Eating Vegan

How to Make Candice Kumai’s Vegan, Velvety Smooth Pumpkin Mac-and-Cheese

Merritt Watts

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Photo: Candice Kumai

According to Candice Kumai, chef, author, and Well+Good Council member, being vegan on Thanksgiving shouldn’t mean being stuck with a plate full of Brussels sprouts—though they can be pretty yummy. She makes this ultra-rich macaroni and “cheese” recipe in place of a turkey for vegan guests—and swears there are no complaints.

“Once you make this, there’s no turning back.”

“Once you make this, there’s no turning back,” says Kumai. The creamy sauce is made from a velvety-smooth coconut and pumpkin puree which gets its savory umami flavor from a combination of miso and nutritional yeast. A crunchy breadcrumb topping makes it extra crave-worthy.

The recipe is flexible, from the pumpkin (start from scratch, or use canned) to the pasta. “ I love using shells or penne in my mac and cheese, but feel free to use elbow macaroni or whatever pasta you’d like,” says Kumai. “You could also swap in whole wheat or gluten-free pasta.”

Keep reading to get the recipe—and don’t plan on leftovers.

candice kumai
Well+Good Wellness Council member Candice Kumai; Photo: Candice Kumai

Candice Kumai’s vegan pumpkin mac

Serves 8

Coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray, for pan
1 medium pumpkin, peeled, halved, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch cubes (or substitute organic canned pumpkin, about 22 ounces or 1 1/2 cans)
4 to 6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme
22 ounces coconut milk (about 1 1/2 cans)
3 Tbsp organic miso paste
Coarse salt
4 cups pasta shells or penne, cooked and drained
1⁄4 cup plus 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

For the breadcrumb topping
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp granulated garlic powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup finely chopped kale or parsley leaves
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly coat a 9×13-inch pan with coconut oil or olive oil cooking spray.

2. In a large saucepan, combine the pumpkin, garlic, thyme, coconut milk, and miso. Season with salt. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, and making sure the all the pumpkin is submerged. Simmer until the pumpkin is fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Carefully place the squash mixture in a powerful blender and purée until smooth.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water until just al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water.
Spread pasta in the prepared pan and pour the pumpkin–coconut milk purée over the pasta. Gently fold in the nutritional yeast and mix well to combine, ensuring that all noodles are coated. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake, about 30 minutes, until bubbling and cooked through.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients.

5. Remove pasta from the oven, uncover, and sprinkle with breadcrumb topping. Broil on high, two to three minutes, until breadcrumb topping is golden brown.

Originally published November 22, 2017. Updated October 29, 2018.

While you’re prepping for Thanksgiving, check out this sweet potato and okra side dish and all the ways to incorporate avocados.

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