The BEST Vegan Mac and Cheese (Gluten-free, too!)

This is simply the best Mac n’ Cheese recipe I’ve ever tasted. Tender macaroni pasta is tossed in a creamy cashew “cheese” sauce, creating a remarkably similar taste and texture to the original. It’s so easy and delicious!

best vegan mac and cheese recipe

What I love about this vegan Mac and Cheese is that it’s just as fast to prepare as the version that comes in a box with neon-orange food coloring.

While your pasta is cooking, you simply blend the creamy vegan cashew sauce in a blender until smooth. When the pasta is done, stir in the sauce and serve! It doesn’t get much easier than that.

how to make vegan mac and cheese recipe

This sauce gets its signature “cheesy” flavor from a combination of nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt. Nutritional yeast, also sometimes called “nooch,” is a deactivated yeast, so it’s thought to be safe for those following a candida diet. It’s also an easy way to add flavor to a number of vegan dishes!

Try sprinkling some on top of mashed potatoes or popcorn, for a dairy-free cheesy-flavor.

I added turmeric to this sauce for it’s almost neon-orange hue, and also for its naturally anti-inflammatory compounds. When you add just a little, you can’t taste it at all, but this ingredient is totally optional if you don’t have it on hand.

vegan mac n cheese recipe with cashew sauce

Since the cheese sauce is gluten-free, this dish is naturally gluten-free when you choose a gluten-free pasta to serve it with. For the dish pictured above, I used Banza Chickpea pasta, which turned out pretty well!

For a properly combined meal, serve this cheesy cashew sauce over steamed cauliflower florets, spaghetti squash, or zucchini “noodles” instead of a grain-based pasta.

4.44 from 152 votes
best vegan mac and cheese recipe
Print
Vegan Mac n' Cheese
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
40 mins
 

NUT/SEED/DRIED FRUIT  |  Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Egg-free, Vegan

This vegan Mac and Cheese recipe is made with a cheesy cashew sauce and tastes remarkably authentic. Naturally dairy-free, this pasta is also gluten-free when you serve this sauce over gluten-free noodles or cooked vegetables.

Course: Main Course
Servings: 8
Calories: 350 kcal
Ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard (dijon or yellow)
  • 16 ounces Elbow or shell pasta of choice (gluten-free, if needed)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • paprika , for garnish
Instructions
  1. Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the cashews, lemon juice, water, salt, nutritional yeast, chili powder, garlic, turmeric, cayenne (if using), and mustard in a high speed blender and blend until silky smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add 2-4 more tablespoons of water and blend again.

  3. Once the pasta is tender, drain and rinse it, then return the pasta to the pot and stir in the cheese sauce. Season to taste and serve warm!

Per Serving (calculated with pasta): Calories 467, Carbohydrates: 67, Protein: 16, Fat: 15

Recipe Notes:

  • Need a nut-free version? Try my Sweet Potato Mac n’ Cheese recipe, or my Cauliflower Cheese Sauce recipe.
  • You could possibly use a nut other than cashews, such as macadamia nuts or blanched almonds, but keep in mind that substitutions might change the flavor. Be sure to taste as you go!
  • I love adding roasted vegetables to this dish to make it more of a complete meal. Try roasted broccoli and mushrooms for a more flavorful pasta dish.
  • Don’t care for the extra spices? Feel free to leave out the chili powder, turmeric, garlic, or cayenne. I think they help give this recipe a more gourmet flavor, but you can keep it simple, too!

As always, if you make a modification to this recipe please leave a comment below letting us know what worked for you. We can all benefit from your experience!

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Reader Feedback: Do you have another childhood favorite dish that needs a healthy makeover? Let me know in the comments below!

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Comments

Laura

Well. That’s got to be the fastest a recipe has ever been bookmarked in this house… look at you go! Thanks for sharing!

    Megan

    Oh, good! Hope you get to enjoy it soon. 😀

    Kim

    Made this tonight, also with roasted broccoli and sautéed mushrooms. Delicious! Will become a staple for me. Thanks!

      Carl

      Wow, first of all, let me say this was amazing. The flavor is out of control good. At first I thought with all the spices that it was going to be HOT , but it wasn’t at all. It was more a zesty deliciousness that I loved. I decided to steam the broccoli instead of roasting it and it came out awesome. By the time the pasta was done I was too impatient to wait and bake it in the oven for a little longer, so I ate it as is and it was delicious. My mom was super skeptical about trying it because its vegan, but after trying just one small bite, she was hooked and wanted an entire bowl full. This recipe is a winner. Anyone who hasn’t, definitely needs to try it!

Katelyn @ Chef Katelyn

This looks foodgasmic, I want some now, send me a spoonful? 😉

    Megan

    I’d send you some, but the leftovers are already gone! Good sign, I guess. 😉

jen @ taste life

You are en fuego! That looks so awesome!

salah@myhealthiestlifestyle

I really need to get a vitamix!

