The Best Pumpkin Macaroni and “Cheese”
The Best Pumpkin Macaroni and ‘Cheese’- a super comforting meal that’s perfect for fall. It’s dairy-free and vegan, and it can easily be served with your favorite gluten-free pasta!
Are you guys ready for this? Because things are about to get real comfy up in here.
This macaroni is like a big blanket, just waiting to snuggle with you. It’s creamy, cheesy, and a little smoky with a hint of savory pumpkin flavor.
Some of you might actually remember this recipe from way back in the day. It’s one of my all-time favorites but the photos needed updating and I tweaked it slightly by adding soaked cashews to make it even creamier.
However, one component I made sure to keep was the nutritional yeast. I know it’s a foreign ingredient to a lot of people so I wanted to take a minute to chat about it.
What is nutritional yeast?
When you hear the word yeast your mind probably goes straight to brewer’s yeast. Nutritional yeast is NOT the same thing! It is dried at high temperatures than brewer’s yeast yielding it completely inactive. That means if you are someone who usually has trouble digesting yeasted or fermented foods then this likely won’t cause you any difficulty.
What does it taste like?
Often described as “cheesy” in flavor, nutritional yeast has a savory, umami taste that is slightly nutty. Some people find it to have a hint of sweetness but I personally believe it all has to do with how you’re serving it.
How do you use it?
You can find it sold in two forms: flakes and powder. My favorite is Bob’s Red Mill Large Flake Nutritional Yeast because I’ve found it has the best flavor.
I often grind it with cashews to make cashew parmesan as topping for pizza or pasta. Or I blend it in with savory sauces to give it a delicious hint of cheesiness.
Is it good for you?
Nutritional yeast is specifically cultivated as a supplement so yes, it is loaded with nutrition! It’s an excellent source of B-vitamins, folate and protein.
I hope that helps explain things a bit so that you’re not deterred from giving nutritional yeast a chance. It’s one of my go-to savory ingredients and I would have a hard time eating plant-based without it.
It’s also a key component for this pumpkin macaroni and ‘cheese’ which is seriously the BEST vegan mac n’ cheese I’ve ever had. It’s one of those that I have to pace myself with because it’s so good that I just can’t stop eating it.
What’s even more awesome is that it comes together super quick thanks to using prepared pumpkin puree. All you have to do is sauté the shallot with garlic, put that in a blender with pumpkin puree, seasonings, broth and soaked cashews (or non-dairy milk), then blend and serve with cooked pasta. Easy peasy, mac n’ cheesy.
I also like to serve it with lightly sautéed kale for a little green boost but that part is totally optional.
Please give it a try and let me know what you think because I have a feeling you’re going to love it!
The Best Pumpkin Macaroni and "Cheese"
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Prep Time: 15
Cook Time: 30
Total Time: 45
- 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked*
- 16-ounces macaroni of choice (preferably whole grain)**
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large shallots, diced (approx. 1 cup)
- 3-4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 15-ounces pumpkin purée
- 1 teaspoon vegetable bouillon***
- 1 cup reserved pasta water***
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/2 teaspoon salt & pepper
In a large pot, bring 5 quarts salted water (I use about 1 teaspoon) to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, or as directed. Strain cooked pasta while reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet warm two tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for about 3 minutes, until translucent and fragrant. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a high speed blender, add the pumpkin, drained soaked cashews, cooked shallot/garlic, reserved pasta water, nutritional yeast, vinegar, paprika, sage, salt & pepper. Blend on high until smooth.
Add the pasta back to the pot then pour pumpkin sauce on top. Warm over medium heat and cook until heated through. Add more salt to taste, if desired.
Serve warm with fresh sage or cashew parmesan (optional) and enjoy!
*To soak cashews: bring a pot of roughly 2 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add raw cashews. Allow to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and rinse before using in recipe. If you don’t want to use cashews you can leave them out and substitute 1/2 cup of the pasta water for plain (unsweetened) non-dairy milk.
**If using gluten-free pasta I recommend only cooking what you plan to eat at once and saving the leftover sauce to add to fresh cooked pasta later. Gluten-free pasta never holds up well as leftovers for me.
***Be sure to use a high quality vegetable bouillon for optimal results. I personally like Better Than Bouillon’s Vegetable Base. Adding that to the reserved pasta water helps create a really creamy and flavorful sauce. If you can’t find bouillon, you can use 1/2 cup vegetable broth instead.
Kelli suggested serving the sauce over spaghetti squash for a grain-free option in the comments which I think is a brilliant idea. Click Here for directions on how to roast spaghetti squash.
Did you try this recipe? Please let me know how it turned out by leaving a comment below or sharing a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #makingthymeforhealth. I love hearing your feedback!
