Over the past couple years, I’ve made many different vegan cheeze sauce recipes. The initial ones weren’t what I would consider spectacular, but with trial and error I’ve made recipes that not only satisfy my cravings, but make me crave the new recipes instead of actually craving cheese itself.
As a former cheese addict, this is big.
Last year, I fell in love with cashew-based vegan cheeze sauces. When you blend or process cashews with nutritional yeast, herbs, spices, and almond milk, you get this thick and creamy vegan cheeze sauce that can be added to macaroni, casseroles, spread onto sandwiches, and more.
I especially love making this cashew-based Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze:
This below, is my favourite Cashew-Based Vegan Cheeze Sauce (without the squash).
Lately, my focus has shifted to sauces that I can make without cashews.
The cashew-based sauces are delicious, but they can be quite heavy. I’ve been working on sauces that can be thrown together in just a few minutes on the stove top.
My first attempt was my 5-Ingredient Cheeze Sauce. Just almond milk, Earth Balance, flour, nutritional yeast, and S & P.
Some of you asked for a version that didn’t have as much fat in it. This recipe has 4 tablespoons of Earth Balance, but I knew that I could make it much healthier and lighter with a little work!
This weekend was cold, wet, and gloomy, and it was the perfect weekend to make some comfort food. I decided to make a lighter Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze.
But of course, I wasn’t so sure if it would work. I figured there was a good chance I’d be eating bad mac ‘n cheese for a week straight while Eric ate cereal for dinner.
But it’s always good to hang onto a glimmer of hope.
I roasted a Butternut Squash, but if you want to save time you can always used canned squash as an option.
How to Roast Butternut Squash
Preheat the oven to 425F. Start by slicing your squash in half (try not to slice your finger off like I almost did). I used a 3.5 pound squash for this recipe, but you only need 1 cup of cooked squash for the sauce (I had 4 cups of squash leftover, fyi). Scoop out the seeds & guts with a spoon.
Peel the two halves and chop off the top and bottom.
Slice into 1-2 inch chunks.
Add the chunks into a large casserole dish or roasting pan. Drizzle on extra virgin olive oil and mix well with your hands. Now sprinkle on a hearty dose of Herbamare or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Roast, uncovered, for about 40 minutes at 425F or until tender.
Again, you can skip this roasting step and use canned squash if you are crunched for time.
Meanwhile, prepare the cheeze sauce on the stove top by whisking together Earth Balance (I cut the fat by 75%!), unflavoured almond milk, nutritional yeast, arrowroot powder (or cornstarch or flour), Dijon, garlic powder, S & P.
If you roasted your squash, blend 1 cup of squash with the cheeze sauce in a blender. If you are using canned squash, you can just stir the squash directly into the pot.
The outcome was incredible. Thick, with a believable cheese flavour.
Best of all, it’s quite low in fat, full of nutrients, and easy to make.
Finger. licking. good.
The sauce makes enough for 4 servings of Macaroni (I used brown rice elbow macaroni).
Mix it up and add in your desired mix-ins. I used kale (help me!), but you can use spinach, peas, broccoli, or any vegetable that tickles your fancy.
I stirred in a bit of leftover roasted squash too.
This recipe is definitely “in the vault”, as we like to say.
Eric was crazy for this mac ‘n cheeze and he’s a big cheese lover so I take that as a compliment. Brownie points earned.
Updated recipe (March 2017):
Creamy, cheesy, comforting—and healthy, too—what more could you want from a pasta dish? The original recipe was posted on my blog way back in 2011, and it quickly became one of my most popular recipes. I've now tweaked it slightly (mainly, streamlined the directions and added more flavour to the sauce), and I think it's better than ever. We just can't get enough! If you want a super-fast weeknight option, feel free to use canned butternut squash purée in lieu of the roasted squash.
