The BEST Vegan Mac and Cheese (A Fan Favorite!)

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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 in white bowls

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.

vegan cashew cheese sauce in a blender and over pasta

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.

nutritional yeast and turmeric

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.

vegan mac n cheese recipe with cashew sauce

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):

vegan mac n cheese recipe with cashew sauce
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4.82 from 266 votes

The BEST Vegan Mac and Cheese (A Fan Favorite!)

This VEGAN MAC AND CHEESE recipe is tossed in a quick & easy cashew "cheese" sauce, and is as fast to prepare as the boxed version. With over 200 reviews, it's become a fan favorite!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword vegan mac and cheese
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 350kcal

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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!

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 350kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 313mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 35IU | Vitamin C: 0.1mg | Calcium: 21mg | Iron: 2.5mg
Vegan Mac and Cheese Nutrition per serving (calculated with pasta): Calories 350, Fat:11g, Carbohydrates: 50g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 12g

Recipe Notes:

  • 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 350ΒΊF 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!

Β —

Reader Feedback: Do you have another childhood favorite dish that needs a healthy makeover? Let me know in the comments below!

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Comments

Carissa

This recipe is AMAZING. This may be the most delicious vegan cheese sauce ever. My baked mac and cheese just came out of the oven, and I have already nibbled at it, I just can’t help myself. Thank you for your wonderful recipe, you are a food goddess! I am so overjoyed I found your blog, and can’t wait to try more mouthwatering yumminess from your site.

laura

I wonder if you’re still getting comments from this post? I’m up for a new recipe and on the fence between this and your creamy pumpkin sage sauce. Either way I will probably use spaghetti squash “noodles”. What’s your have?

    Megan

    Hi Laura! I couldn’t possible pick between those two recipes– we love them both! This “cheese” sauce is probably a little thicker and heavier, so it just depends on what you’re in the mood for. Hope you enjoy it! πŸ™‚

natalie

Made this recipe last week (added roasted broccoli and sauteed kale and shiitake mushrooms) and absolutely loved it!
I was just wondering if it might help to soak the cashews before making the cheese sauce, since soaked nuts are easier to blend (not to mention easier on digestion)? Or would that make the cheese sauce too runny?
Either way, thanks for a great recipe! πŸ™‚

natalie

Oops, probably should have looked through the other comments before submitting mine! Will try soaking the cashews next time. Thanks again!

Michelle

WOW! Made this tonight and hubby and I are obsessed! So delicious! Neither one of us has had a bite of macaroni and cheese since the 1990s, but now we are back to enjoying one of our old favorites in an entirely new, healthy way! Thank you so much for the recipe and all of your nutritional wisdom and scrumptious ideas :)! I used brown rice pasta shells (tinkyada brand) and after boiling it, then mixing in the “cheese” sauce, it was already perfect and good enough to eat. But we baked it anyway, as you suggested. It was tasty this way, but a little dry and clumpy (stickier) than it was before baking. So maybe next time we’ll just dig in before baking it. Is there a certain reason it needs to be baked that we are unaware of? Well, either way, this is extremely good and will become a regular addition to our table. Thank you again!

Kate

OK, I hate to be Debbie Downer here, but after all the rave reviews, I decided to try this recipe with my new Vitamix. I’m not vegan, but I am trying to add some more healthy recipes to my current rotation. I didn’t like this. At all. The consistency is great, but the sauce just tasted like spicy mustard to me.

    Megan

    Sorry to hear you didn’t care for it! Hope you have better luck with some of the other recipes.

Katy

Hi there! I came across your site via Yoga teacher Tara Stiles. She recommended the Mac n cheese, and I’m so glad I listened! I am not a vegan, and I love real cheese! Too bad real cheese doesn’t love me back. I followed the recipe exactly, and I’m super impressed with this dish! I think if you follow the measurements perfectly, you will like the taste. It’s even better reheated! Thanks!

amy

is there another nut you could recommend trying? i can’t have cashews or peanuts.

    Megan

    Macadamia or Brazil nuts may work well. Please let us know if you have any success!

Katherine

I had something like this in a vegan cafe in LA last month and vowed to find a good recipe. this looks fantastic. going to try it tonight and will make several small sized casseroles to freeze if its as good as it sounds. thank you!

Katherine

If you don’t like mustard, replace it with miso!

Hazel

Best mac n cheese I have ever made! And I have tried a LOT of recipes. This one is just perfect. Super easy to throw together too which is a huge plus. Added it to our New Years Eve dinner and I was super impressed. My hubby is a new vegan so he is still missing some of his favorite meals… so for him to say this was the best mac n cheese he has ever had, well, that’s awesome! Huge highfives to you!! Thank you for posting this recipe πŸ™‚

Katie

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.

Julie

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?

callie lee

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

    Megan

    I can’t think of a good substitute for nutritional yeast, it’s pretty unique and adds the “cheesy” flavor.

    Megan

    If you can’t find it locally, you can buy nutritional yeast on Amazon with free shipping: http://amzn.to/WOYRG3

Tammy

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!

Deshia

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!

Danielle

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!! πŸ™‚

    Megan

    I’m sorry to hear that! I guess the flavor isn’t for everyone. Hope you’ll enjoy another recipe in the future!

      Danielle

      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 πŸ™‚ Oh and the cheesecake… I’m a sweets person through and through. Thanks Megan!!!!!

Melissa

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!

nancy

i have candida so can’t have cashews or yeast – there are so many recipes using cashews – is there anything that i can substitute?

    Sarah

    Hi,
    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.

      Megan

      Thanks for letting us know! Glad you enjoyed it. πŸ™‚

Maggie

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.

RosiZee

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

Kat

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!

liz

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, sautΓ©ed 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!

Christina

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!

Vienna

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!

Aly

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” πŸ™‚ in it ?? I hope so cause I love cheese and it’s been soooooo difficult not eating it !

    Megan

    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.

Allyson

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.

Janae

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.

Holly

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!!!! πŸ™‚ I also love that the ingredients are ones that most of us vegans/clean eaters have on hand!!! πŸ™‚ Nutritional yeast is the bomb!!!! πŸ™‚

Sandra

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!!

Angie

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!!

Rebecca

Have just made this and it’s amazing:).

Brittni

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.

Nicholas

I love you

Ashley Louise

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!!

KC

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.

    Megan

    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!

      KC

      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.

    Jamie

    I omitted the mustard, having been burned by mustard in vegan cheese before. It still came out perfect. πŸ™‚

vickie

amazing recipe! i used a little less than 1 tsp. himalayan pink salt & 2 T. lemon (for the kids sake) thank you!

Morissa

Hi Megan,
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!

Rachel

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.

    Megan

    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. :/

Tara

AMAZING! I added a bit more chili pepper because I like things spicy. YU-UM!

Angie

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!

Sarah

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!!

Ann

Megan,

I am a mac and cheese officiando….and this recipe was FANTASTIC! No more cheesy mac and cheese for me. Delish!! THANK YOU!!!

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