Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese is the perfect way to use up any leftover baked sweet potatoes you have on hand. This dairy-free version has a Southwestern flare, to help make it more of a complete meal, with black beans, green chilies, and a creamy sweet potato sauce.
Why You’ll Love It
It’s nut-free. Unlike my famous Vegan Mac n’ Cheese recipe, this version gets its creaminess from sweet potatoes instead of cashews. The velvety sauce is lighter, and properly combined for those who follow food combining principles.
It’s loaded with flavor. To help balance out the sweetness of the sweet potato, this cheese sauce has extra spice added in, like onion and chili powders. The nutritional yeast adds a touch of cheesy flavor, but you can leave it out and still have a delicious meal!
It’s filling. The black beans add extra fiber and protein to this dish, so it’s much more filling than a traditional side of mac n’ cheese.
It’s healthy. This sweet potato mac n’ cheese is a great way to squeeze more vegetables into your day. The sauce doesn’t taste like sweet potato!
It’s allergy friendly. This recipe is naturally dairy-free, and when you use gluten-free pasta, it can be gluten-free, too.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What’s in Sweet Potato Mac n’ Cheese?
- Baked sweet potatoes
- Macaroni noodles
- Lemon juice
- Nutritional yeast (optional)
- Black Beans
- Green Chilies
- Diced tomatoes
- Salt & pepper
The Southwest spices, like chili powder, onion powder, and cumin help hide the sweet potato flavor. It’s perfect for any non-sweet potato fans in your life! (Most of my taste testers didn’t believe there wasn’t cheddar cheese in this recipe.)
For the best texture, I recommend looking for small macaroni noodles, since pasta always doubles or triples in size when it’s cooked. The smaller noodles make it easier to get a little bit of everything in each bite.
How to Make Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese
1. Cook the pasta.
Fill a large saucepan with water and add a tablespoon of sea salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cook the pasta until it’s tender, according to the directions on the package. Small noodles may cook in as little as 5 minutes, but larger noodles may need 10 minutes or more.
Drain the noodles and set them aside until you’re ready to assemble the final dish.
Note: If you haven’t baked the sweet potato yet, wash and dry the potato and pierce it several times with a knife to help it vent. Place the potato on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400ºF for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on how large the potato is. When it’s tender, remove it from the oven and let it cool.
2. Blend the sauce.
While you wait for the water to come to a boil and for the pasta to cook, you can start adding the sauce ingredients to a blender. Add in the sweet potato, water, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, onion powder, chili powder, and ground cumin.
Blend until very smooth, then set it aside.
3. Mix it all together.
To finish the dish, add a can of drained & rinsed black beans, green chilies, and drained diced tomatoes to the same pot that you used to cook the pasta.
Stir over medium-high heat, until the ingredients are warm, then stir in the pasta and cheese sauce.
Once everything is heated through, taste and adjust any seasoning. You may need to add a little extra salt, until the pasta mixture tastes flavorful.
Serve warm, with freshly topped cilantro on top.
Leftover sweet potato mac and cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Common Questions and Substitutions
Can I add real cheese to this dish? Of course! If you’re not vegan or cooking for those with dairy allergies, you can certainly stir in some shredded cheese to this recipe. I’d recommend transferring the recipe to a casserole dish and topping it with cheese, for more of a baked casserole. Bake it in the oven at 400ºF for 10 minutes, to help melt the cheese, and then serve it warm.
Do I have to use nutritional yeast? Nope, this dish will still be delicious without it! The yeast does help add a cheesy flavor, but it’s not the star of the show.
How do I bake sweet potatoes? Preheat the oven to 400ºF and scrub the sweet potatoes to remove any dirt. Dry them well, then pierce several times with a fork or knife, to help the potatoes vent. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until they are tender, about 60 minutes, depending on the size of the potato. It’s a good sign if juices start to drizzle out of the potato and caramelize on the pan.
Southwest Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese
- 8 ounces elbow noodles
- 1 (15 oz.) can black beans , drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes , drained
- 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
- fresh cilantro , for garnish
Sweet Potato Cheese Sauce
- ½ cup baked sweet potato (mashed)
- ¾ cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt , plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- In a large pot, bring 8 cups of water to a boil over high heat and add a tablespoon of salt. Once the water is boiling, add in the pasta and cook until it's tender, according to the directions on the package, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- While the pasta is cooking, make the sweet potato sauce by adding the potato, water, olive oil, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, onion powder, chili powder, and cumin to a high-speed blender. Blend until very smooth, then set it aside.
- When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and set it aside. To the same large pot, add in the drained beans, tomatoes, and green chilies. (No need to drain the chilies.) Stir over medium-high heat until they are warm, then add in the cooked pasta, cheese sauce, and an extra ½ teaspoon of salt.
- Stir again until everything is piping hot, and adjust the seasoning to taste. I usually add another ½ teaspoon of salt, but the final flavor is up to you– just don't be shy about the salt, if you want a flavorful dish. Serve with freshly chopped cilantro on top. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. (They are even delicious chilled for a packed lunch!)
- Nutrition information is for 1 of 4 servings. This information is automatically calculated, and is just an estimate, not a guarantee.
- To make this recipe gluten-free, be sure to use a gluten-free pasta.
- This recipe was updated in October 2022. For the original cheese sauce recipe, you can find it directly in the blog post under the printable recipe. (But this new version is better, so I hope you’ll try it!)
Update Note: This recipe was updated in October 2022, to embrace the Southwest flavor of the sauce and make it more of a complete meal. While the sauce recipe hasn’t changed much, here’s the original version, if you need it.
- 1 cup baked sweet potato (mashed)
- 1 cup unflavored almond milk
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
If you try this sweet potato mac n’ cheese, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like it.