This sweet potato mac and cheese is incredibly creamy and sneaks in a little added nutrition thanks to the sweet potato! With gluten-free and whole-grain options.
I’m kind of all over the place with my recipes lately. A refreshing summer salad, then some autumnal healthy cinnamon apple muffins, followed by another seasonally-appropriate summer salad. And now this sweet potato mac and cheese, which seems more fitting for Thanksgiving.
But I have a reason. During school summer vacations, I loved having mac and cheese for lunch. It wasn’t something we often had so for me, mac and cheese has a weird connection to the summer.
This sweet potato variation makes mac and cheese just a little bit healthier. I love adding sweet potatoes in surprising places, like in these Paleo Chicken Meatballs or Healthy Muffins for Kids, because it adds a bit of nutrition, sweetness and flavor.
The first time I made this easy mac and cheese recipe, I didn’t have the full amount of cheese on hand and it had the weirdest effect. I swear… it tasted like Cheetos! It was weirdly delicious. 😀
The next time, I used the full amount of cheese and it tasted exactly like regular mac and cheese. If you want a more pronounced sweet potato taste, try adding more puree.
When preparing the sweet potato, you can either use an immersion blender (or a small food processor or the nut butter jar attachment of a high-speed blender, like a Blendtec / Vitamix) for a totally smooth sauce like the above photos, or use the bottom of a glass to smash the sweet potatoes, which yields a more textured sauce (pictured below).
Both are delicious! But if you have picky kids (or partners!) you’ll probably want to go with the immersion blender. It just looks a lot better.
In the above photos, 2 cups of regular orange cheddar was used. What’s weird is that I usually use 1 1/2 cups of white cheddar and 1/2 cup of Pecorino Romano and that version is just as orange. You can see below in an old photo of this recipe.
I’ve been using white cheddar because up until recently, I thought all orange cheddar was artificially colored.
It looks like some cheddar is, but other cheddar is dyed naturally using the seeds of an annatto tree. I think I’ll still stick to white cheddar! I don’t feel like I’m missing anything flavor-wise.
This sweet potato mac and cheese is perfect as-is but it’d be easy to personalize! I like to keep things plain with just some added garlic powder, but my husband loves his with bacon.
I think next time I’ll add some ham for a little added protein that’s not as fatty as bacon. Whatever you add, it’s sure to be delicious!
What’s better than cheese + carbs? More cheese + carbs! Next time I make this sweet potato mac and cheese, I’m also going to make these Gluten-free Cheddar Herb Muffins to go along with it. And this gluten-free sweet potato casserole looks like another delicious sweet potato recipe! These gluten-free crescent rolls also look great.
What can I use instead of sweet potato?
Perhaps pumpkin / butternut squash would work. I think those are a bit more watery than sweet potatoes, so you might want to add a little less.
You could also wring out some of the water with a tea towel, if using fresh pumpkin / butternut squash (as opposed to canned). Or just try my Pumpkin Mac and Cheese!
Can I use a different type of pasta?
Of course. Use whatever you like!
Can I use something other than olive oil?
You can use any type of oil but if you use coconut oil, I recommend refined coconut oil so that there’s no coconut taste.
I haven’t tried it but butter should work, too. Use just a tiny bit more than 2 tablespoons.
Do I have to use the flour?
Yes, otherwise your sauce won’t come together. It’d just be a soupy mess.
Can I use a different type of cheese?
Whatever type of cheese you normally like in your mac and cheese should be fine here.
Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese (gluten-free option)
- 1 medium sweet potato (mine was 370 grams and was a little more than what was needed)
- 2 cups (~250 grams) elbow macaroni if just mashing the sweet potato OR 3 cups (375 grams) if pureeing the sweet potato to make it totally smooth (for a gluten-free version, make sure to use GF macaroni)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or for a gluten-free version, use Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-free Baking Flour
- 2 cups (475 ml) full-fat milk
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (you can leave it out if you dislike it and add some garlic powder instead)
- 2 cups (225 grams) freshly grated cheddar or a mix of cheeses (I prefer 1 1/2 cups cheddar + 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and dice the sweet potato into 1/2" pieces. Place in the boiling water and cook until tender, about 10-20 minutes. You can alternatively place the potato on a baking sheet and bake at 400 °F for 1 hour or until soft and then scrape out the flesh (you can really use any method at all to cook the sweet potato).
- If you want a totally smooth sauce like in the photos, use an immersion blender to puree the sweet potato. A small food processor or a high-speed blender (using the smaller nut butter jar) would also work. If you don't mind a little texture, you can mash the cooked sweet potato very well until no lumps remain. I used a flat-bottomed glass and it worked fine. Measure out 1 cup (245 grams).
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the package. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly pour in the milk while whisking constantly. Cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in the mustard, if using, cheese, and 1 cup of mashed / pureed sweet potato. If needed, cook another few minutes until thickened.
- Add in the salt, pepper and then the macaroni. Stir until totally combined. Serve hot.
- Let leftovers cool, cover and refrigerate to up to 5 days.