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  • Catherine Myburgh

Vegan Mac & 'Cheese' and Seasonal Eating

Creamy, delicious, wholesome and healthy vegan Mac & 'Cheese' (that also happens to be oil free and gluten free). There is nothing heartier, nourishing or more comforting than a big bowl of tasty mac, especially during wintertime.

I’ll admit, I was never really a huge fan of regular mac ‘n cheese growing up, and as someone who has previously struggled with severe IBS, it always left me feeling terribly bloated and sick, possibly due to the relatively high saturated fat content, dairy (at the time) or rich cheesy sauce. However, in most households this recipe tends to be a quick, easy & tasty firm favourite (especially amongst kids).

As mentioned, regular mac ‘n cheese tends to be calorie dense and super high in saturated fat, yet relatively low in fibre, essential vitamins and minerals. Now, this really shouldn’t be a major concern and as with all things, moderation is key. However, if you happen to be following a plant-based lifestyle or are looking for a healthier alternative to regular mac ‘n cheese. THIS IS IT!

I have previously mentioned via social media that the only eating pattern I tend to follow is seasonal and since I live half in the UK and half in South Africa, I thought it would be cool to firstly share this hearty and delicious seasonal Mac & 'Cheese' recipe (which is just perfect for the cold weather that we’re currently experiencing here in South Africa) and secondly, not one but two regional-specific & seasonal eating guides that will hopefully provide you with some additional direction whilst navigating the produce aisles at your local grocery store.

But first, let’s get into the recipe.

RECIPE | Serves: 2 | Cook time: approx. 30 minutes


  • 500g pumpkin (or sub butternut squash)

  • ¼ cup plant-based milk (in this recipe I have used unsweetened and fortified almond)

  • ¼ cup cashews (soaked)

  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast

  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika

  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder

  • ½ tsp. salt

  • juice of ½ a lemon

  • 150g pasta of choice (I have used the Sam Mills gluten free Cornetti Rigati)


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, add your pumpkin and cook for 15-20 minutes or until soft.

  2. Once cooked, drain the pumpkin and add it to a food processor/blender along with the plant milk, spices, salt, nutritional yeast, pre-soaked cashews and lemon juice. Blend until smooth and creamy (if you are using a blender that seals i.e. a Nutribullet, first let the pumpkin cool to room temperature before blending).

  3. Cook the pasta according to its packet instructions. Once cooked, drain the pasta and reserve 2-3 tbsp. of the cooking water. Pour the ‘cheesy’ pumpkin sauce over the pasta and stir together until well coated. Season to taste and serve immediately with optional extras i.e. chili flakes, avocado, crispy chickpeas, fresh herbs/rocket/microgreens/kale/baby spinach, shelled hemp seeds, fresh cherry tomatoes, additional nutritional yeast, vegan cheese etc.

If you desire a meal that is higher in protein, I would then recommend using either a high protein pasta i.e. red lentil/chickpea or adding additional silken tofu to the pumpkin sauce.

This recipe also makes A LOT of sauce, so you could easily serve 3-4 people, just cook more pasta!

Nutritional content per serving

Total Energy 458 kcal

Protein 13g

Total Fat 8.4g

Saturated fat 1.4g

Net Carbohydrates 81g

Dietary Fibre 3g

Total Sugar 9g

If you are keen to learn more about seasonal eating, keep on reading!

So, what exactly is seasonal eating?

Seasonal eating is consuming fresh local foods at the same time of year as they are harvested and boasts a number of benefits for the environment, your health, your taste buds and finances.

Regional diversity and latitude are major factors impacting climate, rainfall, soil quality, produce availability and variety. Climate trends and patterns directly affect the growth & harvest of produce and should therefore affect the food we end up purchasing and consuming from grocery stores, restaurants and cafes etc.

Yet, in this day and age (with increased consumer demand & globalisation), it doesn't.

So, what are some of the benefits of seasonal eating?

Fresh and delicious: seasonal produce is far riper and sweeter. It naturally lasts longer, reducing potential food waste and doesn’t have to be picked ahead of optimal ripeness for transportive and shipping purposes.

More nutritious: to achieve the maximum nutritional benefits of fresh fruit and veg, optimal ripeness is key. As mentioned, out-of-season produce needs to be imported from elsewhere and is therefore prematurely picked and harvested before reaching its nutritional optimum.

Foreign produce also generally differs in terms of quality. This can be due to the use of toxic pesticides (varying policies/regulations) or poor soil quality (i.e. selenium levels present in cereals, grains and nuts almost exclusively rely on soil quality and can vary depending on pH, geology, organic matter, rainfall, toxic chemicals and microbial activity).

