“Comforting Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews)” recipe was developed by Julia Hop Hing and reviewed/edited by Jackie Silver MHSc, RD
I don’t know about you, but in the cold winter months I tend to crave comforting, warm meals, and this vegan mac and cheese (without cashews) fits the bill. It’s now March and the past four months have been cold and snowy and mac and cheese is the perfect comfort food. This is a fun twist on the classic version.
I personally enjoy all versions of mac and cheese: the original dairy, cheese-filled version and vegan versions as well. If you’ve ever made vegan mac and cheese then you’d know that most recipes either call for dairy-free shredded cheese or a homemade “cheese” sauce made with cashews.
It’s harder to find a recipe made without cashews so I wanted to give you a nut-free alternative that tastes just as good and is made with simple ingredients you’re likely to have on hand.
This Comforting Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews) is made with pureed butternut squash and nutritional yeast as the “cheese” base. It definitely tastes different from your typical mac and cheese but it’s just as creamy and delicious. I hope you enjoy it!
Health Benefits of Comforting Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews)
This Comforting Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews) is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Butternut squash has a sweet, nutty flavor and is rich in vitamins A and C (among many others) which support immune function, bone health, and eye health.
The antioxidants in butternut squash help to fight free radicals (potentially harmful compounds if found in high levels in the body and are associated with diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes). Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants.
If you make this recipe with whole grain pasta then you’ll get a lot of fiber (and protein) which helps with constipation and gut health and will make it a more filling meal. If you use a lentil pasta then you’ll get even more fiber and protein and it will be a nutritionally balanced, filling meal.
The nutritional yeast in this recipe has many health benefits as well. Read below to find out what they are.
Looking for another butternut squash recipe? Make this Roasted Butternut Squash Carrot Ginger Soup.
What is Nutritional Yeast?
The sauce in this Comforting Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews) recipe is made with nutritional yeast, which is a super food for vegans and nonvegans alike. Nutritional yeast is made from the same kind of yeast used to brew beer or bake bread.
To make nutritional yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast cells are grown for many days in a sugar-rich medium such as molasses, then the yeast is deactivated with heat, harvested, washed, dried, crumbled into flakes, and packaged for distribution in stores. It’s best to buy fortified nutritional yeast as that has extra vitamins and minerals added to it.
Nutritional yeast is often used in vegan recipes as a cheese alternative as it has a lovely cheesy, nutty, savory flavor. For example, many vegan broccoli cheese soup recipes, “cheesy” popcorn, casseroles, or mac and cheese dishes call for nutritional yeast.Nutritional yeast has many health benefits: it is high in B vitamins, especially vitamin B12 (which many vegan diets are deficient of), trace minerals (such as zinc, selenium, and manganese), protein, and antioxidants. It may also help lower cholesterol levels.
This Comforting Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews) Recipe is:
- High in fiber
- A great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, especially vitamin B12
- Warming and comforting for the cold Fall and Winter months
- Freezer friendly
- Vegan and plant-based
- 10 ingredients
- Excellent for meal prep
- A fun, creamy alternative to dairy mac and cheese
- Perfect if you are lactose-intolerant
Recipe Notes and Modifications
Flour: Any kind of flour will work here: whole wheat, white, or gluten-free.
Butternut Squash: You don’t have to use fresh butternut squash. Feel free to use frozen butternut squash cubes. You will have to cook or steam it according to package directions and then follow the rest of this recipe’s instructions.
Can I Add Vegetables? Absolutely! You can add frozen cooked peas, spinach, diced carrots, or small pieces of broccoli or cauliflower, just as a few examples.
Can I Add Shredded Cheese? Of course. I want my recipes to be customizable so they work for you. If you think this dish will taste better with shredded cheese then go for it. I recommend adding about ½ cup at the end of the recipe, when you are mixing the sauce with the pasta.
Pasta: Any type or shape of pasta will work for this recipe. You can use whole grain, white, lentil, or gluten-free pasta. Typical mac and cheese uses elbow pasta but any shape will work.
Tapioca Flour vs Cornstarch: This recipe calls for 2 tbsp tapioca flour to thicken the sauce but I know this is not a common household ingredient. I personally tested this recipe out with cornstarch as a substitute and it turned out great so feel free to use that. Cornstarch is another thickener and it’s easier to find in the grocery store.
Comforting Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews)
- 5 cups dry elbow pasta (any pasta shape will work) (or a 375g box of pasta)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp tapioca flour (or cornstarch)
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1.5 cup dairy free milk
- ½ medium butternut squash (to make it extra creamy, use a whole squash; you can also sub frozen diced butternut squash)
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- Frozen peas (optional)
- Cut ½ medium butternut squash (or whole if using the full squash) into 1 cm x 1 cm cubes. Steam until softened, about 10-15 minutes (steaming instructions: boil 1 inch of water in a large pot fitted with a steamer basket. Add the squash, cover and steam until soft and tender). Note: If using frozen butternut squash cubes, cook according to package instructions.
- Cook pasta according to the package directions until al dente (firm to the bite), about 8-10 minutes. Once pasta is cooked, drain water and return pasta back into the pot. If adding peas, now is the time to cook them according to package instructions.
- When the butternut squash is cooked, use a blender or food processor to blend the butternut squash until fully smooth.
- In a new pot, add 2 tbsp olive oil. Heat olive oil then add tapioca flour (or cornstarch) and flour. Whisk until combined to make a roux.
- Slowly add 1.5 cup dairy free milk to roux to make a thick sauce.
- To the sauce, add the blended butternut squash. Then add the salt, onion powder, and garlic powder.
- Turn off the heat and stir in nutritional yeast to add the cheesy flavor. Add the cooked peas, if using.
- Pour sauce on top of cooked pasta and mix until the noodles are evenly coated.
- Optional: top with black pepper.
Store in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 1-2 months.
Hope you enjoyed this recipe, and make sure to send me a DM on Instagram if you decide to try it out!
Jackie is a Toronto-based Registered Dietitian with a Masters of Health Science (MHSc) in Nutrition Communications. Her mission is to empower and support neurodivergent and physically disabled communities through a weight-inclusive lens to manage their condition, prevent complications, and live active lifestyles through nutrition. Jackie runs a virtual private practice and consulting business and runs her blog which has simple recipes and health information for the disability and autism/ADHD communities.