This vegan butternut squash alfredo sauce is the perfect fall dish. It's creamy, smells amazing and uses fresh fall produce, what more could you want on a cool fall day?
It'll give you plenty of energy for that chilly morning surf sesh or run, and has plenty of protein and nutrients thanks to the butternut squash and cashews. There's a reason this creamy sauce never lasts long in my fridge...it's the real deal.
Make this vegan alfredo sauce when you have some extra roasted butternut squash, and enjoy the fruits of your labor all week. Tired of pasta? Use the sauce on some quesadillas instead!
We don't need anything too crazy for this healthy alfredo sauce & pasta:
- Butternut squash - this is the secret ingredient for a creamy pasta sauce
- Raw cashews - combined with pasta water and butternut squash, the mixture acts like heavy cream
- Pasta water (see substitutes below)
- Lemon juice
- Soy sauce
- Thyme (optional)
- Pasta of choice - there's something special about a vegan fettuccine alfredo, no?
- Cooking oil - I love grapeseed for its high smoking point, but olive oil works in a pinch
See recipe card for quantities.
First, peel and cube your butternut squash. To cube squash, cut off both ends, then separate the fat part from the skinny part. Cut the skinny part into planks, then rods, then cube. Cut the fat part in half, remove the seeds, and repeat the previous steps to cube.
Toss squash with some cooking oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 350-400 F for 45-60 mins, flipping halfway.
When the squash is almost done, start boiling salted water in a stockpot for pasta, and small saucepan with water for cashews. Simmer cashews for 10-15 mins.
Meanwhile, prepare shallots and garlic. To slice shallot, remove the non-stem end, and slice in half lengthwise (hotdog style). Remove skin, then place on flat side and chop.
To mince garlic, carefully smash each clove with the flat side of your knife, and remove skin. Use garlic press, or carefully run your knife through the garlic a few times. Sauté shallots and garlic in a nonstick frying pan for 3-5 minutes, or until soft.
Add all sauce ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth - my high-speed blender took 1-2 minutes, gradually increasing speed. Note that all ingredients should be warm so the cashews fully blend into a sauce. If anything is cold, your vegan butternut squash alfredo sauce will be chunkier.
Combine with pasta, serve, and top with some fresh ground black pepper.
Hint: before you do anything, start your pasta water. If you're cooking for two, you can use a half pound of pasta (or half a package) and get away with a smaller pot or medium saucepan. When you want more pasta, cook more, and the recipe will taste much fresher.
While this vegan butternut squash alfredo sauce is naturally dairy-free and vegetarian, it's easily gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta, which I actually prefer sometimes! Rice pasta is my go-to, like Jovial.
If you don't have pasta water on hand, you can substitute with hot water, coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk, soy milk or plant milk of choice. Even vegetable broth works. Just remember to warm it up, or the sauce won't blend as smoothly.
There are a few easy variations for this butternut squash pasta.
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes to the sauce for some extra spice
- Pumpkin - if you can't find butternut squash, roasted pumpkin works too!
- Fancy - for extra heft, add some sauteed mushrooms
- Kid-friendly - try this mac and cheese version this recipe
- Extra cheesy - add a tablespoon or two of nutritional yeast
- Extra veggies - add green peas
For this butternut squash pasta, the equipment is relatively straightforward. You'll need:
- A large pasta pot (8 qt stockpot) or medium saucepan (4 qt saucepan) for boiling pasta water, and a small saucepan (2 qt) for simmering cashews. Make sure your pot is large enough for your pasta. I recommend the larger pot for 1 lb of pasta, but you can get away with a medium saucepan for half a pound or less.
- You'll also need a small frying pan for your shallots and garlic. I recommend a nonstick. If you decide to use metal, make sure to use enough cooking oil, watch closely and stir often to prevent sticking.
- A good cutting board and sharp chef's knife for chopping shallot. I hate chopping garlic, so I use a garlic press as well. You'll also need a vegetable peeler for your squash.
- Baking sheet for roasting butternut squash, style points for using silicone mats to minimize cleanup
- Tongs for stirring pasta, and combining with cheese sauce, as well as a mixing bowl.
- A high speed blender such as a Vitamix. Anything less powerful than a blender (like a food processor) will not suffice. The longer you soak your cashews, the easier this process will be.
Store extra sauce in a jar in the fridge for 3-5 days. I recommend making fresh pasta to go with leftover sauce, but if you have pasta already cooked, combine with sauce, and reheat gently in the microwave before eating.
Always store components in airtight containers.
Or if your microwave is broken like mine, add to a nonstick frying pan with a Tbsp or two of cooking oil and gently stir while it reheats.
Frequently asked questions
While there are many options out there, this recipe relies on three key things. First, velvety roasted butternut squash, soaked cashews and pasta water combine to make a cream sauce that rivals its the dairy version.
Next, we use a mixture of shallots, thyme, soy sauce, lemon juice and salt to build flavor.
Finally, a high powered blender brings it all together. As long as the ingredients are hot, the sauce will be perfectly smooth.
It depends on how much time you have, what you're making, and your taste buds. This recipe uses a combination of roasted butternut squash, cashews, and pasta water. However, coconut cream is a great alternative if you don't mind hints of coconut.
The key to this recipe is blending the sauce ingredients while they are warm. This will make the sauce extra smooth and creamy. Use extra caution when blending hot or warm liquids.
Looking for more vegan recipes? I've got you covered.
This vegan version of a traditional alfredo sauce will blow your mind! The secret ingredient? Butternut squash. It blends into an irresistable velvety cream sauce...
- 1 ½ cups roasted butternut squash
- ¾ cup softened raw cashews
- 1 shallot
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 2-3 ladles of pasta water (¾ - 1 ½ cup, depending on your sauce and blender's power)
- ½ lemon juiced
- Salt to taste
- 1 lb fettuccine, bucatini, or spaghetti - whatever you can find
- Salt, pepper and cooking oil such as grapeseed
1. Prepare butternut squash: peel butternut squash, remove ends and seeds, and cube. Toss with a Tbsp or two of grapeseed oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and roast at 350 F for 45-60 mins, flipping halfway through. The squash should be soft like a potato when done, and ideally starting to brown for extra flavor.
2. Soften cashews: in a small saucepan, bring some water to a boil, then add cashews. Boil for 10-15 mins. If finished before everything else is ready, let cashews sit in the warm water. This is also a good time to start boiling pasta water in a stockpot with a Tbsp or two of salt.
3. Prep shallot and garlic: thinly slice shallot, and mince garlic. Add to a frying pan with a Tbsp of cooking oil. Cook for 3-5 mins or until soft. When finished, scoop into blender and set aside pan.
4. Prepare sauce: once squash and cashews are ready, put all sauce ingredients into blender, and blend until smooth - 2-4 minutes in a high speed blender. Make sure all ingredients are warm, and use extra caution.
5. Serve: when sauce and pasta are ready, add some sauce to your bowl with some pasta and toss gently with tongs. Top with some freshly ground black pepper and enjoy!
Keywords: butternut squash pasta, butternut squash alfredo sauce, butternut squash alfredo, butternut squash cheese sauce
Since we're cooking with plants, we don't have to worry too much about food safety, but here are a few of my top tips:
- Remember to wash your produce before handling it to remove any excess dirt or germs
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds - grapeseed oil is my favorite! Olive oil is great for salad dressings, but isn't great for cooking.
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove