How do you make people eat more vegetables? Well, you sneak them into dishes that sound like their favourite comfort foods.
This vegan mac and cheese is a great example of how you can do this. It may well be made using butternut squash, but you really wouldn’t know it. The roasted butternut squash helps to bring depth to the sauce whilst also adding its vibrant orange colour. But since it is blended up into a smooth sauce, there is no sign of the vegetable!
Sneaky, I know. But you’ll forgive me when you taste this vegan butternut squash mac and cheese recipe for yourself.
What is mac and cheese?
Mac and cheese, more formally known as macaroni cheese in the UK, is a dish of macaroni pasta cooked with a cheese sauce.
It can be served as it is, coated in a cheesy sauce, or it can be baked in the oven with a breadcrumb topping. The latter being my favourite version of this ultimate comfort food.
I have very fond memories of this dish. My mum would make it for me using cheddar cheese and she would bake it to absolute perfection, so that the top was incredibly crispy but the inside retained its wonderfully gooey sauce.
How do you veganise mac and cheese?
There are many ways in which you can veganise mac and cheese. I started out by making a cashew cream base with plenty of nutritional yeast and seasoning. This worked really quite well. But this method can get a little bit expensive, since cashew nuts aren’t cheap!
Another way to make vegan mac and cheese is to create a vegan bechamel using a vegan milk and flour. This does work well if done correctly but can be a little bit of a faff.
My favourite method is the one I detail below. Roast vegetables and blend into a creamy sauce with nutritional yeast, plenty of garlic, and seasoning. The result is a really nutritional sauce packed full of veg. A firm favourite combination of mine is butternut squash with a spicy chipotle rub.
Why use butternut squash for this mac and cheese recipe?
Butternut squash is a great ingredient to cook with, not only because of its nutritional values but also because of its taste.
In terms of its nutrition, it is packed full of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, whilst also being high in magnesium, potassium, and manganese. Making butternut squash really good for both bone health and immune function.
Read more about the nutritional values of butternut squash on Heathline.
And if that hasn’t already sold you to butternut squash, it also tastes great. It has a lovely nutty and sweet flavour that compliments a dish like mac and cheese perfectly. The bright orange colour also helps to add a cheesy look to the dish.
What does vegan butternut squash mac and cheese taste like?
I’m not going to lie to you, it doesn’t taste like a traditional mac and cheese using cow’s milk. But this is just as comforting as the ones you’ll know and love.
It has a really deep nutty flavour with a slight spicy edge. The sweetness of the butternut squash is balanced wonderfully with the spicy chipotle. And there is a cheesy element brought in thanks to the nutritional yeast and the vegan applewood smoked cheese.
Ultimately, I’d say this tastes like a big hug in a bowl. You won’t be able to get enough of it. So why not give my vegan butternut squash mac and cheese recipe a go!
Vegan butternut squash mac and cheese recipe
- 1 Butternut squash
- 4 Garlic cloves
- 1 Brown onion - or a few small ones
- 1 tsp Smoked paprika
- 2 tsp Chipotle paste
- 2 tsp Fines herbs
- Black pepper
- 2 tbsp Sundried tomato oil
- 200 ml Vegan milk
- 1/2 tbsp Miso paste
- 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tbsp Maple syrup
- 1 tsp Liquid smoke - optional
- 4 tbsp Nutritional yeast
- 500 g Macaroni pasta
- 8 Sundried tomatoes
- 1 Roasted red pepper
- 125 g Applewood smoked vegan cheese
- 100 g Sunflower seeds
- 1/2 tsp Garlic powder
- 3 tbsp Nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tbsp Sundried tomato oil
- Black pepper
Roast the squash
- Heat up oven to 200° (fan)
- Cut squash & onion, place into a roasting tray with the garlic cloves (skin still on)
- Rub in the paprika, chipotle paste and dried herbs. Use your hands if necessary to make sure it coats the veg. Mix in the oil until fully coated
- Put the tray into the middle shelf of your oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally
Prepare the mac and cheese filling ingredients
- Meanwhile, we’ll want to prepare the filling ingredients
- Start by cooking your macaroni pasta. We want to make sure it stays firm whilst baked in the oven so make sure to undercook it by a few minutes. It will need to be al dente, so it should have a little bit of chew to it still
- Once the pasta is done cooking, drain it and run it under a cold tap to stop it from cooking. Leave it drain on the side as you continue cooking
- Chop up the 8 sundried tomatoes and the roasted red pepper. Grate the vegan cheese. And set aside with the draining pasta
Prepare the mac and cheese topping
- Now your filling is prepped and your squash is still roasting, get started on your topping. Toast your sunflower seeds in a small frying pan on a medium heat. Make sure to stir them regularly. This should take only 4-5 minutes to do, you’ll hear them crackling and then you’ll start to smell a lovely toasted smell and they’ll start browning on the outside.
- Take the sunflower seeds off the heat and pour onto a small plate to cool down. Meanwhile, measure out the rest of the topping ingredients and place into your food processor along with the cooled down sunflower seeds
- Pulse the ingredients together until they form a crumb and set aside
Make the mac and cheese sauce
- Once the squash has been roasting for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is soft and golden, take it out of the oven and leave to cool slightly
- Turn the oven down to 180 (fan)
- Place the blending ingredients into your blender. Locate the roasted garlic cloves and squish the filling into the blender and discard the skins. Then add in the rest of your slightly cooled squash mix. Blend until smooth. Make sure not to wash up the roasting tray as we will continue using it in the next step
Mix and cook the mac and cheese
- Pour your cooked pasta into the roasting tray that you used to cook the squash and then pour in the blended squash sauce with the chopped up filling ingredients. Stir until fully incorporated
- Evenly top the sauced pasta with your topping crumb and place the tray back into the oven
- Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the crumb is golden brown
- Take the mac and cheese out of the oven and serve up on to plates