Boxed macaroni and cheese is a childhood staple in many homes. While the taste might bring back fond memories, there’s little to love about powdered cheese and processed noodles. We’ve created a recipe with the same cheesy flavor, using gluten-free, dairy-free, butternut squash mac and cheese.
Sweet, sweet squash
Butternut squash helps make this sauce thick and creamy, plus it adds a natural orange color that is artificially added in most boxed versions. We love butternut squash for its nutritional profile as well. Its loaded with beta-carotene, which is converted to the important antioxidant vitamin A by the liver. Vitamin A is beneficial for skin health since it helps protect damage from UV rays, and also helps repair existing damage, helping to improve signs of aging in the skin.
We’ve included healthy fats from cashews and olive oil in our version of mac and cheese. Olive oil is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which is often touted for its ability to improve longevity. Olive oil contains beneficial monounsaturated fats, which are linked to lower body weight, a decreased risk of heart disease, and can help fight cancer. Cashews, our second source of fats in this dish, are made up of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. They’re also rich in iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Nooch for that cheesy taste
Nutritional yeast (fondly referred to as “nooch” among many vegans) is an incredibly healthy seasoning to add to any dish. It has a naturally “cheesy” flavor, so it is an ideal addition for vegans or anyone avoiding dairy. Many nutritional yeast products are fortified, meaning certain vitamins or minerals have been added during processing. B vitamins are some of the nutrients nutritional yeast is most known for since this is an important set of vitamins for vegans to watch. B vitamins often come from animal products, so without actively seeking them out, vegans and vegetarians are often at risk for deficiency.
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 can coconut cream
1 small yellow onion
1/2 of a small butternut squash
1 box of gluten-free noodles of choice
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Optional: Parsley for serving
Cook the pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water, strain, and set aside. Chop onions. Peel and finely chop butternut squash. Mince garlic.
In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onions, plus salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is lightly browned, fragrant, and softened (5-6 minutes). Add butternut squash, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine and cook for an additional 3 minutes.
Pour in canned coconut milk and cashews. Cook at a low simmer until the squash is tender (about 6-8 minutes). Add all pot contents to a high-speed blender, plus nutritional yeast and vinegar. Blend on high until creamy and smooth. Add salt and pepper as needed.
Toss sauce with pasta and serve immediately. You can store the butternut squash mac and cheese covered in the fridge for a few days.
Recipe and photography by Kaitlyn Noble
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