It’s pumpkin season, so you already know we’re adding pumpkin to just about *everything*. Pumpkin spice lattes (duh), pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie overnight oats, and, yep, even cheesy pumpkin pasta. If you’re not already obsessing over all things pumpkin, you’re about to! Enter: dairy-free pumpkin mac and cheese — cozy comfort food made healthy. This recipe is creamy, delicious, and nutritious! Truly, you’d never guess it was free of dairy and cheese and made with healthy alternatives (like cashews and pumpkin). It’s the perfect way to satisfy your savory cravings and embrace the flavors of fall — in a healthy way. The best part? It’s easy to customize. Swap pumpkin for your favorite winter squash (like kabocha or butternut squash) and serve over your favorite elbow pasta of choice (we opted for chickpea pasta).
Pumpkin Mac & Cheese Ingredients
Find out the star ingredients that make this pumpkin mac and cheese so delicious and healthy!
The star ingredient — pumpkin! Low in calories and sugar yet rich in nutrients. This fall veggie is packed with vitamin A and full of nutrients like vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and antioxidants. And don’t worry — the taste of pumpkin is mild enough that it won’t overpower the dish!
Cashews are the sneaky ingredient that makes this pumpkin sauce so creamy — without the cream! They add a creamy texture and help to thicken the recipe without saturated fat from dairy. Plus, cashews contain plant-based protein, may support healthy cholesterol levels, are low in sugar, and contain energy and bone-supporting nutrients like copper, magnesium, and manganese.
A plant-based and dairy-free alternative to cheese! Nutritional yeast is low in calories and full of plant-based protein (3 grams per 2 teaspoons!). It’s also extremely high in vitamin B12, a nutrient that is hard to come by on a plant-based diet. And, of course, it adds the savory cheesy flavor to this recipe.
We oped for Banza chickpea pasta in this recipe as a healthier alternative to traditional elbow pasta. Made with double the protein and triple the fiber compared to regular pasta! Plus, it’s lower in carbs, and unlike traditional pasta, it isn’t refined.
How to Make Dairy-Free Pumpkin Mac & Cheese
- 1 cup raw sugar pumpkin, peeled and chopped into cubes (any winter squash will work, too — such as kabocha or butternut squash)
- ½ cup cashews, soaked for 20-30 minutes in warm water, then drained
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ cup water (sub unsweetened cashew or almond milk for a creamier blend)
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp paprika (smoked or regular)
- 1 tsp onion powder, optional
- ½ tsp garlic powder, optional
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 8 oz. box of elbow or shell pasta (we used Banza chickpea elbow pasta)
Step #1: Prep & Cook Your Pumpkin
Start by peeling and chopping your pumpkin (or squash) into cube-sized parts. Then, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add your cubed pumpkin. Simmer until soft, about 10-15 minutes.
Step #2: Blend Your Cheese Sauce Base
Once your pumpkin is cooked and soft, strain it through a colander. Add the strained pumpkin to a high-speed blender with the soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, and remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and creamy. Taste test and adjust ingredients as needed. Set aside.
Step #3: Boil Your Pasta
Cook your pasta of choice according to the boxed package instructions. Strain and add cooked pasta to large pot.
Step #4: Combine Pasta and Cheese Sauce
Pour cheese sauce over prepared pasta and mix until well combined. If necessary, heat over the stovetop until warm.
Step #5: Serve and Enjoy!
Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge. Add any toppings, such as fresh or dried herbs, roasted and finely chopped cashew nuts, a sprinkle of hemp seeds, or additional nutritional yeast. Enjoy!
Note: this cheese sauce can be enjoyed over any pasta, nachos, or any dish requiring a thick cheese sauce!
A Healthy Fall Twist on Your Favorite Pasta Dish
When the cool weather hits, we’re all about heartier comfort foods like warm pasta dishes. But if you want a healthier version of a traditional favorite, this recipe will satisfy all your cravings in the most delicious way! Trust us — even the ultimate cheese lovers will be swooning. Serve this cheese-less cheese sauce over your favorite pasta or any other dish that calls for a creamy cheese sauce! Happy pumpkin season!