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Pumpkin Lentil Mac & Cheese


A high-protein vegan mac and cheese, made with simple wholesome oil-free and nut-free ingredients. This Pumpkin Lentil Mac & Cheese is the ultimate comfort food to indulge on. It’s saucy, creamy, and savoury – perfect to share for a potluck, or meal-prep for later!

Saucy pumpkin mac and cheese with mushrooms.
Vegan Pumpkin Mac & Cheese with mushrooms

About The Recipe

  • High in protein
  • Vegan | Dairy-Free
  • Saucy & Creamy
  • Packed with vegetables
  • Oil-Free & Nut-Free
  • Easy clean-up
  • Quick approachable recipe
  • Great for meal-prep
Saucy pumpkin lentil mac and cheese.
Vegan Pumpkin Lentil Mac & Cheese

What Is Mac And Cheese?

While its true origins are unknown, it’s believed that it was invented in Europe. Macaroni and cheese (or Mac and Cheese) is a classic American staple, and a childhood favourite for many households. Made of cooked pasta thats tossed in a cheese sauce – most commonly cheddar.

It’s often finished in the oven to bake in a casserole, sometimes garnished with breadcrumbs on top. But the modern simplified version is to only cook in a saucepan. Many recipes can be also be made in one pot. 

Here in this vegan version, we take a slightly different approach.
It may not be a one-pot method, or a fancy oven-bake casserole, but it sure is an approachable recipe!

We first make the vegan mac and cheese sauce by roasting the vegetables, then blending them with soaked red lentils, pumpkin purée, plant milk (I use oat milk), spices, and nutritional yeast (adds a rich cheesy flavour). Followed by reheating in a saucepan or pot. Afterwards, it’s combined with the cooked pasta to finish off before serving. Feel free to add extra protein (not that it needs it!), by cooking additional toppings – like mushrooms, tofu, vegan meat, etc.

Check out the following sections for a step-by-step tutorial to make our high protein vegan pumpkin mac and cheese.

Saucy pumpkin lentil mac and cheese.
Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Lentil Mac & Cheese

Ingredients

This creamy vegan mac & cheese recipe uses a handful of wholesome ingredients. Made with roasted vegetables, red lentils, and pure pumpkin purée for a cozy fall vibe. With an additional topping of sautéed mushrooms (optional) for a loaded stand-alone meal.

Here are the ingredients you need to make this high protein vegan mac and cheese:

Cheesy Pumpkin Lentil Sauce

  • Red Lentils: Soaked & rinsed. Soft enough to bite on with your teeth.
  • Red Bell Pepper: Cut into wedges to roast.
  • Garlic: A head of roasted garlic takes the flavour to an extra level.
  • Carrots: Sliced in half to roast.
  • Plant Milk: I use oat milk for extra creaminess, and protein/fiber intake.
  • Pumpkin Purée: Canned pumpkin, or make your own.
  • Mushrooms: Whole button
Pumpkin Mac & Cheese Ingredients

Spice Mix Ingredients

  • Paprika: For the sauce & mushrooms.
  • Cinnamon: Use to add a hint of cinnamon to the mushrooms.
  • Turmeric: For the sauce & mushrooms.
  • Cardamom: Adds strong earthy flavours – optional for mushrooms.
  • Seven Spice: Great to add a hint of Middle Eastern flavours.
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt: Adjust to taste
Pumpkin Mac & Cheese Spices

Other Ingredients you’ll need:

  • Macaroni pasta
  • Pomegranate molasses: A little bit of pomegranate molasses adds a combination of sweet and savoury to any dish.
  • Nutritional yeast: Aka Nooch, adds a rich cheesy flavour.
  • Vegetable broth: Used to cook mushrooms – optional.

Step-by-Step Guide

Making this vegan pumpkin mac & cheese is pretty easy – with just 5 main steps:

  1. Preparing The Vegan Mac & Cheese Sauce

  2. Cooking The Mushrooms (optional)

  3. Making The Pasta

  4. Blending The Pumpkin Mac & Cheese Sauce

  5. Combining To Finish Off

First prepare the ingredients for the vegan mac & cheese sauce. Next make any additional toppings you may like to add to your vegan mac and cheese (like sautéed mushrooms, tofu, vegan meat, etc.). Then prep the macaroni to al dante. Followed by blending the cheesy pumpkin lentil sauce ingredients. Finishing off with combining the Macaroni and Cheese.


Here’s a detailed tutorial on how to make pumpkin mac and cheese vegan:

Preparing The Vegan Mac & Cheese Sauce

Rinse the lentils thoroughly under cold water until it runs clear. Soak in a bowl with hot water – covered 2 inches above the lentils – for 20 minutes. You should be able to bite on it with your teeth.

Soaked red lentils.
Red lentils soaking in hot water

Cut the bell pepper into large wedges, from the top-down – removing the stem and seeds. Chop off the top of the carrots, slice down in half (length-wise). Wash and dry completely. Place the peppers and carrots in air fryer baskets with a head of garlic (with its top chopped off). Roast for 20 minutes at 400 F (or 205 C).

