This is the best Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe you’ll ever try. It’s quick to prepare, and just as creamy as the traditional version. Everyone loves it!
Why You’ll Love It
It’s fast to make. This recipe is just as quick as cooking the popular boxed version, only this one is made without dairy. While the pasta cooks, you can whip up the sauce in a blender!
The ingredients are simple. All you need is a handful of pantry ingredients, plus nutritional yeast for a “cheesy” flavor.
It’s truly satisfying. When you stir this simple sauce into pasta, most people can’t tell that it’s not a real cheese sauce! It’s perfect for those who need a dairy-free side dish to bring to a holiday party.
It’s allergy-friendly. This recipe can easily be made gluten-free by using your favorite gluten-free pasta. Brown rice pasta and chickpea pasta are both easy options! If you need a cheese sauce made without cashews, try sweet potato mac and cheese or my nut-free vegan cheese sauce.
Ingredients You’ll Need
What’s in Vegan Mac and Cheese?
- Raw cashews
- Nutritional yeast
- Lemon juice
- Dijon mustard
Spices like garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder can add extra flavor to the sauce, and I like to add a pinch of turmeric for an orange color. (But that’s optional!) Feel free to add a dash of smoked paprika or black pepper on top, too.
See the variation ideas below, if you’d like to try another flavor combination.
How to Make the Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
1. Cook the pasta.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Small elbow noodles will cook in just 5 to 8 minutes, while larger macaroni noodles will take closer to 10 minutes.
2. Make the sauce.
In a high-speed blender, combine the cashews, water, lemon juice, mustard, salt, nutritional yeast, and spices. Blend until very smooth.
Pro Tip: If you don’t have a high speed blender, cover the cashews with 1 cup of boiled water and let them soak for 10 minutes. This should help to soften the cashews, so they will blend more smoothly. Pour the soaked cashews (along with the warm soaking water) directly into the blender, then add in the rest of the ingredients to blend.
3. Mix it together.
When the noodles are done cooking, drain them and return the warm noodles back to the large pot.
Pour the sauce into the pot, and stir over medium heat until the mac n’ cheese is warmed through and the noodles are well coated in the sauce.
Adjust any seasoning to taste, adding more salt, as needed. You can also add an extra few tablespoons of water, if you’d like the sauce to have a more runny texture.
Serve this vegan mac and cheese warm, with any extra toppings you love. It’s delicious with veggies added in, such as steamed broccoli or roasted butternut squash, or you can add any other toppings you love.
Leftover mac n’ cheese can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You may need to add an extra splash of water when you reheat it on the stove top, since the cheese sauce will thicken when chilled.
Prefer a baked Mac and Cheese? Add an extra 1/4 cup of water to this recipe, to thin out the sauce (because it will thicken when baked), then pour the cooked pasta and sauce into a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. For a crumb topping, stir together a 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs with a 1/4 cup of melted vegan butter and a 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl, then sprinkle the mixture over the top of your mac and cheese. (Use gluten-free bread crumbs if you need to.)
Bake the casserole in an oven preheated to 350ºF for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, turn on your oven’s broiler and let the breadcrumbs brown for 1 to 2 minutes, just until the topping looks golden brown. Watch closely, so it won’t burn! For a gluten-free topping, try using chopped almonds or other crushed nuts, instead.
Green Chile Mac and Cheese. Replace a 1/2 cup of water with a 4-ounce can of green chilies. You can also add in a few slices of jarred jalapenos, for extra flavor and spice. (This is inspired by vegan nacho cheese, which is my favorite vegan cheese dip ever!)
Miso Mac and Cheese. Did you know that white miso tastes similar to Parmesan cheese? If you don’t have nutritional yeast on hand, you can add a teaspoon of white miso to this recipe to help bring out all of the cheesy flavorings in this recipe. It’s always a good idea to start small with miso, as it can start to overpower a recipe quickly, so start with just a 1/2 teaspoon if you aren’t sure about the flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make this nut-free? You can experiment with using hemp hearts instead of cashews, if you like. (This works great for vegan ranch dressing, so it might work here, too.) Otherwise try Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese, as an alternative.
