The PERFECT vegan mac and cheese! You will not believe how good this is!!! No soy, fake cheese or nutritional yeast. Made with real whole food ingredients, this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese will become a regular on your dinner table!
**This recipe was featured on CBS’ The Doctors tv show. Watch me talk about the recipe with Dr. Travis and see the results of a LIVE kids taste test here!**
The only vegan mac and cheese recipe you’ll ever need!
It’s made with 100% whole food ingredients – No soy. No processed cheese. No oil. No nutritional yeast.
Just good for you healthy food!
The kids love it. Husband, family, friends, and neighbors…they all love it.!
Pleasing vegans, omnivores, adults, and kids alike, this Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese is one creamy pasta dish you don’t want to miss!
Ingredients you need
Ingredient notes and substitutions
Noodles ~ Elbow noodles are classic for mac and cheese, but this sauce will work with any of your favorite noodle shapes. Small shells, penne, and rotini are our other faves for this dish.
Use gluten free noodles, if you need/want.
*Pro tip: After learning of our daughters gluten sensitivity, we have tried nearly every kind of gluten free noodle out there. Our favorite is by far the Tinkyada noodles! They stay al dente, they don’t clump up, my kids can’t tell the difference between these and regular pasta, and its made from just organic brown rice and water! Try it!
Butternut Squash ~ This healthy veggie gives us the classic golden color of mac and cheese. It’s nutty and earthy with a slight sweetness. It blends up super creamy when paired with the other ingredients.
I buy a whole one and prep it myself, but most grocery stores now sell pre-chopped butternut squash in the produce section and you can often find it frozen as well. It costs more to buy the pre-chopped kind, but it can save you time for sure. Use what you’re comfortable with.
Pumpkin or sweet potato can be used instead though both will give slight flavor variations to the final dish.
Love butternut squash? You’ll love my vegan butternut squash risotto and baked butternut squash fries!
Cashews ~ Raw cashews blend up silky smooth and help to give this dish its thick creamy texture.
For a nut free version, try using white beans, like cannellini or Great Northern, in place of the cashews.
Spices ~ Mustard provides a sharp, tangy kick that balances the the other flavors and helps to create a “cheesy” taste.
A clove of fresh garlic can be used instead of the garlic powder.
Smoked paprika lends a great subtle smokiness that is great paired with “cheesy” dishes.
Turmeric adds extra oomph to the bright golden color. If you don’t have it, you can leave it out.
I was always taught to add a pinch of nutmeg to creamy “white” sauces. You won’t taste it in the final dish, but it gives a little extra something to the background flavors. Again, if you don’t have it, you can leave it out.
Optional add-ins ~ For an extra “cheesy” flavor, try adding 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast or 1 tablespoon of mellow white miso. Blend into the sauce until smooth.
How to make the recipe
Cook the noodles according to package directions. Before draining, be sure to save 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to add to the sauce!
Please scroll down to the recipe card for exact ingredient measurements and instructions.
To prep the butternut squash, first slice it in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.
Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife and chop it into cubes and slice the onion thinly.
Add the squash and onions along with the raw cashews to a pot and cover with water by about 1 to 2 inches.
Cook the squash/onion/cashew mixture until the squash is tender. Pierce a piece with a fork or knife. If it slides in easily, it’s done. Drain.
Add the veggies and cashews to a blender along with the remaining ingredients. Blend until perfectly smooth.
Stir the sauce into the cooked noodles and serve!
Storage and freezing
Fridge: The sauce mixed with the noodles will keep in the fridge for several days. You will need to add a bit more liquid – plain, unsweetened almond or oat milk works well – when reheating.
The sauce by itself is great for prepping ahead. It will keep in the fridge in an air-tight container for 4 to 5 days.
Freezer: You can also freeze the mac and cheese (noodles and sauce together), but please note that the noodles will likely be a tad soft when thawing/reheating.
The sauce by itself can be thawed/reheated without losing any of the creamy texture. Again, you may need to add a bit more liquid, however, to loosen it up as it will thicken as it sits.
Pro tips and tricks
~ Use raw cashews. They blend up super creamy and have a mild sweet flavor that complements the other flavors of the butternut squash mac and cheese. Roasted salted cashews will be too strong.
~ Although the peel of butternut squash is edible, peel it! The end result will be much creamier without the peel.
~ To save time, feel free to use pre-chopped butternut squash found in the produce section of the grocery store. Frozen chopped squash can also be used.
~ Don’t forget to save ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining the noodles! The starch in the water helps create the silky creamy texture.
~ Use a high speed blender to ensure the sauce blends up silky smooth.
~ If you are making this sauce on it’s own without the noodles, you can use water, unsweetened plain non-dairy milk, or the cooking liquid from the squash/onions in place of the pasta cooking water.
~ For an extra “cheesy” flavor, try adding 1 tablespoon of mellow white miso (note: contains soy) or 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Blend into the sauce until smooth.