Note: Instead of air frying, place the vegetables on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to roast in the oven at 425 F (or 220 C) for 20 to 25 minutes, on the middle rack. Move to top rack during last 5 minutes, setting to broil at 400 F (or 205 C). You may need a little oil/oil spray to help roasting.

Roasted vegetables in air fryer baskets.
Roasted red bell pepper, carrots, and garlic in air fryer baskets

Cooking The Mushrooms

Cut the mushrooms into thick slices. Sauté in a pan over medium-high heat, adding splashes of vegetable broth to avoid burning. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened. Toss with the spices, adding more broth as needed. Continue stirring until cooked – about 5 to 7 more minutes.

Note: Choose a different topping. Feel free to add crumbled tofu, vegan meat, or anything else you like. Or serve it without toppings.

Sautéing mushrooms in a pan.
Sautéed mushrooms – Before & after

Making the Pasta

Make the macaroni pasta per package instructions (al dente). Save 1 cup of pasta water for later. Drain and rinse in cold water to prevent further cooking.

Blending The Pumpkin Mac & Cheese Sauce

Once the vegetables are finished roasting, add the peppers and carrots to a food processor (or high-speed blender). Squeeze out the paste of garlic from the cooled cloves. Add in the pumpkin purée, soaked and rinsed lentils, plant milk, spices, and nutritional yeast.

Note: If you’re processor/blender bowl is not large or powerful enough, cut the peppers and carrots into smaller pieces, and split the sauce ingredients into two batches to prepare.

Pulse a few time to break everything down. Process on high until combined – stop and scrape down the sides as needed. Adding bits of the pasta water to thin down/help blending.

Note: Always give your sauce a taste test before adding to the pasta. Adjust the spices or add more salt if needed.

Blended cheesy pumpkin sauce.
Blended Pumpkin Mac & Cheese Sauce

Combining The Dish To Finish Off

Pour the sauce into a pot or saucepan to reheat over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Once creamy and hot, stir in a drizzle of pomegranate molasses (optional).

Cheesy pumpkin sauce in a pot.
Pumpkin Mac & Cheese Sauce in pot

Pour over the cooked macaroni to combine. Toss over low-heat, adding splashes of water to thin down the sauce – as needed.


How-To Video

Here’s a step-by-step video showing how we make our high protein vegan mac and cheese:


Pro Tips

  • Prep everything ahead of time:
    Gather all the ingredients before starting. Soak the lentils first so it’s ready when it’s time to blend. Prepare the vegetables – wash, dry, and cut to roast – while cooking any additional toppings you want. Make the macaroni pasta in between the steps to have ready for later.
  • Making it saucy and creamy:
    To prevent the sauce from drying, make sure to empty out into a serving platter as soon as the pasta starts absorbing the sauce in the pot – during the last step.
  • Food Processor / High-Speed Blender:
    Make the cheesy sauce in two batches to avoid crowding in your food processor/high-speed blender – especially if the bowl is not large enough to fit all ingredients.
Saucy pumpkin lentil mac and cheese.
Vegan Creamy Pumpkin Lentil Mac & Cheese

Serving Suggestions

Mac & Cheese is typically served hot, which makes it the ultimate comfort food! I personally enjoy it both hot and cold – like most pasta I make. Here are a few ways to pair up this high protein vegan pumpkin mac and cheese:

  • With garlic bread
  • Standalone main dish with additional toppings
  • As a side to a Holiday (Thanksgiving/Christmas) spread

It’s a versatile recipe that you can enjoy however you like. Bake it in the oven with breadcrumbs for a fancy dinner, or add more toppings to it to meal-prep for later (like mushrooms, tofu, vegan meat, etc.).

Saucy pumpkin mac and cheese with mushrooms.
Pumpkin Macaroni & Cheese with mushrooms

FAQs

Is Mac & Cheese healthy?
A traditional serving of Mac and Cheese is quite high in calories. Depending on the specific ingredients (butter, cheese, or such), it could be considered ‘unhealthy’ to have such high quantities of it on a regular basis. 

However, the ingredients used in this plant-based version makes indulging on our vegan Pumpkin Lentil Mac & Cheese a little ‘healthier’. Made with no oils and no nuts (allergy-friendly). Plus, it’s high in protein!

What is vegan mac and cheese made of?
The easiest way to make mac and cheese vegan is to use dairy-free cheese alternatives to melt into plant milk over low heat. Another common way is to use nuts and vegetables (like cashews and cauliflower), to make a cheesy sauce. 

In this oil-free and nut-free recipe, we use wholesome ingredients: carrots, bell pepper, and garlic, with nutritional yeast (for cheesy flavours). 

What is a good substitute for milk in Mac and cheese?
Oat milk makes a great alternative in place of dairy milk in mac and cheese. It adds an extra level of creaminess to the dish. 

