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
I’ve been plant based for a year and half. I have tried many mac n “cheese” recipes. This one is pretty tasty. I used eden’s organics mustard that has apple cider vinegar in it and I think it made it taste more tangy then it would of been.It would of been good without the mustard. I ended up adding some salsa to it to neutralize the tanginess. It did the trick.
We tried this last night and loved it! I neglected to mention to my family that it was vegan. They all said they liked it – but wanted just a little more cheese in it. I said ok. I’ll tell them next time. Do you have nutritional stats for this by any chance?
Can you make this without the nutritional yeast? or is there a substatute? My walmart doesn’t sell it and I have just started eatting clean and healthy so I don’t have any on hand. Thanks
I can’t think of a good substitute for nutritional yeast, it’s pretty unique and adds the “cheesy” flavor.
If you can’t find it locally, you can buy nutritional yeast on Amazon with free shipping: http://amzn.to/WOYRG3
Hello Megan! I have made your mac n cheese twice now, once without the yeast because I didn’t have it, and the other with the yeast. Both were very good, although, the yeast gave it a cheesier flavor. My problem is that after baking it, it loses its creaminess and becomes dry. Any suggestions??? Thanks!
This is the first time I have made cashew butter or used nutritional yeast. I am not a vegan or anything just trying to eat healthier. This dish was very yummy! I included mushrooms sauteed in coconut oil. I also used Orzo instead of shells. It worked out nice! The only downside to the dish is it doesn’t reheat quite as creamy as it was when I first made it. Thank you!
Well hello. I just tried this dish tonight and it wasn’t as delightful as you said it would be. Maybe i did something wrong because it tasted very lemony and not cheesey. Or maybe this is a dish that is for people who are accustomed to vegan dishes already. I do love your website though!! 🙂
I’m sorry to hear that! I guess the flavor isn’t for everyone. Hope you’ll enjoy another recipe in the future!
Don’t worry, I’ve already made the Spicy “tuna” Rolls, the almond butter, the almond butter fudge, and tonight is going to be the Roasted Red Pepper “cream” sauce. I have plans to make the Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream probably Friday 🙂 Oh and the cheesecake… I’m a sweets person through and through. Thanks Megan!!!!!
I came across this recipe awhile ago and have been trying to find a good time to make it ever since. I just made it tonight and it is SO GOOD. My add-ins were sauteed mushrooms, steamed broccoli, and steamed peas. I kept going back for more. Good thing I have plenty of leftovers. Great recipe!
i have candida so can’t have cashews or yeast – there are so many recipes using cashews – is there anything that i can substitute?
I don’t know how old your post is, but I’m replying anyway. Due to my kids’ nut allergies, I have substituted tahini for cashews in similar recipes, and it works well. That said, I haven’t had the cashew version.
Thanks for letting us know! Glad you enjoyed it. 🙂
Just made this (the bowl sits next to me as I type). Holy Toledo! What a wonderful recipe – can’t believe there’s no cheese in this. I don’t have a Vitamix but have a good quality food processor. I soaked my cashews overnight. I added mushrooms & green peas to this. My 19 yr. old son gave this “thumbs up,” which is saying more than you’ll ever know.
I made a cauliflower cheese version of this recipe tonight and it was INCREDIBLE! Will be making this sauce again definitely! Will try the raw cheesecake recipe next. Thank you so much x
This was amazing! My go-to comfort meal is mac n cheese and chili cheese dogs. Not exactly the healthiest meal! I’m lactose intolerant as well so finding a decent mac n cheese recipe that tastes good and is good for you that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg with the ingredients is hard to come by. This was delicious. It took me a bit to find the nutritional yeast but I’m glad I didn’t give up. I had a hard time getting the cheesy sauce to the right thickness so I had to add about a half cup more of the cashews, which ups the recipes fat and caloric value, but not by a whole lot and it was worth it. I personally prefer Dijon mustard over yellow, but it almost came out a little too mustard-y so I think next time I will cut back a little on the mustard and up the nutritional yeast for a more cheesy flavor. The husband is gone for the next few days on business and this will definitely be my dinner for the next few days! So delicious! Thank you!
So-I just made this for dinner and LOVED it! We added some extra cayenne because I love a good kick in the taste buds :o) Brown rice noodles, sautéed mushrooms and spinach-and did not have the yeast flakes so I will have to try it again soon. GREAT recipe-I even posted it on my Facebook&Instagram to share with others!
This is an amazing recipe! I have been veggie for over 10 yrs and scared to try vegan mac and cheese – I am sorry I have waited so long. I put peas, onion, garlic, peppers, and a couple veggie burgers to give it extra protein. Rice noodles have gotten much better over the years, too. I am making this again and have been raving about it to other friends. Thanks!