Can I use milk instead of water? Of course! I recommend using a non-dairy milk that has no added sweetener, but you can use oat milk, almond milk, or even soy milk if you’d like to add extra protein to this recipe. I don’t recommend using coconut milk, unless you don’t mind the added coconut flavor.
Vegan Mac and Cheese (Fan Favorite!)
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ¾ cup water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (or ½ clove garlic)
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon spicy brown mustard (optional)
- 16 ounces Elbow or shell pasta of choice (gluten-free, if needed)
- Prepare the pasta according to package directions. Be sure to add a tablespoon of salt to the cooking water, so the noodles will be well seasoned.
- 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 another tablespoon or two of water and blend again.
- Once the pasta is tender, drain and return it to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce, and adjust any seasoning to taste. Serve warm, with any toppings or add-ins you like, such as steamed broccoli.
- Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. The mac and cheese will thicken when chilled, so you may need to add a splash of water when reheating it on the stove top, plus an extra sprinkle of salt.
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!
Questions and Reviews
can you make this with roasted cashews or do they have to be raw?
Can the mustard be omitted? My husband and I both can’t stand mustard
Yes, you can leave it out!
This is the shiznit right here! Couldn’t stop
eating it. Even my eleven year old loved it. Thank you. This is a keeper.
Great recipe, though after trying it I definitely disagree with the mustard (yellow in my case) as it overpowers everything. Will omit it next time.
stuffed peppers or stuffed cabbage needs a makeover using no meat.
My lemon was not quite big enough, so I added 1 T of lime juice and it tasted fine in the end! I used yellow mustard and also added Hatch green chilies. Certainly will come back to this and try different additions to the base recipe! Thank you
Loved this vegan cheese recipe. We used cauliflower rice instead of pasta. It was excellent! My father, 81 years old couldn’t get enough.
Can you freeze this sauce? It’s so good!!
Tried this today, practicing for Thanksgiving, so my vegan son has good stuff to choose from, and i have to say as a non-vegan it is great. Can this be made ahead? Best way to reheat and can it be frozen? Thanks so much!
I’m so glad to hear that you like it, too! I think the most successful way to make this ahead of time is to prepare the sauce up to 3 days in advance and store it in the fridge, and then make the pasta the day you plan on serving it– then just mix in the sauce when it’s ready. It should heat up pretty quickly! I usually keep my mac n’ cheese warm in a slow cooker for Thanksgiving, and if you do that, just keep in mind that the sauce might thicken up a bit in there. You can always add a splash of water, and an extra pinch of salt, if you need to thin it out again.
Just tested this out on my 6 year old son and it was a hit! He ate 2 bowls and still wanted more! Thank you so much for all your amazing recipes Megan!! It has made transitioning my family to clean eating a breeze!
This is my new favorite vegan Mac & Cheese recipe. It is absolutely delicious! My kids loved it, too. Thank you for sharing!
I’ve made this many times and it’s so good! I’m wondering if you think I could make the sauce ahead, to add to the noodles later? I’m going away for the weekend and the place doesn’t have a blender!
I followed the recipe exactly, but reduced to 5 servings and and also followed the suggestion to bake it for 15 minutes. Baking it was a mistake. It ended up quite dry, whereas before I baked it, it looked moist and creamy. I have leftovers and will make more sauce to add to it. I wonder if adding more nutritional yeast will give it a more cheese-like flavor.
This was so so yummy! Brought such relief to me now that I have to be gluten and dairy free!!! Thank you so much, Meghan!
Excellent! I added a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a few shakes of red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teasp onion powder! Perfection!!!
This was really good! I added a little olive oil to make it moister and it was great. Next time I’m going to add the roasted vegetables like you suggested.
I absolutely love this recipe to bits. I tried adding half a sweet onion, 1 tbsp of miso paste (can be labeled as soybean paste), and 1 tsp of msg (we frequent the local Vietnamese market and so it’s easy for us to get those things). Really gives the recipe a bit more of a savory umami flavor. It’s definitely delicious on its own, but if you’re looking for extra oomph, definitely try this if you can find those ingredeints near you!
