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
Sooooo good. 🤤😋
Great recipe. Tastes amazing, did not have nutritional yeast but still tasted great
I regularly make this as a quick meal for one person by making 1/3 of the recipe, makes such a delicious sauce and so quick and easy. I sometimes add broccoli to the pot when my pasta is almost done and also a handful of chopped kale right before I drain the pot for some added greens. Thanks for the recipe!
just made this and it is sooooo delicious
Can you use this without lemon juice??
I made this cheese today. I had homemade gnocchi that I mixed with. It was so lovely. I highly recommend this sauce. It taste like Kraft mac n cheese.
This is one of my favorite recipes of all time! I’ve been making it at least once a week for like two years now and it never gets old. I’m obsessed.
This best Mac n cheese is devine. I’ve made it twice and again tonight. We don’t miss the ewey gewey melted cheesey flavour. I’ve served it to friends as a casual.mesl and they all wanted more. So thankyou.
This really hit the spot for cheese cravings, I think it might be my new favourite meal. My omni housemate didn’t even believe me it isn’t real cheese, thankyou!
It tasted good but doesn’t seem as creamy as it looks in your photo. I even added water🤷🏻♂️
Delicious as written!! Next time I might just add a side salad because if not, I seriously could eat the entire pan of the mac & cheese. So quick, so easy and so tasty.
Absolutely incredible. This is the fastest recipe of all time and it totally satisfied my craving for vegan Mac and cheese on a cold and rainy day. Totally wowed, thank you!
Hi! I made this last night and although very tasty, it became super dry as it cooled to eating temp… I love a saucy pasta so I even used less pasta when mixing it in. Any tips on how to make it more saucy? Or do I just make another batch of sauce?
You can add more water to make it saucy again! Reserve some of the starchy pasta water if you can, since it will add a little more creaminess, too. Just keep in mind that extra water will slightly dilute the flavor, so I usually compensate by adding an extra pinch of salt as you go.
Do you have to use a blender? Would a good processor work?
I loved 🥰 this recipe and I’m not even vegan, I just want to cut back on my cheese intake. So good and easy to make. I added chopped tomatoes and chopped fresh spinach leaves. I don’t think I’m going to miss the regular Mac n cheese, plus it’s quick to make! Bravo 👏🏽
For me it was too much lemon juice although I cut back to 2 Tbsp. I’ll use oat milk next time. Thanks for the recipe. Enjoyed the spices!
This is a staple in my household! I make two baked 13×9 casseroles every week (we quadruple the sauce for 2lb of pasta because we like it saucy).
If I’m short on lemon juice, can I sub ACV for some of it? I usually slightly reduce to 2.5 tbsp lemon juice per batch, and for a quadruple today I only have 4 tbsp when I need 10. If adding ACV is a good idea, how much would you suggest?
The recipe says 1 1/2 cups of cashews, but in your video you say 1 cup. Which one is correct?
Yes, that was a mistake in my video, but it actually turned out very similar, so you can save yourself extra cashews if you want to use only 1 cup.
Thank you for answering so quickly With the price of raw cashews now, I’ll be happy to save 1/2 cup of cashews each time.
This is the best recipe I’ve tried, bar none. It’s cheesy. I quick soaked my cashews and followed the recipe to a T otherwise. This is delicious and is permanently in my recipe book.
What could you use instead of lemon juice ? Thanks 😊
This recipe is amazing, thank you. I want to make a batch of sauce for my son, is this okay to freeze?
Delicious! I used mini penne as that was what I had. My SIL who is most definitely not vegan loved it, as did my husband who doesn’t even really like mac and cheese. Super easy to make, will be a regular for us!
I’m not fond of dairy-free cheeses so this is perfect, however I used to love a traditional macaroni and cheese that called for an egg. It created an insanely good texture when baked. Could I add one here and if so, when? Just wondering if it would create a casserole similar to the one I used to know and love.
this recipe is fire. been making it for like 3 years now…. always come back to it.
Maybe because this was my first time making “cheese” sauce without cheese, this was terrible. I told my husband to pretend it wasn’t actually mac and cheese. To call it maybe salty pasta instead. He said it looked like smooth egg salad on noodles and tasted like nothing he’d ever eaten before. We ate it, but both of us felt sick the rest of the night. I’m sorry- I really wanted to like this, and maybe if my expectations had been different, I would’ve liked it better. I talked with a friend who is vegan and she laughed and said that you really *can’t* make a cheese sauce without cheese that tastes right. I’m just commenting for those of you who think this is possible to save you from wasting $$ on cashews and nutritional yeast products.
Thanks for the recipe, super quick and delicious. I would normally buy the Daiya boxed Mac and cheese but it was out of stock so I went hunting for a scratch recipe. I’ll never go back! Great seasonings.
This recipe is amazing! I made extra “cheese” and use it as a dip too!
Excellent recipe, thank you very much. It was quick to make and has great ingredients. I actually cooked the garlic first in olive oil prior to adding to the vegan cheese mixture. Served with a side of broccoli, it’s made for a delicious lunch.
I’ve made this recipe so many times, I’ve lost count! I use it not only for mac & cheese but also for sauteed veggies and a spread for avocado toast! So flavorful, it goes on everything!
I don’t usually leave comments on recipes but omg this was so yummy, creamy, simple and easy to make! My three-year-old just told me that he loved it and rubbed his belly too. Thanks for this recipe!
Love love love this recipe
OUTSTANDING!!! I’ve made this and it is so wonderful! My carnivore, dairy eating husband even likes it. I use quinoa pasta from Trader Joe’s.
I have loved this recipe since we started eating whole foods plant based. However, did you change the recipe recently?? I remember less water and real garlic instead of powdered. Or am I crazy?
Hi Cindy! I did just change the water back to the original (3/4 cup) in case you prefer it that way. I usually need to add an extra 1/4 cup of water to make it blend the way I like it, but everyone might have different preferences. And I did add the garlic powder option, because I thought calling for a 1/2 clove of garlic might be a pain for the average cook, but you can use the 1/2 clove of fresh garlic instead. Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying it!
I finished it with truffle oil and fresh cracked pepper and OMGGGGG!
Loved this M&C! Easy to make and yummy to eat. Thank you
Ive cooked this recipe SO many times I had to leave it a 5 star review!
Would this recipe freeze well?
this literally tastes awful
This recipe shouldn’t be allowed free OMGGGGGG. The sauce is crack 🤤. When I don’t feel like making Macaroni, I cut the sauce ingredients in half and guesstimate the spices which turns into the perfect cheesy dip.
This recipe while great needed some tweaks, First off I doubled the amount of turmeric used, which made the color closer to the cheese color, I also added another 1/8th cup of nutritional yeast, 1.5 cloves of garlic, and got rid of 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Lastly, I suggest blending the liquid for around 10-15 minutes while slowly adding more and more water until the liquid is very smooth. This recipe was great but definitely needs a little love.
Super easy and delicious. I made the full recipe of cheese sauce, but only enough noodles for 2 seevings as gf noodles don’t do so well the next day. We really enjoyed the mac and cheese. Then, we dipped some bagguette in some cheese sauce as well, because we wanted more. It’s so delicious. Thank you for another lovely recipe.
Super simple and easy to make. Amazing taste, texture and perfect color.!
I love this recipe! Super easy and delicious!!