Vegan mac and cheese: gluten free with a tasty butternut squash sauce

Yes you can make vegan mac and cheese with a delicious butternut squash sauce. Give this totally plant-based – and sumptuously seasonal – recipe a go for something as hearty as it is healthy

vegan mac and cheese
(Image credit: Healthy Living James in collaboration with Panasonic)

Anyone who goes plant-based will tell you that creating the ultimate vegan mac and cheese is a common goal. And with fall fast approaching, comfort food is a must. Well, this butternut squash mac and cheese ticks all the boxes. Warming, hearty and free from not only meat and dairy, but gluten too, this dish will become your go-to in September.

Finally, it is made without nuts. Ideal if you're allergic or just need a break from cashews... It can also be ready in less than half an hour (seriously) as you can use a microwave for the butternut squash. If you'd rather use your oven (because we all know how delicious roasted butternut squash is) we've added notes and cooking times for this in the method below.

Whether you want to serve this for lunch or dinner, we all know that mac n cheese is a crowd-pleaser (and perfect for for kids too) so keep scrolling for our simple but satisfying recipe that will become a favorite in your home for sure. 

And, if you're still hungry after this, be sure to visit our food hub for more treats and recipes.

What is vegan mac and cheese made of?

This recipe calls for a combination of butternut squash and nutritional yeast to get that thick and creamy textured sauce, along with the sweet and nutty taste you'd expect from regular mac and cheese.

Vegan mac and cheese recipe

(Image credit: Healthy Living James in collaboration with Panasonic)

Ingredients

Serves 2

  • 750g butternut squash
  • 5 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 250g gluten-free macaroni 
  • 50g grated hard vegan cheese
  • 25ml plant-based milk of your choice (almond works well)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 handfuls of spinach
  • Salt & pepper

Method:

1. Slice the butternut squash down the centre and remove the seeds. This is best done by cutting it from top to bottom, with care!

2. If you're using the microwave method then deeply score the flesh side, before flipping it over to stab some holes in the skin. Then place the squash on a plate in the microwave and leave it in for 12 minutes on a high setting. If you're using an oven, preheat yours to about  425°F, do the same scoring and pricking of the squash, and then bake it on aluminum foil for about 40-60 minutes until the flesh is soft.

3. Meanwhile prepare the macaroni – or read a book if your squash is in the oven – by following the packet instructions. Be sure to add the frozen peas in with the macaroni towards the end of the cooking time. The less pans, the better, right?

4. When the squash is ready, scoop the flesh out and add it to a blender along with the nutritional yeast, grated cheese, milk, and a couple of strong pinches of salt and pepper. Blend the ingredients together until completely smooth.

5. Drain the pasta and the peas, before adding them back to the empty pot along with the cheesy blended sauce and two handfuls of spinach. 

6. Stir together until the spinach wilts, season and serve! 

Top tip: save a little grated cheese to sprinkle over the top and if you want to be even more fancy, you could serve this in separate dishes, putting them in the oven to brown the top a little. Delicious.

Trying to make it cheesier without cheese?

The recipe above results in a deliciously silky mac and cheese that will become one of your favourite pasta bakes. If you are trying to make it taste even more like the real deal, try adding a little bit of smoked paprika and a hint of cayenne pepper. Top with vegan Applewood smoked cheese and you have a smoky and delicious dish that is soooo close to mac and cheese as you know it.

Another tip for a deeper flavour is to add some roasted garlic. Wrap a whole bulb in oiled tin foil and roast in a medium oven for 30–40 minutes. Again, this adds that deeper, umami flavour that we can miss in vegan food. 

A final tip is to bake with some breadcrumbs on top for that crispy top. Mix your breadcrumbs with grated vegan cheese and you will get a satisfying cheese-like top.

More recipes