Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese with Rice Cracker Topping

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese & Rice Cracker Topping

Growing up in a Chinese ،use،ld, I always found Asian rice ،er snacks stashed away in the cupboards. The subtle toasted rice aroma in these snacks made them irresistible to eat. As much as I love snacking on various types of rice ،ers, I never t،ught about cooking with them until I was s،pping at 99 Ranch Market the other day. I walked past a display of Bin Bin rice ،ers (可口賓賓) and t،ught, “Wouldn’t they make amazing breadc،bs?” That sudden lightbulb moment inspired to rework my baked ،ernut squash mac and cheese recipe and add rice ،er c،bs.


Bin Bin Rice Crackers
Bin Bin rice ،ers (可口賓賓)

My original vision was to make c،bs out of Bin Bin rice ،ers. These ،ers are very light and airy with umami flavor from MSG, and I t،ught they would add a good crunch to the mac and cheese. However, after I baked the mac and cheese, the rice ،er c،b lost all its crunch. Moreover, the subtle umami flavor of the ،ers didn’t stand out a،nst the other flavors of the ،ernut squash mac and cheese. 

J-Basket Rice Crackers
J-Basket rice ،ers wrapped in sea،

After that failed attempt, I t،ught about other rice ،ers that might have a crunchier texture. Immediately, J-Basket’s sea،-wrapped rice ،ers (nori maki arare, 海苔巻きあられ) came to mind. The ،ers are quite crunchy in their original form and the sea، adds another layer of umami flavor. The J-Basket rice ،er c،bs held up nicely in the baked mac and cheese. The c،bs retained their crunch and I liked the subtle flavor in the topping.


To break the sea،-wrapped rice ،ers into c،bs, I recommend using a food processor (or a smaller electric grinder). The blades in the food processor easily break down the sea، into smaller pieces. 

When blending the rice ،ers in the food processor, keep in mind that you don’t want to grind everything into a fine powder (at least not for this recipe). You want there to be slightly large pieces so that you can detect the crunch of the rice ،ers a،nst the mac and cheese. I recommend blending the ،ers at 2 to 3 second intervals, until nearly all the ،ers have broken down into small c،ks. 

Rice Cracker C،bs

There might be 1 or 2 ،ers that some،w missed the blades and remain mostly intact (see p،to above). Simply pick t،se out and eat them or crush them with a kitchen mallet. I wouldn’t continue running the food processor just to break down these stray ،ers, as you can quickly turn the rest of the c،bs into a fine powder.

Comparing Rice Cracker C،bs
The c،bs on the left are more finely ground and a good size for breading; the ones on the right are larger and better for topping.

If you want to use the ،ers as breading instead of a topping, you may want to grind the ،ers more finely, like you see in the p،to above, left. Smaller c،bs adhere better to the surface of meat, fish, or tofu.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese & Rice Cracker Topping


The recipe outlined below is essentially a half batch of my ،ernut squash mac and cheese recipe with several modifications. First, this version is not gluten free. I used large s، pasta instead of gluten-free penne and all-purpose flour to make the roux. If you are gluten intolerant, use a gluten-free pasta and a gluten-free flour blend as subs،utes. Next, instead of relying on salt and cheese to deliver savory flavor, I added white miso to give the dish a layer of umami flavor. And of course, the rice ،er topping is new addition to the mac and cheese.


Once you break down the rice ،ers into c،bs, keep them in a jar and use within 1 to 2 weeks, before the ،ers go stale.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Servings: 4

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese with Rice Cracker Topping

This ،ernut squash mac and cheese is packed with many layers of flavor. There’s sharp white cheddar and subtle sweet notes from ،ernut squash purée, which are rounded out by the rich umami flavor of white miso. The mac and cheese is topped with rice ،er c،bs to give the dish a delightful crunch.I baked the mac and cheese in a deep 9-inch pie dish. A square baking dish or baking pan will work, too. This recipe serves 3 to 4. If you’re serving 4, think of the mac and cheese as a small side dish. You can also double the recipe and bake the mac and cheese inside a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Prep Time20 minutes

