Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

This Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese recipe is creamy, dreamy & totally autumnal! Perfectly al dente pasta gets tossed in a simple no-cook, dairy-free pumpkin cashew cream sauce. Made with just 10 simple ingredients in 15 minutes or less, this cozy vegan mac and cheese recipe is the perfect meal for Meatless Mondays (or, I mean, any day 😉) this fall!

This post is sponsored by DeLallo Foods, who I’m so excited to partner & share with you all throughout 2019. Their pasta is one of my favorite things in the whole entire world, which says a whole heck of a lot coming from a self-proclaimed pasta snob. 😉 All thoughts & opinions are my own.

Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese shown in a very small white ramekin. The dish is sitting on top of a gray + white striped napkin. The mac and cheese is topped with fresh sage leaves.

So…I kinda-sorta feel like I have some explaining to do.

After all, it was just a few weeks ago that I ranted & raved over on Instagram about how much I hate pumpkin. & I totally stand by it…with a teeny, tiny clarification: my disdain for all things pumpkin really only applies to pumpkiny sweets. Please don’t put pumpkin in my sweets.

…or my coffee, for goodness sake.

But pumpkin in savory dishes? I can totally get down with that.

& pumpkin folded into the creamiest, coziest autumnal pasta dish? 😎 Hi, hello, that’s my jam.

Close up shot of vegan pumpkin mac and cheese.

This vegan pumpkin macaroni and cheese recipe is so deliciously cozy, but also so simple. It’s made of 2 primary components:

  1. pasta, from DeLallo, of course, because theirs is quite literally the best pasta money can buy. I’ll tell you all about it in a sec!
  2. pumpkin cashew cream sauce, also known as the borderline magical creamy-dreamy vegan pumpkin cheese sauce you absolutely neeeeed in your life this autumn. It’s creamy & dreamy, but dairy-free & vegan, & SO easy to make.
Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese shown in an orange pumpkin-shaped Dutch oven, being stirred with a wooden spoon.

& the best part? It’s made with 8 of the simplest ingredients, all of which you’ve probably already got in your pantry or spice rack.

& the other best part? The whole entire thing comes together in 15 minutes or less. I’m pretty sure it’s what cozy autumn weeknight dinner dreams are made of, you know?

How do you make vegan mac and cheese?

Before diving too deep into the details of this vegan pumpkin macaroni n cheese, let’s address the elephant in the room:

How do you make a mac and CHEESE recipe vegan?

One of my favorite discoveries since taking a deeper dive into plant-based cooking this year: it’s totally possible to make a creamy pasta sauce without using any animal products, like milk or cheese. This vegan mac and cheese recipe gets its creaminess & cheesiness from 2 important ingredients:

  1. Cashews: When blended with liquid (water, nut milk, coconut milk, etc.), cashews break down into a really lovely creamy sauce. Cashew cream is pretty mild in flavor, so it’s the perfect dairy-free base for creamy vegan pasta sauces.
  2. Nutritional yeast, an inactive yeast known for its cheesy & nutty savory flavor, similar to parmesan cheese. Since it’s dairy-free & vegan, you’ll see it used in a lot of “cheesy” plant-based recipes. As a non-vegan, I know it sounds a little bit scary/sketchy, but I assure you – it’s good!

When I envisioned this recipe, I really wanted to give my favorite creamy vegan pasta sauce a little bit of an autumnal makeover. It has a similar cashew cream base but…

  • it’s even creamier, by using plant milk instead of water, &
  • it tastes just like fall, thanks to tons of puréed pumpkin & some simple fall spices.

The creaminess of cashews & pumpkin feel like they’ve belonged together all of this time, & their mild flavor is brought to life with a little bit of garlic, plenty of nutmeg, some cinnamon & some allspice. It’s creamy, cozy, simple fall goodness. You’re gonna love it.

Vegan pumpkin mac and cheese ingredients:

Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese ingredients (pasta, pumpkin puree, cashews, plant milk, spices, etc.) arranged on a white marble surface.

This vegan pumpkin mac and cheese recipe really couldn’t be simpler. You need just 10 basic ingredients to throw it together.

The cast of characters includes… (Note, the full Ingredients List with measurements is provided in the Recipe Card, below):

  • your favorite vegan pasta
  • cashews
  • almond milk, or another plant-based milk of choice
  • nutritional yeast, for that savory cheesy flavor we talked about
  • pumpkin purée – I use organic if I can find it!
  • plenty of garlic
  • & a dash of fall spices (like allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, salt & pepper)

It’s no secret that DeLallo’s authentic Italian pasta is my absolute favorite. As a major pasta lover, I think that says a whole heck of a lot. The quality of DeLallo pasta is straight-up excellent.

It’s made in Italy with just 2 ingredients (premium wheat & Italian mineral water) & it’s specifically designed to absorb & capture pasta sauce.

Long story short, this translates to absolutely superior flavor & texture…kinda important when it comes to pasta, right? I won’t use any other pasta in my kitchen – DeLallo simply does it right.

Close-up photo of DeLallo shells.

I chose to use shells in this vegan mac and cheese recipe because I’m obsessed with how shells capture & cradle little pools of the pumpkin cream sauce! Seriously so good. Of course, you can use whatever shape you love most!