    Jess

    Before I got my vitamix, I used a good quality braun hand blender in a plastic juice jug (round with smooth, straight sides). It worked really well for stuff like this. When blending nuts, if you don’t have a vitamix or blendtech, don’t add a lot of water to start, make it into a thin paste and then add more liquid. It will come out smoother. (A tip I got from someone else, when learning how to cook vegan!)

Ayla

Okay, definitely bookmarking this! I have always loved mac ‘n’ cheese but my sister? She is absolutely crazy about it and has been pushing me to make her a vegan version since she wants to start cutting back on dairy. This looks like it would do an amazing job of convincing her to FULLY give up dairy.. maybe. I can dream. 😉

Morgan Torres

Are you looking for a new job? Cause I’ll pay you to come be my personal chef…

    Megan

    Yes, I’d love to be your personal chef! I’m whipping up a batch of macaroons with YOUR name on it as we speak. 😉

      Morgan Torres

      Yes!!!!!

Lauren @Hungry Dancer

I hate to admit it but I used to LOVE the mac n cheese out of the box. But this version looks amazing! I’m going to try and give that recipe a shot this week!

hihorosie

Oh my! I made this today for lunch and everyone snarfed it! So good! Thanks for sharing your recipe. Can’t wait to make it again.

Kathy

Well, another fabulous Sunday meal. We will definitely try the broccoli and rice with “cheese” sauce. When you turn on the blender. It’s like magic. Cashew and stuff= Cheese! Way cool.

Jenna

Hi! I’m unfortunately allergic to cashews (and walnuts, pecans, and pistachios) but do you think there’s another nut substitute that could replace the cashews in this recipe? I’m dying to try it, it looks so amazing!

    Megan

    Hmmm… can you have other tree nuts, like Brazil or Macadamia nuts? I would think those would work well.

    I’ve tried using almonds before and the sauce wasn’t quite as creamy as the cashew-version, but if you soak the almonds for 4-6 hours before hand, they should blend pretty smoothly! I’d say any nut (other than peanuts… that could be gross) would work, though the flavor might be slightly different– but still good!

      Devon

      This looks simply wonderful. I’m on an anti-candida diet right now and unfortunately cashews are a no-go, so I am so excited to try this with almonds! I have whole almonds and slivered, which do you think would work best? Thanks for posting!!

      Erica

      Made this tonight and used Brazil nuts (store didn’t have raw cashews. ) it was great!

    katrina

    you can also try sunflower seeds.

      chris

      Do you think hemp seeds will work? I, too, cannot have cashews.

        Megan

        You never know until you try! The hemp seeds may affect the flavor and texture, so you might have to experiment a bit… but it’s worth a shot!

        Let us know how it goes! 🙂

        bizoune

        I never followed a recipe before and I still haven’t… I replaced the water with vegetable broth and added some Hemp seed milk to make it more creamy… Best Mac&Cheese I ever had.

    Nicole

    Try chickpeas instead of the cashews….I didn’t have enough cashews so I added some chickpeas and it was very good and had the creamy texture you would desire for “Mac and chese” 🙂

    Jaime

    There is a great recipe with sunflower seeds and veggies. Its from Isa Chandra. Its delicious. Sunflower Mac. Google it!

Yolanda

Thank you for this amazing recipe! I made this the other day and me and fiance wolfed it down. I call it crack mac n’ cheese..it’s that good:)

    Megan

    Oh good! I’m so glad you guys enjoyed it!! 😀

Michael

Great Website, Info, Recipes, and Illustrations! It seems you have put a good amount of work into your blog. Props!

My main issue is that it seems that some of your recipes violate proper food combinations. I read your section on it so I understand you are aware of them.

For example: In this recipe, please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the pasta, a starch, and the nuts, a protein ? Which is a staple bad combination ?

Also, In my research I have also read that tomatoes inhibit the digestion of starches and is a bad combination. This is because the enzyme, ptyalin, acts only in an alkaline medium; it is destroyed even by a mild acid.

Right now I am assuming maybe you are just loose with your food combining rules but maybe you know something i don’t. If so, enlighten me so I can make some of your delicious looking recipes!

Your thoughts would be appreciated.
– from a fellow Artist & Health Conscious Individual

    Megan

    Hi Michael!

    Yes, some of my recipes don’t take food combining rules into consideration, as my husband doesn’t follow these rules and many of my readers don’t, either. I feel that upgrading from traditional mac n’ cheese to this healthier version is still a great improvement for many people!

    I do try to note when a recipe isn’t properly combined, though–> as I did at the bottom of this recipe for Mac n’ Cheese. I try to recommend ways to keep it properly combined, too, like serving this “cheese sauce” over spiralized zucchini noodles instead. I usually enjoy it over a bed of steamed veggies, myself, and it’s delicious!

