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VEGAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC & CHEESE

Ultra creamy and delicious this Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese with smoky flavor is the BEST! With only 10 ingredients and ready in about 30 minutes, it’s quick and easy comfort food!

top down view of vegan butternut squash mac and cheese in a mini casserole.

Smoky, creamy and easy to make this butternut squash mac & cheese is similar to this Vegan Baked Mac & Cheese, but with a twist!

This is a delicious fall inspired mac and cheese made with butternut squash, cashews, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika and a few other everyday pantry staples.

I had the pleasure of making this mac & cheese recipe today and it was a hit with everyone!

It’s 100% dairy free, incredibly easy to make, and the leftovers are even better! Plus, there are plenty of options for each step, making it your BEST butternut squash mac and cheese!

top down view of ingredients used to make vegan butternut squash mac and cheese.

Ingredients You’ll Need

In this recipe, butternut squash is cooked until tender then pureed with cashews and spices into a creamy butternut squash cashew cheese, and tossed with cooked pasta for a warm and comforting side dish or main meal.

Here’s everything you’ll need, plus tips and ideas for substitutions.

  • Butternut Squash – Cook your own or use canned butternut squash. If you can’t do either, maybe try using canned pumpkin instead.
  • Pasta – Use your favorite, regular, whole wheat or gluten free pasta. I tend to like smaller pasta for mac and cheese (elbow, shells, penne, rotini, etc.), but just about any pasta will do.
  • Cashews – Use only raw cashews. I know they can be expensive, but they make the BEST creamy sauces! And a one pound bag cost about as much as one pound of cheese. Buy in bulk if you can, some stores have weekly bulk sales (like Sprout’s on Thurs).
  • Garlic – If you don’t have fresh garlic, use 1 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • Dijon – Adds the slightest hint of distinct flavor, feel free to add a tad more. If you prefer, substitute with mellow miso for umami flavor.
  • Nutritional Yeast – Highly nutritious, nutritional yeast is nutty, cheesy and blends up delightfully creamy. If you don’t have it on hand or don’t care for it, no worries you can omit it and still have great cheese sauce!
  • Smoked Paprika – This warming spice adds a wonderful smoky, complex flavor. If you like to add spicy heat, try a dash or two of cayenne.
  • Onion Powder – Adds a savory layer of flavor.
  • Lemon – Lemon is used as an acid for the cheese sauce. If you don’t have lemon on hand, 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar will work just as well.
  • Salt & Pepper – Use plenty of salt and pepper! This is where you really don’t want to skimp on salt since cheese is typically salty and it simply brings out the flavors better.

How To Make Butternut Squash Cheese Sauce

Making the vegan butternut squash cheese sauce is super easy and only requires a few simple steps:

  • Soak cashews. Start with soaking the cashews. They should be soaked, even if only for 10 minutes in hot water. Soaking helps soften them so they blend up ultra creamy. And if you’re sensitive to cashews, soak them for at least 2 hours in cool water to release the enzymes that cause digestive issues.
  • Cook your butternut squash. You’ll find instructions for stovetop, microwave or oven in the recipe card. And if using canned, even easier.
  • Puree. Add the cashews, cooked butternut squash, nutritional yeast, garlic, dijon, onion powder, smoked paprika, lemon, salt and pepper to the cup/bowl of your blender or food processor, process until creamy. Taste for seasoning.
  • Not too thick, not too thin: You don’t want the sauce to be too thick or thin. I suggest adding part of the water and adding more as needed. You want it just thick enough to have a nice cling when a spoon is dipped and removed. The sauce will thicken once it’s combined with the pasta which is why you want it on the thinner side (but not too thin). Do your best! :)

top down view of showing the process of making vegan butternut squash mac and cheese

How To Make Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Now that you’ve made the creamy dairy-free butternut squash cheese sauce you’re ready to make mac & cheese!

  • Cook your pasta.
  • Add the cheese sauce overtop and mix well to coat each and every piece of pasta.

Enjoy as is, or take it the the next step…

Baked Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Now you have the option to oven bake your glorious butternut squash mac and cheese in individual casseroles (or a big one), adding a panko or breadcrumb topping that bakes up crunchy and delicious. To do this:

  • Combine panko or breadcrumbs and oil in a small bowl, mix well. Sprinkle over top the mac and cheese and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, or until top is nicely golden (last photo). Or put it under the broiler to crisp up, takes about 5 minutes.

And that’s it, now you can sit back and enjoy this wonderful mac & cheese!

top down view of freshly made pot of vegan butternut squash mac and cheese.

How To Store Leftovers

  • Refrigerator: Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 – 5 days. It’s great for meal prep too!
  • Freezer: To store longer, mac and cheese will last in the freezer for up to 2 – 3 months stored in multi-use freezer safe containers (affiliate link) or freezer friendly baggies.
  • Reheat: Warm on the stovetop, adding a splash of unsweetened plain non-dairy milk or water, until warmed through. Or microwave, adding a splash of unsweetened plain plant milk, and heating in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until warmed through.

Can I Make Butternut Squash Mac + Cheese Ahead?

Yes, you can assemble this one or two days ahead, but keep the cooked pasta and cheese sauce separate until ready to bake otherwise you may end up with a dry mac + cheese. When ready to bake, combine the pasta and sauce, and cook according to the directions given.

