This Fall Ingredient Makes Boxed Mac and Cheese So Much Creamier

As the cool weather appears, you'll see cans of this stuff on your grocery store shelves — and it's not just for pie.

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Photo by: Heath Goldman

Heath Goldman

Fall means all sorts of delightful cliches, from plaid shirts and chunky sweaters to apple pies and cider doughnuts. But the king of them all? Pumpkin. Whether or not you enjoy pumpkin-spice lattes and pumpkin-scented candles, you might very well whip up a dessert that calls for canned pumpkin. I’m NOT talking about pumpkin pie filling, which contains a bunch of sugar and spices. I’m talking about the cans of pure pumpkin. If you’re anything like me, you’ll inexplicably find yourself with a smidgen of canned pumpkin puree leftover. (Why don’t recipes always call for the entire can?). And now is when a brilliant boxed mac-and-cheese hack comes into play.

Recently, I was developing recipes that use up leftover canned pumpkin, and I thought to stir some into homemade mac and cheese. My inspiration? Vegan "mac and cheese" that gets its "cheesy" color, texture and flavor from pureed squash. I figured that pumpkin is a type of squash. So why not add it to regular, non-vegan mac and cheese to amp cheesy flavor up to the extreme? Spoiler alert: the hack was successful. Very.

Because my brain works like that of a hungry child (and I was also thinking about another boxed mac-and-cheese hack), I wanted to test what happened when I added pumpkin puree to boxed mac and cheese, too. So off I went, adding three tablespoons of canned pumpkin to the cooked macaroni along with butter, milk and powdered cheese. As I stirred everything together, the canned pumpkin melted into the sauce, making it thicker, creamier and even more orange. In a word: luscious. Downright luscious. As to the flavor, the pumpkin puree enhanced cheesiness without tasting noticeably like pumpkin. 10/10 I will use this hack all fall, and I might just have to stock canned pumpkin year-round.

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