My light vegan baked mac and cheese is easy enough for beginners and has a secret portion of vegetables. With a hint of smoked paprika and sage, this restaurant-like dish is the perfect comfort food and a star of any dinner party without being too heavy.
What Makes This Recipe So Good
- Lighter than usual mac & cheese
- Beginner friendly
- Includes a portion of vegetables
- A hint of herbs
- Topped off with a crispy almond topping
- Easy to customize
In addition to the seasoning, you'll only need 10 ingredients to make your baked vegan mac and cheese.
A couple of notes regarding the ingredients.
Butternut squash: I used butternut squash from the groceries shop produce section (not frozen). Can be substituted for frozen, but this might change the cooking time.
Vegan cheese: Use any vegan cheese you like best. If you have access to smoked vegan cheese (such as Applewood in the UK), that’s brilliant and will add an extra flavor.
Herbs and spices: I used black pepper, chili powder, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic, and sage. Can be substituted for other herbs if preferred.
Plant milk: Use any unsweetened plant milk such as soy, almond, oat, etc. Avoid using coconut milk as this will be too sweet.
Dairy-free butter: Use any dairy-free butter (such as Vitalite in the UK).
Below is a quick visual guide to help you know exactly what each of your steps should look like.
For exact measurements, details, and notes, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of this page.
1. First, you’ll need to peel and cut your butternut squash.
2. Rub in all your spices and bake in the oven for 25 minutes until soft.
3. In the meantime, prepare your cheese sauce and cook your pasta. To make your cheese sauce, melt dairy-free butter in a small pan. Then add flour. Whisk vigorously until combined.
4. Start gradually adding your plant milk. Keep whisking.
5. Once you’ve added all your plant milk, keep whisking some more. The sauce should be perfectly smooth with no lumps.
6. Lastly, add all your spices and shredded vegan cheese to the hot pan. Keep whisking on medium-heat until everything has dissolved and thickened to an almost gravy-like consistency (but less thick).
7. Once your pasta is cooked (do not overcook), reserve ¼ cup of pasta water. Drain the rest. Add your pasta to a large baking tray.
8. Pour over your cheese sauce and pasta water. Add butternut squash. Mix well and add some more smoked paprika and sage if desired. Top off with ground almonds and nutritional yeast.
9. Bake in the oven at 180°C/35°F for 25 minutes. Serve hot or store in an airtight container for later.
1. Roast It Well
A crucial part of this recipe is getting your butternut squash ready for roasting. Make sure you remove all the skin using a vegetable peeler. Then, focus on cutting it into equal-sized cubes.
Before adding to the oven, be generous with your herbs and rub them in well. Last but not least, bake your squash for full 25 minutes to get it perfectly soft.
2. Pasta To Sauce Ratio
As with any mac and cheese, it will be crucial that you have perfected your pasta-to-sauce ratio. Generally, I aim to have plenty of sauce in comparison to your pasta.
Don’t be tempted to cook more pasta than given in the recipe card below whilst not adjusting your sauce accordingly. You will need to cover your pasta liberally with plenty of sauce.
3. Don’t Overcook
Crucial to this recipe is that you absolutely don’t overcook the pasta. This means you’ll need to cook it for a couple of minutes less than usual.
Before going into the oven, your pasta needs to be edible (so not rock hard), but not too soft.
Firstly, it uses considerably less cheese than any similar vegan mac and cheese recipe. If using the most commonly known Violife cheese for reference, this entire recipe uses less than 2 slices. To still give it a cheesy flavor, I’ve used nutritional yeast, salt, and a combination of herbs and spices.
Secondly, it also includes a large portion of vegetables. Thirdly, traditional breadcrumbs are substituted with ground almonds.
Last but not least, whilst the recipe does use a little bit of flour and dairy-free butter, both of these ingredients have been kept to the absolute minimum.
This will largely come down to your personal preferences. I like using Violife which is accessible in many countries. My personal favorite is the Applewood cheese (available in the UK), which tastes a lot like smoked cheese.
Whatever brand of cheese you choose, I recommend purchasing it in a block and shredding it yourself. This will make sure your cheese is less likely to clump.
Apart from macaroni, you can use any small to medium-sized pasta shape that has a way of trapping the sauce within it. Fusilli and rotini are great options.
Stay away from using any long and thin/smooth shapes such as spaghetti or linguine.
If you're interested in learning how to match pasta shapes to sauces, check out this guide by BBC Good Food.
I’m sure you’ll love this recipe just as it is and there’s absolutely no need to add anything. However, if you’re willing to experiment, I do have a few suggestions on how to make this mac and cheese even better.
Firstly, vegan bacon pieces are a great addition. Secondly, you can add vegan parmesan when serving. If you’re looking to add more vegetables, try adding kale or broccoli for a perfect hint of green veggie goodness.
