This dairy free mac and cheese recipe with butternut squash, cashews, nutritional yeast, and savory spices will work its way into your dinner rotation in no time!
What's not to love about macaroni and cheese made from scratch?! Just because we've given up dairy, doesn't mean we can't still enjoy our family favorite recipes.
This milk free mac and cheese is creamy and comforting! Plus it's vegan, oil free, lactose free, and can be easily adapted to fit gluten free diets.
Why you'll love this recipe
Celebrate squash season with a comforting classic – homemade macaroni and cheese! This rich dish is wholesome and healthy, making it the ultimate vegan comfort food.
This dairy free butternut squash mac and cheese is unbelievably creamy with a silky smooth consistency. It comes together with some simple prep work, that's worth every second once you take your first bite!
I don't know about you, but I've never been overly impressed with store-bought dairy and grain free mac. I always find myself adding more salt and seasonings. This recipe is better than the boxed brands, even Trader Joe's butternut squash mac and cheese, Annie's, and Daiya!
Hidden veggie mac and cheese is also:
- SUPER satisfying
- Warm and nourishing
- Food processor: To blend the sauce together, you're going to need a high power blender or food processor.
- Stockpot: I love this stock pot because it's 6 quarts and has a cover with holes for easy draining.
Can you really make macaroni and cheese without the cheese? Yes, you can! Here's what you need to make dairy free mac and cheese.
- Pasta of choice
- Raw cashews
- Butternut squash
- Nutritional yeast
- Lemon juice
- Dijon mustard
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
Best Pasta for Mac and Cheese
I suggest using elbow macaroni pasta for this dish. You can use whatever traditional pasta shapes you have on hand though.
What Type of Dairy Free Milk is Best
This recipe doesn't call for ANY milk! However, if the sauce is too thick, you can stir in a reserved pasta water or plant based milk.
You want to make sure you're using unflavored, plain, unsweetened non dairy milk! I recommend almond milk, oat milk, or coconut milk.
When raw cashews are blended with water you'll be left with a glorious cashew cream. This cashew "cheese" can be used as the base for several dairy free sauces and dips! It tastes a tad nutty and somewhat salty. It has a spreadable consistency that can't be beat.
Substitutions and Variations
If you can't find butternut squash, use pumpkin or sweet potato instead!
Use sunflower seeds to replace cashews at 1:1 replacement ratio. Other substitutes for raw cashews include macadamia nuts, pine nuts, and walnuts. Soak whichever you choose, just like you would with the cashews.
To make this gluten free butternut squash mac and cheese, use your favorite grain free pasta!
Easy Vegan Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Follow my simple guide to make the best vegan mac and cheese with cashews and butternut squash!
How to Roast Butternut Squash
Roasting your butternut squash before blending into a sauce gives the final roasted butternut squash mac and cheese more depth and flavor. So don't skip this step!
- Peel the butternut squash.
- Slice the squash and remove seeds.
- Roughly chop the squash into cubes.
- Toss the squash with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- Roast the butternut squash at 400F for 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
How to Soak Cashews
Soaking cashews gives vegan sauces a creamy, dreamy consistency! If you don't soak your cashews the end result will be a grainy and gritty sauce.
I like to soak my cashews overnight in cold water but if you're in a time crunch, you can do it in less than 30 minutes! Simply toss cashews into a small bowl, cover with hot water, and let sit for 15-30 minutes.
Bringing it all together
Cook the macaroni pasta al dente, according to the package directions. Reserve at least ½-1 cup of the pasta water, then strain. Pour the cooked noodles back into the pot and set aside.
As the pasta cooks, blend soaked cashews with water until smooth. Add in the roasted squash and remaining ingredients. Blend again until well combined.
Coat the cooked macaroni in the cheese sauce and stir well, being gently not to break any of the noodles. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed, then serve warm!
I oftentimes like to serve seasonal vegetables on the side or even stirred into the macaroni and cheese. Some of my favorite add-ins are peas, brussels sprouts, or broccoli!
If you want to make this dish spicy, add a couple dashes of cayenne pepper in with the seasoning. You could also top with a drizzle of hot sauce or add in sliced jalapeño.
Storage and Reheating
You can make this meal ahead of time if you're meal prepping for the week! Leftovers save great too for lunch the next day.
How to store leftovers
Store for up to 4-5 days in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator.
Can you freeze dairy free macaroni and cheese?
This dairy free mac n cheese freezes well for up to 3-4 months.
How to reheat
To reheat from frozen, let thaw completely in the fridge before reheating. Warm in a microwave-safe bowl or in a pot on the stove.
The sauce will thicken up quite a bit, so just add a little bit of water or vegan milk as you reheat to thin out the sauce.
Try these dairy free pasta recipes next:
Dairy Free Mac and Cheese
- 1 (12-ounce) bag elbow macaroni
- 1 cup roasted butternut squash
- ½ cup raw cashews
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook macaroni noodles al dente, according to package instructions. Once cooked, reserve at least ½ cup pasta water then strain. Pour noodles back into the pot and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in in a blender or food processor, blend cashews and water until combined. Add in roasted butternut squash and remaining ingredients. Blend again, until completely smooth.
- Add the butternut squash sauce to pot with cooked pasta and stir to coat. Add reserved pasta water while stirring, until desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve warm and enjoy!