~ To make this nut free, use white beans (cannelllini or Great Northern) instead of cashews.
~ This sauce is already gluten free. To make the final dish gluten free, choose gluten free noodles.
~ This dreamy butternut squash mac and cheese sauce is so versatile. Try serving it over baked potatoes or steamed broccoli, use it as a dip for tortilla chips or french fries, or stir it into soups or chilis.
While this butternut squash mac and cheese doesn’t taste exactly like what you’ll get from that classic blue box or from a homemade dairy loaded version, it does have the creamy, earthy, slightly sharp/tangy flavor that everyone loves. It is a delicious pasta dish that I know you’ll love!
Vegan mac and cheese can be made a number of different ways. Some use store-bought vegan cheese, some use potatoes and carrots, some start with a roux, and of course, this version uses butternut squash.
Yes! This butternut squash mac and cheese is healthy! Using all whole food plant based ingredients, there are plenty of nutrients packed into each creamy, “cheesy” bite!
Technically, the peel of this winter squash is edible. However, this butternut squash mac and cheese will be much creamier if you get rid of it.
I hope you love this recipe as much as we do! If you tried it, please use the rating system in the recipe card and leave a comment below with your feedback.
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For even more easy family recipes, be sure to check out my cookbook, The Meatless Monday Family Cookbook!
Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 12 ounces package small macaroni noodles cooked according to package directions (use gluten free noodles, if desired)
- ½ cup reserved pasta cooking liquid or from the squash/onion…either one will work)
- 1 ½ cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
- ½ large sweet onion peeled and chopped
- ¼ cup raw cashews
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- Add butternut squash, onions and cashews to a pot and cover with water by at least an inch or two. Bring to a boil, turn down heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes or so).
- Meanwhile, cook macaroni noodles according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup cooking liquid once noodles are done cooking and before draining. Place noodles back in pot and set aside.
- When squash and onions are tender, drain and add them to a high speed blender with the cashews, lemon juice, salt, dijon, garlic powder, black pepper, smoked paprika, turmeric, nutmeg and reserved cooking liquid from the noodles. Blend until completely smooth. Use a tamper if necessary to push ingredients to the bottom of the blender.
- Add butternut squash sauce to the macaroni noodles and stir, making sure every noodle is covered in sauce. Warm through if needed.
Nutrition values are calculated using online calculators and are estimates only. Please verify using your own data.
Mollie V says
I have made this 3 times in the last 2 weeks. My family loves it. It has great texture and flavor (I always add the 2tbsp of nutritional yeast that is mentioned in the recipe notes). Easy dinner recipe for the family and great as leftovers, too.
Jenn Sebestyen says
That’s wonderful, Mollie! So happy to hear you all love it!
Can you freeze or keep in fridge to add to future pasta?
Jenn Sebestyen says
You sure can. All the info is there under the Storage and Freezing section.
I absolutely love Jenn’s recipes; this butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese is perfect. Following the recipe is so easy; the ingredients are all delicious; it is also easy to modify. h I don’t use salt in recipes; but, I did use the nutritional yeast; this helped to bring out the flavor a little better. Thanks, Jenn.
Jenn Sebestyen says
Thank you, Ann! So glad you to hear you enjoyed it!
If you haven’t tried this before, I hadn’t either. I thought it was good, but I ended up over seasoning it since I used two containers of butternut squash. It’s something I might make again on a smaller scale.
Anyone ever add carrots to the mix when simmering the squash, nuts, and onion?
Jenn Sebestyen says
Yes! I actually have done that when I have leftover squash cubes, but not enough. It’s a bit sweeter, but still delicious. You can adjust the other seasonings after blending, as needed.
My daughter just made this for Friendsgiving and I snuck a taste- OMGoodness. This is most definitely in my cooking future! All the flavors- so delicious!
Jenn Sebestyen says
Yay! I’m so glad. Thank you for your comment and rating!
I have been making a double-batch of this recipe almost weekly for the past few months, and it’s so delicious, easy and tasty. I leave out the nutmeg and add raw cashew butter to the blender instead of boiling whole nuts and it still works great. I always add the miso and nutritional yeast, and cut back on the added salt since the miso is salty.
Thank you for this excellent recipe!!
Jenn Sebestyen says
I’m so glad you love it, Jenna! Glad to hear cashew butter works just as well. Thanks for your comment and feedback!
Maybe I did something wrong… the sauce texture wise came out perfectly creamy, but for some reason it tasted bland despite the fact I put in the spices and even added more in when I realized it did not have much of a flavor. I will let it sit overnight to see if it has more of a taste tomorrow
Jenn Sebestyen says
Well, everyone has different tastes…you may just need a stronger flavor. Try adding some more salt to punch up the flavors. You can also add a tablespoon of miso or nutritional yeast to enhance the savory flavor.