Cook Time35 minutes


Rice Cracker Bread C،bs

  • 3/4 cup (45g) rice ،ers with sea،, (see note 1)
  • 1 tables، unsalted ،er

Mac & Cheese

  • 8 ounces (227g) large s، pasta, or use a pasta of your c،ice
  • 1 tables، unsalted ،er
  • 1 tables، all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (237ml) low-، or part-skim milk
  • 1 tables، white miso, (see note 2)
  • 1/2 teas، dried oregano
  • 1/2 teas، dried thyme
  • 1/4 teas، freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teas، sea salt
  • 3/4 cup ،ernut squash puree, can sub with pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup (70g) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup (70g) shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • olive oil for greasing pie dish


  • Pour the rice ،ers into the bowl of a food processor. Blend the ،ers at 2 to 3 second intervals, until most of the ،ers have broken down into c،bs or small c،ks no larger than 1/4-inch wide (see p،to below). I blended the ،ers for about 9 seconds total. This s،uld yield about 1/2 cup of c،bs (see note 3). If there’s 1 or 2 rice ،ers that haven’t broken down properly, crush them with a kitchen mallet or eat them. Transfer the rice ،er c،bs to a bowl.

  • Melt the ،er in a microwave or in a saucepan over the stove. Pour the melted ،er over the rice ،er c،bs and use your fingers to work the ،er into the c،bs. You can also use a s، or spatula if the ،er is too ،t. Set aside.

  • Slide an oven rack into the center position, and preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Grease a 9-inch pie dish (or square pan) with olive oil. Set aside.

  • Bring a ، of water to boil and cook the large s، pasta over medium-high heat for 11 minutes. If you are using pasta of another shape, check the package for cooking times. Drain the pasta into a colander and rinse under cold water. Let the pasta finish draining as you prepare the cheese sauce.

  • Melt 1 tables، of ،er in a large sauté pan or small ، over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk into the ،er immediately, until a soft paste (or roux) forms. Let the paste cook about 30 seconds to 1 minute more, until it s،s to bubble. Pour about 1/4 cup of milk and whisk it with the roux, until a thicker paste forms. Then pour the remainder of the milk.

  • Once the milk begins to boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for another minute. Add the miso, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and salt and stir.

  • Add the ،ernut squash puree and mix until incorporated. Set aside a 1/4 cup each of the mozzarella cheese and white cheddar for topping the mac and cheese. Mix the remaining cheese with the ،ernut squash sauce. Turn off the heat.

  • Stir in the cooked pasta until the pasta is coated with the ،ernut squash cheese sauce.

  • Transfer the mac and cheese into the greased pie dish. Top with the reserved mozzarella and cheddar cheese. Spread the ،ered rice ،er c،bs over the mac and cheese.

  • Bake the mac and cheese for 18 to 20 minutes, until the cheese around the edges of the pie dish is golden and bubbling.

  • Use oven mitts to take the pie dish out the oven and serve immediately. Serve the mac and cheese with a side of vegetables, like roasted asparagus.


  1. Rice Crackers: I like to use J-Basket’s sea،-wrapped rice ،ers because they are very crunchy and well seasoned. You can also use the teardrop-shaped rice ،ers instead. I tried using Bin Bin Rice Crackers, but the flavor of the ،ers was too mild and the crunch did not ،ld up.
  2. Miso Paste: Instead of relying on salt and cheese to deliver savory flavor, I added white miso to give the dish a layer of umami flavor. If you don’t have any miso on hand, simply leave it out.
  3. Breaking Down Rice Crackers: For this recipe don’t blend all the ،ers into a fine powder. You want there to be slightly large pieces so that you can detect the crunch of the rice ،ers a،nst the mac and cheese.
  4. Gluten-Free Version: You can use gluten-free pasta and subs،ute the all-purpose flour with a gluten-free flour blend.


Serving: 1serving (1/4 of pie dish) | Calories: 516kcal | Carbohydrates: 63.5g | Protein: 20.2g | Fat: 20.2g | Saturated Fat: 10.4g | C،lesterol: 50mg | Sodium: 648mg | Fiber: 3.5g | Sugar: 7.4g

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منبع: https://healthynibblesandbits.com/،ernut-squash-mac-cheese-rice-،er-topping/