back into the pasta, it will be a tad runny. Resist simmering it. My experience is that within 5 – 8 minutes, the starchy water will have thickened the sauce perfectly. If you simmer it, it will likely become too thick. On the other hand, if the sauce becomes thicker than you like, stir a little milk or water into it to loosen.
- EXTRA BREAD CRUMBS: If you have extra or you take my advice and double the bread crumbs, store the extra in the freezer. It lasts for months and tastes great on any pasta dish or roasted vegetables.
HOW TO STORE, REHEAT, AND FREEZE
- Store: Cool leftovers and store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- Reheat: The sauce will be thick once chilled. Place in a skillet with a splash of milk and reheat until the sauce smooths out. If you have an air fryer, I like to reheat it that way for a few minutes until the top is browned and crispy.
- Freeze: The pasta becomes a little mushy once frozen and thawed so I don't highly suggest it. However, if you have a lot left over, and you don't mind slightly mushy pasta, this is an option. The breadcrumbs freeze great in a freezer-safe bag or container for at least 3 months.
MAKE AHEAD TIPS
- Grate parmesan cheese and chop up butternut squash up to 3 days in advance.
- The Brown Butter Garlic Sage Breadcrumbs can be made several days in advance and stored in the freezer in a freezer-safe container.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE
- ADD PROTEIN: Grilled steak or chicken tastes amazing atop this pasta. Chicken Sausage is easy to fry in a skillet while the pasta cooks and really elevates the dish. This Instant Pot Chicken is also yummy. Crispy bacon is simply divine.
- MORE VEGETABLES: Roasted vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, etc. make a quick and easy addition.
- CHEDDAR BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE: If you want a more classic cheddar mac and cheese, swap the parmesan for sharp cheddar.
- VEGETARIAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE: Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
- BACON AND BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE: Fry up some bacon as the pasta cooks then crumble and stir it into the pasta with the sauce, reserving some for topping.
I love a good mac and cheese as much as the next person, but if I'm going to splurge on a carb-loaded meal like this, I want it to be packed with flavor and vegetables, and my dear friends, this recipe delivers on all accounts.
Try it very soon and report back. I can't wait to gush wildly over the cheesy sauce and brown butter bread crumbs with you!
MORE INSTANT POT PASTA RECIPES
- Instant Pot Cordon Bleu Pasta
- Instant Pot Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
- Instant Pot Whole Wheat Mac and Cheese
- Instant Pot Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- Instant Pot Lasagna
TOOLS/INGREDIENTS USED TO MAKE INSTANT POT BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC AND CHEESE
Instant Pot Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Brown Butter Garlic Sage Breadcrumbs
A healthier, veggie-loaded spin on mac and cheese – Instant Pot Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with an incredible Brown Butter Sage Breadcrumb Topping.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 3 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Entree
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: American
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- ½ cup water
- 1 pound brown rice rotini pasta (see note for other pasta options)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon minced dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried sage
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash (about ½ inch cubes)
- 4 ounces cream cheese (I prefer whipped cream cheese)
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
For the Brown Butter Garlic Sage Breadcrumbs
- 3 tablespoons butter, cut into 3 pieces
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs (I use whole wheat)
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Add chicken broth, water, pasta, butter, onion powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, rosemary, thyme, sage, and pepper to the pressure cooker pot.
- Place a steamer basket on top of the pasta and add butternut squash to the basket.
- Secure the lid and turn pressure release knob to a sealed position. Cook at high pressure for 3 minutes (see note regarding cook time).
- While the pasta is cooking, prepare the Brown Butter Garlic Sage Breadcrumbs. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once melted, start gently whisking the butter. Within 2-3 minutes it will start to foam and sizzle. Keep whisking and in another minute or two the butter will separate and the bottom layer will turn golden brown. Add the garlic, sage, breadcrumbs, and salt and stir frequently until mixture is browned and deliciously fragrant. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- When pressure cooking is complete, use a quick release. If liquid sprays from the valve, close valve, wait 30-60 seconds and try again.
- Remove steamer basket of squash and dump it into a blender. Add cream cheese, parmesan cheese, and cornstarch and blend until very smooth. If it’s having a hard time blending, add a small splash of water.
- Pour back into the pot with the pasta and stir to coat. It might be a little runny, but will thicken as it sits. If needed, select saute and simmer the sauce for about 1 minute to thicken.
- Serve pasta hot with a sprinkle of the Garlic Sage Breadcrumbs.
- Cube the butternut squash small, about ½ inch cubes. This will ensure they are soft for pureeing.
- Cook time may vary depending on what type of pasta you use. I use brown rice rotini that has a stovetop cook time of 14-15 minutes. To find the cook time for this recipe, I divide the cook time by half then subtract 2 -3 minutes. You’ll want at least a 3 minute cook time for the squash to be soft.
- Regarding the type of pasta: Brown rice is my favorite whole grain pasta because the taste is mild. Whole wheat pasta was too strong for the sauce. Regular white pasta will be really good, just make sure it has a stovetop cook time of at least 10 minutes so it won't be overcooked using this pressure cooker method.
- The pasta will thicken as it sits. If it’s really runny, use the saute function to thicken.
- If you’re not familiar with browning butter, check out this quick tutorial https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/how-to-brown-butter/
- Extra breadcrumbs can be stored in a sealed container in the freezer for future use.
- A little crumbled bacon over top is also delicious!
- Note: Nutrition facts do not include breadcrumbs.
Keywords: Instant Pot Mac and Cheese, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese, Healthy Mac and Cheese
Welcome! I’m Marci, wife to my motorcycle dream man and mother of 3. I have a passion for creating and cooking delicious masterpieces in my kitchen and am ecstatic to share my discoveries on TIDBITS! I like my food tasty, wholesome, memorable, and always, ALWAYS followed by dark, salty chocolate.