Beer and Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese in a Dutch oven

I think some foods are sacred. I’m a big fan of health-ifying recipes, but some foods are just meant to be eaten in all their butter-laden, sugar-filled glory.

I think healthy eating is all about moderation, and part of that moderation is honoring the perfection that is certain comfort foods on occasion. Chili dogs. Chocolate chip cookies. Buttermilk biscuits. Macaroni and cheese used to be one of those foods for me too.

Beer and Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese on a white plate with a fork

I’d much rather indulge in a cheese-filled mac and cheese dish occasionally instead of suffering through the sacrilege that is most of the “healthy” mac and cheese recipes out there on a more frequent basis.

And that was true, until I read the new menu at one of our local restaurants. One of the menu items was a macaroni and cheese made with one of my favorite local wheat beers, and the light bulb went on! For the first time, I thought I might be able to make a good healthy mac and cheese recipe (though I’d be balancing out the healthiness with the addition of booze). Win!

Ingredients for Beer and Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese in individual bowls
Beer and Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese in a red baking pan

So I got to Googling for healthy mac and cheese recipes, and it seemed that using butternut squash as the base for the cheese sauce was the way to go.

The boiled squash turns creamy and smooth once it is run through the blender (much like it does in soup), and serves as a mild and nutty base for a small amount of cheese. Plus, it’s the right color. We all eat with our eyes, so having the creamy mac be bright yellow was important.

Noodles being mixed into a cheese sauce in a Dutch oven

We were totally bowled over by how decadent and interesting the end result was. Instead of tasting healthy, it tasted creamy, comforting, and cheesy. The beer was a light, but noticeable, flavor in the background that made it more addictive with each bite. Enjoy!


Beer and Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese in a Dutch oven

Beer and Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese

Yield: 12-16 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

This Beer and Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese is creamy, comforting, and cheesy.


  • 2 12-ounce packages (1 1/2 pounds) elbow macaroni (whole wheat or regular)
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, deseeded and cubed
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 bottle wheat beer
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 cup 0% Greek yogurt
  • 3 cups shredded gruyère cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9x13” pan or two 9x9” pans with oil or cooking spray.
  2. Boil elbow macaroni for 1-2 minutes less than the time indicated on the package (you want it to be not quite al dente, since it will continue to cook later in the oven).
  3. Meanwhile, bring the squash, milk, beer, garlic, bay leaf, salt, and pepper to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat so that the mixture simmers and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is very tender. Do not worry if the mixture separates.
  4. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Use an immersion blender to process the mixture until very smooth and creamy (or carefully transfer to a regular blender and puree in batches). Stir in the yogurt, gruyère, Pecorino Romano, and butter.
  5. Add the elbow macaroni and stir until the pasta is evenly coated with sauce. The mixture will be very soupy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to the baking dish or dishes.
  6. Mix the panko and Parmesan in a small bowl, then sprinkle evenly over the macaroni.
  7. Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 more minutes, until the top is browned and the sauce is thickened. Serve hot.


Any wheat beer that you enjoy drinking will work well here.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 258Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 38mgSodium: 478mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 15g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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  1. I’m excited to try this! I’ve had a butternut squash on my counter for a week and couldn’t think of what to do when it! Quick question – why put it in two 9×9” pans instead of one 13×9”? We only have one square dish and I can’t decide if I should do one in a deep dish pie pan or just throw it all in a 13×9″. Thanks so much!

    1. You can put it all in one big one, if you like! I just like to pop one in the freezer whenever I make this. 🙂

  2. This looks delicious, I admit I don’t know a whole lot about beer though. More of a wine drinker – so when you say “wheat” I am not sure what to use, do you think I can use a Corona?

    1. Corona would work, but the beer flavor would be a lot less pronounced. Wheat beer is a pretty common type of beer. Most of the bigger names have a version. I know Leinenkugel, Bell, and Shock Top are all available at my grocery store. Just look for “wheat” on the label. 🙂 And drink some, too! It’s goooooood!

  3. Risotto. I will use brown or wild rice in just about any other rice dish, but don’t take away my arborio for risotto! It’s just not the same.

    What a good lookin’ recipe! This definitely needs to be tried at our house. 🙂

  4. Ha! I was curious about the pub, so I clicked the link you provided – the page presented me with a form asking if I was over 21. I sighed and clicked “no,” and was subsequently redirected to Justin Bieber’s home page. Lol.
    I tried pumpkin macaroni and cheese last Thanksgiving, and it wasn’t horrible or anything, but it left much to be desired 🙁
    I do, however, love Hungry Girl’s healthy renditions of mac and cheese. I know with her stuff it can often be a hit or a miss, and lots of people don’t like the heavy focus on cutting calories (I felt the same way when I saw a recipe calling for fat free sour cream, which sounded terrible), but I urge you to try her BLT-rific Mac and Cheese – so gooooood and around 200 calories a serving. I think it’s something I would eat for dinner every other week. The Cheeseburger Mac Attack is also pretty great, but I recommend to bake everything in the oven for that one instead of using the slow cooker 😉

    1. Hahahaha! I had no idea that redirected to Justin Beiber. That’s awesome.

      OOOH! The BLT mac and cheese sounds AWESOME. Thanks for the rec!

  5. This sounds delicious! I also agree, that some foods are not meant to be touched by the calorie counter. And that healthy eating is all about moderation!

    1. I get so frustrated when all I see is “fat free” in light recipes. Use some butter! It’s good for ya. 🙂

  6. We loooove butternut squash mac & cheese (and beer in everything), and I definitely plan to veganize this! Pinning for later 😀 Looks amazing!

  7. A mac and cheese that my husband might actually like? You can never go wrong with beer; )

    I’ve made mac and cheese using canned pumpkin and it turned out pretty good as well. Like the squash, it gives it a creamy rich flavor.

    1. What!? Your husband doesn’t like mac and cheese? That’s crazy! It’s one of my husband’s favorite foods.