Vegan Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

By Alexandra Caspero on November 7, 2018
Cheesy, creamy sweet potato cheese sauce tossed with elbow noodles.
Serves 4

Vegan sweet potato mac and cheese. A healthy, velvety mac and cheese sauce made with spices and nutrient-rich sweet potatoes.

Doesn’t everyone love mac & cheese? Kids, vegans, omnivores, picky eaters, everyone loves creamy pasta and cheese. Current company included. If I could eat any food, regardless of health benefits, it would most definitely be mac & cheese (followed closely by pizza if anyone’s asking.) 

This similar love was evidenced to me a few months back at my friend’s rehearsal dinner where we were treated to a delicious buffet of gourmet food & fresh salads. After the first go around, I noticed that our entire table had gone back for a second plate of a single item: mac & cheese. 

That’s right friends, a table full of presumably adults rushing to get that second helping of cheesy macaroni. It’s that good.

The beauty of this recipe is that is has half the fat of regular macaroni and cheese, yet tastes just as decedent and creamy. It doesn’t have the same sharp cheddar cheese taste that regular mac and cheese has, but I never seem to miss it. Pureed sweet potatoes, spices and almond milk create a silky, smooth sauce perfect for tossing with hot pasta.

As someone with a very picky 4-year old, I find that pasta is one of the easiest ways to get extra nutrients in. He’s not a huge fan of vegetables in their traditional state, but will happily gobble down pureed veggies as long as it’s tossed with pasta. Works for me! With an extra boost of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, fiber, and potassium this mac and cheese is just that. It’s appealing to everyone, yet healthy enough to be a family-favorite.

Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese

Ingredients for Vegan Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

Here’s what you’ll need for this velvety pasta recipe:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic cloves 
  • Spices, like salt, turmeric and smoked paprika
  • Peeled and cubed sweet potatoes 
  • Non-dairy milk of choice, I used almond milk but any kind would work
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Yellow or dijon mustard (the acid from the mustard makes the sauce more creamy) 
  • Fresh lemon juice, just a little to brighten up the sauce but not enough to make it taste like lemon! 
  • Noodles of choice, we love elbow noodles 

Tips and Substitutions: 

Butternut squash can be subbed for the sweet potato. For a more decadent pasta, I highly recommend adding in a tablespoon or two of dairy-free butter to the pasta at the end. I do this often when I’m making any kind of pasta and a tip I learned working at an Italian restaurant when I was in high school. It makes for a silky, glossy sauce and really elevates any pasta– including this mac and cheese. 

For a gluten-free option, use any gluten-free pasta of choice. 

For an extra boost of vegetables, you can stir in spinach leaves, kale leaves or very finely chopped broccoli. This vegan mac and cheese with broccoli is another kid-friendly recipe that I highly recommend making.

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

What is Nutritional Yeast?

You will need to pick up some nutritional yeast for this recipe, which is easily found in the baking or spice aisle at most well-stocked grocery stores (check the baking aisle) or online. It’s what helps give the macaroni it’s distinctive cheesy flavor and color. You’ll use extras on popcorn, in this chili cheese sauce and hundreds of other vegan recipes.

If you’re new to the plant-based world, chances are that you’ve never heard of nutritional yeast, aka “nooch.” I know that I didn’t have a clue what this ingredient was when we first started eating this way! Not to be confused with brewers or baker’s yeast, nutritional yeast is grown specifically to be enjoyed as food. The yeast is not alive and it has a very cheesy, savory taste.

Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese with Sweet Potatoes

Instructions for making this sweet potato mac and cheese

For start, heat the oil in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and thyme then cook quickly for 30-60 seconds until the garlic is just fragrant, taking care not to burn. 

Next, add in the salt, turmeric, paprika, sweet potatoes and milk of choice. Then reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. 

While the potatoes are softening, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles of choice and cook until just al dente. 

Add the contents of the sweet potato pan to a blender along with the nutritional yeast, lemon juice and mustard then blend until creamy and smooth. 

Drain, then toss the creamy potato mixture with the hot pasta and 1/2 cup of pasta water. Season with more salt and pepper as needed. If you like a spicier pasta, then I’d recommend a pinch of cayenne pepper at the end. 

Can I bake this casserole?  

If you prefer your mac and cheese baked, then I’d recommend adding in more milk or pasta water to make for a creamier sauce. This will help the mac and cheese not dry out as it bakes. 

To bake, transfer the pasta mixture to a lightly greased casserole dish then top with regular breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs and bake until golden brown and bubbling. 

Vegan Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

More Kid-Friendly Pasta Recipes: 

If you are looking for more tried-and-true kid-friendly pasta recipes, then I’d recommend trying these:

If you try this recipe, make sure to come back to rate it and leave a comment. Your feedback helps others and seeing you make my recipes makes my day! 

Print

Vegan Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: pasta, mac and cheese, vegan
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Vegan, American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Vegan sweet potato mac and cheese. A healthy, velvety mac and cheese sauce made with spices and nutrient-rich sweet potatoes.