For the butternut squash:
- 1 large or 2 medium (2 to 3 pounds total) butternut squash, halved and seeded*
- Grapeseed or sunflower oil
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the cheese sauce:
- 1 cup (180 g) roasted butternut squash
- 1 tablespoon (14 g) vegan butter**
- 3/4 cup (180 mL) unsweetened and unflavoured almond milk
- 1 tablespoon (12 g) potato starch or cornstarch
- 1/4 cup (20 g) nutritional yeast, or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon mustard
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 to 3 teaspoons (10 to 15 mL) chickpea miso (or other light miso), to taste
For the pasta:
- 8 ounces (340 g) macaroni, mini shell, or rotini pasta (use gluten-free, if desired)
- Mix-ins of choice (e.g., cooked squash, kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, etc.)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly spray or brush the oil onto the orange flesh of each squash half. Garnish with salt and pepper. Place the halves cut-side down on the baking sheet. Roast for about 35 to 50 minutes, uncovered, until a fork or knife easily slides through the squash. The skin will be lightly browned and the squash may be brown in some spots (which only adds to the flavour).
- When there are about 20 minutes left of the squash’s roasting time, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain.
- After the squash is finished cooking, flip it flesh-side up and let it cool for 10 minutes or so before handling.
- Into a blender, add the cheese sauce ingredients (butter, milk, starch, nutritional yeast, Dijon, garlic and onion powder, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and miso) along with 1 lightly packed cup of the roasted squash (simply spoon it out of the skin and measure). Blend on high until smooth.
- Add the cooked and drained pasta back into the pot and stir in all of the cheese sauce. Chop the leftover squash into small cubes, scoop the cubes out of the skin, and add them into the pot (along with any other mix-ins you like). Heat over medium and stir until thickened. Add more salt and pepper to taste (and more lemon juice if you want a bit more brightness). Serve immediately.
* For a quick and easy option, swap the roasted butternut squash for 1 cup of canned butternut squash or pumpkin purée. It works well and is great for time-crunched weeknight meals. Instead of roasting squash halves, you can save a bit of time by purchasing pre-chopped fresh squash, too.
** You can probably substitute the vegan butter for a light-tasting oil, such as grapeseed oil or refined coconut oil.
Make it nut-free: Use a nut-free plant-based milk. Just be sure it's unsweetened and unflavoured.
Nutrition Information(click to expand)
Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheeze (Vegan with Gluten-free & Nut-Free options)
Husband approved. Cook approved. Vegan approved. Omnivore approved. ‘Nough said.
Yield: 4 servings or 1.5 cups of cheeze sauce
- 1 fresh butternut squash* (peeled and chopped) OR 1 cup canned butternut squash OR canned pumpkin
- Extra virgin olive oil, S & P
- 1 tbsp Earth Balance (or other non-dairy butter replacer)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened & unflavoured almond milk (revised from 1 cup)
- 1 tbsp arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
- 6 tbsp nutritional yeast, or more to taste
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/4-3/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2-1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/2-1 tsp kosher salt (to taste) & ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 servings brown rice macaroni (8oz or half a 16oz package) makes 3 1/4 cup cooked
- Mix-ins of choice (e.g., kale, spinach, broccoli, peas, pumpkin seeds, etc)
1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a casserole dish with tin foil. Mix chopped squash with EVOO, S & P. Roast for about 40 minutes, uncovered, or until tender.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the cheeze sauce in a pot on the stove top. Add Earth balance over low-medium heat. In a bowl, whisk together milk and arrowroot powder (or cornstarch or flour) until clumps are gone. Add into pot and whisk. Stir in remaining ingredients (nutritional yeast, Dijon, garlic, lemon, S & P) and whisk over low heat until thickened (about 5-7 minutes or so).
3. Cook your pasta according to package directions. The sauce makes enough to cover 4 servings of pasta.
4. In a blender, blend the sauce with 1 cup of roasted squash (or if using canned, simply stir 1 cup into the pot).
5. Add cooked, drained, and rinsed macaroni into pot, along with cheeze sauce & mix-ins. Heat and serve.
Notes: 1) My 3.5 pound squash made 5 cups cooked squash, so I had about 4 cups leftover. 2) The sauce does not cut in half well (the blender has a hard time blending it up), 3) I tried this recipe with canned pumpkin and it was awesome!
Things on my mind…
PUMPKIN Mac ‘n Cheeze. I’m so going there.
When the heck is it going to stop raining?
A 5-minute cheeze sauce without cashews or squash? Coming up tomorrow…