This vegan mac & cheese recipe with butternut squash is a bowl of comfort. Made with cashews, nutritional yeast and seasonings, it’s bold, flavourful and full of nutrients. Not too bad for comfort food, right? This dish also offers a hearty serving of protein with the added tempeh bacon.
This recipe is one of my toddler’s all-time favourites. She happens to love pasta or any carbs for that matter, so this recipe ranks high. Like many parents, I’m often concerned about nutrition and worry when my daughter doesn’t eat enough vegetables. Thankfully this sauce is full of squash, so it’s a sneaky way to get some plants in her diet. Butternut squash is an excellent source of provitamin A carotenoids, vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and more. If swapping cheese for squash doesn’t work for your picky eaters, try melting some cheese on top and see if that helps. You may not need it, though, because the squash is undetectable and if they may not even realize it’s not cheese.
Mix it up!
You can mix up this mac & cheese recipe any way you’d like. Add some spinach or broccoli for a little more veggies, or swap the homemade tempeh bacon for store-bought—nobody’s judging.
I designed this recipe to use the entire butternut squash because I don’t appreciate having half a squash leftover in the fridge. The recipe makes eight moderate portions which you can prepare in two sizeable deep oven dishes full. I always serve one right away and freeze one for another occasion. It makes a great freezer meal. If you want to make a half portion, you can cut the tempeh and pasta ingredients in two and then use half of the sauce for something else. For example, the mac & cheese sauce can also be a great topper on nachos—add a few chipotle peppers—or as a dip for empanadas.
Got hot sauce in my bag, swag
As someone who grew up eating Caribbean macaroni pie, I can’t disassociate mac & cheese from scotch bonnet hot pepper sauce. If you like heat, I recommend adding some scotch bonnet sauce on the side when you eat this delicious mac & cheese. It’s must for me. My favourite brand is Matouk’s but look for a Caribbean yellow scotch bonnet sauce, and that should do it.
Heartwarming Vegan Mac & Cheese with Tempeh Bacon
- Pressure cooker (Handy but not necessary.)
Butternut cheeze sauce
- 1 butternut squash roasted
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1 cup soy milk other plant milks work too
- 1 onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 Lemon juiced
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/4 cup tamari
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 240g packages of tempeh cut into 1/4 inch strips
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
Pasta and more
- 900g macaroni pasta cooked, al dente
- 1 cup panko flakes optional for crispy finish
- 1 cup melty vegan cheese (I like Parmela brand) optional; I usually don't include it
- Caribbean scotch bonnet pepper sauce optional: to serve on the side for those who like heat
Roast or steam your butternut squash
- Roast method: Preheat oven at 375°F /190°C. Cut butternut squash in two down the middle. Remove seeds and lay flat on a lightly oiled baking sheet—Bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool and scoop out flesh from the skin. Discard skins and stem.
- Steam method: Using a pressure cooker, place the whole butternut squash in your pressure pot with one inch of water at the bottom. Cut the squash in two if it doesn't fit in your pot —steam for 10 minutes with an electric Instant Pot or 20 minutes with stovetop pressure cookers. Let cool and peel off skins and discard.
Make butternut cheeze sauce
- Add all cheeze ingredients, except flour, into a blender and blend on high. Note: You may need to do this in sections in you have a small blender.
- Pour blended cheeze sauce into a large saucepot. Cook over low to medium heat, continually stirring for about 5 minutes, or until the raw onion taste subsides. Add flour, a little at a time, to thicken the sauce.
Make tempeh bacon
- Stir water, molasses, tamari and maple syrup together in a small bowl.
- Add cooking oil to a warm large frying pan over medium heat. Add tempeh and cook on one side until browned, then flip and cook the other side.
- Once all the tempeh strips are brown on both sides, add the molasses sauce. It will bubble up a lot. Let the sauce cook down for just under a minute, and then flip the tempeh strips to get sauce on both sides. Note: watch the tempeh carefully at this point as the molasses can quickly burn.
- Once the molasses sauce coats both sides of the tempeh and starts to harden, remove it from heat and place it on a cutting board. Cut strips into little bacon bits.
- Mix cheeze sauce and pasta together in a large bowl or pot. Sprinkle in tempeh bacon.
- Optional step: Add mac & cheese to two large (approx. 9" by 13") baking dishes and sprinkle with panko bread crumbs and/or store-bought vegan cheeze of choice (I like Parmela). Bake at 375°F /190°C for 20 minutes. Change the oven setting to broil and finish off with 5 minutes under the broiler for a crispy finish.