Sweet Potato Surprise

A creamy noodle casserole with mac n' cheese style vegan sweet potato sauce. Spinach, shallot, scallions + sage are baked in for extra nutrients and flavor!

sweet potato surprise / loveandlemons.com sweet potato surprise / loveandlemons.com sweet potato surprise / loveandlemons.com

I first made this months ago with the very first butternut squash of the season. I had decided ahead of time that it would be a “non-photo” night since casseroles are not the easiest subject matter. Of course, after we made it, I was regretting not having the camera out because it tasted way too good not to share.

For the second go-around, I made it with sweet potatoes only because that had a better ring than “butternut squash surprise.”

If you’re vegan, this will taste like a baked mac and cheese. If you’re not vegan, it will just taste awesome, and you won’t really believe it’s vegan (surprise). If you use gluten free bread crumbs on top instead of panko, it’s gluten free (double surprise).

5.0 from 6 reviews

Sweet Potato Surprise

Serves: 2-3 with extra sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 heaping cup chopped sweet potatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 ounces veggie broth
  • ¾ cup light coconut milk
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta (I used Jovial brown rice fusilli)
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 4-5 sage leaves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions
  • ¼ cup to ½ cup panko (or gluten free bread crumbs)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots with pinches of salt and pepper. Cook until translucent. Add the sweet potatoes, garlic, broth and coconut milk. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are cooked and soft (about 15-25 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  2. Cook your pasta according to package directions, reserving some pasta water before draining. Set aside.
  3. To your sweet potato mix, stir in the dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, sage, and maple syrup. Add more salt & pepper.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a high speed blender (a Vitamix is recommended) and blend until smooth.Taste and adjust. Add some of the starchy pasta water to thin it out if it's too thick.
  5. Place the spinach in a large bowl and scoop the hot pasta noodles on top (so the hot pasta starts to wilt the spinach). Mix in the sweet potato sauce, thinning with more pasta water if necessary.
  6. Place in a baking dish. Top with the scallions, a sprinkling of panko, pinches of salt, pinches of red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of olive oil.
  7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes (uncovered) until the top is brown and crusty. I turned on my broiler for the last couple of minutes to help with the browning.
*the pan in the photo is 7x9 inches.



Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Sheila

    This was absolutely delicious. Thanks for the recipe! I added a pound of grass-fed ground beef without adjusting anything else. Wonderful flavor!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved the recipe!

  2. Ally from gooseandbear.ca

    OMG, OMG…..This was SSSOOO good. So creamy and so delish. I will be making this again, and when I do, I will be doubling the recipe.

  3. Honor Heymann

    This looks absolutely wonderful! I was thinking of adding vegan ricotta on top before baking, however I’d love to know if you think this would deliver? <3

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Honor, I don’t think vegan ricotta is necessary in this recipe, it’s pretty creamy as it is. If you wanted to add it, I would add it near the end of the bake time so that it warms through without drying out too much.

  4. Jenna Vainner

    Do you think this would freeze well? My friend is having a baby and I want to gift her a dinner she can get out whenever her and her family need something. They are vegan and gluten free which makes it more challenging. Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Jenna, I haven’t tried freezing it, but I think it would be fine. They would just have to bake in the oven until the middle is fully warmed through.

  5. Oohyum from Facebook.com

    So tasty! But I couldn’t add the milk, or it would have been too thin. Oh god, the sage was so lovely, it felt like October around here!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you liked it!

  6. Lee

    I’m excited to try out this recipe! Do you think that I could double it and use a larger pan?

  7. Cory

    This looks so yummy! I want to make it for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and I was wondering….. do you think I could put it together today, stick it in the fridge and then cook it tomorrow? Or will that dry it out? Has anyone tried making this in advance? Thanks! Cant wait to try it!