Yes. Store in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, place in a microwave-safe dish and microwave until piping hot. Alternatively, warm up in the oven.
Here are some ways you could customize this pasta.
To make it gluten-free, you’ll need to use gluten-free pasta and substitute plain flour for cornstarch (also known as cornflour).
Pasta: As mentioned above, the best pasta shapes for this recipe would be macaroni, fusilli, and rotini. If preferred, you can use wholewheat pasta.
Sage: Not a fan of sage? No problem. Substitute for other herbs that complement your cheese sauce well such as thyme, dill, or chives.
Almonds: Not a fan of almonds? Feel free to leave them out altogether or substitute them with breadcrumbs, chopped cashews or vegan parmesan.
Missing any other ingredients or want to make a substitution? Get in touch via comments below and I’ll try to help you as best as I can.
If you liked my vegan baked mac and cheese, please consider leaving a comment or review which helps me run this blog.
Last but not least, if you’re looking for more similar recipes, don’t forget to check out my vegan pot pie, vegan haggis, vegan stew, and dumplings, or my personal favorite roasted red pepper pasta. Check out my full mains section here.
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Thank you and have a lovely day!
Vegan Baked Mac And Cheese
FOR THE BUTTERNUT
- 1 butternut squash weights 2 to 3 lbs/around 1kg
- 2 teaspoon olive oil or other light oil
- salt to taste
- 4 teaspoon sage
- black pepper to taste
FOR THE PASTA AND SAUCE
- 200 g pasta
- 1,5 tablespoon dairy-free butter
- 1,5 tablespoon plain flour
- 250 ml almond milk
- 40 g vegan cheese equals just under two slices of Violife vegan cheese
SEASONING AND TOPPINGS
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sage
- 2,5 tablespoon ground almonds
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
FOR THE BUTTERNUT
- Peel and cut your butternut squash. Make sure you remove all the skin.
- Rub in oil and all your spices. Bake in the oven at 180°C/356°F for 25 minutes until soft.
- Make your pasta and sauce in the meantime.
FOR THE PASTA AND SAUCE
- To make your cheese sauce, melt dairy-free butter in a small pan. Wait for butter to fully melt. Then add flour. Whisk vigorously until combined.
- Start gradually and slowly (e.g, only ¼ cup at once) adding your plant milk. At the same time, keep whisking.
- Once you’ve added all your plant milk, keep whisking some more. The sauce should be perfectly smooth with no lumps.
- Lastly, add all your seasoning and shredded vegan cheese to the hot pan. Keep whisking on medium-heat until everything has dissolved and thickened to almost gravy-like consistency (but less thick).
- Boil your pasta - make sure to boil about 3-4 minutes less than regularly. Your pasta needs to be al dente before going into the oven.
- Once your pasta is cooked (do not overcook), reserve ¼ cup of pasta water. Drain the rest. Add your pasta to a large baking tray.
- Pour over your cheese sauce and pasta water. Add butternut squash. Mix well and add some more smoked paprika and sage if desired. Top off with ground almonds and nutritional yeast.
- Bake in the oven at 180°C/35°F for 25 minutes. Serve hot or store in an airtight container for later.
- Use the step-by-step photos above as your visual guide.
- This recipe has been tested using weight measurements (not cups). I always strongly recommend using weight measurements (both EU and US weights are stated in the recipe card). Cups vary in size and are thus considerably less exact.
- To make it gluten-free, you’ll need to use gluten-free pasta and substitute plain flour for cornstarch (also known as cornflour).
- When preparing your squash, make sure you remove all the skin using a vegetable peeler. Then, focus on cutting it into equal-sized cubes.
- Last but not least, bake your squash for full 25 minutes to get it perfectly soft.
- Apart from macaroni, you can use any small to medium-sized pasta shape that has a way of trapping the sauce within it. Fusilli and rotini are great options.
- Store in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When ready to serve, place in a microwave-safe dish and microwave until piping hot. Alternatively, warm up in the oven.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information above is calculated automatically. The author of this post cannot guarantee 100% accuracy of this data.
This one tastes really good! I played around with different herbs as recommended and added some freshly chopped herbs on top too. Turned out so well! Will be making agian 🙂
How wonderful Grace, thanks for sharing your experience! I love chopping some fresh chives and adding it to this pasta just before serving!
This mac and cheese recipe is EVERYTHING! I seriously can't get enough of it!
Ahh thank you so much Katie, that means the WORLD!
You say you use weight instead of cups...so why didn't you use one or the other for thre squash??? Squash sizes vary connsiderably...so how squash is in this recipe, in cups or weight??
Hi Collette, thank you for pointing this out! I used an average-sized butternut squash weighing roughly 2 to 3 lbs (this is around 1kg). I've now added this information to the recipe card as well. Have a wonderful evening! x