Healthier Butternut Mac and Cheese

February 21, 2013
Butternut Mac and Cheese - There's nothing that says comfort food more than mac & cheese. It's ooy-gooey and who hasn't been eating it since they were kids

There's nothing that says comfort food more than …

mac and cheese

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese 3-650x

Photo Credit: Tumblr.com

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It's ooey gooey and who hasn't been eating it since they were kids?

It's also one of those foods that everyone seems to have a favorite way of not only making but eating.

Whether you pick up a blue box filled with Sponge Bob noodles & yellow powdery stuff (no judgments), or you make it from scratch; you know what you like.

Healthier Butternut Mac and Cheese - There's nothing that says comfort food more.  It's ooy-gooey and who hasn't been eating it since they were kids?

If hip size and healthy eating were no obstacle, I'd make mine with whole milk, spirally noodles, and longhorn cheese packaged in wax.  It would be baked on a cookie sheet to maximize the crusty surface area and served with lots of salt and ketchup.

But alas, I've grown up and now my recipes must as well

Therefore, in the name of comfort food, I went forth, not terribly optimistic, but willing to try. My goodness was I ever wrong.  We loved this recipe and

didn't miss a thing!

Photo Credit: Etsy | Storefront: VinylMasterpieces

Photo Credit: Etsy | Storefront: VinylMasterpieces

There were a number of places I strayed from the original, and have a few thoughts around things I'll do differently when I make it again. It's really the concept that sets this version apart

Roasted and puréed butternut squash serves as a replacement for cheese; it's truly wonderful

Enjoy!

xoxo

(** Note from Ali:  This recipe made its initial appearance in February of 2013, way back when The Veggies was just getting started and was on the menu this week at our house.  It's such a great meal, and well deserving of some updated photos)

Healthier Butternut Mac and Cheese - There's nothing that says comfort food more.  It's ooy-gooey and who hasn't been eating it since they were kids?

A few additional notes

There's no perfection when it comes to pureeing the butternut squash.  I don't mind a few little chunks; they add bits of interest and texture.

I stayed pretty close to the original proportions when it came to the ratio of squash to cheese.  When I make it again, I'll up the squash and lower the amount of cheese even more.

One recipe makes a fairly large amount and could feed a crowd.  For the two of us, I cut the recipe in half, and we had a decent amount of left-overs

When it comes to making mac and cheese, there are a couple of different camps.  One starts with a roux.  The other combines all of the ingredients into a baking dish, pours milk over the top and pops it in the oven to bake until all of the milk has been absorbed.

I fall into the later. Not that a roux is bad, but I think next time I'll skip the butter and flour, pour the milk over the top, and bake.

There are so many twists on mac and cheese. Use this as a base to make it yours

~Adapted from The Chalkboard and originally from The Food52 Vegan: 60 Vegetable Driven Recipes for Any Kitchen Cookbook

Butternut Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ - 2 lbs. butternut squash (about 1 medium squash, peeled and cubed)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • fine grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk, divided
  • ½ cup + 2 Tbsp large-flake nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp arrowroot powder
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
  • 1 Tbsp white miso
  • 1 lb elbow pasta (any gluten-free variety will be great here, too)
  • 2 cups cooked vegetables, optional, such as steamed chopped spinach, blanched peas or lightly steamed broccoli florets
  • ½ cup cup dry breadcrumbs (gluten-free if you’re avoiding gluten)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400°F and prepare a 7 x 11 pan (or something equivalent)
  • Coat the squash with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, then spread it evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until very tender and just starting to brown. Remove from the oven. Decrease the oven's temp to 350°F.
  • Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until just starting to brown.
  • Add the coconut milk and ¾ cup of the almond milk.
  • Whisk in the nutritional yeast and arrowroot powder. Cook, whisking constantly, until nice and thick, about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer the sauce to a large bowl and add the remaining ½ cup of almond milk, the butternut squash, 1 teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and the paprika, lemon juice and miso.
  • Stir to distribute the ingredients somewhat evenly.
  • Working in batches, transfer to a blender or food processor and process until totally smooth and creamy.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat.
  • Stir in the pasta and adjust the heat to maintain a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Drain well and let cool briefly.
  • Put the pasta in a large bowl and add the vegetables.
  • Add the sauce, using only 2 cups of it if not adding the optional vegetables. Stir gently until thoroughly combined.
  • Spread the mix evenly in the prepared pan and scatter the breadcrumbs evenly over the top.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until the top is golden. Serve right away.
Serves: 6
Nutrition + Show
Rating:
Calories 405
Total Fat 6.9g
Saturated Fat 1.1g
Carbohydrates 65.5g
Fiber 27.3g
Sugars 4.4g
Protein 22.3g
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39 Comments

  • Reply Thalia March 2, 2015 at 1:46 am

    This is hands down the best mac and cheese I’ve ever seen – it looks so creamy, chees-y, flavoursome.. and the colour is just incredible. Wow!

