Vegan butternut squash mac and cheese, no cashews or nutritional yeast needed! Hummus adds plenty of creaminess and savoury flavour to this pasta, plus an easy protein-boost that won’t break the bank (in other words, no need for nuts).
This is a great meal if you’re a keen batch cooker. Roast the squash and make the hummus ahead of time, and you have a ten minute meal on your hands.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
It’s creamy without cream, has a great cheesy flavour with no nutritional yeast, and is overall an excellent vegan mac and cheese without any outlandish, expensive ingredients.
- It uses minimal ingredients: with just seven total ingredients including salt and pepper (I am counting hummus as one ingredient here), it’s easy to toss together.
- You can easily make it gluten-free: it’s already dairy free, and simply switching in gluten-free pasta will check that box. I like red lentil pasta but any type works.
- It’s high protein comfort food: with about 23 grams of protein per serving, you’re getting a filling meal that’s completely cosy. The combination of hummus and squash makes for a good nutritional punch here.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Pasta: choose a short pasta, with some kind of groove or texture to catch the sauce. Shells or textured elbows are perfect. I always use spelt pasta. Use a gluten-free pasta for a GF option.
- Butternut Squash: roasting the squash improves the flavour of the pasta, but steamed will do in a pinch (or if you don’t have an oven). You can use another winter squash if preferred.
- Hummus: I use this Lebanese hummus recipe. Store bought can be a good substitution, but make sure it isn’t flavoured in some way – plain hummus, no frills.
- Lemon: the acidity from the lemon juice will balance the dish and you won’t taste it in the end. If you’re skeptical about it, add just a teaspoon.
- Mustard: Dijon mustard is added to a béchamel, so it makes sense to add it here to bring in a bit of the flavour expected from mac and cheese. It adds depth but doesn’t make the pasta taste of mustard.
Step by Step
1. Roast the squash: or steam, as noted below, until soft. This can be done well in advance.
2. Add to the blender: add all of the sauce ingredients (not the pasta water) to a blender or food processor.
3. Mix until smooth: blend on high speed until very smooth. Taste and season if needed.
4. Combine: stir the sauce together with the pasta and pasta water and serve immediately.
Use a different type of pumpkin or winter squash if you prefer. Butternut is great here as it has a very smooth texture, but if you’d rather use something less sweet, try a kuri type. You can also use pre-made pumpkin puree, in which case you can likely whisk by hand rather than blending the sauce ingredients.
Of course you could add vegan cheese (or dairy, if you eat it) to the mac and cheese, to get a more traditional texture. I’ve never tried this but if you have one you like, go for it!
If you don’t have a food processor, a standing blender or an immersion blender and large container can be used instead. Simply blend until smooth.
Frozen pumpkin can be used, but as it’s usually cut into cubes, the cooking time will vary. You can roast from frozen or steam as described in the recipe card.
How to Store
Storage: Keep any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Leftovers keep fairly well for this, but the texture changes as it cools. To bring it back to a silky-smooth texture, add a splash of plant-based milk when reheating. Like any pasta, though, it will absorb some of the sauce as it sits.
Freezing: I don’t recommend freezing this once the pasta is mixed with the sauce, but the sauce can be frozen. Simply pour into an airtight container and freeze for up to a month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before heating gently and mixing with the pasta and pasta water.
What to Serve with Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
While it’s a full meal on its own, you can serve it with a salad to get some more vegetables in and fill the table a bit more. We like to have this with vegan coleslaw, pumpkin salad (why not make double pumpkin), or a roasted broccoli salad. Top the pasta with some fresh parsley to serve and you’re good to go.
- Add white pepper: if you want a more traditional tasting mac and cheese, add a bit of white pepper to the sauce. This is traditional in bechamel and will add a hint of that to the dish.
- Use pasta water: this is key, don’t use tap water. The water used to cook pasta is starchy and well-seasoned, and it makes the sauce stick to the pasta more effectively while adding an extra boost of flavour.
- Don’t overcook the pasta: you need a bit of texture here to carry the smooth sauce, so go for al dente. I sometimes add frozen peas to the pasta just before draining for a little extra texture and veg content as well.
More Pasta Recipes
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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
- 600 grams butternut squash roughly half a medium sized butternut squash
- 240 grams hummus
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- Juice of a lemon ~3 tablespoons, to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt to taste
- 500 grams one package elbow pasta
- 200 ml pasta water, reserved before draining*
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Half and remove the seeds from the butternut squash. Bake one half, cut side down, for about 30 minutes, or until easily pierced with a knife.600 grams butternut squash
- Carefully flip the squash over to cool slightly while you prep the other ingredients.
- Cook the pasta in well salted, boiling water, according to the package instructions.500 grams one package elbow pasta
- While the pasta is cooking, blend the sauce. Scoop the squash out of the skin and place it into a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the hummus, mustard, lemon juice, pepper, and salt. Blend until very smooth, leaving the second lid open to let steam escape. Alternatively, use an immersion blender or heat safe standing blender.240 grams hummus, 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard, Juice of a lemon, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- Before draining the pasta, reserve the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add it back to the pot.200 ml pasta water, reserved before draining*
- Add the sauce to the pot, then add water a bit at a time, stirring, until it reaches the desired consistency. Serve immediately. It's best fresh but can be refrigerated in a sealed container for a couple of days.
If this recipe looks familiar, it is! It was originally published in 2016 and updated in 2020, but was accidentally deleted when the new site design went live. I’ve had to re-write the post, but the recipe is the same.