This was very good. A cheesey taste. Wouldn’t fool anybody but it is delicious in it’s own right. For those that made comments about mustard or lemon make sure it is level tsp/Tbs. I even used half the mustard and it tasted good. Can always add the rest. Excellent suggestion for the add-ins; I used mushrooms and spinach as that is what I had. So good!
I’ve just started experimenting with Vegan recipes and lots of them call for nutritional yeast, like this recipe. Is it for taste or for nutritional value ?? Going to try this recipe tonight, do you think it could fool anyone into thinking there is cheese and not “cheese” 🙂 in it ?? I hope so cause I love cheese and it’s been soooooo difficult not eating it !
The nutritional yeast is added for a “cheesy” flavor. I think it depends on who you want to “fool,” too. My husband gobbled it up, and I didn’t even tell him it wasn’t cheese until he was halfway done with his plate! But, I’ve heard that others wouldn’t be “fooled” into thinking it wasn’t really cheese… but, either way it’s a tasty sauce! I’d probably serve it to guests as “Mac n’ Cheese” and wouldn’t expect them to question it.
I just made the recipe and it’s delicious. I added roasted broccoli and spinach. I’m thinking next time I might also add some sauteed leeks. This recipe is a keeper– a “go to” recipe. I loved it.
I am a new vegan and giving up mac and cheese was for sure the hardest thing for me. I found this recipe and I was scared because I didn’t think it could be comparable, but it is! I am not easy to please. I am picky, and I am especially picky when it comes to my mac and cheese. This is so good. I promise, everyone should try this, vegan or not.
WOW!!!! I finally got around to making this and my family LOVED it and all said it was so delicious and asked for seconds!!!!!!!!!!! I haven’t had mac ‘n cheese for YEARS and I gobbled this up!!! I will be making it again SOON!! My one tip though is to reduce the baking time to about 5-7 min…just enough for it to be hot. It was so creamy and delicious before I baked it, but afterward, seemed pretty dry, so I ended up adding about a 3/4 cup of almond milk…so, the next time I make it I’ll just pop it in the oven for about 5 min. or so. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART for this amazing recipe that I will be making for YEARS!!!! 🙂 I also love that the ingredients are ones that most of us vegans/clean eaters have on hand!!! 🙂 Nutritional yeast is the bomb!!!! 🙂
WOW!!! I just made this for dinner and it is so good!!! YUM! I followed the directions exactly except I didn’t have any paprika. I used dijon mustard not yellow…And it is amazing. The only change is I will cook it a little less next time to keep more of the creamy texture. I plan to make this often!!! Thank you so much!!
I loved this one. I will admit that it didn’t make it to the oven. We tried it after we mixed it all together and couldn’t stop! Thank you!!
Have just made this and it’s amazing:).
I have a casein & soy intolerance so I have missed mac n’ cheese the most. I made this last night and seriously died and went to heaven. Thank GOD I looked online if nutritional yeast was different than active dry yeast, that would have not been pretty. I already sent this to two friends.
I love you
Thank you so much for this recipe. I am a massive mac and cheese fan aswell as a 2 minute noodle fan but when I learnt about the ingredients in them I had a mind shift and haven’t touched the things in over 2 years. I just made this vegan mac and cheese recipe and I swear I died and went to heaven. I will be making this a lot, thank you so much for being so creative!!
Can’t anyone make a mac and cheese recipe without mustard? Every recipe I’ve ever seen, and every boxed vegan mac and cheese I’ve seen, contains mustard. It smells HORRIBLE and rancid and I can’t stand the taste, and there’s a lot of people out there besides me who feel the same.
If you don’t care for the flavor of mustard, just leave it out. That’s why homemade versions are so easy– you can change the flavor to suit your tastes!
Thanks Megan! I thought maybe the mustard had something to do with the texture and if I left it out it might mess up the recipe.
I omitted the mustard, having been burned by mustard in vegan cheese before. It still came out perfect. 🙂
amazing recipe! i used a little less than 1 tsp. himalayan pink salt & 2 T. lemon (for the kids sake) thank you!
I made this dish recently and was ecstatic by the votes of “yes” that I received from the rest of my family. Thank you!
Now I’m planning to make this dish for a friend with a new baby. Would you recommend doing all the prep and giving it to her with instructions to cook, OR cooking it for her and knowing that it will go in her fridge before she reheats it to serve to her family?
Thank you again! Delish!
This did not work for me. Maybe it was the type of yeast. It did not smell appealing and the taste was disappointing. Maybe it was the type of yeast that I used. I don’t know what went wrong.
Yes, if you used the wrong kind of yeast it would make a world of difference! I accidentally bought Brewer’s yeast once, and the results were terrible. :/
AMAZING! I added a bit more chili pepper because I like things spicy. YU-UM!
