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Meet the best Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe you’ll ever try. It’s quick to prepare and tastes just as delicious and creamy as the traditional version!

vegan mac and cheese lifted on spoon.

This recipe is just as fast as the popular boxed version, only it’s made without dairy. While the pasta cooks, you can quickly whip up the plant-based sauce in a blender.

When you stir the simple vegan cheese sauce into pasta, most people can’t tell that it’s not the real thing. It’s perfect for those looking for dairy-free comfort food.

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

vegan mac and cheese ingredients labeled in glass bowls.

All you need is a handful of pantry ingredients, plus nutritional yeast for a “cheesy” flavor.

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

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.

While the noodles are cooking, combine the cashews, water, lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, nutritional yeast, and spices. Secure the lid and 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.

vegan cheese sauce mixed in blender.

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 to help loosen the sauce if needed.

cheese sauce poured over pasta.

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 stovetop since the cheese sauce will thicken when chilled.

Flavor Variations

Prefer 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. 

vegan mac and cheese served in small white pots.

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.

 Looking for more vegan comfort food? Try Vegan Quesadillas, the Best Veggie Burgers, Vegan Pad Thai, or Lentil Bolognese for more ideas.

vegan mac and cheese lifted on spoon.

Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

4.75 from 405 votes
Vegan Mac and Cheese is just as quick to prepare as the boxed version! Tossed with a quick creamy sauce, everyone loves this dairy-free alternative.
prep10 mins cook10 mins total20 mins


  • 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.



Nutrition information is for roughly 1 cup of prepared mac and cheese. This information is automatically calculated, and is just an estimate, not a guarantee.
Don’t have a high speed blender? Use 1 cup of boiled water in that case, and let the cashews soak in the hot water for at least 10 minutes before blending. This will help them break down more smoothly.
Looking for a nut-free recipe? Try Southwest Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese, or my nut-free vegan cheese sauce.
Video Note: I made a mistake in the video for this recipe and used only 1 cup of cashews. The result was still delicious, so if you are short on cashews, feel free to try using that amount without changing the amount of other ingredients.


Calories: 352kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 325mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 38IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vegan mac and cheese

If you try this Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like it.

Megan Gilmore leaning on her white countertop.

Megan Gilmore

Hi, I’m Megan. A former fast food junkie turned best-selling cookbook author. I create healthy recipes made with simple ingredients to make your life easier.

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  1. Just came across your website and you are totally motivating me to eat better so thank you. I definitely have to try this recipe. If I may,I’d love to share a favorite vegan pesto recipe with you that I found. I use it with my organically grown NJ garden zucchini. I just peel the zucchini in thick strips and boil in water for one minute. It’s nice to see eating healthy can taste really good and I never realized how good nutritional yeast can be in place of cheese. Enjoy and be well.
    Vegan Pesto
    1/3 cup pine nuts ( toasted I toaster oven or on the skillet)
    2/3 cup olive oil
    5 cloves garlic
    1/3 cup nutritional yeast
    1 bunch fresh basil leaves
    salt and pepper to taste
    Blend all ingredients in a food processor

  2. A new follower of your blog … wonderful recipes! I must admit I REALLY had my doubts about this recipe and how good everyone made it sound. I’ve been a vegetarian for years but just recently have been switching to eliminating all dairy and oil… such an understatement that letting go of cheese is difficult! Honestly, my diet sort of revolved around cheese and it’s “rightful” place at many meals. So I made this last night. I simply had to after reading all the reviews. OH MY GOODNESS … I consider my family cheese snobs of sorts and THEY LOVED IT! My husband was even back for seconds and thirds. Definitely a winner, winner, winner … and wouldn’t hesitate to try this sauce on company, too! Thanks for the great recipes!

  3. Thanks for this recipe it was so delicious! I was thrilled when I saw that there’s no oil in the recipe. A side note, however, I felt that the lemon flavor was a little too strong so I would scale it back to about one or two tablespoons. I plan on adding broccoli and I’m sure it will balance out the flavors.

  4. I know that neon looking is not appealing most of all because we know it’s artificial… but I have a version of “mac and cheese”, with no cheese of course, my daughter loves it!:

    I steam carrots, sweet potatoes, when softened I blend them with a little bit of sea salt, you can add turmeric if you like… this mixture sounds simple but it’s delicious… Also use that quinoa pasta and I love it! By the way, yes, the color is neon, but carrot/sweet potato neon!

  5. Hi Megan – With so many brands of nutritional yeast available, would you be able to let us know which brand you use? Thanks!

  6. I just discovered your website and can’t believe what extravagant and delicious recipes I will be enjoying with my family! I have shared your website with MANY fiends and on FB!! Hope that’s ok. I’m a new fan!!!

  7. My daughter and I loved this recipe. The “cheese” sauce tasted just like real cheese. 🙂 Thank you!

  8. Hi! So this looks delicious but I am confused about the nutritional yeast. Should I use brewers or bakers yeast and what brand would you recommend? I really have no idea about nutritional yeast. Thanks!

  9. I made the cheese sauce and it is deeeeeeeelishous!!!!! I’m loving it! Just had a spoonful of sauce all by itself! Thanks so much!