Smoked Butternut Mac and Cheese with smoked chicken and bacon is over the top in flavor, cheese, and of course, bacon. Mix in some smoked chicken to make this one pot dish one of your new favorite mac and cheese recipes.
Anything cooked inside, in the oven or stove top can be cooked outside on the the smoker, and that includes a great Mac and Cheese recipe!
Mac & Cheese is like a good burger, you can never have too many recipes. The idea behind this Butternut Squash version came when trying to find a way to incorporate one of our favorite squashes for a healthier version of our kids’ favorite dish, including some vegetables and proteins (in this case chicken).
Smoked Butternut Squash
Squash can be grown almost year round and makes a great filler for soups and other dishes. When smoking anything, having moisture helps because the smoke adheres to the liquid, creating that rich smoky flavor. The most effective squashes to smoke are your fall and winter squashes, like Butternut, Acorn, Kuri, or Pumpkin.
Summer squashes, like zucchini for example, are best for direct grilling. Their softer skin and higher moisture content make for a much better flavor over direct heat. If you smoke a summer squash at a low temperature, it will end up mushy and the texture will not be pleasant.
Start by preparing the butternut squash.
- Slice off the ends of the squash on either side.
- Remove the seeds and pulp with a spoon. If you do this after removing the skin it’s very difficult.
- Using a sharp peeler, remove the skin from the squash.
- Finally slice the squash into even cubes and it’s ready for seasoning.
From there we will season and then smoke the squash, chicken, and bacon all at the same time so it’s all done in preparation for the Mac and Cheese. This can be done the day before to break up the steps.
For the squash we are seasoning it simply with a beef rub comprised of equal parts kosher salt, coarse black pepper, and granulated garlic. Simply toss the cubes on a sheet tray with olive oil and the rub.
For the chicken we use our ultimate dry rub with hints of spices and sugar. We don’t add anything to the bacon. For the chicken, also coat it in olive oil and then liberally apply the dry rub to the chicken. If you don’t have access to making your own seasonings, then just use your favorite for both the squash and the chicken.
It’s now time to get smoking.
How to Smoke Butternut Squash
- Prepare smoker and target 250 degrees Fahrenheit using a fruit wood for a sweeter and softer flavor. If you want a more pronounced smoke flavor use oak or hickory.
- Place the sheet tray of seasoned squash right onto the smoker. This is also a good time to add the chicken and bacon directly to the smoker.
- Smoke the squash for two hours.
- The bacon and chicken will take about the same time. However be sure after one hour, to take the temperature of the chicken. Remove the chicken when the internal temperature of the meat is at 160 degrees Fahrenheit using an instant read thermometer like the Thermoworks MK4 Thermapen. For the bacon, remove when it is crispy. Usually that’s between 90 minutes and two hours.
Now remove them from the smoker, shred the chicken (or cut into small cubes), dice the crispy bacon, and make the Smoked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese. Don’t have a smoker? Just roast in the oven then.
Making the Mac & Cheese
The final steps (and it’s worth it) is to make the Mac and Cheese. Start with the base, then blend it for texture, and then combine the ingredients.
Equipment needed: A good blender.
- Start with a large pot of boiling, salted water. Add the macaroni noodles and cook based on the package directions. Be sure to strain prior to adding to the smoked butternut squash Mac and Cheese mix. Set aside.
- In a large cast iron or sauce pan (at least 10-inches with a deep edge) over medium heat, add olive oil and onions. Sautee to soften onions, about 10 minutes. Adjust the temperature of the stove top if they are cooking to fast and browning. Next add the garlic and cook for 1 additional minute to soften.
- Add the butternut squash to the pan and stir for 1-2 minutes to incorporate with onions and garlic and re-heat the squash. (save the same pan to finish)
- Place the mixture into a strong blender (we love BlendTec). Add milk, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the blender mix. Puree until the texture is smooth. If the puree is too thick add small amounts of milk or chicken stock until it’s thin enough (roughly 2 tablespoons of each until you like the consistency).
- Place the puree back into the pan and add the cheeses, smoked chicken, and half of the bacon. Slowly stir in the drained macaroni and the cheese will melt and incorporate. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.
- Place in your desired serving dish and top with the remaining bacon.
- Smoked Butternut Squash Soup
- Grilled Acorn Squash Salad
- Smoked Pumpkin Ravioli
- Smoked Tri Tip Mac and Cheese
- Grilled Mac and Cheese with Chicken and Bacon Panko Crust
- Poblano Mac and Cheese, Exclusively in our Cookbook, Fire & Wine
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THIS….WAS….HEAVENLY!! Just tried this recipe and found that I WILL be doing it again, very soon! I wanted to eat the squash all by itself (after smoking), but had to restrain myself to complete the full recipe. And I wasn’t disappointed, in the least. Now I have to try this without the bacon (my father cannot eat beef or pork).