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: pasta, mac and cheese, vegan
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Vegan, American
  • Diet: Vegan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: pasta, mac and cheese, vegan
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Vegan, American
  • Diet: Vegan
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
  • 1 3/4 cups non-dairy milk of choice, I like unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 12 ounces elbow noodles

Instructions

    1. Heat a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the oil, the garlic and the thyme and quickly cook for 30-60 seconds until garlic is fragrant, taking care not to burn.
    2. Add in the salt, turmeric, paprika, sweet potatoes and milk, then reduce heat to low and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
    3. While the potatoes are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the noodles and cook until al dente according to the package.
    4. Add the entire contents of the sweet potato pan to a blender along with the nutritional yeast, lemon juice and mustard. Blend until creamy and pureed.
    5. Drain the elbow noodles, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water, and return back to the pot. Add the sweet potato sauce and toss to combine. The sauce will likely be thick, so add the pasta water, 1-2 tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Taste, adding more salt/pepper as needed.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4
  • Calories: 513
  • Sugar: 7g
  • Sodium: 282mg
  • Fat: 10.3g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.5g
  • Trans Fat: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 85g
  • Fiber: 6.5g
  • Protein: 18.6g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

did you make this?

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, New York Times Bestselling Plant-Based Chef and mom of two. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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    1. Sharron
      May 18, 2022 AT 9:47 am

      I was about to make your recipe but there is an advert directly over the ingredients that I can’t get rid of. can you please tell me the amount of milk needed? Thanks.

      1. Alex
        May 19, 2022 AT 3:37 am

        That is so annoying! I’m sorry and have let me ad company know. It’s 1 3/4 cups

    2. Amanda Skoll
      May 27, 2021 AT 7:38 pm

      Hi Alex. I made this because my daughter is on an elimination diet with doesn’t include nuts or gluten (or eggs, or dairy, etc). I am vegetarian, so it ticked all the boxes. It was delicious – we made it with hemp milk as she can’t do nuts.
      Can this recipe be frozen? Would love to make in larger quantities so she can freeze and take for meals at work.
      It was delicious! Thanks. Amanda

    3. Hannah
      November 24, 2019 AT 8:44 pm

      I was desperate for Mac and cheese tonight! I have been vegan for over a year and recently became gluten free, and I am often disappointed with the homemade Mac and cheese recipes I find. I could buy a boxed package of vegan Mac and cheese, but so many of them include noodles that aren’t gluten free. I made this recipe tonight, though I substituted a can of coconut cream instead of cashew milk since that’s what I had on hand, and tossed it all with gluten free noodles. Oh… my… GOSH! I’m already looking forward to lunch tomorrow when I get to have the leftovers. Thank you!

      1. Alex
        November 25, 2019 AT 3:10 pm

        So glad you liked it!

    4. Britt
      April 19, 2019 AT 3:43 pm

      Can I use coconut or almond milk instead of cashew milk?

      1. Alex
        April 21, 2019 AT 6:25 pm

        That should work!

    5. Carolo
      April 3, 2019 AT 12:19 am

      Hello I see that it has cashew milk would prefer to usedsoaked cashews but figured I might need to add water if so how much

      1. Alex
        April 3, 2019 AT 5:11 am

        Hi- yes, you can use soaked cashews and then puree them until creamy- use a 1:1 swap in this recipe

    6. Michelle
      November 19, 2018 AT 6:09 am

      Hi thinking about making this but you say this uses a tablespoon of butter in your comments but the recipe does not call for butter. Plus its vegan. Help? 🙂

      1. Alex
        November 20, 2018 AT 4:11 pm

        Hi Michelle- I’m not sure where the butter comment is? I couldn’t find it. However, there is no butter- vegan or otherwise- in this recipe.

        1. Lisa
          February 9, 2019 AT 9:43 pm

          When you replied to Katie, you said it only calls for one Tbsp of butter. 4 comments up

    7. Liz
      July 1, 2014 AT 6:51 am

      Making this for Sweet Caroline’s 1st birthday meal!! It’s so so good!

    8. Serena
      October 14, 2013 AT 6:23 am

      I just bought some nutritional yeast and haven’t been sure what to do with it. Now I know! Can’t wait to make this!

      1. DK
        October 14, 2013 AT 9:02 am

        Glad you bought some! It’s awesome in just about everything, I love sprinkling it on roasted vegetables and popcorn!

    9. Joanne
      October 10, 2013 AT 4:57 am

      I looovvee this idea for using up some of those sweet potatoes!! It’s true, mac and cheese is always such a crowd pleaser no matter how old you are!

      1. DK
        October 10, 2013 AT 8:35 am

        Agreed! I hope to be 85 one day and still eating mac and cheese 🙂

    10. Elizabetheats
      October 9, 2013 AT 3:36 pm

      shut. up.

      i’m making this tonight. seriously

      you are amazeballs