Hello, my chickpeas! Welcome to another recipe – and I am SO EXCITED to be sharing this one with you because I’ve been perfecting this recipe for a while now – getting the seasonings and the creaminess just right! Enter my Baked Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese!
I debated for a while what I should call this one. Vegan Mac & Cheese? Creamy Butternut Pasta? I ultimately decided on the somewhat lengthy title of “Baked Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese” with the secondary name of “(Creamy Butternut Pasta)”. This is because I was ultimately trying to mimic mac and cheese as best I could, but with a vegan butternut squash twist. I understand that this will not taste 100% like traditional dairy mac and cheese – because it simply isn’t made out of the same things! However, it has many similarities to it in terms of flavor, texture, and overall experience. It’s creamy. It’s comforting. It has hints of a cheesey taste. Whatever you want to call it, it’s delicious!
The only ingredient here that is a little out of the ordinary is canned butternut squash puree. But don’t fret because I’ll give you a couple ideas below on where to find this!
- Pasta – an obvious ingredient of any mac and cheese! I used typical elbow pasta for the photos in this post, but any type will do!
- Butternut Squash Puree – Don’t let this scare you! I know that this isn’t a super typical ingredient for a lot of people, but it’s basically just the butternut form of canned pumpkin! I am able to find canned butternut puree at my local health food grocery store (usually near the canned pumpkin), but you can also check it out here on amazon. Alternatively, you could buy a butternut squash and make your own puree out of it – these instructions from A Sweet Pea Chef are similar to how I would do it!
- Nutritional Yeast – if you have experimented with plant based recipes before, this likely won’t be a new ingredient for you! Nutritional yeast (or “nooch” as it’s called in my house) has a vague cheesey flavor but is completely vegan, making it a popular ingredient for plant based recipes.
- Smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, & dijon mustard – all for a savory flavor! These pair well with the cheesiness from the nutritional yeast.
- Cashews – to thicken up our sauce and make it creamy!
- Bread crumb mixture – bread crumbs combined with spices and sprinkled on top! We also add a tiny bit of plant milk to this to help it get nice and crispy when we bake it. Adding bread crumbs makes our mac and cheese feel more fun and just a little bit fancier!
How to Make Baked Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
This one is relatively straight forward. The “from start to finish” time listed on this one is 45-60 minutes, but a lot of that time is just preheating the oven, cooking the pasta, and baking the final dish! So the hands on time really isn’t too overwhelming. Here’s the basic rundown:
- Cook your pasta
- Blend up your Butternut “Cheese” Sauce
- Combine your Breadcrumb Mixture
- Combine everything and bake!
Tips & Tricks
- Short on time? Feel free to skip the bread crumbs and the baking for a more classic “mac and cheese”! I personally like adding in these last couple steps because I love the crispy breadcrumbs, but you can absolutely just enjoy this as a regular mac and cheese! Just make your sauce, add it to your cooked pasta, and you’re ready to go!
- As usual, feel free to adjust the seasonings in the sauce (and the breadcrumbs) to your liking! Add more nutritional yeast for a stronger cheesey flavor, more onion powder or garlic powder for more savory vibes, or some extra dijon mustard for a little bit more of a tangy taste. You can also adjust the amount of pasta water that goes in the sauce based on the consistency you prefer.
- If you happen to have vegan parmesan at home, feel free to sprinkle this on top right before serving! It’ll add just a little bit extra cheesy goodness. Totally optional though!
- I use a glass 8×8 baking dish when baking this recipe, and haven’t had any problems with the pasta sticking to the dish. However, if you are concerned about sticking, feel free to coat your baking dish with just a bit of oil before adding in the pasta!
- I did a lot of tests when deciding what the ideal ratio of sauce to pasta is. I had many friends try my tests as well, and I learned that everyone has a different preference of how much sauce they like! Ultimately, I went with 12oz of pasta in this recipe because it was in the middle – but if you want it more saucy you can go down to 8-10 oz, or if you want it less saucy you can go up to 14-16 oz!
- In the mood for a totally different pasta dish? Try my Pumpkin Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms next!
Baked Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese (Creamy Butternut Pasta)Course: MainCuisine: American
A veganized version of the classic! This Baked Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese is creamy, comforting, and delicious. Note that the “From Start to Finish” time includes cooking the pasta and baking the final dish, so the actual hands on time of this recipe is much less!
12 oz pasta of choice
- Butternut “Cheese” Sauce:
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in very hot water for 20-30 minutes
(OR in room temperature water overnight )
3/4 – 1 cup reserved pasta water
1.25 cups butternut squash puree*
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1.25 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp dijon mustard
1.25 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
- Breadcrumb Mixture:
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (or another vegan breadcrumb)
1.5 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1.5 tsp onion powder
1.5 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic salt
pinch of black pepper
1 Tbsp plant milk (I used almond milk, but any type will work!)
- Optional Topping:
vegan parmesan (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350. (Now is also a good time to start soaking your cashews if you haven’t yet!)
- Cook pasta: Cook pasta according to package directions. When pasta is done cooking, be sure to reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta.
- Make your Butternut “Cheese” Sauce: Drain your soaked cashews. Add your cashews, 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water, and all other ingredients for the Butternut “Cheese” Sauce to the blender. Blend until smooth and add more of the pasta water IF NECESSARY for consistency.
- Make your Breadcrumb Mixture: Combine all ingredients for the breadcrumb mixture, except the plant milk, to a small bowl. Mix to combine. Once evenly incorporated, add in the plant milk and mix. After a minute or two of mixing, the plant milk should cause the mixture to become slightly darker and create slightly larger clumps.
- Assemble: In a large bowl, combine the pasta and the Butternut “Cheese” Sauce. Stir to combine. Add this mixture to an 8×8 baking dish. Sprinkle your breadcrumb mixture on top of the pasta.
- Bake: Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs become slightly golden. Be careful not to overbake or it could dry out!
- Let cool just a few minutes and serve! Sprinkle on some optional vegan parmesan before serving if you’d like, but it’s also delicious on its own!
- *Butternut squash puree: Look for this near the canned pumpkin in your local health food grocery store (or occasionally a regular grocery store will carry it)! You can also order it on amazon, or check out the “Tips & Tricks” section of this blog post for a link to instructions on how to make your own at home!