This post was created in partnership with a brand that I have used and loved for years, Bob’s Red Mill. As always, all opinions and text are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make it possible for me to bring you quality content. For more delicious recipes and a coupon for $1.00 off any product, please visit Bob’sRedMill.com.
I noticed that last night when I was calculating the nutrition facts and then completely forgot to update the list…doh!
It’s in there now. Thanks for the heads up, Beth!
Thanks Jill! I guess including Pumpkin might help, huh? ;)
Ohmygosh!! I am so so excited for this recipe!! I get these ideas but don’t have a lot of time to tinker in the kitchen. Sarah to the rescue! Thank you thank you thank you!! I love the idea of kale and shallots – yummmm!! This is definitely on this week’s menu :) (Sorry for all the exclamation points – can you tell I’m excited?)
Thank YOU for the inspiration, Melissa! Sometimes I get overwhelmed with what to make next so it really helps to have your input! :)
The first time I made it, it was more of a pumpkin cream sauce but I found the flavor really shined the second time when I made it more like a cheese sauce. It’s so good! I hope you like it! xoxo
this looks amazing! I can’t believe that its vegan! It looks so creamy and rich, just the way mac n’ cheese should be! :)
It is SO creamy! Thanks Rachel!
I can never have enough veggie packed mac in my life!
Me neither! :)
Thanks Cheyanne! I agree, the canned pumpkin makes it come together so quick! :)
That vibrant orange color is a big pain in the ass when it comes to taking pictures though! ;)
And using it with spaghetti squash is a brilliant idea! I’m going to have to try that too. :)
I’m just as obsessed as you are, girl. I seriously LOVE cheese. I was shocked at how good this non-dairy version came out though. It rivals even the best mac n’ cheese out there, Gruyere and all! ;)
This vegan pumpkin mac looks dreamy! Love all your vegan recipes as of late :) Pinning!
I love that this recipe is dairy free. As much as I love mac and cheese I don’t normally eat it because of all the dairy. I’m so trying your recipe!
Pinned this immediately. I just bought wayy too much canned pumpkin at Costco and I need to use it up!
Mac and cheese that will wrap me up like a blanket?? Yes please! This looks just so so cozy and awesome! And I love that it’s dairy free! Love the color the kale adds!!
Sarah, this pumpkin mac n cheese seriously looks like the best ever!! That pumpkin sauce looks so creamy! I’ve done a butternut squash mac n cheese, but never a pumpkin one before but I think I’m gonna make this one soon :)
I’ve never been particularly drawn to pumpkin sauce but I have to say your recipe is enticing me to try; delightful ingredients. I have some fresh smoked paprika on hand (full of flavor) and I love sneaking curcumin in whenever I can too – great idea. I have to say the simplicity of the recipe is also a big draw… I think I will try this lovely seasonal sauce on a mild fish and see how I do :)
I’ve never been drawn to it either, Kelly, but I really loved how it tastes in this recipe! The smoked paprika works wonders too. I hope you get a chance to give a try! :)
The dried sage, the turmeric…this could not be ANY BETTER!!!! I feel an obsession coming on (as if I wasn’t already obsessed with you and everything you post).
I don’t think I’ve ever had pumpkin mac & cheese… definitely want to give it a shot! It sounds like a really interesting (and healthy!) dish, Sarah!
Holy mackerel, I love that this is vegan!! Now I know what to do with all that nutritional yeast I’ve been hoarding in my pantry. Wowsahs, child, just wowzas! I seriously digging this pumpkin sage surprise!
Can I just hug you right now. this sounds beyond perfect. Like I have to try. I wonder what this would be like on pizza. Oh my mind is racing!! thanks for sharing!
This was a great idea, and it looks delicious! All those warm spices, pumpkin, AND kale — yum! I have a butternut squash mac and cheese coming this week. ‘Tis the season! :)
Oh my goshhh I’m trying this like, ASAP. It looks so delicious and creamy! I want to just have a bowl with this and cuddle on my sofa and watch Netflix.
That sounds like a perfect evening to me! I hope you love it as much as we do, Emilie! :)
Pure comfort here, Sara and the ease of this dish is fabulous! I don’t think there’s anything better than kale in a big pot of pasta. Add pumpkin, n. yeast, sage and smoky paprika (one of my faves) and excuuuuse me while I do a face plant! Melissa had an excellent idea! Thank you for making it happen!
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Love the combo! I totally only use canned pumpkin for desserts right now – can you blame a girl? haha. But would totally give this one a try!!
I know, I don’t usually cook pumpkin in savory recipes but this one turned out great!
