Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

published Nov 24, 2019
thanksgiving
Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

This vegan mac and cheese uses butternut squash and nutrutional yeast as a substitute for cheese, with an added spicy kick from chipotles in the adobo.

Serves6 to 8

Prep15 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 20 minutes

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Prop Styling: Stephanie Yeh

This recipe is a part of our Ever-Evolving Southern Thanksgiving package. See all the recipes here.

Ronald Cerdas, Nashville, Tennessee

My girlfriend and I have a business in Nashville called Succulent Vegan Tacos, but I’m not a chef. I’m a cook, and it kind of happened by accident. I’m from Costa Rica and my girlfriend is from Mexico City. She took me on a trip to Mexico City where we had the best vegan food. We had fluffy tamales and tacos with all kinds of fillings. I dreamed about that food and when we came back to Nashville, it was kind of sad to realize there was nothing like that here. My girlfriend ended up making me vegan tamales that were amazing — I didn’t even know she could make tamales. We decided to start our own business. That’s how Succulent Vegan Tacos started as a pop-up shop at the Nashville Farmers Market.  

We mostly do traditional Mexican food, but we also try to make the most of seasonal vegetables that are at the market. That’s how this mac and cheese recipe happened. It was around this time of year and a lot of pumpkins and squash were in season. I decided to try to use butternut squash to create a vegan cheese sauce. I don’t like a lot of vegan cheeses and I didn’t want to just make another vegan cheese sauce out of cashews. I wanted something different. 

I have a large Latin family from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Mexico. None of them are vegan and we don’t really have traditional Thanksgiving food. There’s a lot of rice, beans, and pork. My girlfriend and I bring the most “traditional” dish to the meal and even though it’s vegan mac and cheese, everyone loves it. I add the chipotle because I always like to include some Latin flavor. Now I make this every year. 

I’ve been a vegan for five years. People always ask me what I eat because they have an idea that being vegan is very limiting. But now that I’m vegan, I eat a lot of different kinds of foods and I have to be creative. I had to think about food in a different way and learn to cook new things. It opened my mind to a new way of looking at food. I would have never thought to make “cheese” out of butternut squash, but now I do.

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

This vegan mac and cheese uses butternut squash and nutrutional yeast as a substitute for cheese, with an added spicy kick from chipotles in the adobo.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 20 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    medium butternut squash

  • 6

    fresh sage leaves

  • 8 ounces

    dried elbow macaroni

  • 1 cup

    unsweetened almond milk, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 cup

    nutritional yeast

  • 1/2

    medium lime

  • 2

    canned chipotles in adobo

  • 1 tablespoon

    tapioca flour or cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • Olive oil

Optional garnishes:

  • Crispy fried onions

  • Fresh parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. Bring 1 large pot and 1 large saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, peel, seed, and dice 1 butternut squash. Coarsely chop 6 fresh sage leaves and some fresh parsley leaves if desired; set aside.

  2. When the water is boiling, add the squash to the pot and 8 ounces dried macaroni to the saucepan. Cook until the squash is tender and pasta is al dente. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Drain the squash and transfer to a blender.

  3. Add 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, juice of 1/2 lime, 2 chipotles in adobo, 1 tablespoon tapioca flour or cornstarch, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the squash. Blend until smooth.

  4. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in the empty squash pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chopped sage and cook until fragrant. Pour in the butternut squash mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts thickening. Thin out with more almond milk if desired, and taste and season with more salt as needed.

  5. Add the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with crispy fried onions and parsley if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Contributed by Ronald Cerdas, Nashville, TN.