Vegan Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

vegan mac and cheese made from butternut squash served in white bowl with rosemary garnish
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It was 7 years in the making to develop this vegan butternut squash mac and cheese recipe that is safe for the entire family and still delicious. Cashews are the typical vegan go-to for making a mac and cheese, but that isn’t an option in our house. Sunflower seeds are the secret ingredient to creating that creamy texture that we all know and love while remaining top 8 allergen free.

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Here’s the reality, my husband doesn’t love vegan dairy alternatives. When I told him that I was going to work on this recipe to try and perfect it, he turned his nose at me. And then he ate it, and had seconds…. and then stole my leftovers for lunch the next day. I tell you this only to highlight how yummy this recipe is, and how it doesn’t have any of the funky dairy-alternative flavors that you may have come to associate with vegan mac and cheese.

So what makes this mac and cheese the winner? The star of the show is actually the rosemary. It’s a perfect compliment that pulls together the full flavor profile and cannot (should not) be omitted. The butternut squash and soaked sunflower seeds provide a lovely, creamy texture. While the nutritional yeast and vinegar provide the lit bit of tang we’ve come to except from this cheesy comfort food.

Prepare the butternut squash:

Cut the squash in half, scooping out the seeds, and peel it. Cut into cubes. Alternatively, you can buy pre-cut squash. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of dried sage. Cook at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until fork tender.

Prepare the sauce:

While the squash is cooking, soak the sunflower seeds in warm water for 30 minutes. It’s important that you use raw, shelled seeds. These aren’t easily found in traditional grocery stores, but I found these organic raw seeds on Amazon for a reasonable price. They last for a while, so I don’t have to worry about buying a larger quantity. While the seeds are soaking, boil the water for pasta and prepare according to package instructions. After 30 minutes, strain the seeds and set aside.

Combine onion, garlic, broth, cooked squash nutritional yeast, ground mustard, apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, salt and sunflower seeds in a large food processor (I have a few, but I like the Ninja for this job). Depending on size of the squash, you may need to adjust flavors to get the right consistency and flavors (e.g. if the squash is bigger, add a bit more broth and seasoning).

Serve the butternut squash mac and cheese

To serve, return drained pasta to the pot and pour over the butternut mixture. Again, depending on the size of the squash, you may not need all of the mixture. Start by pouring in half of the mixture and stirring to combine, adding in 1/2 cup increments until you reach your desired level of creaminess. Add any salt and pepper to taste, and 2 tablespoons of chopped rosemary and stir to combine.

Plate the mac and cheese and garnish with rosemary.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links

Yield: 4 servings

Prep time: 40 minutes- 50 minutes, depending on squash

Cook time: 25 minutes

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Ingredients

  • 1 small-medium butternut squash, or 1-1/2 pounds pre-cut butternut squash
  • 16 ounces pasta shells of choice (use rice shells for gluten free)
  • 1/2 sunflower seeds, raw and shelled
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard seed
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese Instructions

  1. Cook the butternut squash. If using whole squash, cut in half, remove seeds sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. cook at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until fork tender. If using pre-cut squash, season as above and cook at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until fork tender.
  2. While the squash cooks, add the sunflower seeds in a medium bowl and cover with warm water. Let soak for 30 minutes, and then drain.
  3. While the seeds are soaking, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta shells according to the package directions
  4. In a large food processor combine cooked squash, soaked and drained sunflower seeds, and remaining ingredients except rosemary (onion through vinegar). Puree until smooth. Depending on the size of the squash, you may need more or less broth and seasonings. This recipe is assuming 1.5 pounds of squash. The mixture should be a creamy texture
  5. Add the cooked pasta to a large bowl and pour half of the butternut squash mixture over the shells and stir to combine. Because the size of the squash is variable, continue to add the squash mixture in 1/2 cup increments until you reach the desired level of creaminess. Stir in chopped rosemary and combine, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Plate the mac and cheese and garnish with rosemary.

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