The BEST Vegan Mac n’ Cheese

I’m on a roll, if I do say so myself.

Last night I made a Vegan Mac n’ Cheese that rivals one of my all-time favorite recipes– the Barefoot Contessa’s Mac n’ Cheese! Of course, her version is filled with milk, butter, flour, gruyere and cheddar cheeses. You really can’t go wrong when the ingredients are that rich and decadent.

vegan-mac-n-cheese

It also beats-the-pants off of Kraft’s “the cheesiest.” (If you’re into that stuff, which I’m not.) Do you know I actually hated mac n’ cheese as a kid? I thought all mac n’ cheese was neon-orange and out of a box. Totally unappealing, if you ask me.

However, I dare you to try my healthier version and not moan with delight. It’s that good. And there’s not an ounce of cheese, butter or flour in sight.

No neon-orange coloring, either!

Vegan Mac n’ Cheese
inspired by Everyday Raw

Ingredients:

For the cheese sauce:
1 1/2 cups raw cashews
3 T. fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 clove garlic
pinch of turmeric
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. mustard (dijon or yellow)

For the macaroni n’ cheese casserole:
16 ounces of elbow or shell pasta of choice
freshly ground black pepper
paprika, for garnish

*Optional add-ins: Roasted broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, spinach (I highly recommend these!)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F. If you are adding roasted broccoli (<– recipe here) to your dish, this would be a good time to start preparing that, so it can roast in the oven while you work on the rest! You should also start boiling some water for your pasta.

I opted for gluten-free, quinoa shells, but any pasta will do. Trader Joe’s often sells brown rice elbow noodles that would be great, too!

While you’re waiting for your pasta to cook, start working on the “cheese” sauce.

If you have a Vita-Mix, or other high-powered blender, making this sauce is a cake-walk. Simply throw the first ten ingredients into the blender, and blend until smooth and creamy! If you do not have a high-powered blender, don’t worry– you can easily use a food processor or blender to process the cashews first, until they are finely ground, or ideally, a nut-butter-like consistency. Once your cashews are thoroughly processed, add the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth.

You should have a thick, smooth sauce.

At this time, you should check your pasta. Once it’s cooked to your liking, drain and rinse it, then return the pasta to the pot to be mixed with the cheese sauce.

If you’re adding any roasted or sauteed veggies, this would be the time to do it. I highly recommend adding roasted broccoli to this dish–> Austin and I both agreed the bites of broccoli were our favorite part!

I also decided to saute a handful of mushrooms, that I had leftover from our Mushroom Risotto from the night before. The mushrooms were a good decision, they added a really nice texture to the dish!

You can serve the hot Mac n’ Cheese immediately at this point, for a creamy and delicious meal, or you can bake it for a firmer, dryer texture. (My husband prefers this meal on the drier side, so I usually bake it for his benefit.)

To Bake:

Once you’ve mixed everything together, pour the mac n’ cheese into an 8 x 8 square dish and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and black pepper.

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes, then let it cool for about 5 minutes before serving.

best-vegan-mac-n-cheese

No one will believe this dish is vegan.

Taking into account that people will probably go back for second-helpings, this dish should serve 4 happy people.

Enjoy!!

4.8 from 130 reviews
Vegan Mac n' Cheese
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
 
A creamy, vegan "cheese" sauce that's sure to fool even the pickiest of eaters!
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups raw cashews
  • 3 T. fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ clove garlic
  • pinch of turmeric
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp. mustard (dijon or yellow)
  • 8 oz. of elbow or shell pasta of choice
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • paprika, for garnish
  • *optional add-ins: roasted broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, spinach (I highly recommend these!!!)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. (If you are adding roasted broccoli to your dish, this would be a good time to start preparing that, so it can roast in the oven while you work on the rest!) You should also start boiling some water to prepare your pasta.
  2. If you have a Vita-Mix, or other high-powered blender, making this sauce is incredibly easy. Simply throw the first ten ingredients into the blender, and blend until smooth and creamy!
  3. If you do not have a high-powered blender, don't worry-- you can easily use a food processor or blender to process the cashews first, until they are finely ground, or ideally, a nut-butter-like consistency. Once your cashews are thoroughly processed, add the rest of the ingredients and process until thick and smooth.
  4. At this time, you should check your pasta. Once it's cooked to your liking, drain and rinse it, then return the pasta to the pot to be mixed with the cheese sauce.
  5. If you're adding any roasted or sauteed veggies, this would be the time to do it. I highly recommend adding roasted broccoli to this dish!
  6. Serve immediately while hot, or move on to the next step for baking.
Baking Instructions: (optional)
  1. Once you've mixed everything together, pour the mac n' cheese into an 8 x 8 square dish and garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and black pepper. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.
  2. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then serve!

