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This creamy vegan butternut squash mac and cheese is the ultra comfort food that tastes luxurious but is ready in about 30 minutes! Not only is this recipe dairy-free and vegan, but it's also gluten-free.
If you grew up in America, Mac and cheese is pretty much the definition of childhood nostalgia.
Although I enjoyed many home-cooked meals, I also deeply loved good ole' Kraft mac and cheese. My favorite was the shaped pasta. For some reason, it tasted better than the regular macaroni noodles. And we can't forget the glaringly neon orange cheese powder that you'd rehydrate with milk and pour over the cooked pasta with a pat of butter.
This vegan butternut squash mac and cheese is kind of like the grown-up version of that once beloved pasta with a dairy-free, seasonal twist. Its hue is naturally orange from the squash and the ingredients are rather simple yet give it a complex flavor.
The best part? 95% of this recipe is made with capsule pantry ingredients. This is what I used:
- Pasta - I suggest using any type of smaller-shaped pasta noodles such as elbows, shells, ziti, fusilli, rigatoni, etc. Use gluten-free noodles if needed.
- Butternut squash - contributes to the creaminess, flavor, and orange color.
- Raw cashews - they make dairy-free sauces extra creamy and velvety.
- Plant milk - I love oat milk, but you can use whatever kind of dairy-free milk you like.
- Reserved pasta water - the starch in the water helps create a more cohesive and creamier sauce.
- Miso paste - this is the secret ingredient that adds the complexity that cheese has.
- Nutritional yeast - gives it a slightly cheesy, umami flavor.
- Lemon juice - cuts through the richness and adds some tang.
- Dijon mustard - gives the sauce a sharp, tangy flavor.
- garlic & onion powder - give it a savory flavor.
- Smoked paprika - adds a nice smokiness.
- Nutmeg - used in traditional bechamel sauce (a French, dairy-based sauce) to elevate the overall flavor.
- Kosher salt & freshly cracked black pepper - to taste.
How to Make Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Roast the squash. Peel the butternut squash and cut it into cubes until you have 2 cups, toss with a little olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Spread them out into a single layer on a lined baking sheet and roast until fork-tender, about 25 minutes.
Cook the pasta. When the squash is halfway done, cook the pasta in a pot of salted water according to the package directions. Keep warm and set aside.
Make the butternut sauce. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste, and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed.
Assemble mac and cheese. Add the butternut sauce to the pasta and stir to combine.
Substitutions & Variations
Please remember that recipes are just a starting point.
How can you make this vegan butternut squash mac and cheese using what you already have? Here are some ideas…
- No butternut squash? - use another type of winter squash such as acorn, pumpkin, kabocha, or honeynut.
- No lemon juice? - sub apple cider vinegar.
- No nutmeg? - leave it out.
- Add-ons - toasted breadcrumbs on top for a nice textural contrast, add crumbled bacon (if not vegan), add dried herbs, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
It's ever so slightly sweet and nutty because of the roasted butternut squash, yet still savory because of the addition of other seasonings.
For this recipe, yes. We want the sauce as smooth and creamy as possible, so be sure to peel the skin of the squash before you roast it.
You can, but roasting the butternut squash adds more flavor to the sauce.
Only add the sauce to the pasta noodles if you’re going to eat them right away, otherwise, they'll dry out.
Store the sauce and cooked pasta separately in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop. If you've already mixed the pasta and sauce, you may need to add a splash or two of plant milk before reheating to rehydrate it.
More Vegan Butternut Squash Recipes
- Vegan Butternut Squash Risotto
- Fall Harvest Salad With Cranberry Vinaigrette
- Dairy-Free Butternut Squash Lasagna
- Maple Glazed Hasselback Butternut Squash
- Sweet and Spicy Roasted Butternut Squash
Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- olive oil for roasting
- 1 pound shaped pasta such as elbows, shells, ziti, fusilli, etc.
- ¾ cup plant-based milk of choice plus more to thin if needed
- ½ cup reserved pasta water
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons yellow or white miso paste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice or substitute
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt if using another kind, start with ½ teaspoon
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- parsley (optional, for garnish)
Soak the cashews
- Add the raw cashews to a bowl and pour over boiling water until just covered. Let soak for 20-25 minutes, drain, and add to a blender. Set aside until the squash is done roasting.
Cook the butternut squash
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Toss the butternut squash cubes with a little olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper. Spread them out into a single layer on a lined baking sheet and roast until fork-tender, about 25 minutes.
Cook the pasta
- Cook the pasta in a pot of salted water according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water before draining.
Make the butternut squash cheese sauce
- To the blender with the soaked cashews, add the roasted butternut squash, plant milk, reserved pasta water, nutritional yeast, miso paste, lemon juice, dijon mustard, kosher salt, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, nutmeg, and black pepper. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste, and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice as needed.
- When ready to serve, pour the butternut sauce over the pasta and mix to combine. If not eating right away, store the sauce and pasta separately until just before serving.