I first shared this Creamy Vegan Butternut Squash Pasta Bake recipe in November 2015. It’s such perfect comfort food for this time of year! It’s the ideal seasonal stand-in for mac and cheese if you’re craving creamy baked breadcrumb-topped goodness but are looking for a bit of variety (or avoid dairy).
We have an oven! We have an oven! Man, I missed having an oven. It was only three weeks, but it was a long three weeks. Now I can, like, bake real things. You know, such as dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for the little one … the first thing we cooked up. Hey, this is real life.
But then! Then I baked this vegan Butternut Pasta Bake. Redeemed? I’d like to think so!
This is basically another vegan mac and “cheese” recipe, in that it’s rich and creamy and has that look about it, and it’s based off of that same recipe. But really, this isn’t about the cheese or anything that tastes like it. It’s all about the glorious butternut and its ability to transform into a velvety sauce that oozes into every nook and tunnel that the penne pasta throws at it.
And I guess also like many mac and cheese recipes, this one is topped with glorious breadcrumbs and then baked until bubbly and golden. Except! It’s vegan! No dairy, no cheese. And just to up the healthy factor, I decided to use whole wheat pasta, too. Comfort food, justified.
Yeah … the brand spankin’ new oven might just be getting a workout with this one. Well, yeah. And with the dino-nuggets.
Creamy Vegan Butternut Pasta Bake
For the pasta:
- 8 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
- 2 medium cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt + more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
- 1 tablespoon Tamari or low-sodium soy sauce (to taste)
- 4 cups diced peeled butternut squash (about 1/2 medium squash)
- 1/2 cup canned full-fat coconut milk
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the breadcrumb topping:
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme)
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, stopping 1 to 2 minutes short of the recommended cooking time so that the pasta is nice and al dente. Drain, return to pot, and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, start the sauce. Set a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil. Add the onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and turning brown, 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute.
- Add broth, stirring to loosen up the bits of cooked onion at the bottom of the pan. Stir in the dry mustard, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, and Tamari. Add the butternut squash. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook until the squash is tender, 7-8 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove veggies from heat, remove lid, and let sit until cool enough to handle. Transfer to the pitcher of a blender. Add coconut milk and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired. If the sauce is too thick to move around in the blender, thin it with a little more vegetable broth.
- Pour the butternut sauce over the pasta in the pot. Stir gently to combine. Pour into a 2-quart baking dish (approx. 8-inch by 8-inch should be fine). It will seem seem soupy, but it will thicken up when it bakes!
- Make the breadcrumb topping. Add Panko breadcrumbs to a small bowl along with the thyme, paprika, and salt. Mix to combine. Drizzle the olive oil over the breadcrumb mix and stir until combined. Spoon over the top of the pasta.
- Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 25 minutes.
- Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
Gluten-free option:Use gluten-free pasta (I recommend brown rice pasta for this recipe)
First published November 30, 2015. Republished October 20, 2019.
This looks so hearty and creamy, love it! Perfect winter warmer.
Thanks so much for this recipe. All five of my family members (including my 8yo, 5yo food allergic kid and picky 2yo) gobbled this up. That NEVER happens. Thanks so much again!
Thanks so much for this recipe it’s amazing! my 2 yr old niece even loved it 🙂
My daughter and I cooked this for dinner tonight.
We halved the recipe and added some Nooch to the topping.
This is a totally delicious, tasty filling meal.
So glad you liked it! 🙂
Emergency! Want to make this tonight. But I just noticed the sauce looks red to me… Is there tomato is the sauce or it the paprika to give it color. I have jarred tomato sauce and canned tomatoes at home. I could use either! … That is if there is tomato inside!
Hi, I know I’m late but there is no tomato in the sauce – the recipe is correct as written. Hope you liked it!
Hi yes I really did. It’s one of my favorite dishes. Unfortunately kids don’t feel the same. Oh well more for me! I have omitted or add less coconut milk and I find no change in the sauce . But I think it’s more filling with the fat.
Question, in a pinch could you replace the squash with canned pumpkin if so, any idea how much ?
Hmm; well theoretically it should work because they’re both pureed squash! I have not tried it so I can’t say 100% if it will work though. If you try it, please report back!
This was delicious! Took me longer than anticipated because my husband accidentally got non-vegan breadcrumbs so I made my own. I also ended up having extra sauce so ended up doubling the pasta amount. Very comforting and perfect for fall.
Amazing dinner. Everyone loved it. Can’t wait to make this again!!! I added in more squash and did not have any lemon juice but still came out delicious
It doesn’t say anything here about what to do with the skin of the squash. Do we peel it first or blend it up?
Ah, yes, it should be peeled. I just updated the recipe to clarify. Sorry about that and thank you for asking!
I have a question about the serving size… I have 10 girls to cook for, do you recommend doubling the recipe?
Very yummy, I just made this last night, it is very tasty and creamy. Thank you for sharing the recipe
I tried this yesterday. It was an absolute hit.. so tasty! I didn’t have coconut milk so just put in normal milk but was still delicious. Can’t wait to try your other veg recipes.
I’m so glad you liked it! Thanks!!
Does this recipe freeze well? Is there a point when freezing would be best?
I would also like to know this if anyone has an answer!
This recipe is so good! The butternut squash and coconut milk make it so creamy. I make this every fall now.
Little bit spicy for my taste but still very good great vegan dish
Is there something you can substitute for the coconut milk?
I think another alternative milk would work such as unsweetened almond. The sauce might not be as rich and thick (I haven’t tried it so I can’t say for sure! I need to play around a bit more with this one).
Great recipe! The smoked paprika really gives this dish a unique flavor. Already looking forward to making this again.
So glad you liked it! Thanks so much for the review. 🙂
Two thumbs down. Even worse left over. The thyme in the topping clashed with the overall taste of the dish. I suggest a pinch of garam masala or cinnamon instead.
I’m sorry this one wasn’t for you.
The best pasta bake recipe I’ve ever made! I have made this for at least twenty families over the past few years and each one has asked for the recipe. My teenager hates pumpkin, but adores this. My fussy five year old begs me to make this every time we get a pumpkin in our veggie box. The creaminess, the topping, the thyme and paprika, everything about this is perfect! Thank you!
I love to hear this, thank you! Thanks so much for coming back and leaving a review. 🙂