 —

*Note: You could keep this dish properly combined by serving the cheese sauce over cooked spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini noodles. Personally, we were feeling the more traditional shell pasta last night, but I’m sure it would taste great either way!

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Meet Megan Gilmore

Hi, I’m Megan. A former fast food junkie turned certified nutritionist consultant, trying to make healthy living as easy as possible. I believe in eating delicious whole foods on a regular basis to help naturally support the body’s detox organs— no juice fasting required. (Unless you want to!) If you make one of my healthy recipes, tag @detoxinista on Instagram or Facebook so I can see!

436 thoughts on “The BEST Vegan Mac n’ Cheese

  1. Marcy

    My husband made this last night for dinner (he is not a cook by any means). His extent of cooking is roasting vegetables and making a salad. No more, no less.
    He roasted cauliflower and used it in place of the noodles, added spinach and mushrooms. It was AMAZING! Thank you so much for this recipe. It was easy and so freaking delicious! We had left overs and this was my breakfast, cold (and it was still freaking delicious).

    Reply
  2. saralaree

    I bookmarked this a few weeks ago and just made it today. I used a 16oz pkg of noodles because that’s what size I buy them in and it was just enough sauce to cover them generously. I have bought the boxed vegan mac but this recipe smokes that crap. I think my husband would even eat this (if there is any left when he gets home bahaha). 5 stars. Will be making this on a regular

    Reply
  3. FurBz

    Made this with roast spinach and some fresh olives, then crumbled some breadcrumbs mixed with paprika and garlic powder when I baked it. Fantastic recipe, made it to impress my girlfriend and needless to say it did A++++++++ Thankyou so much

    Reply
  4. Claudia

    I’ve made this cheese sauce twice this week already. We used it on all sorts of vegetables, on tacos and to dip chips into. Massive hit! This is now a household staple for us 🙂

    Reply
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  7. Andria

    OMG we made it this weekend added tons of spinach, broccoli and mushrooms so so good!!! Thanks cannot wait for your new book to come out. 🙂

    Reply
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  9. bertese

    Perfect! I usually add 1.5-2 times the amount of nutritional yeast than is called for – I think it makes it cheesier, and did so with this recipe. I made this for my boyfriend and his brother … his brother is the opposite of vegan and not a fan of my nut milks, cheeses, loafs, etc … but I didn’t tell him this was cashew cheese and he didn’t even ask!! This is the real deal. Thanks!

    Reply
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    1. Tracy

      This was soooo good. I was so excited to make it and my meat eating husband wanted to eat it. I baked it with broccoli that was great. After refrigeration what would be the best way to reheat? Microwave altered the texture a bit. Still good though.

      Reply
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  16. Dormowa

    This really is the best vegan mac n cheese I’ve ever tasted. I also love that it isn’t soy laden like many vegan mac n cheese recipes tend to be. Thank you so much for this awesome recipe. This will be a staple for my own weekly meal prep, as well as the gatherings I host periodically.

    Reply
  17. anne

    This is so good. But I found it really stiff and dry. While it was still hot from the oven I stirred in about 3/4 cup of almond milk. Much better.

    Reply
  18. Sue Z

    I am so excited to try your mac ‘n’ cheeze. I have loved cheese in virtually anything. Trying to detox from all of the “junk” in my foods. Thanks for your recipes. Your Cauliflower pizza crust was a hit! Love, love, love!

    Reply
  19. Baby-Vegetarian

    This recipe is AMAZING!!!!! I am a total mac-n-cheese junkie and this just made the top of my list. Unlike other “cheese sauce” recipes I have found, this one is not too limony or too blah…it’s PERFECTLY seasoned and Perfectly Creamy!!!! Love, Love, LOVE this!!!

    Reply
  20. Ashley

    Tonight was my first attempt at making this dish and I am SO happy I came across your recipe!! It was DELICIOUS and the roasted broccoli and mushrooms definitely hit the spot! A definite keeper and will be added to the rotation for sure! Thanks so much

    Reply
  21. jennifer

    is it absolutely imperative to use the nutritional yeast? If I did’t have it could I use something else? I am not vegan so open to dairy alternatives.