More Recipes You’ll Love

top down view of vegan baked butternut squash mac and cheese in a mini casserole.

Did you make this butternut squash mac & cheese recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.

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VEGAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH MAC & CHEESE

A delicious fall inspired mac and cheese made with butternut squash, cashews, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika and a few other everyday pantry staples.

  • Author: Julie | The Simple Veganista
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 20 min
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6
  • Category: Entree, Pasta
  • Method: Boil, Puree
  • Cuisine: Vegan, American

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 3 cups butternut squash (about 12 oz), peeled, seeds removed and cubed or 1 can (14oz)
  • 1216 oz. pasta (elbow, shells, penne, ect.)
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 24 tablespoons nutritional yeast (see notes), to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dijon
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/ 2 – 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, to taste
  • 1 small lemon, juice of (or 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar)
  • 2 cups water, vegetable broth, or combo, plus more as needed
  • mineral salt & pepper, to taste

Optional for baking:

  • 1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs
  • 12 tablespoons oil

Instructions

Cook the butternut squash:

  • Oven: Preheat oven to 400, spread on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, add butternut squash, drizzle with a tiny bit of oil, toss well to coat, and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, or until fork tender.
  • Stovetop: In a pot add 2 – 3 cups of water and butternut squash, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook at a gentle boil for 20 minutes.
  • Microwave: Place butternut squash in a microwave safe bowl, add 1/2 cup of water, place a small plate overtop to bowl, and heat for 5 minutes on high. Carefully lift plate and check if squash is ready, or cook for 1 – 2 more minutes, until fork tender.

Soak the cashews:

  • Quick soak: Cover cashews with hot, not boiling, water and let soak at 10 minutes.
  • Long soak: Cover cashews with cool water and let soak for 2 – 3 hours.

Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Make butternut squash cheese: In blender, add the cooked butternut squash, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, smoked paprika, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and few grinds of fresh cracked pepper, add 1 1/2 cups of water and blend until creamy. Add more water as needed to thin to desired consistency. You don’t want it too thick, as it will thicken as it sets. The sauce just needs to cling so use your best judgement on how much extra water to add.

Assemble mac & cheese: Add the butternut squash cheese sauce to the pasta and stir to combine, heat over low to warm through if needed. Serve as is or bake as noted below.

Oven baked mac & cheese: Toss 1/2 cup of panko or bread crumbs with 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle the mixture over top the mac and cheese, place in a preheated oven set to 350, uncovered, for 15 – 20 minutes, or until top turns golden. Or put it a few inches under the broiler until top is crispy, about 5minutes.

Serves 6

Store: Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 4 – 5 days, in a covered container. It’s also freezer friendly and can be stored in freezer safe containers for up to 2 – 3 months. Let thaw before reheating.

Notes

Nutritional yeast: Since this is an acquired taste, feel free to omit. Or simply adjust the amount to suit your taste, start small and add more as desired.

Reheat: Warm on the stovetop, with a splash of unsweetened plain non-dairy milk or water, until warmed through. Microwave in 30 second intervals, with a splash of unsweetened plain plant milk, stirring after each interval until warmed through.

Keywords: vegan butternut squash mac and cheese, butternut squash mac and cheese recipe

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26 Comments

  1. Really yummy and easy to make. There’s a sweetness to it (maybe the from the butternut squash)…wondering if there is a way to take the sweetness down a notch. Was thinking of adding some cayenne pepper. Any ideas?

  2. Stephanie Garcia says:

    Hello! This looks yummy. I have a question. How much water do I soak the cashews in. Just enough to cover? And also do I pour the water it was soaking in and cashews together? Or do I drain the cashews of the water it was soaking in and THEN blend it in. Sorry I’m easily confused! Me a dum dum haha

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Great questions, Stephanie! I should be more specific. You are correct to just cover them with water. They will expand, so maybe cover them with an inch of water. Do drain the water after soaking. You’ll add fresh water (or plant-based milk) when blending the cashews. Enjoy the butternut squash mac and cheese!

  3. Thank you for this recipe! I just made it and it’s so good! The flavors are so balanced, and I really love that pumpkin is included. Healthy and no guilt! I used a Japanese sweet pumpkin and made sure I fully covered it with the homemade breadcrumbs.

  4. This is so good! I also cooked up some vegan sausage and spinach and had it with the Mac and cheese! It was such a filling and delicious meal!

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      That sounds so good, I love it! Thanks for sharing, Lindsay!

  5. This looks so creamy and delicious!

  6. This came out so well! Thank you very much!
    Can I freeze leftover sauce?

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Yes, you can freeze the leftovers and let them thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating. Glad you enjoy it, and thanks for sharing, Lauren!

  7. How would you adjust this recipe for 2 servings?

    1. Julie | The Simple Veganista says:

      Great question, Riki! I would just cut it in half. You may have a little leftover, but not much and that’s the easiest way. Hope that helps, enjoy!

      1. Thanks! As an FYI, the mustard is in the ingredients list but never listed in the recipe

        1. Oops – I see it is listed earlier , but not in the paragraph that I was following (starting with “make butternut squash cheese:”

  8. Ellery Lawry says:

    a fall favorite! soo good :)

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