This cheesy, creamy, golden pasta dish is none other than my famous Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews). This dish proves you can have it all - mac and cheese with gut-healthy ingredients and no need for nuts!
This vegan mac and cheese is so tasty you'll want to share it on special occasions, like the holidays when a rich, comfort pasta dish is mandatory.
This Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe can be made gluten-free using rice noodles and breadcrumbs. Sometimes gluten-free breadcrumbs are made with nuts, so if you're making this for someone allergic, pay close attention to that store-purchased product.
For the sauce:
Pumpkin - (if in season) try this recipe with a fresh pumpkin! The flavor is deeper and richer than canned, although canned pumpkin will give amazing results also. You may also substitute the pumpkin for roasted butternut squash or kabocha squash.
Garlic - it's the secret weapon! While not completely necessary, roasting the garlic brings out the flavor as a garlic-infused butter would. If making this with pumpkin, roast the garlic while the pumpkin bakes, then there's no extra work or waiting.
Thyme - a comfort food must. This herb gives this dish a light flavoring of florals and pepper.
Coconut milk - adds smoothness and builds the creamy, cheesy flavor we all adore.
White miso paste - this probiotic, gut-loving, fermented paste enriches the dish with an umami flavor. When added in, it balances the sweetness without adding too much salt.
For the crumbly topping:
Nutritional yeast - these dried yeast flakes add that cheesiness aroma and extra fluff to the topping.
Panko breadcrumbs - for a crunchy texture, panko breadcrumbs are best. Ensure they are gluten-free, if necessary.
Spices: fresh parsley leaves, garlic powder, sea salt, and black pepper all add flavor to the breadcrumbs.
Cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom next to the stem. Remove seeds and lightly oil the inside and outer skin. Roast on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the inside of the pumpkin face down, and sprinkle a pinch of salt over the skin.
Cut the top off of the garlic knot exposing the fresh cloves. Drizzle about one tablespoon of oil over the fresh cloves and wrap in parchment paper, twisting the top closed. Roast with the pumpkin until tender and fragrant. This will make your kitchen smell heavenly. You can prepare the noodles al dente per package instructions during this time.
Once the garlic and pumpkin are tender and cooled enough to handle, place all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until well combined and pourable. It should resemble the consistency of a mac and cheese sauce.
Stir the cheesy sauce with the cooked noodles in a large bowl, then transfer into an oven-safe casserole dish and bake covered. Finally, add the crumbly breadcrumb topping and bake under the broiler until browned and golden.
You can substitute canned pumpkin for fresh (about 2 ¾ cups or 1 ½ [13.5-ounce] cans.
Or, if desired, you can substitute butternut squash or kabocha squash for pumpkin. I'd recommend adding 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup if using butternut squash. Kabocha squash is sweeter, and therefore nothing else would be necessary.
This vegan mac and cheese recipe will need a blender or food processor to puree the sauce.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. I would not recommend freezing this recipe for later.
It can be made ahead by preparing the sauce, then boil the noodles and bake once ready.
🧄 Roast the garlic! It truly adds a deeper, more flavorful garlic taste to the dish.
🎃If your roasting a fresh pumpkin: remove the seeds, rinse, pat dry, and shake with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pumpkin spice. Bake alongside the pumpkin for added pumpkin extraness! This ensures nothing goes to waste, and you'll have pumpkin seeds ready to enjoy.
This dish pairs well with any veggies for a more balanced meal, like steamed broccoli, roasted asparagus, or a side salad. It also makes a great side dish on its own.
For the ultimate vegan comfort meal, pair this with my Vegan Twice Baked Potatoes. Tip: add some BBQ sauce drizzled on top of the potatoes - YUM.
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Note: the recipe time reflects the pumpkin already roasted or if using canned pumpkin. Add an additional 40-50 minutes if roasting squash from scratch.
Vegan Mac and Cheese (without cashews)
- 1 blender or food processor
For the sauce:
- 1 medium pumpkin peeled, seeded, and roasted or 2 ¾ cups canned pumpkin, about 1 ½ [13.5-ounce] cans)
- 4-6 garlic cloves roasted
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 2 ¾ cups coconut milk about 1 ½ (13.5-ounce cans)
- 3 tablespoons white miso paste
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the crumbly topping:
- ½ cup gluten-free panko breadcrumbs
- 1 ½ tablespoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
- 4 cups uncooked pasta shells gluten-free
- Preheat the oven to 375° Farenheit and lightly coat a casserole dish with oil.
- If using fresh pumpkin: cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom next to the stem. Remove seeds and lightly oil the inside and outer skin. Roast on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the inside of the pumpkin face down, and sprinkle a pinch of salt over the skin. Roast for 45-50 minutes until tender.
- Optionally roast the garlic. Cut the top off of the garlic knot exposing the fresh cloves. Drizzle about one tablespoon of oil over the fresh cloves and wrap in parchment paper, twisting the top closed. Roast with the pumpkin until tender and fragrant. If not roasting, use minced garlic when adding the sauce ingredients to the blender.
- Once the pumpkin is tender, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Salt the water, add the pasta, and cook the noodles per package instructions until al dente.
- Remove the skin from the pumpkin and add all the sauce ingredients to a blender or food processor. Pulse until evenly combined, smooth, and pourable. Add more coconut milk or water if the consistency is too thick. It should resemble the classic mac and cheese sauce.
- In a large bowl, combine the sauce and pasta. Transfer to the casserole dish, cover, and bake for 25 minutes. It will be bubbling when removed.
- Meanwhile, make the crumbly topping. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, spices, parsley, and nutritional yeast (if using).
- Remove the pasta from the oven and uncover. Sprinkle the topping all over. Broil for 2-5 minutes or until it's golden brown.