This creamy, cheesy, cozy Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese is the perfect quick and easy vegan dinner option (especially for fall and winter!). It’s absolutely delicious, but it’s low fat and packed with vitamin A and other micronutrients, but no one will notice because it’s so good!
Hey Internet, want a cozy yet healthy fall meal? You’ll love this vegan pumpkin mac and cheese.
I am really developing quite a few vegan mac and cheese or cheesy pasta recipes, aren’t I? This recipe was one of the first I published, and many others have joined it including nut-free vegan mac and cheese without cashews, baked vegan mac and cheese, soy-free vegan mac and cheese, vegan white cheddar mac and cheese with mushroom bacon, vegan cacio e pepe (which is like adult mac and cheese), vegan hamburger helper (vegan cheese sauce with vegan ground meat!), and even Instant Pot Vegan Mac and Cheese. Yeesh!
This dish is insanely easy to make (cook up some pasta and whiz up the sauce in the blender). Better yet, double the sauce and store it in the fridge to use all week on pasta, steamed or roasted veggies, potatoes, etc.!
The vegan pumpkin cheese sauce is jam packed full of nutrition, including a ton of vitamin A, vitamin K, copper, vitamin E, protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, and more. Mixing it with your favorite pasta is a very healthy meal, especially when you use a bean or legume based pasta, whole wheat pasta, or pair it with another vegetable like broccoli or cauliflower.
But more importantly in my opinion is FLAVOR. Healthy food is very important, but if it doesn’t taste good, it’s hard to get everyone to eat it.
This is what I call a hidden veggies meal. Although it’s obvious to the cook that there’s pumpkin in it, it’s not neon orange or anything, and it just tastes like a warm, rich cheese sauce. And dang, it’s good.
Keep reading to learn how easy this pumpkin-packed vegan mac and cheese without cashews is!
Ingredients and Substitutions
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- Pasta of choice: You can really use any pasta you like for this! We used radiatore because it’s fun, but any pasta that holds onto sauce well should work, including (but not limited to): fusilli, elbow macaroni, small or medium shells, cellentani / cavatappi, pipe rigate, or orecchiette if you want to be fancy. If you are gluten-free, choose your favorite gluten-free pasta--I like the brown rice and quinoa blends a lot! If you’d like more protein, try a legume based pasta like chickpea pasta or red lentil pasta.
- Silken tofu: This is the creamy base of our sauce and it’s incredibly low in fat. If you don’t mind a higher fat option and can’t have soy or can’t find silken tofu, you can substitute this with 1 cup of raw cashews, raw sunflower seeds, or even white beans and enough unsweetened non-dairy milk to get it to blend.
- Pumpkin puree: This recipe uses a whole 15 ounce can of organic pumpkin puree. You want to use pumpkin puree, NOT pumpkin pie filling which comes with extra spices and often with sugar.
- Fresh lemon juice: Maybe I’m a snob but fresh lemon juice is so much better than bottled. The juice of 1 smallish lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons of juice) is perfect for this recipe.
- Nutritional yeast: This helps with our cheesy factor but you can omit if you prefer. Try adding a pinch of onion powder if you omit this.
- Garlic: I like to use fresh peeled garlic (I throw it right into the blender) but garlic powder will also work!
- Dried thyme, sea salt, and a pinch of smoked paprika
How to Make Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese
- Start by cooking your pasta according to package directions. Many people salt their pasta water. If you do that, I recommend first bring the pot of water to a boil, then add the salt and stir so it dissolves easily. The bubbles will slow at the introduction of something room temperature, so then return it to a boil before adding the pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, make the cheese sauce by combining the silken tofu, pumpkin puree, nutritional yeast, garlic, spices, and lemon juice in a blender. Blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust any seasonings if necessary.
- Drain your pasta and leave it in the colander for a moment.
- Add the sauce to your empty pasta pot and heat the pan over medium low. Stir the sauce for a few minutes until it’s warmed through. Add the pasta back and stir to combine. Season with fresh cracked pepper if desired, and serve immediately.
- Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! Use a fresh pie pumpkin (large carving pumpkins don’t have much flesh or flavor), and roast it. Scoop out the flesh (after discarding membrane) and puree until smooth. Use about 15 ounces of puree for this vegan pumpkin mac and cheese recipe.
Yes, you could use butternut squash (or other winter squash) or even pureed sweet potatoes (canned or fresh).
Instead of silken tofu, you can use any other type of tofu (except super/extra firm). Just blend it until smooth--you may need to add a little unsweetened non-dairy milk to get it to blend. If you want to avoid soy altogether, try using soaked raw cashews, sunflower seeds, or white beans. With those options, you will need unsweetened non-dairy milk or water to get the sauce to blend.
Yup, just use your favorite gluten-free pasta. I like the brown rice and quinoa based pastas, or the chickpea or red lentil pastas are good too.
I like to make vegan mac and cheese without cashews for a few reasons. Cashews are very expensive, a lot of people are both vegan AND allergic to nuts so they can’t even have cashews, I feel cashews are a little on the sweet side, and also I just feel they’re really overused in vegan recipes. Even raw cashew pieces are pretty expensive, and I usually find raw sunflower seeds for less than a third of that. I also sometimes like to make my sauces with silken tofu as I do in this recipe. It lowers the fat content, it’s very easy to blend (great if you don’t have a high powered blender), it’s inexpensive, and it makes a recipe creamy without making it heavy.
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