A plant-based indulgence that’s full of flavor
Photographs by Stacey Greenberg
Cuddling up on the couch, mid-winter, with my favorite blanket and an ooey-gooey bowl of mac ‘n’ cheese is exactly how I would want to spend my Sunday afternoon.
Plant based mac ‘n’ cheese, that is.
You can enjoy this creamy, plant-based butternut squash mac ‘n’ cheese straight from the stovetop, or, for added indulgence, sprinkle it with my rosemary and thyme breadcrumb topping and bake.
It’s easy as one, two, three. First, find your favorite plant-based butter; I use Earth Balance. If you’re having reservations about plant-based butter, I promise you won’t even be able to distinguish the difference. Second, pick your plant-based milk. Oat milk is the best to add creaminess. Third, swap your cheese for a plant-based brand. My favorite is Field Roast Chao Creamery Shreds. You can hardly tell the difference, and it melts well too. (Daiya is another good brand to try.) Third, prepare according to my instructions below, which are similar to a typical mac ‘n’ cheese recipe. The biggest difference is adding in an extra dose of nutrients, thanks to the roasted butternut squash.
Share it with your friends and see if they can even tell it’s plant based!
Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese with a Rosemary and Thyme Breadcrumb Topping
Serves 16 with ½ cup portions
BUTTERNUT SQUASH PUREE:
1 small butternut squash
½ tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
MAC ‘N’ CHEESE:
16 ounces elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons plant-based butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk alternative
2 cups non-dairy cheese shreds
1 cup butternut squash puree (or more if you like)
Salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL BREADCRUMB TOPPING:
3 tablespoons plant-based butter
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
½ teaspoon paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
ROAST THE BUTTERNUT SQUASH
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top and bottom of the squash off and then cut lengthwise and scrape out seeds with a spoon.
- Brush both halves with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
- Place cut side down on foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 30 to 45 minutes or until fork tender.
- Scoop flesh out of shell and puree in a food processor or blender. Add a splash of milk alternative if needed to achieve smooth consistency. Blend until there are no lumps and set aside. (Yields about 2 cups.)
PREPARE THE MAC ‘N’ CHEESE
- Cook the elbow macaroni according to package directions and set aside.
- Prepare roux by melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add minced garlic. Once butter is melted, add flour and whisk to incorporate. Continue to whisk and cook until the roux is golden brown, about 1 minute.
- Slowly add milk and continue to whisk. Cook until roux thickens, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add 2 cups grated cheese and whisk until cheese has fully melted. Stir in butternut squash puree. Add salt and pepper to taste and then add pasta, mixing until fully combined. Serve warm.
OPTIONAL BREADCRUMB TOPPING
- Place mac ‘n’ cheese mixture in a greased 9×9 glass dish.
- In a medium bowl, melt butter and add breadcrumbs, rosemary, thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper. Mix to fully combine. Evenly spread breadcrumb mixture on top of the mac ‘n’ cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees until the top is golden brown, about 15 to 25 minutes.
Megan Partacz is a registered dietitian who loves getting creative in the kitchen. She spends most of her time with her golden retriever, Winston. He is her number one fan when it comes to cooking because he loves cleaning up her masterpieces. @mpartacz_rd
Stacey Greenberg is the editor in chief of Edible Memphis. You can follow her at @nancy_jew.