Squash Mac and Cheese (meatless, gluten-free option)

acorn squash gluten-free mac and cheese

It’s sleeting here, following a few dustings of wet, heavy snow. Somehow, it still surprises me when it snows on the cusp of spring — despite having lived in Buffalo, New York, for 22 years and Idaho for almost four, that quintessential April (or May) snowstorm sneaks up on me every time.

I had planned to make something green, spring-like and super-healthy for all of you. Then, my fiance and I drove to our wedding venue on Saturday. There were four inches of snow and slush on the ground; we were worried about making it because the roads were a mess.

After that, all thought of greens flew out the window. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s still winter, and therefore, squash season. So, I made this pasta dish, which has been on my list for ages, but was rejected for the past month because it was “too wintery.” Ha.

This healthier version of macaroni and cheese was inspired by this recipe at Pinch of Yum and this recipe at Cookie and Kate. I fooled around with it quite a bit, though; I loved the idea of a vegan squash carbonara, but…it’s cold. And I eat cheese. So I wanted more cheese in there. And I really wanted a giant bowl of macaroni and cheese that I wouldn’t feel guilty about.

The concept is simple. You fry up some onions and garlic, add acorn squash, add broth, and simmer until the squash is squash-with-a-fork tender. Then, you puree everything into a rich, velvety, slightly sweet orange sauce, adding just enough cheese to make everyone happy.

Does it taste like traditional macaroni and cheese? No. But it does satisfy those winter-induced carby-cheesy-creamy cravings.

If you are vegan, leave out the cheese and maybe add in some nutritional yeast to taste (a tablespoon? Two?). For a gluten-free option, make this with brown rice pasta or even quinoa — and, if you like, sprinkle more cheese on top and stick it under the broiler for a few minutes until bubbly for a more traditional baked macaroni and cheese presentation.

But whatever you do, make this for yourself this week. It will make you just a little bit less bitter about the snow that’s overstayed its welcome.

Kale and Quinoa Power Bowl
  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 bunch lacinato kale (about 4 large leaves), rolled and thinly sliced
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 avocado, sliced (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
For dressing
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Bring quinoa and broth to boil in a small saucepan. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed. (Check a few times to make sure your liquid hasn’t evaporated early!)
  2. Meanwhile, place all dressing ingredients in a mini-chopper or food processor. Blitz until smooth. Place kale in a bowl and top with dressing and onions. Allow to marinate in fridge while quinoa is cooking.
  3. Once quinoa is done, allow to cool while you’re draining and rinsing your black beans. Let the quinoa cool at least 10 minutes before tossing with onions, kale, and dressing. Allow to chill before serving; just before serving, top with avocado slices and salt and pepper to taste.

2 thoughts on “Squash Mac and Cheese (meatless, gluten-free option)

    • It was totally a good “lesser of two evils” option! I’d use this cheese sauce with anything, I feel like. Maybe broccoli? It was sooo good.

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