Being dairy-free, one of the things I miss most is a big bowl of mac and cheese. While you can never replace ooey-gooey cheese completely, this Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is insanely delicious and is a staple at our house!
There is no cheese in this recipe - the base of the sauce is butternut squash, paired with cashews and a bit of "cheesy" flavor from nutritional yeast.
Why you'll love this recipe
- This is an easy recipe that comes together in just 45 minutes!
- There is no cheese or butter in this recipe, but you won't miss it! The creaminess of the sauce comes from the butternut squash and cashews.
- This Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is packed with vegetables - butternut squash in the sauce and then topped with roasted broccoli.
There are just a few ingredients you'll need to bring this recipe together.
- Butternut squash: You'll need a generous 2 cups of butternut squash for this recipe (a little more, a little less, go for it!)
- Broccoli: Use as much or as little as you like. I find that 1-2 broccoli crowns is the right amount. Also, roasting the broccoli until it's nicely browned and crisp is key -- the texture is so great!
- Nutritional yeast: This is where the recipe gets its umami flavor (no cheese, right?)
- Raw cashews: The cashews give the sauce a nice buttery texture. Make sure they're raw and unsalted.
- Dried pasta: A noodle with a lot of surface area is best to hold the sauce. I like to use elbows or Cellentani (spirals). But of course, any kind of pasta will work!
- Dijon mustard: Just a bit for the sauce!
- Lemon juice: For a bit of zing
See full recipe below for detailed instructions.
Substitutions & Variations
This is a very adaptable recipe and below are a few easy substitutions and variations you can try.
- Omit the broccoli: Broccoli not your thing? Leave it out or try another vegetable! This pasta is delicious without it!
- Add a little heat: Increase the cayenne pepper to make a spicier version.
- Change up the pasta shape: Everyone has their favorite pasta shape, so use whatever you like best here!
I have not tested this recipe with other variations, but if you do, let us know how it turns out in the comments! I always love to hear how you're adapting these recipes and use those as ideas for future recipes as well.
How to Make Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
This recipe comes together in a few easy steps and is packed with vegetables!
Soak the cashews in warm water. Then, peel and chop the butternut squash and spread on a baking sheet. You'll roast until this is fork-tender.
Break the broccoli into florets and roast until crispy. This will go on top of your finished pasta.
Blend together all sauce ingredients, then add to the cooked pasta and stir to combine.
Top the pasta with additional roasted broccoli and serve.
Expert Cooking Tips
- This is a very flexible recipe. If you'd like the sauce to be a bit thinner (or you added more butternut squash), just add some water after you've blended the sauce together.
- Mix half the roasted broccoli into the pasta with sauce, and then use the remaining half of the broccoli to top the pasta.
- Serve right away! The sauce is creamiest while it is warm. It thickens as it cools.
Store this Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the pasta in the microwave for about 60 seconds when you are ready to serve.
To note: the sauce is creamiest right after you make it and while it's warm. As the sauce cools, it will lose some of its creamy texture.
I definitely recommend it. Nutritional yeast gives a great umami flavor that you lose (by not using cheese) and it really adds something here.
If you don't like broccoli, you can leave it out!
If your sauce seems too thick, add more water after blending. Keep in mind, the sauce will thicken as it cools.
Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
- 2 cups butternut squash peeled, de-seeded, and cubed
- 2 crowns broccoli cut into florets
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil divided
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper divided
- 1 lb. dried pasta such as elbows or cellentani
- 2 cups water
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- 3 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ⅛ - ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper depending on your level of spice
- Flaky sea salt for topping
- Ground black pepper for topping
- Add the cashews to a small bowl and cover with hot water. These will soak while you prep and roast the vegetables.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread the cubed butternut squash on a baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 Tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper. Toss to combine and spread the squash into an even layer.
- Repeat with the broccoli on a separate baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Toss to combine and spread into an even layer.
- Add both baking sheets to the oven. Bake squash for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway, until tender. Bake broccoli for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway, until crispy. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, set aside, and keep your pot on the stovetop (you'll use it later).
To make the sauce
- Once the butternut squash is roasted, add it to a blender with 2 cups water, soaked cashews (drained), garlic cloves, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, dijon mustard, onion powder, nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
- Blend approximately 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Add more water, if needed, to reach your desired consistency. Remember the sauce will thicken as it cools.
To assemble your dish
- Pour the blended sauce back into the pasta pot. Add the drained noodles and half of the roasted broccoli. Stir to combine and coat. Transfer to bowls and top with additional roasted broccoli, flaky sea salt, and black pepper.