Ready for a goodie? Creamy Kabocha Squash Mac & Cheese has arrived. It's vegan and gluten-free. This mac & cheese has a thick, creamy, super cheesy sauce. It's the American staple, without dairy, and definitely not skimping on the rich, creamy flavors that make this dish a classic.
What does kabocha squash taste like?
Kabocha squash is a Japanese pumpkin with a flavor that mimics sweet potato. It has a deep orange color that pops once roasted and is incredibly sweet - perfect for mac & cheese! Often spotted in fall and throughout winter.
The flavor is similar to butternut but much sweeter and less watery.
Why you'll love this recipe
Browsing for the perfect vegan recipe for hosting? This dish is great for dinner guests! Buy extra squash if you want to serve it in individual squash bowls or one medium-sized pumpkin as a serving bowl on the table. The extra creative effort in the presentation makes this meal fun. You'll feel like Martha Stewart!
This is also the perfect meal for mac & cheese enthusiasts. I don't know how many times someone has said, "I need a good vegan mac & cheese recipe," but I know it's so many I can't even count.
While the recipe still calls for vegan cheese, the squash provides the ideal base flavor with a creamy sweetness worth the extra effort.
Where to find kabocha squash
Kabocha squash is commonly found year-round in most grocery stores or at your local Asian market. Kabocha squash is a mainstay in my local Whole Foods Market. This recipe is easily substituted 1:1 with butternut squash if kabocha is not near you.
My first time trying kabocha squash puree was in a soup with canned pumpkin, coconut, and sesame oil; I couldn't get enough of it! I was in love with the rich sweetness. It immediately reminded me of the creamy sauces of traditional mac & cheese; thus, this perfect vegan mac & cheese was born.
The 3 components to prepping this dish
Kabocha squash - this squash is typically found year-round, although peak season is with the other squash in the fall. Roasting the squash showcases the sweet flavor and is often found pureed in soup. Start by roasting the squash until tender.
Roux base - The base of this dish is made roux-style with rosemary-infused vegan butter, gluten-free flour, plant milk, and your favorite vegan cheese brand. Adding finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves to melted butter on high and mixing in gluten-free flour will create a roux base. Next, we'll bring in plant-based milk making a white sauce before adding in your favorite vegan cheese.
Vegan cheese and gluten-free pasta - my preferred vegan cheese brand is Violife (I am not affiliated; I appreciate the brand's limited ingredients). I also used Jovial elbow noodles to maintain this dish being gluten-free friendly. These noodles cook in boiling water for just 11 minutes.
What you'll need
🔪Instant Pot (or oven)
🔪Parchment paper and baking pan
🔪High-speed blender, food processor, or immersion blender
🔪Sharp knife to cut the top of the squash
Tips for success
Start by cooking the squash until tender. Use an Instant Pot for a faster cook time. Fill the bottom of the Instant Pot with water (about 2 inches), add the steaming rack, and when prepared, place the whole squash in the bucket, close the lid, and set the pressure cooker to 20 minutes. Alternatively, use an oven!
Prepare the squash by cutting the top off with a sharp knife. Get a good grip and let the knife rip! Be careful squash can be hard.
Allow the squash to cool before taking the skin off. Stick it in the fridge to help speed up the cooling time.
Add the cheesy sauce and squash mixture to a high-speed blender or food processor. This will make sure the creamy sauce is even and smooth.
Minimally stir in the sauce to the noodles to prevent getting too gooey!
You can substitute kabocha squash for butternut squash. If you have the opportunity to try the kabocha squash, please do it the best way! Its sweetness brings in a mac & cheese vibe and is a great way to experience different flavors.
The sweetness of the squash found in kabocha will be unmatched, so you might be obliged to add in a dash of maple syrup to achieve the sweetness this mac & cheese demands!
Buy an extra squash or medium-sized pumpkin to act as a serving dish. This elevates the dining experience and makes this dish beautiful when serving guests.
I'd love to hear from you
If you try my Creamy Kabocha Squash Mac & Cheese, please let me know what you think by commenting below!
Creamy Kabocha Squash Mac & Cheese
- 1 medium kabocha squash 1 more if planning to serve in a squash bowl
- 2 tablespoons avocado oil or olive oil
- 3 tablespoons vegan butter I prefer Miyoko's brand
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose gluten-free flour or almond flour
- 2 cups cashew milk or plant-based milk of choice
- 2 cups shredded vegan cheese I prefer Violife brand
- 1 pound gluten-free elbow noodles I prefer Jovial brand
- Prepare to roast the kabocha squash (two options: in the oven or Instant Pot).
- Set the oven to 400 F or fill the bottom of the Instant Pot with water (about 2 inches), add the steaming rack, and when prepared, place the squash in the bucket, close the lid, and set the pressure cooker to 20 minutes.
- Prepare the squash by cutting the top off, removing the seeds, rubbing the inside with oil, and placing it on a parchment-lined baking pan if roasting in the oven.
- Once roasted, remove the squash and allow it to cool. Once cooled, peel off the skin and remove the flesh; gather and set aside at least 1 cup of squash.
- Prepare the roux base by first chopping fresh rosemary leaves until you gather about one tablespoon of finely chopped leaves. Melt the vegan butter in a pan on medium-high heat and add the rosemary once melted. Stir until fragrant, and the butter starts to bubble for about 30 seconds.
- Quickly stir in the gluten-free flour until it reaches a golden-brown, almost burnt appearance. Add the plant-based milk and whisk until combined; lower the heat to medium-low, occasionally stirring. The sauce is ready when it has thickened; this should take about 5-7 minutes.
- Fold in the vegan shredded cheese, turn off the heat, and continue to mix until it has fully melted, and you have a cheesy sauce.
- Add the cheesy sauce and squash to a blender or food processor and combine until you reach a smooth, silky texture - like mac & cheese sauce!
- Bring a pot of water with a pinch of salt and a splash of oil to boil, add in noodles and cook until al dente, about 11 minutes for gluten-free noodles (or per package directions). Drain and return to pot.
- Pour cheesy sauce over noodles, minimally stir until coated. Transfer completed mac & cheese noodles to serving dish or squash bowl! Optionally you can garnish with diced parsley.