This is sooooo good!! I’m eating it out of the food processor as I wait for the pasta to cook!! Thank you so much for providing the recipe for a vegan alternative that is even better then the crappy processed original! Recipes like this make being vegan so much easier!
Okay I have NEVER left a comment on a recipe before but I MUST. I’m a baby to veganism. So far its amazing, and I’m loving the experiments with foods. This is hands down an amazing vegan alternative to Mac and cheese. It’s super easy too! Science is so amazing, who knew that you could blend up some cashews and get a delicious, creamy, cheese! Your recipe is amazing. Thank you!
Aww, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! I’m so glad you enjoyed this, and I hope you’ll enjoy a lot of the other vegan recipes here on my website! The Vegan latte or London Fog are also life-changing if you drink something warm in the morning.
help! I couldn’t get the sauce creamy enough. There were crunchy bits of cashews.
Sorry to hear that! This definitely works best with a high-speed blender (like Vitamix, KitchenAid K400, Blendtec, etc) but hopefully you’ll be able to stop and scrape down the sides, and keep blending until it gets smoother. You can always add an extra splash of water to help it keep blending, too.
This is the first recipe I have made from you. I have had quite a few versions of vegan Mac N Cheese and I was excited about this one, but I found it to be too lemony and also too mustardy when I made it. If I try it again, I would probably cut back on the lemon juice and omit mustard. But then it would be a different recipe all together. Oh well, thanks anyway!
Sorry to hear this one wasn’t your favorite, Elliana. I hope you’ll find one that you love!
What makes it so fatty? I’m following a low fat diet due to gallbladder removal, so I’m trying to find a low fat mac n cheese
Hi! Can I make the sauce one day ahead? Will it reheat well?
I am a huge lover of Mac-n-cheese however recently my boyfriend and I went dairy-free (game changer!) one of my favorite things to have on Thanksgiving is Mac-n-cheese (like the 5 different cheese kind you make in the crockpot) so to be honest I wasn’t that hopeful with a dairy free version however all the reviews were encouraging…let me just say, this came out amazing! It was so easy and soo delish!!! I am thrilled! Going dairy free has been an amazing change – my body and my skin have never felt/looked better! Much gratitude to the person who posted this recipe – I am so grateful to still be able to enjoy a classic dish!
It was barely edible
This was a tasty recipe. Just one bit of input: I don’t suggest adding the mustard. I tasted what I made before I added it and it was better without the mustard. The flavor of the mustard is overpowering, even in that small amount. Thanks for your time and generosity for posting this recipe.
Fantastic. Even better the next day. I did not add a little bit of white wine vinegar. Delicious.
Excellent recipe! I sautéed an onion and 4 cloves of garlic in some olive oil and added it to the blender. I don’t have a high speed mixer so added 3/4 additional water to blend.
Super easy and taste great!! My picky kids love it!
So good! My non vegan brother even loved it. Thank you for the recipe! I loved how easy it was to make.
After reading all the great comments for this recipe, I was a bit disappointed with the outcome. I was expecting something more creamier with more flavor. I suppose I will continue my experimentation. Thanks for sharing nonetheless.
Delicious! I am not vegan, but like making/trying vegan recipes. This was a great and flavorful mac and cheese. I am excited to feed some to my other non vegan friends as well.
I love this cheese sauce of your Mac and cheese😍.I eat it with chips and air fryer fries😃.
Megan I just want to let you know that I’m a huge fan of you, and your work motivated me to become a good bloguer too.
Jesus bless you, and my prayer is that you keep giving the best of you like you always do to serve others and motivate people like you did with me.
I made this a few weeks ago and meant then to return to leave a review. I, like so many others, and trying to switch to more plant based recipes to better my health but it’s hard when you grew up on comfort food (Southern belle here)! This has been one of my favorite recipes, I blended everything in my Nutribullet and it turned out perfectly, I plan on making this for dinner tomorrow and came back to glance at the recipe again, I made it as is and it was delicious. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
My first time making vegan Mac & cheese, and I will NOT go back to the regular stuff ever again! I used chickpea pasta with mine for a gluten-free meal and let me tell you, it was so delicious!
Not the best vegan version IMO, although none of the vegan versions taste anywhere near as good as real mac and cheese. Makes me wonder if the ratings are all given by vegans who haven’t tasted real macaroni and cheese in years? Was hoping a recipe did exist, but I think when I want mac and cheese I will just eat the real thing and just not eat it very often.
Can this be made ahead and warmed up before serving?
I usually make the sauce ahead of time, and then cook the pasta the day I want to eat it, since pasta tastes best the day you make it. But, yes, I’ve reheated the leftovers, and that’s fine, too! It just needs an extra splash of water so it doesn’t get too thick.
It was a Christmas Miracle in my house-this dish won in a taste test with dairy Mac and cheese! I’ve put off making Vegan Mac and cheese because I thought it would be difficult with too many ingredients. You couldn’t have made this any easier thank you! Thank you for the tip to soak the cashews for us first timers.
This is delish! I did substitute two things, instead of water I used vegetable broth and for the mustard-Dijon mustard. Then Added Panko bread crumbs dusted with smoked paprika to top it off. Served it with New Year’s Day good luck black eyed peas, collard greens and vegan corn bread.
This was amazing. I followed recipe but also added a bit of grated nutmeg. I baked with roasted broccoli topped with paprika as you suggested but also topped with cashew parmigiana. I can’t wait for the leftovers tonight. I’ve been wfpb for almost three years but only just got a Vitamix so it’s been a long time without Mac and cheese. I’ll be making it again soon!
This is great! Thank you for making this recipe available to all.
I have a fairly new Vitamix and I buy my cashews 10# at a time. My latest batch was described as “pieces” and they came in really small, like 1/8” long. Anyways this means I didn’t have to soak and the sauce came out silky smooth.
I replaced the water with 1/2C soy milk + 1/4C water. The going was a little rough so I ended up using another 1/4C. Turned out very good!
This is CRAZY good! And this is coming from a guy that lives on meat.
My husband is obsessed with this recipe. He’s been making it almost once a week since he discovered it. It’s so delicious!
I’m so glad it’s a hit!
This was AMAZING! Even my boyfriend who is a meat/dairy lover loved it! He kept going back for spoonfuls as I made dinner. This is now a staple for us. THANK YOU!
Can you tell me what kind of nutritional yeast you use?
There are so many.
Family LOVES this recipe! I add extra nooch. Works great with shell, rotini, and penne pasta!
After being WFPBNO for three years, I finally got a Vitamix for Christmas. And I’ve made this Mac and cheese four times. It’s great! I add a bit of grated nutmeg to the sauce but otherwise follow recipe. I also add a little pasta water when combining pasta, broccoli and sauce to bake. I top with nut Parmesan in addition to the paprika you suggest. Really terrific recipe. Thank you.
I was craving some mac and cheese but I am allergic to dairy. A lot of the recipes I found online used vegan shredded cheese you can buy at the grocery store, but I’m not a huge fan of that. This recipe is amazing and seriously so fast & easy to make!!! I left out the mustard because I don’t like it and found the sauce to be a bit salty. I added more lemon juice and some oat milk and it made it a lot better. The noodles and sauce took ~20 min to make and then I put some bread crumbs and paprika on top and baked it for 10 min. I added some bacon and roasted broccoli to the finished product and it was so. good. Absolutely satisfied my craving and I have tons leftover that I can’t wait to eat tonight!
I added a bit of miso paste, lemon juice and garlic powder to try and make it a stronger cheesier flavour and it worked (in my opinion!). Love the fact I can now have a cheesy sauce when I no longer eat cheese! Thanks.
I added miso paste to make it a stronger cheesier taste and it worked (in my opinion!). Love the fact I can now have a cheese sauce even though I no longer eat cheese. Thanks.