I have an ultra-sensitive stomach, and lactose intolerance so I’ve had to give up a lot of the rich foods. I made this last night and added the roasted broccoli as recommended. My husband asked “so what kind of cheese is in this?” It was really good and really easy to make. Thanks for the recipe! Keep ’em coming!
Absolutely fantastic! I have been searching for a go to baked macaroni and cheese and have tried soooo many recipes. I always feel sick after just a little bit and thought I could be lactose intolerant. I tried your recipe with some roasted garlic broccoli and was shocked at how much better this was than ANY of the ones I had tried before! The only thing I do (because I love cheese, I just apparently can only have a little) is sprinkle a little layer of breadcrumbs and then a light layer of cheese before I bake it.Oh and I also use whole wheat mini or large penne. Perfect for anyone that’s not necessarily looking for vegan or grain-free, but wants a DELICIOUS and super fast meal!!
I am a mac and cheese officiando….and this recipe was FANTASTIC! No more cheesy mac and cheese for me. Delish!! THANK YOU!!!
I have been meaning to make this dish for a while, and I finally did. WOW!!! This recipe is AMAZING! It tastes soooo good and really does taste like cheese. Even better in fact! Thanks 🙂
Hello! I made this last night using all of the specified ingredients making sure I bought the right yeast (Bragg in GF section) etc. and it didn’t taste right, tasted sour/bitter. Know what I did wrong? I used all of your exact ingredients except I used 1/2 tsp of brown spicy mustard because that’s all I had. Did you mean the powdered mustard by chance? Would that make a difference?
I LOVE Mac and Cheese and I’d love to make this properly!! I’m sure it’s FABULOUS.
Giving it 3 stars because it didn’t taste good :/ hoping I can come back and fix that!
Trish, if there’s a Whole Foods near you, try their bulk nutritional yeast flakes. They’re delicious!
I just finished making this. My husband couldn’t believe that it was vegan & I am so happy to finally be able to have Mac n’ cheese again (dairy allergy). This was better than other Mac n’ cheeses I’ve had in restaurants. Thank you! Keep these awesome recipes coming!
Can I just say how completely grateful I am that I found your blog. Every single recipe I see looks so amazing. My heart is full of love for you 🙂 <3
is this spicy from the cayenne? i like spicy but i would be making it for my little girl and I.. should I skip that ingredient?
I am in process of making this. I’m waiting for my pasta to cook but I tasted the “cheese sauce” OMG! I’m in love!!! this is soooo good. I’m not vegan but I like to try different things. this will be my go to sauce when I need a cheese sauce for vegetables or pasta. I made a vegan Mac and cheese from another site and though it was tasty this is the BOMB!
This is the best cheese sauce I’ve ever had!!
I just made this and I CANNOT believe how yummy it is!!! Thank you so much!! 🙂
Trying a little switch out tonight on the family. I love how delish this is!
Allow me to add that my seven year old son is home from school and he is the pickiest of them all. He is happily chowing down! Thank you!!!
Wow! I was honestly surprised. I previously tried the recipe for vegan “cheese” from the widely cited Uncheese Cookbook and that turned out gross. This was really creamy and comforting with a hint of spice. My boyfriend HATES vegan food, and this fooled him – he actually liked it!
Omg I just made this! It’s soooooo yummy! I’m lactose intolerant and a vegetarian and this is a blessing!! Yum yum nom nom! Thank you! Ps the roasted broccoli was a brilliant addition!
It’s amazing! Very impressed! I loved the texture of eggplant lasagna and of this mac n’ cheese! It’s great making this healthy stuff with all the flavour and texture. Thank you so much 😀
This was very yummy, but my family enjoyed it without baking! We’ll have to try baking it too 🙂
Thanks for the recipe. Also, is this good a day old? Or should it be served fresh?
This recipe is absolutely fantastic! I must say, I have never ranked any recipe online, but this is definitely my favorite non-dairy recipe ever!!! I loved the veggies, and I think I will make extra cheese next time, b/c I think it soaked up a little more than I would have preferred when I baked it (could be my oven). The flavor was still outstanding though!!! Thank you so much!
can i get the nutritional value for your recipes?
Please see my FAQ regarding nutrition info: https://detoxinista.com/frequently-asked-questions/
This was the best vegan mac n’ cheese I have ever made, it’s so creamy and cheesy even my coworkers didn’t notice it was vegan until i told them. Next time however I’ll think I’ll pass on baking it, the sauce baked onto the pasta and wasn’t nearly as saucy as I would have hoped for. Still, I have definitely found my new favorite comfort food.
Do you have any nutritional information on this dish?
Looks yummy. Was interested in calories/sodium/carbs..
oops just saw the other commenter and where you referred for nutritional info. thanks!