Dairy-Free Butternut Mac ‘n Cheese – Sometimes we adults just need to enjoy some good, old-fashioned kid food. This healthier version of a classic comfort dish will help you feel young without all the grown-up guilt!
What kind of kid doesn’t like mac ‘n cheese? My kind of kid. The thing is that Mom and Dad LOVE mac ‘n cheese. Why should we miss out on all that cheesy elbow noodle fun because our kid is a weirdo? After all, getting away with eating mac ‘n cheese with no judgement is one of the perks of parenthood. Amongst all of the toys strewn in every room of the house, dirty diapers, showers not taken, and emotional breakdowns over things like not being able to eat cotton candy for breakfast (that happened yesterday), my husband and I should at least be able to eat some good, old-fashioned, unhealthy-yet-comforting kid food at the end of the day.
Sadly, since my five-year-old has an odd dislike of mac ‘n cheese, I can’t use him as an excuse to indulge. Recently, I started to work on developing a healthier version of what I think is my right as a parent to eat. This recipe for Dairy-Free Butternut Mac ‘n Cheese swaps high-fat butter and cheese for more nutrient-dense butternut squash, cashews, and nutritional yeast. I have to admit that the thought of adding nutritional yeast weirded me out at first, but it really does add a nice “cheesy” flavor to the dish, not to mention it’s loaded with B vitamins, so just go with it! With all the ingredients combined into a creamy sauce, the recipe really does taste like mac n’ cheese. It’s a much healthier indulgence to help any grown-up who has just survived a day at home with the kids.
My son did give this recipe a try… He said, “I like it a little bit, but I like plain noodles better.” 🙄 I’m holding out for my three-month-old to have more discerning tastes in the kid food department.
- 1 16 oz box cooked macaroni noodles
- 1 C raw cashews soaked in water
- 4 C chopped butternut squash
- 1 C chopped sweet onion
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- 1 large clove minced garlic
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp paprika
- ⅛ tsp nutmeg
- 1½-2½ C reserved pasta water
- Soak 1 C of raw cashews in water overnight, making sure that they are completely submerged in water.
- Combine the chopped butternut squash, sweet onions, and olive oil in an oven-safe pan. Coat completely with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook in a 425ºF oven, covered, for 30 to 35 minutes. The squash is done cooking once tender and falling apart. Add 1 clove of minced garlic to the pan and stir to combine.
- While the butternut squash is cooking, cook the macaroni noodles per the box instructions. Remember to reserve some of the pasta water after cooking.
- Next make the butternut cheese sauce. First, drain the cashews and place them into a food processor. Process until smooth. Add the nutritional yeast, paprika, and nutmeg, and blend into the cashews. Intermittently add large spoonfuls of the cooked butternut to the food processor and blend. Do this until all the squash is smoothly incorporated. Next add ½ C of reserved pasta water to the “cheese” sauce until the desired consistency is reached.
- Mix the cooked macaroni noodles and butternut “cheese” sauce together. Reheat over the stove top as needed and then serve immediately.
Some more delicious winter squash recipes…