This is the best Vegan Mac and 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. Everyone who tries this vegan Mac n’ Cheese loves it– even if they’re NOT vegan!
Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe
What I love about this vegan Mac and Cheese recipe 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 or faster than that. If you have an Instant Pot and would prefer to use that, you should also try my Instant Pot Vegan Mac n’ Cheese.
What is Vegan Mac n Cheese made of?
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. I use it in my cashew Parmesan and popular vegan queso, too!
Just one tablespoon of nutrition yeast can contain up to 38 mg of niacin, which is involved in your body’s metabolism and enzyme function. (source)
Can You Make Vegan Macaroni and Cheese Without Nutritional Yeast?
The nutritional yeast contributes a “cheesy” flavor to this sauce, so I recommend using it if you can for the most authentic taste. However, the sauce will still be creamy and flavorful without it! It just won’t have as much of a “cheesy” flavor without it.
I like to add turmeric to this sauce for it’s almost neon-orange hue, and it also contains 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. (For another way to enjoy turmeric, try my easy homemade Golden Milk!)
Can Vegans Eat Macaroni?
It’s important to check the label on the package of your macaroni noodles, but most pasta that I’ve come across is naturally vegan. (With the exception of egg noodles.) Whole wheat pasta, lentil & bean based pasta, and brown rice pasta is usually vegan in my experience.
Make it Gluten-Free
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!
If you follow food combining, serve this cheesy cashew sauce over steamed cauliflower florets, spaghetti squash, or zucchini “noodles” instead of a grain-based pasta for a properly combined meal.
How to Make Vegan Mac n’ Cheese (2-Minute Video):
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked in water for 2 hours, if desired)
- 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
Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Drain the cashews if you soaked them. (This makes them easier to blend.)
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.
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!
Vegan Mac and Cheese Nutrition per serving (calculated with pasta): Calories 350, Fat:11g, Carbohydrates: 50g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 12g
- Need a Nut-free Vegan Mac and Cheese? Try my Sweet Potato Mac n’ Cheese recipe, or use my nut-free Vegan Cheese Sauce or Cauliflower Cheese Sauce recipes.
- 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 adding roasted broccoli and mushrooms for a more flavorful pasta dish.
- For a baked Vegan Macaroni and Cheese, preheat the oven to 350ºF while you prepare the pasta and sauce. Pour the pasta and sauce into a casserole dish, along with any add-ins you like, and bake until the top looks dry, about 20 minutes. Serve warm.
- 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!
Reader Feedback: Do you have another childhood favorite dish that needs a healthy makeover? Let me know in the comments below!