    Reply
  22. Eva

    To be honest, in deciding to make this recipe I had very low expectations. I’ve had a terrible experience where nutritional yeast ruined a spinach dip I made and I had never tried subbing cashew for cheese. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Although there was no cheesy texture to this dish, it was still very creamy and satisfying. I did make some modifications: I used only one cup of cashews (that’s all I had on-hand) which I soaked for 40 minutes until I blended it into a creamy paste, and only 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (I was being cautious this time). I also sauteed onions and mushrooms as suggested and added them to the pasta, put everything into a pyrex, topped it with breadcrumbs and then baked for 30 minutes. The result was phenomenal: my mac and cheese craving was fixed with a vegan dish: I can’t believe it! Great recipe! Thank you!! 5/5

    Reply
  23. chrissy

    Oh my god how is this so good this is delicious its definitely more mild than that store bought crap! Im going to make this so many times

    Reply
  24. Lori

    I made this over the weekend and it takes fantastic. I think I will steam the veggies next time instead of roasting in oven b/c I either roasted to long or something went wrong b/c I had to throw the spinach out b/c it was like a dry leaf. The other thing was how thick the sauce was. I had to keep adding a little water to get the vitamix to run. I loved the way it taste. I am thinking the chili powder really added the ummp.

    Also, I used the sunflower (unsoaked) vs the cashews. Once I tasted this sauce I was like ummm and started thinking dip, thick soup base, etc. My mind was just wondering how can I use this flavor in other ways. Thanks for sharing this recipe that I will continue to play around with.

    Reply
  25. Hez

    Because it’s THAT GOOD, I used to make this at least once a month but was eating the whole recipe so I’ve backed down to every few months. The first time I made this I baked it and found it too dry like another reader so now I don’t bake it at all. I pour the sauce on my cooked quinoa noodles (Andean Dream…no corn!) and eat straight away. This recipe will be in my repertoire for the rest of my life. Thanks Megan!

    Reply
  26. shayna

    This is amazing! I reallly wasn’t thinking I would like it because iv’e never eaten anything like it before.. This dish is the perfect example to show that you don’t have to sacrifice anything for going vegan!

    Reply
  27. Andrea

    I’ve read over the recipe a few times and just need to clarify one thing… do you soak the cashews first?? Thanks a bunch! Hoping to make this cheese into a taco bake tomorrow!

    Reply
  28. Erin engler

    This has become a staple in our house! I crave it at least once a month. To me, this recipe is a million times better than regular Mac n cheese. I always add the roasted brocolli and sautéed spinach and mushrooms. I also make more sauce because I just love the flavor. Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  29. dawn

    This is the first time trying a home made vegan cheese, and OMG it is amazing! I had no idea it could be so delicious. So I made a batch in the morning to use later in the evening for the mac and cheese, but I have already eaten half of it! Wonderful, thank you for a great recipe. Now on to soaking more cashews to so I can actually complete the dish!

    Reply
  30. julia

    this mac and cheez is a dope vegan version of a comforting classic. Love it, and have made it many times. highly recommend.

    Reply
  31. Jill Kreiss Tinsley

    Ummmm…..one part of the recipe says use 16 oz pasta and the ingredients list says 8 0z………..I’m thinking 8 oz. is what you meant as 16 oz would be a lot of macaroni. Could you let me know for sure? Thanks so much! Gonna try & make this right now!

    Reply
  32. Jill Kreiss Tinsley

    Okay, I’m back! Just made it w/ 8 oz elbow macaroni. There was plenty of sauce & being a saucy girl I would much rather have too much than not enough! I was eating a few spoonfuls right out of the pot and loved it!! I had some things in the fridge I needed to use up so I sauteed 1/2 onion, 1/4 red pepper and about 2 cups of fresh spinach and then added that to the pot. I then spread it in a baking dish, sprinkled the papriak & pepper and am looking forward to a yummy dinner tonight! Thanks for the recipe! After going vegan I really missed my mac & cheese and the boxed & frozen ones have always had a weird taste to them ….I’m much happier making a fresh version with all known ingredients! Yeah!!

    Reply
  33. Charlie

    So delicious and easy! Have made this twice already, once with spinach and once with sauteed mushrooms. Will be making again soon with the roasted broccoli. I really like how easy it is and the fact that all the steps can be done simultaneously. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Charlie

      Oops, I wanted to add that there was more sauce than needed, so I just bottled some of the sauce for later use. But next time I’m going to try it with 10 or 12oz of pasta instead so I can use all of the sauce.

      Reply
  34. Jessica

    Hi! Is it 8 oz or 16 oz of pasta? I just noticed there’s a discrepancy between the first and second listing of the recipe. Thanks!