    • Reply sexyveggie March 2, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      Thalia!

      Thank-you so much. You’re all sorts of wonderful.

      Wishing for you a happy & delicious week ahead .. xoxo

  • Reply Ana De- Jesus January 19, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Mac and cheese is one of my faves but a butternut version sounds like the healthier detox I need. Plus I love butternut squash!

  • Reply Freya Farrington January 19, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Mac and cheese is my favourite and cutting it out on a health kick is a struggle! definitely trying this!

  • Reply Annemarie LeBlanc January 20, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    5 stars
    Interesting recipe! I hope I can make it as perfectly as you did. My husband and I have been trying to pick healthier meals and butternut mac and cheese would be so nice to have for dinner tonight.

  • Reply Nina January 21, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    5 stars
    Wow that sounds amazing. I love anything Butternut Squash!

  • Reply Борка Шаула January 21, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    I love reading healthier versions of my favorite dishes! Mac and cheese are indeed something everyone loves making, and eating of course so why not try the butternut mac and cheese that won’t affect your conscience.

  • Reply emma white January 22, 2017 at 11:38 am

    This looks and sounds amazing and so much so that I am going to try and attempt to make this myself for sure

  • Reply Ana Ojha January 22, 2017 at 6:35 pm

    5 stars
    I love Mac and Cheese and just seeing your pictures, I feel like having it right now!

  • Reply Krista Dial January 22, 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Well, this is different! I’ve never tried or made a dish like this! We’ve used butternut squash quite a bit…but have never even thought about it for Mac and cheese…definitely pinning this for future experimentation! 🙂

  • Reply Carrie January 23, 2017 at 2:36 am

    I love macaroni and cheese and I love butternut squash but I would never have thought to put them together. I will definitely have to try and experiment with this combination

  • Reply Anwar Abdi January 26, 2017 at 9:08 am

    4 stars
    Omg, I love Mac N Cheese because as university student we survive on Mac N cheese and noodles on campus this look very yum Thank you for sharing 😀

  • Reply Ana Ojha January 29, 2017 at 6:22 pm

    5 stars
    I love Mac and Cheese and it looks incredibly delicious. Can’t wait to try!

  • Reply Robin June 13, 2017 at 5:30 am

    I love healthier versions of meals we make all the time. We seriously need to cut back on calories and this sounds amazing.

  • Reply Christy Maurer June 13, 2017 at 7:50 am

    Well, I love both mac and cheese and butternut squash, so I am sure I’d like this recipe! Even without the cheese I’m sure it is good.

  • Reply Marcie W. June 13, 2017 at 9:42 am

    5 stars
    Hooray for a healthier mac and cheese! This looks delicious and like a fantastic way to get any family to eat more vegetables too.

  • Reply Sarah Bailey June 13, 2017 at 9:59 am

    Hands up I love a good a mac and cheese, however I have never heard of it made with butternut, what an interesting idea, I totally need to give it a whirl and I am all for healthier recipe ideas.

  • Reply Ladonna Maxwell Dennis June 13, 2017 at 10:01 am

    5 stars
    Mac-n-cheese is good for the soul! Easy to make, tastes delicious, and is good just as a meal and not a side dish. Substituting roasted and pureed butternut squash for cheese is, dare I say, different; but, it would be a great alternative to those who might be lactose intolerant.

  • Reply lisa June 13, 2017 at 11:49 am

    This looks amazing. Mac and cheese is my go to comfort food and with butternut squash it can be healthy too!

  • Reply Jenny June 13, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    I love this healthier version of a comfort food. Ill have to try it this week!

  • Reply Lisa Favre June 13, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Now THIS is what I call an original recipe. Who knew that butternut would be such a great replacement to cheese?! I eat cheese way too often (is there such a thing?) but I definitely have to make a difference in my diet – I kind of get carried away so this recipe would be perfect for it.

  • Reply Amanda June 13, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Mac n cheese is a classic favorite and a crowd pleaser at home! I think it’s awesome that you can use butternut squash for a healthier version, I never thought of that before and I’ve never tried it. I’d love to keep this recipe though, I’ll see how the kids react to it!