How to make vegan pumpkin mac and cheese:

Coming together in just 15 minutes (or less!), this vegan pumpkin mac and cheese recipe couldn’t be simpler to make on any night of the week. The longest part of the recipe is waiting for the pasta water to boil!

The recipe can broken down into 2 key steps (note, full Recipe Directions are provided in the Recipe Card, below):

  1. Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Be sure to reserve a little of the pasta water before you drain off the pasta!
  2. & meanwhile, make the pumpkin cashew cream sauce, by adding all of the ingredients to a high-speed blender & blending until smooth & creamy.

& from there, all you have to do is stir it all together!

Add the cooked pasta straight back into the pot you used to boil it, then pour the pumpkin cashew cream sauce over top. Stir to combine, adding some of that starchy pasta water into the mix the thin out the pumpkin cream sauce just ’til it reaches your desired texture.

Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese shown in an orange pumpkin-shaped Dutch oven, being stirred with a wooden spoon.

Winner, winner, 15-minute vegan pumpkin dinner. Does it get better than that??

Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese shown in a very small white ramekin. The dish is sitting on top of a gray + white striped napkin. The mac and cheese is topped with fresh sage leaves.

I hope you give this Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese recipe a try so soon – vegan or not, if you love creamy pasta dishes & you’re craving lots of fall flavor, I know you’ll love it! I sorta think it’s the best pumpkin mac and cheese out there! If you make it, be sure to snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. One of my favorite things is seeing your pwwb creations! 💜

Oh! & be sure to order yourself some of DeLallo’s brand newpasta. It’s truly the best pasta money can buy!

Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese shown in a very small white ramekin. The dish is sitting on top of a gray + white striped napkin. The mac and cheese is topped with fresh sage leaves. A woman's hands are reaching into the frame of the photo with a fork, taking a bite out of the dish.
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Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese shown in a very small white ramekin. The dish is sitting on top of a gray + white striped napkin. The mac and cheese is topped with fresh sage leaves.

Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

  • Author: jess larson | plays well with butter
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: serves 4 1x
  • Category: Pasta Recipes
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American, Italian

Description

This Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese recipe is totally autumnal, getting its creaminess from a simple no-cook dairy-free pumpkin cashew cream sauce. Made with 10 simple ingredients in 15 minutes or less!


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound DeLallo shells pasta (or other short pasta of choice, such as elbows, cavatappi, fusilli, etc.)
  • 1/2 cup roasted, unsalted whole cashews (see Recipe Notes)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other plant milk of choice)
  • 1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • ⅓ cup nutritional yeast (see Recipe Notes)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells & stir to prevent sticking. Cook to al dente according to package directions, 10-11 minutes. Prior to draining the pasta, reserve about 2 cups of the starchy pasta water. Drain the pasta. Return the reserved pasta to the pot. Set aside.
  2. Blend the pumpkin cashew cream sauce: Meanwhile, as the pasta boils, make the pumpkin cashew cream sauce. Add the cashews, almond milk, pumpkin purée, nutritional yeast, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cayenne, salt, & ground black pepper to a high-speed blender. Blend until the cashews completely break down into a smooth & creamy sauce.
  3. Assemble the vegan pumpkin mac and cheese: Pour the pumpkin cashew cream sauce over the pasta. Stir to combine, adding in the reserved pasta water little by little until your desired consistency is reached. The sauce should be very creamy, but cling to the pasta nicely. 
  4. Serve immediately, topped with fresh herbs as desired. Enjoy!

Notes

  • To soak, or not to soak: Whether or not you need to soak cashews is an FAQ when it comes to making creamy cashew sauces. In my experience, use of a high-speed blender really renders soaking unnecessary. (For reference, this is the blender I use, & I never run into issues with the cashews breaking down.) If you’d like to play it safe, simply soak the cashews water overnight OR in hot, hot water for 10-15 minutes to soften up a little bit. Drain the water off before using the cashews in the pumpkin cream sauce in Step 2. 
  • Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast known for its cheesy & nutty savory flavor. Since it’s dairy-free & vegan, you’ll see it used in a lot of “cheesy” plant-based recipes. I know it sounds a little scary/sketchy, but, as a non-vegan, I can assure you it’s good! It’s pretty widely available at this point; I buy it at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. You can even order it on Amazon. If you don’t have nutritional yeast on hand, feel free to see below or omit; the pumpkin cream sauce will still be very yummy without it! 
  • Non-vegan suggestion: If keeping this recipe vegan or dairy-free isn’t a priority, I suggest adding 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese into the pumpkin mac and cheese as you stir it all together in Step 3 of Recipe Directions. It’s totally not necessary (the dish is super flavorful & delish without it), but does add an extra element of nutty & salty cheesiness that’s quite good. 

Keywords: Vegan, Dairy-free, Vegetarian, Stovetop, Fall recipes, Autumn recipes, pumpkin recipes

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Don’t forget to pin this Vegan Pumpkin Mac and Cheese recipe for later!!!

Vegan Pumpkin mac & cheese with graphic overlay for Pinterest.

Hi there, I'm Jess!

If there’s 1 thing to know about me, it’s this: I am head-over-heels in love with food. I’m on a mission to make weeknight cooking flavorful, fast, & fun for other foodies, & PWWB is where I share foolproof recipes that deliver major flavor with minimal effort. Other true loves: pretty shoes, puppies, Grey’s Anatomy, & my cozy kitchen in Minneapolis, MN.

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