Deliciously creamy vegan butternut squash mac and cheese! This recipe is kid-friendly, easy to make, and the perfect comfort food with a healthy twist. With a super thick and creamy sauce, you won't even know it's vegan and dairy-free.
Okay, this has been on my ‘make-a-healthier-version’ list for a while. Noodles covered in melted cheese — pure genius. To whomever discovered this creations, we all thank you.
This plant based mac and cheese recipe looks and feels like the real deal but there is no cheese or dairy involved. We use a roasted butternut squash to get that thick consistency, some coconut milk to add creaminess, and nutritional yeast for that cheese factor!
Ingredients and notes
- Grain-free pasta - The type of pasta is up to you. I used a chickpea pasta and it holds up well with the thick sauce. However, any type of pasta will work in this recipe.
- Coconut milk - This ensures a creamy and thick consistency. Make sure you use full-fat coconut milk for optimal creaminess. Light coconut milk will work too but the "cheese" sauce won't be as creamy.
- Nutritional yeast - Packs a serious "cheese" factor without the dairy. You can typically find this in most grocery stores in the spice aisle. If you aren't familiar with nutritional yeast, check out this post where I go into detail about its benefits.
- Cashew butter - This is probably the most non-traditional ingredient but it adds the perfect hint of nuttiness to the sauce. Trust me, it's great! Any type of nut butter will work in this recipe.
Step by step directions
This vegan butternut squash mac and cheese recipe is super simple to make. You'll need a high-speed blender or food processor to make the sauce and a large pot for the pasta.
Step 1 : Bake the butternut squash
First, slice open the butternut squash down the long side and remove any seeds. Place it on a baking sheet with the flesh side up and bake in the oven for about an hour until it's soft in the middle. A great way to check if it's done is to see if the skin around the sides is beginning to warp.
Let it cool slightly before measuring it out.
Step 2 : Prepare the noodles
This step should be fairly straight-forward. While the butternut squash is cooling down, prepare the noodles according to the directions on the back of the box. This recipe calls for 2 boxes of pasta so make sure to use a large pot.
Once the noodles are soft, strain them and place the pasta back in the pot.
Step 3 : Make the sauce
To make the sauce, measure out three cups of the butternut squash and add it to a high-speed blender or food processor. Add the remaining sauce ingredients and blend. Scrape down the sides and continue to blend until smooth and creamy.
Step 4 : Assemble
Finally, pour the sauce over the noodles and stir until the noodles are coated. Top with a little sprinkle of sea salt and sage if desired. Serve while warm and enjoy!
How to store
This vegan butternut squash mac and cheese makes great leftovers! Allow it to cool down to room temperature before transferring it to an air-tight container. Store the container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
When ready to eat, dish out a serving into a microwave safe bowl and heat it up in 15 second intervals, stirring in between, until warm.
- Mix in extra veggies. Most cooked vegetables would be great in this vegan mac and cheese. I recommend trying sautéed mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, cooked broccoli, peas, or onions.
- Top with bread crumbs. Once the sauce and noodles are well mixed, pour the mac and cheese into a baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and broil it in the oven for 3 - 5 minutes until toasted. This will create a delicious crispy top!
- Add protein. To keep this recipe vegan, slice up a veggie burger and toss it into the pasta. Tofu chunks would work as well.
- Top with additional herbs and spices. Some fresh Italian seasoning would work great in this recipe. If you like things spicy, add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.
Frequently Asked Questions
While I don't recommend substituting the nutritional yeast as it provides some serious cheesy flavor, you can use a vegan cheese in its place. A cheddar would work best in this recipe.
Yes, this can be made in the instant pot. Here is a great recipe which details how to make butternut squash mac and cheese in an instant pot. You can follow her directions and cook the pasta and butternut squash with stock or water in the pressure cooker. Then add the coconut milk, cashew butter, and spices and stir until well mixed.
Yes, this recipe is very easy to make ahead of time and store. Refer to the section above labeled "how to store" for more details.
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Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 1 medium butternut squash - about 3 cups of cooked squash
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- 3 Tbsp cashew butter
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 16 oz grain-free pasta of choice - I love this chickpea pasta
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut your butternut squash in half lengthwise, pull the seeds out with a fork, place on a baking sheet with the flesh side up, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour until soft. Let cool
- Cook pasta according to the directions on the back of your pasta box (I recommend using a large pot). Strain and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
- Measure out 3 cups butternut squash and place in a food processor or high-powered blender. Add the coconut milk, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, nutmeg, cashew butter, and sea salt and blend for about 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides need be and continue to blend until creamy (this took me about 2 minutes).
- Pour the sauce over the warm pasta and stir until coated. Serve pasta in individual bowls, garnish with a a sprinkle of sea salt and sage if desired.