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This is a bit late, but I made this last night! It was so tasty, but I added some apple cider vinegar and white wine. Totally went amazing with the creaminess of the pumpkin :)
The ACV and white wine sounds like a delicious addition. Thanks for the feedback, Irene! :)
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THIS IS SO GOOD! I haven’t had vegan Mac & cheese that’s come close to the real deal ever. But this… I think it’s better than the original. Thank you so much for this recipe contribution. You’ve made the world a better place.
Yay! I’m so happy you enjoyed this recipe, Sienna! It’s one of my favorites and it makes me feel so good to hear you enjoy it as much as I do. Thank you!! :)
Macaroni and cheese is definitely one of my faves as well! But with a pumpkin twist? I think it’s a must try! So I’ll give it a try! Thanks.
Thanks Damian! I hope you enjoy it!
This is delicious!! I’m notoriously bad for following recipes to a t and always change things up but followed this more or less pretty close and it was great, my 2 guys loved it too :) x
Thanks Carina! I’m so happy it was a hit. :)
An you freeze such a recipe ? I know it is a strange question because of the advice to use the pasta water but even if you did … can you freeze please?
I am unfamiliar with the use of certain ingredients and so I am not sure.
Also I need to use my pumpkins that get delivered !!!! So any reason why not to use roasted pumpkins that whizz ourselves?
Thank you .
Hi Inka! You can use your own roasted pumpkin just keep in mind that the water content will vary from canned pumpkin so you may need to add a bit more liquid to the recipe.
As far as freezing it, I can’t say for sure as I haven’t tried it. My guess is that it is best served fresh but it may still be edible after frozen. Please let me know if you try it!
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I made this with homemade pumpkin fettuccine with whole wheat flour and buckwheat. It’s delicious! I used a large onion in place of the shallots, and a little extra pumpkin. It needed a little extra paprika and garlic powder, but after that it was great.
That fettuccine sounds unreal! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
It tasted great! Very savoury and addictive! Next time I would use less garlic and massage my kale first because it was too chewy.
I’m glad you liked it, Lisa! Thank you so much for the review. Just a note: the kale shouldn’t need massaging if you cook it first. You might try tearing it into smaller pieces so that it’s easier to chew, or add a bit more broth and cook it longer, until it’s nice and wilted. Hopefully that will help!
Oops, I didn’t read that correctly and put it in uncooked. xD! Thanks!!
I don’t know what I’d do without nooch either! Mac n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food and this just looks dreamy. Putting this on my list to make!
We use nutritional yeast all the time here too! I’m not a huge cheese fan, I much prefer cashew-based cheesiness, so I’m ALL about this!
Made this last night and it was delicious. I miss cheese so much and this really hit the spot. Thank you.
I’m so glad to hear that! Thanks Natalie!
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Oh my amazing!! I’m a pescetarian (but try to eat mostly vegetarian/vegan) but my husband is a meat and potatoes loving boy! I made this for him and didn’t tell him what it was and he LOVED it! Always looking for meals we both can enjoy, and this is definitely one of them!
YES! I love it when that happens. Thank you so much for sharing that with me, Amy! :)
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Thank you for this lovely recipe! I used 1/2 pea protein pasta & 1/2 chickpea pasta to up the protein and this dish was super tasty and satisfying! I appreciate the time and effort you put into creating it, and I’m really thankful you shared it! ❤️
Aw thank you! Hearing your feedback really means so much. I’m happy you enjoyed it! :)
WoOoOoOoW Girlfriend this was amazing!! I stayed in for halloween since I have so much going on, and I had a pumpkin laying around. I was looking at various ways to get the most out of it and this really did it for me. I added a little ACV, spinach, carrots, zucchini and cabbage. Wow am I impressed. Loved this so much! Thank you for a wonderful recipe, didn’t realize I’m a pumpkin fan :)
We had this for Halloween too, lol! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!!
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I made the recipe tonight and it was quite good. I did need to make one change while cooking and will make a second change for the next time.
The ingredients for the sauce were so thick that the blender couldn’t blend it. I had to about double the pasta water to solve the issue.
Next time, I will cut back on the pasta to about 360 grams. That will result in a moister more flavourful dish. That is just a preference issue.
Thank you for the recipe.
I made this a long time ago with fresh home baked pumpkin and it was rediculous. So good. I just made it with regular canned pumpkin and it was total trash. Be choosey about your pumpkin!!!
Thanks for the review, Sienna! I’m surprised to hear that canned pumpkin didn’t work well for you. I’ve made it with canned pumpkin at least 5 times and it always turns out good. The brand I use is called Farmers Market so it could also be the brand you used. Just a thought!
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Just made this for dinner tonight & it was absolutely delicious. Thank you for a lovely vegan pasta dish. Xoxo.