    Also, I don’t get into super-specifics with food combining. My body simply isn’t sensitized enough yet to feel a difference on how tomatoes affect my starch digestion. (of course, I rarely eat grains, so this isn’t an issue for me very often) I find that keeping the major food categories separate– starches, flesh, nuts & seeds, etc– is simple enough for me to practice regularly, and keeps me feeling great.

    Hope you enjoy the recipes!

Alyssa

First off, let me note that I am a huge fan of nutritional-yeast based cheeses. I’ve tried tons of recipes (and I like everyone of them) but yours is the best! Thank you! I will be linking back to it on my blog to spread the love. Love you site too by the way and your outlook on food!

    Megan

    Thanks for letting me know, Alyssa! Glad you love it as much as I do. 🙂

Andrea

I think this is my favorite thing to have come out of my vitamix EVER!!! I have an 8yr old (huge fan of boxed Mac and cheese) and a 15mo old and all our plates were spotless!! We had leftovers for breakfast (we couldn’t wait for lunch) my 15mo old even clapped when it came out of the fridge. WINNER!!! We aren’t vegan but I am trying to go natural and unprocessed and I do love a good vegan recipe!! How would I make this just a cheese sauce for maybe veggies?? Do I bake alone or casserole it??! Thanks this is my 3rd recipe I’ve made of yours and I have loved every one!!!

    Megan

    I’m glad it was such a hit!! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

    I’ve served the cheese sauce directly over a bed of steamed veggies, and have also baked it as a casserole– both ways work really well!

Andrea

After the sauce is made in the blender does it have to cook for 30 min?? Or is it ok right out of the blender? I’m making batches and freezing so I have a quick no fuss meal!

    Megan

    The sauce can be enjoyed raw– no need to cook it at all– I just warm it up before serving. 🙂

Living Outside of the Box

Oh no…you’ve done it again. Put another thing on my to-make list! AHHHH!!!!

Living Outside of the Box

Made it tonight, and loved it! Funny enough, I will never get my kids to like a “fake” mac-n-cheese, but it was a winner for me…and I’m pretty tough to please, too! 🙂 I also loved adding the roasted broccoli…I’ve never tried roasting it before…wonderful!! Thanks again!

Nicholle

Hi, is there are good substitute for cashews? I can have all other nuts but not cashews!

    Megan

    Sunflower seeds may be a good option, as would Brazil or macadamia nuts. Each may lend a slightly different flavor to the sauce, so make sure you taste it as you go, and adjust it to your liking!

Heidi

This is one of our favorite recipes, even of my cheese-loving daughter. I’m taking it to a potluck next week, and even before she tasted it, the hostess wanted the recipe.

    Megan

    Thanks for letting me know! I’m so glad that everyone enjoyed it! 🙂

Celia

Hi Megan, question for you. About how much cashew butter does 1.5 cups of whole cashews yield? I want to try your recipe but go the lazy route and use premade raw cashew butter. Thanks!

    Megan

    In my experience, 1 cup of nuts = 1/2 cup nut butter. So, I’d use 3/4 cup of cashew butter for this recipe.

    Hope you enjoy it! 🙂

Myssi

Made this for lunch and I thought it was soooo goood! My main concern was my children since they’re a little more picky than me. My most picky my 5 year old didn’t like it but my six year old, three year old, and one year old each had three helpings. When I asked my six year old if he liked it he said, “no, I LOVE it!” Now that is high praise indeed! Thanks so much for the recipe!!

amy

Hi there! Had to comment on this, because I think this recipe has saved my life. I’m a paleo girl who is allergic to gluten, eggs, beef (sob!), almonds, and dairy (both lactose and casein, and both cow and goat), and I was despairing of having anything left to eat. I had a flip-out the other day and ate one of the frozen mac and cheese dinners left in my freezer from my pre-paleo days, and almost didn’t have enough antihistamine to prevent breathing difficulties. The next day I found this recipe, and gave it a try. No more frozen dinners for me, now whenever I get the food blues I have this to cheer me up! To add in some meat protein and fat I sauteed onions and nitrate-free ham and mixed them in with roasted broccoli and cauliflower as the base of the casserole (leaving out the noodles), poured the sauce on top, sprinkled extra nutritional yeast on top to make a breadcrumb-like topping, and baked as directed, and this was absolutely stunningly delicious. Thank you!

chris

This looks awesome! Does it taste like kraft? I hae been trying to find an alternative to Kraft that actually tastes like it 🙂 Is this spicy?
Thanks!!!

Lizzie Carpenter

I’ve made this for my family three times already and we looooove it better than “regular” Mac n cheese! Thank you so much for such a wonderful recipe!

