October 5, 2020
Back when I was first teaching myself to cook, in my late teens, one of my favorite dishes to cook was a butternut squash casserole with goat cheese. It was simple, but delicious. Today, my version of butternut squash casserole has morphed into something a little more complex, and 100% vegan. But it's the most delicious version of it that I've ever made.
It's made with butternut squash, kale, leeks, and pecans, and tossed in a creamy sauce made of cashews. It could be described as comfort food, but it gets points for nutrition, too. This recipe has lots of vitamins A and C, plus 8 grams of protein per serving. To get to this masterpiece, I took some inspiration from this Epicurious (non-vegan) recipe, and this recipe from Oh She Glows.
This butternut squash casserole recipe is perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, or you can make it any time of year. It's a perfect side dish, but it's also great as a main course. For other vegan holiday side dish recipes, try my green bean casserole, vegan sour cream mashed potatoes, mashed butternut squash, or roasted maple-butter carrots.
If you're looking to save time, butternut squash can be bought pre-cut. It's more expensive, but if you're preparing a lot of foods in a single day (i.e. for Thanksgiving or Christmas), the extra cost might be worth the time savings.
If you're unfamiliar with how to cut butternut squash, start by slicing off the top and bottom. Then, cut the wider bottom apart from the narrower top section. Use a knife to slice off the skin. Cut the wide bottom in half and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy pieces. Then, cut the remaining parts into approximately 1" pieces.
Leeks generally require some extra cleaning because of the sandy dirt they grow in. The dark green tops should be cut off, but you don't need to throw them away. They can be used for soup, and you can also freeze them until you're ready to use them. Once you've cut off the green tops of the leeks, cut off the roots, then slice them in half length-wise. You'll need to wash in between each layer, but try to keep them together for easier slicing. Then, you can slice the leeks into smaller pieces.
In my old non-vegan version of butternut squash casserole, I used goat cheese for its tangy, creamy crumbly qualities that balance the sweetness of the squash well. Fortunately, there are lots of great vegan nut cheeses that have a similar taste and work equally well with butternut squash. I like Treeline French-Style Soft Nut Cheese, and Miyoko's Vegan Cream Cheese (yes, they call it cream cheese, but it tastes a lot like goat cheese). You could also try making your own vegan goat cheese with this recipe (although I haven't personally tried it yet!)
With any of these cheeses, make sure they're cold when you add them to the casserole. That will help with keeping the texture crumbly rather than creamy. I use a fork or knife to help pull pieces apart.
Prep Time50 minutes
Cook Time70 minutes
Total Time105 minutes
You can skip this step if you have a high-powered blender. If not, soak your cashews in water for 2 hours before using them, or boil them in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C). Spray a casserole dish (approximately 13” x 9” or 12” x 10”) with oil. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cut the skin off of the butternut squash and cut into 1” cubes. In a large mixing bowl, toss the cubes with the minced garlic, chopped parsley, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.
Spread the butternut squash on the baking sheet, and bake for 35 minutes. When finished, reduce oven heat to 375°F (190°C).
While the squash cooks, heat 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the leeks, thyme, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender.
Blend cashews with 2/3 cup water until creamy (about 2-4 minutes), then blend in nutritional yeast.
In a small bowl, mix ground flax with 1/4 cup water and set aside for 5 minutes, until thickened. Then mix into the cashew cream sauce. Mix bread crumbs into the cashew sauce.
Spread the butternut squash in the casserole dish, and then add the leeks. Top with the cashew sauce mix. Fold over slightly to distribute ingredients.
Bake the casserole at 375°F (190°C) for 15 minutes.
After the casserole has baked 15 minutes, remove from the oven and mix in the kale and cold cashew cheese. Use a fork or spoon to break the cheese into crumbly pieces. Top with pecans and bake for 10 minutes more.
Leftovers: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat on a baking tray at 350°F (180°C) for 12-15 minutes.
Make ahead: Prepare as directed, assemble the casserole, but refrigerate, don't bake it. The next day, continue baking as directed, but add another 5-10 minutes to the baking time (before adding kale, cheese and pecans).
If you're pressed for time, consider buying pre-cut butternut squash. I would recommend fresh, not frozen, as frozen butternut squash tends to bake softer than fresh squash.
Note: This data should be used only as an estimate. Please see the nutrition section of my terms and conditions for more information on how this data is calculated.
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