  • Reply Crystal June 13, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    5 stars
    There is not a child in my house that does not like mac and cheese. I love finding ways to hide veggies like this. I have seen it done before , but you’ve convinced me to try it!! Adding it to our meal plan.

  • Reply Sydney June 13, 2017 at 6:08 pm

    My kids love mac and cheese and I’m always looking for ways to make it more nutritious. I’m definitely trying your recipe this weekend.

  • Reply Censie Sawyer June 13, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Since you said you wont judge….I love love love the blue box mac and cheese. It is a favorite of mine even at 34 years old! ha. This however, looks like a great dinner dish that my whole family woudl enjoy. Total comfort food with the addition of a great veggie . Always like finding ways to incorporate items like squash.

  • Reply Pam June 13, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    I love macaroni and cheese, but it’s definitely not the healthiest option. This sure packs in some nutrition from the butternut squash!

  • Reply Monica June 13, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    5 stars
    Not only the recipes look amazing and somehow healthier that other Mac and Cheese recipes, but I love the quotes and that poem. I also have to admit that picking up a box of Sponge Bob or whatever character was in fashion has saved my life when I have been sick and need to make an easy dinner. So no judging here.

  • Reply Jenn June 13, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    I love this. When our daughter, now 18 was little, I used to say to call her my little macaroni and she would say back “and cheese”. It was the cutest thing! Now she is 18 and vegan, and wont eat the cheese, but she does enjoy puree squash in it’s place.

  • Reply Jocelyn June 13, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    4 stars
    I make vegan mac’n’cheese monthly at my house. My partner and I both absolutely love, the creamy pasta goodness! However, I’ve never made “cheese” with butternut squash. I know it’s becoming super popular, and this recipe looks great. I bet the coconut milk adds that extra bit of creamy! Yum!

  • Reply Tami June 13, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Mac-n-cheese is my daughter’s favorite dish. Okay, mine too. I am about to commit to a dairy-free lifestyle. Being able to eat this variation with butternut squash will keep me from straying.

  • Reply Louisa June 14, 2017 at 2:55 am

    I saw this food on your Instagram and my mouth watered lol! I’ve never made mac and cheese before. Will have to give it a try. Yours looks so delicious!

  • Reply Annemarie LeBlanc June 14, 2017 at 3:48 am

    5 stars
    Mac and cheese is close to being a staple in our house. Never a week goes by without my family asking for it. I will try this new twist to the basic recipe. I am sure they’d never notice I used butternut squash. 🙂

  • Reply Kira June 14, 2017 at 3:57 am

    5 stars
    Butternut squash is an interesting substitute for cheese. I have not tried that before. I was reading through the ingredient list and it does look like there won’t be much difference from the basic recipe. I think this would even be creamier. Coconut and almond milk would really make it creamy and delicious!

  • Reply Maya June 14, 2017 at 5:46 am

    Wow I love butternut squash but this is brilliant to infuse it into a mac and cheese. I definitely pinned this for the future!

  • Reply Zwitsal June 14, 2017 at 9:22 am

    5 stars
    Who would have thought about this! Loads of new ingredients but definitely healthier! Now a days lots of people take the shortcuts! But I want to do the healthier way!

  • Reply Amanda June 14, 2017 at 9:36 am

    I am literally drooling over this post. I love mac and cheese, and the butternut squash addition makes it even more appetizing for me. Can’t wait to try it!

  • Reply Ashley Whipple June 14, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    I gave up mac and cheese and pretty much all comfort foods about a 14 months ago. I sure do miss it! I am so excited that your version with butternut squash would fit into my diet! We have a nut allergy in our house, so I’ll just have to sub the almond milk, but otherwise we are good to go! Woohoo!

  • Reply David Elliott June 14, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I can definitely understand growing up and needing to be healthier with your diet. It can be so hard to eat healthy sometimes and I appreciate all of the amazing recipes you have here. As for me and my selections of what I do for mac and cheese I much prefer rough to bake. I think bake ends up with some crispy noodles that I don’t like very much. And my daughter would murder me if I tried to use butternut squash instead of cheese. Maybe I can try half and half to see what she thinks and at least introduce to her a more healthy version. What do you think? How would I adjust the amounts?

  • Reply Crystal June 15, 2017 at 7:01 am

    Having 3 kids, you know that we eat a lot of mac n cheese. I love the idea of hiding veggies in it, though, and this is such a great way to get some butternut squash in our diet.

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