Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food – even when made with healthier plant-based ingredients! Here I show you how to turn nutritious butternut squash and a handful of vegan pantry staples into the most delicious, creamiest dairy-free mac and cheese with a crispy panko topping.
What’s better than warm, cheesy-gooey, fork-filling macaroni and cheese? Why, mac and cheese that’s good and kinda/sorta good for you, of course!
Butternut squash mac and cheese has the rich comfort food goodness you love, plus nutrients and all the happy feels you get from enjoying a dairy-free dish.
This easy recipe includes a delicious homemade vegan not-cheese sauce combined with your favorite pasta, and topped with crispy panko breadcrumbs. The dish is fab as a side or a main, it’s creamy and crunchy, savory and yummy… yup, it is everything you want and more!
You need your preferred style of uncooked small pasta. I like to use classic elbow macaroni or small shells.
For the Butternut Squash “Cheese” Sauce
- Vegan butter
- Nutritional yeast
- Garlic cloves
- Garlic powder
- Almond milk
- Dijon mustard
- Butternut squash
- Raw cashews
To Make the Breadcrumb Topping
- Vegan butter
- Panko breadcrumbs
- Dried sage
How to Make Vegan Cheese Sauce
- Firstly, melt dairy free butter in a large pan over medium heat.
- Next add the nutritional yeast, garlic and seasonings. Stir for about a minute.
- Stir in the almond milk and dijon mustard. Scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Let the mixture come to a gentle boil.
- Now add the peeled and cubed butternut squash and raw cashews. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.
- Transfer everything to a high powered blender, and blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Note: Check your blender before adding the hot butternut squash mixture. If the blender is not made for high heat, turn the stovetop heat off and let the sauce ingredients cool before blending.
How to Make Butternut Squash Mac n’ Cheese
Next, make the pasta in a large pot according to the package directions. Once the noodles are tender, reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water and drain the pasta.
Now place the drained pasta in the same large pan that the butternut squash and cashew sauce was made.
Pour on the sauce and stir to combine so that the macaroni is evenly coated.
If the cheese sauce seems a bit too thick you can thin it out a bit with the reserved pasta water.
How to Make a Crispy Breadcrumb Topping and Assemble
And now let’s make the incredible crunchy topping that really brings this whole tasty party together!
Melt 2 tablespoons of the vegan butter in a small nonstick pan. Then add the panko and sage. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are toasted and golden.
Snuggle a serving of macaroni and cheese into a bowl, sprinkle on some of the crispy panko, and enjoy!
- Use your fave gluten free macaroni to easily make this a GF-friendly vegan mac and cheese!
- I like almond milk in this recipe. However, feel free to use other dairy free milk alternatives. Cashew, soy, or oat milk are all great options.
- You can certainly leave off the crispy panko topping if you prefer. Or change things up and add vegan bacon bits to the top!
Make Ahead and Storage Suggestions
The dairy-free cheese(like) sauce is great to make ahead! Prep it a day or so before you plan to make the macaroni, and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
It can even be frozen! Make the butternut squash sauce as directed, let cool, and transfer to an airtight container. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let the sauce thaw in the fridge overnight, then use to make the rest of the recipe.
The butternut squash mac and cheese will keep well in the fridge for up to a week after it’s been fully made. But I recommend that you only add panko topping to the portion you plan to eat that same day. Otherwise leave it off of leftovers and make the crispy topping fresh before reheating in the oven.
If you tried this vegan butternut squash mac and cheese recipe let me know in the comments below and share a photo using #mindfulavocado. I’d love to hear from you! Want to see more recipes? Let’s get social! CONNECT WITH ME on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to see what I’m currently cooking up!
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces uncooked pasta I like elbow macaroni or shells; can substitute with a GF brand
- 1/3 cup vegan butter I like Earth Balance
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3 cups almond milk
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 3 cups butternut squash peeled and cubed
- 1+1/4 cups raw cashews
- 2 Tablespoons vegan butter
- 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs can substitute with a GF brand
- 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
To Make Cheese Sauce:
- Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat.
- Add nutritional yeast, garlic, paprika, garlic powder, turmeric, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir until seasonings are well mixed and fragrant (about 1 minute).
- Pour in almond milk and dijon mustard, Scraping bottom of the pan for any brown bits stuck. Bring to a gentle simmer.
- Add butternut squash and cashews and simmer for 20 mins.
- Transfer to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
To Make Pasta:
- Cook pasta according to instructions. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking water. Set the cooking water aside.
- Place cooked pasta in the pot the sauce was made in over low-medium heat. Pour cheese sauce on top and mix until well combined. Use the reserved cooking water to thin out the sauce if needed.
To Make Breadcrumbs:
- In a small nonstick pan, melt 2 Tablespoons butter.
- Add breadcrumbs and sage and cook until toasted and golden brown (about 5-7 minutes).
- Place mac and cheese in a bowl. Top with toasted breadcrumbs and enjoy!
- Leftovers keep in the fridge for about a week.
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