This vegan butternut mac and cheese is an easy, healthier version of the classic. With roasted butternut squash and protein-packed hummus to add a cheesy flavour and colour, no nutritional yeast or cashews needed!
Cheesy pasta used to be my go to comfort food, and it’s been a struggle to find a really good vegan mac and cheese since giving up dairy. Especially because I can’t seem to learn to like nutritional yeast despite my best efforts.
Most butternut squash mac and cheese recipes you see are made with nutritional yeast, often with a cashew base, and they’re just far too sweet (not to mention expensive). The colour is right but that’s about it.
That’s where the hummus comes in – it gives that savoury, slightly cheesy flavour and keeps the pumpkin from making this taste like a dessert, with a good bit of mustard to give a slight bechamel flavour and establish that this isn’t a sweet dish.
This is a great vegan mac with no fake cheese and no hard to find ingredients. It’s obviously not identical to boxed stuff or homemade with bechamel, baked cheese, etc. but it’s really, really good. Plus, you know, just seven ingredients.
Scroll to the bottom of the post or click “skip to recipe” above to see the recipe card with full ingredient measurements and instructions.
- Butternut squash (or other pumpkin, see substitutions)
- Dijon mustard
- Lemon juice
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Short pasta
- Pasta water
Start by roasting the squash. Halve lengthwise and remove the seeds from one half. Bake, cut side down, for about half an hour at 200C (400F) or until it can easily be pierced with a knife. Carefully flip it over to cool on the pan for a few minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
Start the water for the pasta and cook the pasta in well salted boiling water. Don’t forget to reserve some of the water just before draining!
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Scoop the roasted pumpkin out and place it into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the hummus, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Blend until very smooth, keeping the secondary lid open to let steam escape.
Drain the pasta (reserve 3/4 cup of water to be on the safe side) and place it back into the pot. Add the blended sauce, then stir in pasta water bit by bit until you reach the consistency you like. Serve immediately.
Tips and Notes
Pasta water isn’t optional – it’s what makes the sauce smooth and silky. The starch from cooking the pasta helps the sauce stick and thins it out while also adding flavour. There’s a range in the amount in the recipe because you may like a thinner/thicker sauce, but also because hummus types vary in terms of thickness.
The original version of this included peas – and I’m a big fan of mac and cheese with peas! If you have them, definitely add some in if you like it. We can’t get any frozen stuff right now or I would’ve included them.
I prefer to roast the squash here as it adds a nicer flavour, but you can also steam it if you prefer or if you’re short on time. About 10 minutes steamed with 3cm (1 in.) pieces will do it.
It doesn’t need to be butternut squash – any winter squash (pumpkin) will be fine. Butternut is a bit softer and has a higher liquid content than hokkaido, for example, and it’s so easy to get, so it’s a good choice. Just don’t use spaghetti squash and you’ll be fine. Note that you may have to increase the pasta water content when using a drier type.
I used a white bean dip in place of hummus in the pictures and it was great! Use regular chickpea hummus or whatever you have on hand that tastes like and is the same consistency of hummus.
More Pumpkin and Winter Squash Dinner Recipes
- 600 grams (21 oz. or 1/2 a medium) butternut squash
- 240 grams (1 cup) hummus
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- Juice of a lemon (~3 tablespoons), to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
- 500 grams (17 oz. or one package) elbow noodles
- 3/4 cup pasta water, reserved before draining*
- Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Before draining the pasta, reserve the pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add it back to the pot.
- 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.
• You can steam the squash if preferred. Cut into 3cm (about 1 inch) chunks (peeled) and steam, lid on, for about 10 minutes, or until fork-soft.
* You should need maximum this much. I usually just take a couple ladlefuls out with my big soup ladle before draining and then add as much as is needed.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 276Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 577mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 14gSugar: 6gProtein: 13g
This data is provided by a calculator and is a rough estimation of the nutritional information in this recipe.
This post was originally published in April 2018. It has been updated with new photos, text, and some changes to the recipe as of November 2020.