This recipe was originally published in April 2019. It has been updated for content and photos.
Here’s why you’ll LOVE this dish
- Just like my butternut squash mac and cheese, this sauce is so creamy and luscious, despite the fact that there’s no cheese in it! Nutritional yeast and cashews do a lovely job of adding thick, creamy, cheesy flavour, and roasted sweet potato gives it that perfect orange hue that any good mac and cheese needs.
- It’s simple to make and the entire family will love it, so you only need to make 1 meal. (That’s always my favourite part.)
- This silky cheese sauce is not only cheese and dairy free, but it’s vegan and gluten free too. Just combine the sauce with your favourite gluten free pasta for a gluten free meal, if needed.
- Roasting the potatoes, along with the onion and garlic really amplifies the flavours, without being overly powerful in any one ingredient or flavour.
- Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or neither, you will enjoy this decadent, creamy sweet potato mac and cheese. This dish has been shared, over and over again, with vegans and non vegans, and everyone always enjoys.
How to make sweet potato mac and cheese
(This is a summary with step by step photos, full recipe measurements and instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Start by gathering your ingredients.
Then peel and cube your sweet potato, quarter your onion, and place them, along with your garlic cloves on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the veggies with the olive oil, if using, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. (photo 1)
NOTE: For oil free, omit the olive oil and spray or drizzle your veggies with a little water or broth to prevent them from burning.
Roast the veggies for about 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. (photo 2)
NOTE: If you do not have a high speed blender (like a Vitamix), soak your cashews first, in boiling hot water for about 30 minutes to soften them. Then drain and add them to your blender.
While the veggies are roasting in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook your pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta. (Don’t over cook!) Drain and return to the pot. (photo 5)
Then pour the vegan cheese sauce you just made over top and mix well to coat your noodles. (photos 6-7)
You may serve your sweet potato mac and cheese as is, in its creamy, silky state.
OR, if you can spare a few more minutes, take it one step further.
Optional baked steps
You may optionally, transfer your coated pasta to an oven safe dish and broil on high for about 2-3 minutes, checking often to ensure it doesn’t burn. (photos 8-9)
This will give your dish a nice crusty top, while keeping the middle smooth and creamy for a nice balance of texture.
I personally like my mac and cheese with a little crunchy layer on top, but it tastes fantastic both ways!
For picky eaters, keep it smooth. Or remove some and bake the rest.
Can I prepare it ahead of time?
To make ahead, you may roast the veggies in advance and blend everything up when you’re making your pasta.
Or, go ahead and make the sauce completely, but note that it will thicken as it cools. When reheating, you may need a splash or two of milk or broth to make it nice and creamy again.
If you’re also making the pasta in advance, store it separately from the sauce. Otherwise the pasta will absorb the sauce and the pasta will get very soft.
How long does it keep?
Leftovers keep refrigerated for 3-4 days, however, if you’re expecting to have leftovers, store the sauce and pasta separately for best results. Keep in a sealed container and reheat in a skillet on stove top.
The cheese sauce may be frozen in an air tight container, but I don’t recommend freezing the pasta. If you want to make this ahead of time for a freezer meal, freeze the sauce, but make fresh pasta when ready to thaw and reheat your sauce.
- For nut free: Sub the raw cashews with sunflower seeds, and the cashew milk with soy, oat, or any preferred milk you like. Sunflower seeds are a little less mild in flavour when compared to cashews, but definitely not overpowering. Especially when considering all the other flavours and seasoning in this dish. As an added bonus, sunflower seeds are budget friendly and lower in fat too!
- For oil free: Omit the oil for roasting the veggies. Instead you can spray or drizzle the veggies in water or broth to keep them from burning. Watch them carefully.
- For “nooch” free: If you don’t have, can’t find, or don’t want to use nutritional yeast, you may sub for 1-2 tablespoons of miso paste or soy sauce, but omit the teaspoon of salt from the sauce. Keep in mind this substitution will give you a nice umami flavour, but not the cheesiness that nutritional yeast offers.
- For more crunch: If you’re optionally baking your mac and cheese, you may also add half a cup of panko breadcrumbs on top before broiling. This will add even more flavour and added crunch to the top layer.
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- 2.5 cups sweet potatoes cut into half inch cubes (approx 2 small potatoes)
- 1 yellow onion quartered
- 2-3 cloves garlic unpeeled
- 1 tsp olive oil omit for oil free, see notes**
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme optional
- 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk or milk of choice
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 lb macaroni pasta or your choice, gluten free if needed
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees F roast and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Add the cubed sweet potato, quartered onion and garlic (with the peel) to your baking tray. Drizzle with the olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the oven.
- Now peel the garlic, and place all the roasted veggies, along with the cashews, nutritional yeast, paprika, salt, thyme, milk, and veggie broth to your blende and process until smooth.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook your pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta. Drain and return to pot. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix well.
- Optional: Set the oven to broil and transfer the pasta and sauce to an oven safe dish. Place on top rack for 2-3 minutes until the top is golden and crispy, or to desired 'doneness'. Check often so it doesn't burn.