The growth and availability of produce is also suited to support the body’s needs and cravings according to season i.e. in winter, we are provided with heartier produce such as potatoes, pumpkin, avocado and dates, as well as other anti-oxidative, vitamin-c rich foods such as oranges, lemons, kale and red cabbage. These foods are key in providing us with additional energy and immunity respectively. Summer delivers fresh berries, lettuce, hydrating melons, mango and papaya perfectly suited for light, refreshing smoothies and salads.

Cost-effective: have you ever noticed how much cheaper berries are in summer? When availability increases, price decreases. Imported produce is typically more expensive due to additional costs concerned with transport, packaging and storage, as well as less consistent product availability.

Environmentally sustainable: seasonal eating reduces the demand for out-of-season produce (i.e. reduces global exports/imports and transportive fuel consumption). It also aims to support local farming, meaning less refrigeration, plastic packaging, artificial hothouses and irradiation of produce.

These days, with such well-stocked grocery stores and specialty aisles it can be seriously difficult to know what produce is actually in season. I remember back in 2018, when I left SA and first stepped foot in a local Waitrose. At the time, I was dreading the fact that I wouldn’t have access to all the fresh papayas, strawberries and avocados that I was practically living off back home. However, to my surprise the shelves were fully stocked with all that I was used to, and more.

So, yes it can be tricky to know what’s in season, but hopefully the following can help.

South Africa

The South African climate is reasonably temperate, so throughout most of the year you can expect to see overlapping seasonal fruits and veg (although, prices may vary depending on availability). Therefore, I have split up the following into Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter. However, when in doubt, always check the packaging label as this will tell you the product origin and whether or not an item has been imported.

Spring + Summer: September - February

Apples, bananas, berries, cherries, *citrus, *dates, figs, grapes, kiwi, litchis, mango, melon, papaya, pomegranate, stone fruit (nectarines, peaches, plums & apricots).

Asparagus, aubergine, beets, cabbage, carrots, celery, corn, green beans, leafy greens (baby spinach, kale, rocket, romaine etc.), *leeks, pumpkin, zucchini (courgette).

Autumn + Winter: March - October

Apples, avocados (are a fruit), bananas, citrus (grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges, naartjies), dates, *figs, *granadillas, papaya, pears, pineapple, *pomegranate, tomatoes (are also a fruit).

Aubergine, beets, bell pepper, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, swiss chard), potatoes (white & sweet), pumpkin, zucchini (courgette).

United Kingdom

The UK undergoes a more defined seasonal fluctuation, hence clearer variation in fresh seasonal fruits and veg.

Spring: March, April, May

Bananas, grapefruit, gooseberries, pomegranate, rhubarb.

Asparagus, baby spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, kale, onions, pak choi, radicchio, spring greens, watercress.

Summer: June, July, August

Apples, bananas, berries, figs, melon, pomegranate, stone fruit, tomatoes.

Aubergine, butternut squash, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cavolo nero, cucumber, fresh herbs (mint & basil), green beans, leafy greens, new potatoes, onions, pak choi, radicchio, runner beans, spring onions, zucchini (courgette).

Autumn: September, October, November

Apples, bananas, blackberries, clementines, cranberries, dates, figs, pears, plums, pomegranate.

Brussel sprouts, cabbage, celery, kale, leeks, lemons, lettuce, onions, pak choi, parsnips, pumpkin, raddicchio, spring onions, sweet potato, swiss chard, tomatoes.

Winter: December, January, February

Apples, bananas, clementines, dates, grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges, pears, pomegranate, quince.

Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, kale, leeks, onions, pak choi, parsnips, radicchio, spring onions, sweet potato.

*Disclaimer: The aim of this post is to share the benefits and importance of seasonal eating as well as a few personal suggestions & recommendations with the hope of inspiring others to consciously consume and get creative in the kitchen! Obviously, you are NOT expected to only eat the above and when it is season, that’s madness and sometimes you just really crave seedless grapes in the middle of June and that’s 100% okay. There are also so many other readily available and delicious seasonal goods that haven’t even been mentioned here! So, it’s definitely worth looking and asking around as well as exploring local farmers’ markets, these will quickly give you a good feel as to what is actually in season!

Most of my recipes are created according to what’s in season, so if you are looking for something refreshing and light then definitely check out my Rainbow Rice Paper Rolls and if you’re looking for something else hearty, wholesome and comforting, try out my Veggie Dhal.

More resources around seasonal eating:

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