    • jeanine

      Hi Cory – I haven’t made the entire thing in advance before so I can’t say for sure (It shouldn’t dry out but I’m not sure if the pasta will get soggy). If you try it, I’d leave the panko off until just before baking.

      Or if it’s helpful, I know that the sauce can definitely be made ahead of time. I’ve kept it in my fridge for days before mixing it with the pasta, etc. It gets thicker in the fridge but you can thin it out with a little water.

  8. Joanna

    I wanted to report that I made this last night as a Passover break-the-fast meal. I’m currently breastfeeding and on a tricky elimination diet to help the little guy’s tummy troubles. I’ve been struggling with meal ideas and this was fantastic. I used butternut squash and hemp milk as the only substitutions and I wanted to lick my bowl, the sauce was so good! Thanks so much for all the great recipes!

    • jeanine

      Hi Joanna, I’m so glad to hear that!

  9. Erika from thepancakeprincess.com

    Ooh man I was so excited about discovering your gorgeous site two days ago that that night I went home and made two of your dishes–this and the almond cinnamon coffeecake. They were both SO DELICIOUS!!! I could have almost drank this sauce. So. Good. And like the person above me, I used spaghetti squash instead of noodles and added the rest of my sweet potato + peas. A total success. Thank you!

    • jeanine

      oh I’m so glad to hear! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Katherine

    This looks great! I made something like this, with spaghetti squash as the noodles instead of pasta.

    • jeanine

      ooh sounds delicious, I love spaghetti squash

  11. Charlotte

    Mmm, this was SO good. I went for it after making your vegan mac & cheese, which was also a big success…I actually used the pine nut & panko topping for this dish as well. Thank you for such a unique and delicious recipe!

    • jeanine

      Hi Charlotte, so glad you liked it! (both!)

  12. Lindsay

    We made this dish last night and it was excellent. We skipped out on the bread crumbs and didn’t bake it, but it was still wonderful. Loved the twist on using sweet potato as a pasta sauce! This recipe is a keeper, thanks!

  13. Natalie from nataliecottrell.blogspot.com

    Ermahgerd, this was fantastic! I honestly had no idea what to expect with that mix of ingredients. (In fact, I wouldn’t tell my husband what was in it until he tried a few bites.) The sauce was so cheesy and decadent…never thought I’d say that about a vegan cheese, so cheers to you and this fantastic dish! Comfort food you can feel OK about eating…I’m all over it. I’ve tried several of your recipes now and I’m a huge fan. Thanks for keeping the wonderful dishes coming! ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Shelley from unsailedships.blogspot.com

    I made this with GF pasta + GF panko. It was amazing! I love baked pasta dishes, but after having to give up Daiya cheese, it’s been hard to find one with out vegan cheese involved. This one is great, thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • jeanine

      Glad you liked it, you’re welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Mason

    Absolutely delish! I added some julienned sunned dried tomatoes and substituted half the pasta with chickpeas, it was brilliant!

  16. Jennifer

    I love your recipes! If i decide to use spaghetti squash, do i need to cook it in the oven ahead of time?

  17. katie

    I can’t wait to make this tonight! A friend suggested your website and I have spent the most amazing afternoon looking at all of your recipes and deciding what to make for the next 20 meals! Your photos are incredible and I love these recipes!

    • jeanine

      aw, that totally makes my day!

  18. Sini

    I’ve been looking at this recipe for days now. I so want to make it! The only thing is that I wonder how the nutritional yeast can be substituted. Do you have any suggestions?

    • jeanine

      Hi Sini,

      I can’t think of a direct replacement for nutritional yeast… if you eat cheese, freshly grated parmesan would be delicious in here. Or you could likely leave it out and this would still work (a little less cheese-like, but the sweet potato puree with the herbs should still be yummy).

  19. Christine

    I made this for dinner tonight – with a mixture of spinach and baby kale – and it was so good! I’m saving the other half for my husband who is working late… But I keep sneaking little extra bites from his because it’s delicious!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.