Can I use canned coconut milk in mac and cheese?
While it’s super creamy, coconut milk has a high coconut flavour – which will affect the flavour of the dish. However, we have made saucy pumpkin pasta in the past (using coconut milk), and people couldn’t taste the coconut.

Let us know if you give it a try in the comments below!

What can I replace the pumpkin with?
Squash and sweet potatoes make a great replacement to pumpkin, if you’re not a fan. Simply cut in half, cover in oil, and bake/roast until soft and creamy. Fluff with a fork, and remove to the food processor in step 4 of this recipe.


More Pumpkin Recipes

Here are a few more vegan pumpkin recipes that you might enjoy:


Pumpkin Mac & Cheese Recipe

Hope you give this recipe a try. Remember to leave a comment below about your experience, and rate the recipe with ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. This will help us sustain Plant Based Arab.

Take a photo of your dish, and tag us on Instagram @thePlantBasedArab so we can see your remake!

Vegan Pumpkin Lentil Mac & cheese

Recipe by Waseem HijaziCourse: DinnerCuisine: American, Vegan, Dairy-FreeDifficulty: Easy, Approachable
Servings

6

servings
Prep time

10

minutes
Cooking time

30

minutes
Total time

40

minutes

A high-protein vegan mac and cheese, made with simple wholesome oil-free and nut-free ingredients. This Pumpkin Lentil Mac & Cheese is the ultimate comfort food to indulge on. It’s saucy, creamy, and savoury – perfect to share for a potluck, or meal-prep for later!

Equipment:
Saucepan / Pot / Pan
Air Fryer / Oven
Food Processor / High-speed Blender

Ingredients

  • Vegan Cheesy Pumpkin Sauce
  • 1 cup (200g) red lentils

  • 1 large red pepper

  • 4 small carrots

  • 1 head (8 to 10 cloves) garlic

  • 300g pumpkin purée

  • 1 cup plant milk – I use oat milk

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

  • Salt and pepper – to taste (about 1 to 1 1/2 tsp each)

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • For The Mushrooms (optional to have as toppings)
  • 230g mushrooms

  • Vegetable broth (or oil) to sauté

  • 1/2 tsp seven spice

  • 1/4 tsp cardamom

  • 1/2 tsp paprika

  • 1/4 tsp turmeric

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

  • Salt and pepper – to taste (about 1/2 to 1 tsp each)

  • The Rest
  • 325g macaroni (saving 1 cup water)

  • 1 to 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional)

Directions

  • Preparing The Sauce
  • Rinse the lentils thoroughly until water runs clear. Soak in a bowl with hot water – covered 2 inches above – for 20 minutes.
  • Cut the bell pepper into large wedges, from the top-down – removing the stem and seeds.
  • Chop off the top of the carrots, slice down in half (length-wise). Wash and dry completely.
  • Place the peppers and carrots in air fryer baskets with a head of garlic (with its top chopped off).
  • Roast for 20 minutes at 400 F (or 205 C) – See Notes (1).
  • Making The Mushrooms (optional)
  • Cut the mushrooms into thick slices. Sauté in a pan over medium-high heat, adding splashes of vegetable broth to avoid burning – See Notes (2).
  • Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened. Toss with the spices, adding more broth as needed. Continue stirring until cooked – about 5 to 7 more minutes.
  • Preparing The Pasta
  • Make the macaroni pasta per package instructions (al dente).
  • Save 1 cup of pasta water for later.
  • Drain and rinse in cold water to prevent further cooking.
  • Making The Cheesy Pumpkin Lentil Sauce
  • Once the vegetables are finished roasting, add the peppers and carrots to a food processor (or high-speed blender). Squeeze out the paste of garlic from the cooled cloves – See Notes (3).
  • Add in the pumpkin purée, soaked and rinsed lentils, plant milk, spices, and nutritional yeast.
  • Pulse a few time to break everything down. Process on high until combined – stop and scrape down the sides as needed. Adding bits of the pasta water to thin down/help blending.
  • Combining The Mac & Cheese
  • Pour the sauce into a pot or saucepan to reheat over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Once creamy and hot, stir in a drizzle of pomegranate molasses (optional).
  • Pour over the cooked macaroni to combine. Toss over low-heat, adding splashes of water to thin down the sauce – as needed.

Recipe Video

Notes

  • (1) Oven settings: Instead of air frying, place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to roast in the oven at 425 F (or 220 C) for 20 to 25 minutes, on the middle rack. Move to top rack during last 5 minutes, setting to broil at 400 F (or 205 C).
  • (2) Mushroom toppings: Feel free to use oil to sauté the mushrooms instead. You can replace the mushroom toppings with alternative options (like vegan meat, TVP, tofu, etc.).
  • (3) Food Processor / High-Speed Blender: If your processor/blender bowl is not large or powerful enough, cut the peppers and carrots into smaller pieces, and split the sauce into two batches.

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