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Entrees/ Recipes/ Vegan Recipes/ Vegetarian Recipes

Vegan Walnut & Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Vegan Walnut & Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Vegan Walnut & Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

My family has always been great about providing a vegetarian entrée at holiday get-togethers. I consider myself pretty lucky in that department. We’ve got a lot of Italian in the family, and fortunately, vegetarian Italian food is pretty darn easy to do, and everybody loves it – not just the vegetarians. Lasagna, baked ziti, and stuffed shells have adorned my plate at many Christmases past.

It wasn’t until I cut out dairy that things got challenging. Pasta with lots of sauce and cheese? Easy? Ditch the cheese and suddenly things can get a little boring. That’s why these days I try to bring a vegan main dish whenever possible, and I try not just to bring something that I’ll enjoy, but something that everyone, whether vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, can get down with.

The key to getting everyone interested in checking out your vegan dish is to make it a more interesting version of something they might otherwise be all about. Everyone loves stuffed shells, and adding butternut squash and crunchy walnuts instantly ups the intrigue factor, so they’ll all want a taste.

Vegan Walnut & Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Butternut squash is some pretty amazing stuff, which is why you’ll find it in both the sauce and the filling of these shells. Blended up with some creamy cashew cheese, it adds some creamy smoothness and sweet flavor to the filling. Since I like a little bit of extra texture in my shell filling, I went and added some crunchy walnuts too. The sauce is a simple blend of roasted butternut squash and onion with some creamy non-dairy milk, and to make it even more creamy, cashews.

All in all, these shells are rich, creamy, and delicious, with a nice blend of sweet and savory flavors. Your family should be pretty impressed if you serve them up over the holidays.

Vegan Walnut & Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

Vegan Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells

These vegan stuffed shells are filled with a blend cashew ricotta, butternut squash, and crunchy walnuts, baked up and served with creamy butternut squash sauce.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 6


  • 1 medium 3 pound butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 6 cups)
  • 1 large onion coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ pound jumbo dried pasta shells
  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews soaked in water 4 to 8 hours, drained and rinsed (divided)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 ¼ to 1 ¾ cups unflavored soy or almond milk divided
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves about 8 leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg


  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Place butternut squash and onion into a large roasting pan or oven safe skillet and add olive oil. Toss to coat. Place into the oven and bake until squash is tender and onions are lightly browned, about 45 minutes, flipping once or twice.
  • While the squash bakes, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain the shells into a colander, return them to the pot, and toss with a few dashes of olive oil to prevent them sticking together.
  • To make the filling, place 2/3 of the cashews (this will be about 1 1/3 cups after soaking, because they expand a bit) into the bowl of about a food processor fitted with an S-blade. Add garlic, ½ cup of milk, and lemon juice. Blend until the mixture is mostly smooth (it doesn’t have to be perfect). Add half of the roasted squash and onions, and all of the walnuts and sage leaves. Pulse a few times just to mix the ingredients, keeping the mixture a bit chunky and being careful not to over-blend them. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a bowl.
  • To make the sauce, place remaining squash and onions into the food processor bowl. Add remaining cashews (just over ½ cup), ¾ cup of milk, and nutmeg. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Thin the mixture with up to an additional ½ cup of milk. It should be saucy and a bit thicker than soup. Season with salt to taste.
  • Spoon about 2/3 of the butternut squash sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Stuff each shell with about 2 tablespoons of the filling, then place into the baking dish. When all shells are filled, cover the dish loosely with foil. Bake until heated throughout, about 20 minutes.
  • Warm the remaining sauce up on the stove or in the microwave, adding a few additional splashes of milk if it gets too thick. When the sauce is hot, spoon it over the baked shells. Sprinkle with some additional fresh sage and serve.
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  • Reply
    December 17, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Oh these shells look so tasty! I love this creamy stuffing with butternut squash! Pinning this for sure! 🙂 xxx

    • Reply
      December 17, 2016 at 10:54 am

      Thanks Anna! I hope you enjoy them!

  • Reply
    December 30, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    These are really, really good! I adore the filling.

    Just keep in mind that they are definitely a holiday or special occasion dish because they are very labor intensive with lots and lots of separate steps (soaking cashews, peeling squash, roasting vegetables, boiling pasta, chopping, pureeing, stuffing, baking), Accomplishing all this dirtied most of my dishes and pans and appliances that I own, so cleanup took some time too.

    All that being said, yuuuuummmmmm. Will make again for the next special occasion. I think the walnuts were my favorite part. They add such wonderful texture. Thank you for the creative and delicious recipe!

    • Reply
      January 1, 2017 at 9:09 pm

      Thanks Elizabeth! I’m so glad you enjoyed them! And yes, they are a bit of work and special occasion food – I had the holidays in mind with this recipe. 🙂 Thanks and Happy New Year!

  • Reply
    November 18, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Can these he made ahead and frozen?

    • Reply
      Katie Trant
      November 19, 2017 at 10:08 am

      We haven’t tried that, Sue, but I really don’t see why not. Personally I’d make the recipe and freeze it unbaked, then pull out of the freezer and bake from frozen. Let us know if you try it!

  • Reply
    jacki Dore'
    December 10, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    i have made this dish for the last 2 years. each time it gets better and better. I had the day off, i had some cashews that i wanted to do something with and i remembered this very tasty recipe. thanks for the perfect recipe!!

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