    Reply
  35. Amy

    I love this recipe! But…is it 8 oz or 16 oz of pasta? I think it’s 8? I tried both. You have 16 oz but then Later you say 8! I tried 16 it didn’t seem to be enough sauce.

    Reply
  36. Mekenzie

    This is SO good. Ive made a few vegan mac recipes now and this is one million times better. This is… Dare I say it.. Way better than normal macaroni and cheese!!! Thank you! Now someone stop me before I eat it all before my boyfriend gets home. Yum yum yum.

    Reply
  37. Caroline

    SO delicious my fiancé and I were raving over it! I used Ezekiel noodles and added broccoli and chipotle Seitan and it was amazing! Can’t wait for the leftovers tomorrow!

    Reply
  38. Erin E

    This recipe is a staple in my house! I always make extra sauce since I love the flavor. The roasted broccoli is a must – so good. I also mince up mushrooms (my bf doesn’t like whole mushrooms) and saute with spinach before adding to the dish. I top it with breadcrumbs and bake it for 20 minutes. Superb!

    Reply
  39. Sammy

    Such an amazing meal my husband loved it too. ah it was soooo yum way better than normal mac n cheese. I didn’t have enough cashews so I used macadamias for the other half a cup. I didn’t have any mushrooms or broccoli and didn’t bake it in the end I just mixed the sauce with the pasta and was still amazing. Took me 15 minutes to make the whole meal. Thanks!

    Reply
  40. Taylor

    My boyfriend and I have made this 10 times. We bring it to gatherimgs and everyone goes back for seconds. Even the non-vegans. This. Recipe. Is. So. Amazing.

    I like to add 2 tbsp of vegan cream cheese, and we use almond milk instead of water. This mac rocks. I’m eating it right now.

    Reply
  41. Jamie

    My family loved this (especially my nephews!) but next time I’m not going to bake it. We all thought it got a bit too dried out and would taste better with a moist-er consistency.

    Reply
  42. kathy

    have made this twice – both times it was excellent.

    i added bag of chopped broccoli and used 16 ox of pasta – upped the sauce recipe by half and it made just enough sauce.

    super quick and super easy!

    not my first detoxinista recipe – and won’t be the last – they’ve been terrific!!

    Reply
  43. Nicole

    If I make this again, I’d either cut the lemon juice in half or omit it completely. I’d also use cashew milk instead of water and probably use a full cup as it was pretty dry (if baking). No one in my family liked it because it tasted “too lemony”. Made it exactly as written, using 8 oz pasta and the roasted broccoli (which turned out great!). I assumed T meant tablespoon, maybe it should’ve been teaspoon?

    Reply
  44. Jessie

    I’m sorry if this was already mentioned but I’m the first part of this entry it says 16oz pasta, but I’m the printer friendly version it says 8oz. Which is it? Thank you!! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Megan Gilmore Post author

      I originally used 8 ounces of pasta, but the sauce makes enough to cover a full pound, so it should be updated to 16 ounces!

      Reply
      1. Jessie

        I ended up doubling the sauce and using a pound of pasta. It seemed like a lot at first but it really soaked it up. And the next day for the leftovers I feel like it would have been way too dry using a pound of pasta with the original sauce amount. Now I did use a red lentil flour/brown rice flour pasta so maybe it absorbed more than a regular pasta would? Who knows haha but I think I’ll stick to this amount 🙂 it’s very delicious!!

        Reply
  45. Herman De La Cour

    I have made this twice and it’s the best “cheesy” sauce I have had. The texture, flavour and simplicity is wonderful. I used rice milk instead of water the second time which was unnecessary. Creamy cheese sauces are no longer the domain of dairy, this sauce is packed with goodness and taste without the cruelty. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
  46. Dia S

    Great sauce recipe, very simple and satisfying. I made a paleo version with zucchini noodles, sundried tomatoes, roasted broccoli and grilled chicken, no baking required. Sprinkled a little parmigiano and red pepper flakes on top. Soooo good. I also soaked the cashews for about an hour before blending and added about 1.5 tsp of turmeric for color and its anti-inflammatory qualities and upped the nutritional yeast to 1/3 cup.

    Reply
  47. Christina

    I just made this for my family and they loved it! I am on a mostly vegan diet and I am always excited when I find a recipe the whole family loves.

    Reply
  48. Bea

    I just made this cashew cheese sauce for a vegan lasagna and it is AMAZING! I am new to this vegan life and after 16 years veggie this is exactly what I needed to soothe my cheese cravings. Thank you!!

    Reply

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