Mike

Made the whole shebang with the broccoli & shitake shrooms. The pseudo cheese sauce was very impressive & thie overall taste was delicious. Great keeper for vegans. Thanks!

Sarah

Megan, this dish is WICKED.

Now, that statement is coming from a nutritionist and passionate cook with views/”beliefs” that are identical to yours 🙂 I will never say something is AMAZING if it’s not really perfect. This mac & cheese tastes so cheesey and cheddar-y, it’s unbelievable. I topped the casserole with some stale sourdough crackers that I made (ground in a coffee grinder) to please my crumb-topping-loving husband. And my 3 year old said, “Mommy, this is really yummy in my tummy”. She’s not picky at all, but that is not a statement she makes all the time!

I am so happy I found your blog, and I will definitely try more recipes from here. Especially since all ingredients are what I use anyway and our tastes seem to be really similar. Next up, I’m going for the macaroons!

Keep up the wonderful work!

Sarah (all the way on the other side of the globe in Israel)

Anna

Just made this for dinner, saw it today rushed out to get pasta the whole family loved it! SOO GOOOD!
Thank you! You are very creative!

    Megan

    I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

Erin

I’ve been waiting to get a Vitamix to make this recipe. Purchased one three days ago, and I made it today. Holy moly, this sauce is so good! I served it over shaved zucchini for a raw pasta dish. It was a very happy dinner 😀

Ashley

I was blown away by how
Good this turned out ! I added brocoli mushroom Califlower and artichokes which I highly suggest you trying since you love them so much ! My boyfriend thinks we should trick our unhealthy eattin friends w this dish and pretend its real cheese. I also topped it w Cheddar Daiya at the end to give a extra cheesy vibe. I made your chocolate chip cookies for dessert ! Highly recommend doing that as well. I’m making the stuffed peppers and muffins tonight ! Love your site!

Lindsay

I can’t have any nuts, cashews or seeds. My body just can’t digest them well at all so I get sick from them. So is there any Vegan and Gluten Free substitution that I can use instead of the cashews in the cheese sauce? Thanks

Megan

Made this with grated zucchini tonight… strained it and got a lot of the moisture out. It was so good and authentic tasting, almost like angel hair pasta. It brought me right back to childhood… yum! Thanks Megan!

Allie

This is hands down the very best vegan mac & cheese recipe available ever. THANK YOU.

sam

you deserve a fucking award for this recipe. my mind is blown.

Lauren

This looks awesome!! I see that you talk about Candida on your website. Is the nutritional yeast in this recipe ok to eat for those concerned about Candida? If not, is there a good substitute for the nutritional yeast?

Rena

Just made this. Wow so far all your recipes ive made come out great! I used my plain old blender, not anything fancy like a vita mix. I blended the cashews first into powder then added the rest. It came together really well and quickly. At first i found the sauce a bit sweet from the cashews so i added bit more chili powder and salt. Also once i mixed it with the noodles and baked it, it really came together. I am not vegan and my husband usually HATES when i try recipes like these b.c they don’t usually come out tasting good. This time around when he tasted it, he really liked it! Even said i can make it again! Thats a huge deal! He had a plate of this and also some noodles with the oil free walnut pesto. He loved both. I am really excited about this, if you can’t tell 🙂 Thanks so much and i really cant wait to try more recipes!

lisa

I can’t wait to try this, it looks amazing! I always have an issue reheating gluten-free pasta- it comes out hard and tasteless. Assuming there is any leftovers mac and cheese, how do you suggest storing and reheating? Thanks, Lisa

    Megan

    We don’t own a microwave anymore, so I re-heat using my oven. Depending on the portion size, it usually takes about 10-15 minutes at 350F to warm up, and I find adding a splash of water to the sauce (you can stir it up to incorporate), and keeping the dish covered keeps it moist!

CindyLoo

The men in the house, who are serious gourmet (used loosely here) Mac n cheese addicts gave the recipe 2 thumbs up. The layers of flavor were impressive. Thank you!

    Megan

    I’m so glad you all enjoyed it! 🙂

Nikki

We came across your site last week and I have made so many recipes already- and this is one of our favorites- (we add sauteed mushrooms and chopped kale) In fact my 12 year old son made it today by himself! I left the cashews soaking on the counter and when I came home from the store, he had already made the sauce! I have to admit it was even better when he made it! He accidentally used Chipotle chili powder instead of reg. chili powder! Thank you for sharing a healthy substitute for his guilty pleasure!

    Megan

    Wow, lucky you! Sounds like you’ve got a personal chef in the making. 😉

AMy

So you don’t soak the cashews at all before blending? I do have a Vitamix, so it can handle it I’m sure. But I often see recipes where the cashews are soaked for 20 minutes or an hour or four hours.

    Megan

    I’m usually too lazy to soak the cashews, but it probably is better to soak and rinse them first.

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