Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

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.

close view of butternut squash mac and cheese with 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!

top view ingredients in individual glass bowls: chopped peeled squash, cashews, nutritional yeast, macaroni noodles, dairy free butter, and seasonings

Ingredients

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
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Turmeric
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Almond milk
  • Dijon mustard
  • Butternut squash
  • Raw cashews

To Make the Breadcrumb Topping

  • Vegan butter
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Dried sage
top view dairy free sauce pureed in a blender

How to Make Vegan Cheese Sauce

  1. Firstly, melt dairy free butter in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Next add the nutritional yeast, garlic and seasonings. Stir for about a minute.
  3. 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.
  4. Now add the peeled and cubed butternut squash and raw cashews. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring often.
  5. 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.

top view large pot with cooked macaroni and butternut squash sauce poured on top

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.

combined butternut squash macaroni and cheese stirred with a wood spoon in a large cooking pot

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.

top view crispy breadcrumb topping cooking in a large skillet

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!

top view two bowls with vegan mac and cheese and crispy panko topping

Recipe Variations

  • 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!
side view white bowl with serving of butternut squash mac and cheese with panko topping

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.

close view forkful of vegan mac and cheese made with butternut squash, cashews, and nutritional yeast

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

This easy vegan recipe turns 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.
Print Pin
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Keyword: butternut squash recipes, dairy free mac and cheese, healthy mac and cheese, homemade mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese, vegan mac and cheese
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 361kcal
Author: Amanda

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces uncooked pasta I like elbow macaroni or shells; can substitute with a GF brand

Cheese Sauce:

  • 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

Breadcrumbs:

  • 2 Tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs can substitute with a GF brand
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage

Tools:

Instructions

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).

Assemble:

  • Place mac and cheese in a bowl. Top with toasted breadcrumbs and enjoy!
  • Leftovers keep in the fridge for about a week.

Video

Notes

The cheese sauce can be frozen in the freezer for about 3 months. Simply let thaw in the fridge overnight and heat up in a sauce pan when ready to eat.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving (1/8 recipe) | Calories: 361kcal | Carbohydrates: 42.8g | Protein: 12.9g | Fat: 16.5g | Saturated Fat: 3.6g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 628mg | Potassium: 527mg | Fiber: 3.4g | Sugar: 1.9g | Calcium: 257mg | Iron: 5mg

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