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’m obsessed with your website Megan! I just made it and it was delicious! I’m glad it served for 4, because I can enjoy this for the next three days as my lunch! Thanks for the recipe!
Btw I substituted the cashew for cashew butter since I don’t have a Vitamix 🙂
Hi Megan 😀 I’m such a huge fan of your recipes and can’t wait to try this one! I was wondering how important the nutritional yeast is in this recipe? I live in New Zealand and it’s just one of those ingredients I can’t seem to find anywhere.
I am so happy that I stubled upon your blog today! I love all the healthy vegan recipes!
I made tonight and it was good, but the tangy kinda throws me off. Is this bc of the mustard? If so, can I just eliminate the ingredient and it still taste like Mac?
Thanks so much!
This is the best sauce I have ever made. Thank you so much!
This looks absolutely wonderful and delicious! What sort of nutritional yeast should I use? Where could I get it? Sorry but I have no idea about nutritional yeast. Thank You!!!
Oh my God I love you! 🙂 Thanks for the amazing recipe!
Just discovered your site yesterday, saw this recipe, and HAD to try it, particularly when many reviewers with picky eaters said that everyone enjoyed it. I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy about two years ago (the worst news I could have gotten, as I LOVE all things dairy!). Have been missing mac and cheese…well, it was a hit, and my boyfriend, who can eat the real thing, enjoyed it as well. You hit a home run! Thank you!
I just put the ice trays in the freezer w/ your pesto – and noticed this complements the ingrediants I have already picked up at the store this week! perfect. I HATE those vegan cheese products and Im thrilled to find something that fits all of my Whole Food Plant Based needs 🙂 Thanks
Can’t wait to try this! Could I use this recipe (cheese sauce) for fondue, or do you have a fondue recipe?
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!
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!
It must say “Nutritional Yeast” on the package– I recommend Bragg’s brand like this: http://amzn.to/Xj7Dxw
My daughter and I loved this recipe. The “cheese” sauce tasted just like real cheese. 🙂 Thank you!
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!!!
Hi Megan – With so many brands of nutritional yeast available, would you be able to let us know which brand you use? Thanks!
I always buy this brand: http://amzn.to/Xj7Dxw
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!
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.
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!
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.
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
Is there any way I can substitute in Cashew butter instead of Cashews. If I don’t have raw cashews?
In general, 1 cup cashews = 1/2 cup cashew butter, so I’d use that ratio for substitutions.
Your recipe locks yummy
Thanks for the recipe
Made this last night! Even my roommate who whines when I make anything vegan ate three bowls. Did tweak it a bit (flax milk, and a little bit more cayenne). Was very satisfied, took it to work for lunch today and even my students wanted to try it and loved it.
Make it for my family tonight. I think my kids would have liked it better with the veggies on the side. There were no leftovers.
I’m in my second trimester of pregnancy and about a month ago I started craving mac and cheese like crazy. I mean, obsessed about it for days. So much so that I broke down once and got some at Boston Market. Given that I stopped eating dairy several months before (plus all the other chemicals that are surely in their concoction), I was desperate to find a healthy vegan option that would satisfy these killer cravings. Which means it had to taste cheesy. This recipe does that and my husband loves it too. Now I can eat my “mac and cheese” without guilt the rest of my pregnancy, thank you!
I have made this twice already – it is amazing! I don’t think it really tastes like the regular old mac & cheese, but being brought up in a “foodie” household, I don’t mind at all. It’s just a fantastic dish. I actually have cravings for this! The 2nd time I made it, I didn’t bake it and it was still just as good. I made it for my immediate family and they loved it, now I want to bring it to a family reunion!
Again, great recipe!!
Wanted to know how the mac n cheese dish freezes due to gluten-free pasta? Tx
This is so good. Very satisfying in taste and texture. Believably cheesy tasting, I could easily eat this and not miss dairy mac & cheese. I wouldn’t say it’s exactly the same but the fat from the nut base makes it just as satisfying. My computer is acting up so the star rating isn’t working but I give this recipe 5 STARS!
Is there any way you could post the Nutritional Information for all of your recipes? By the way, this recipe ROCKS!
Very tasty! and quick to make.
This was incredible! YUUUMMMMMYYYY! I added some peas, and that is all. My husband (who is a carnivore) even loved it. This is one that I will make regularly. It was fast and easy to make as well. Thank you!
!!!!! SO delicious, just cut out dairy from my diet and knew i would miss mac and cheese. i tried a different recipe with similar ingredients that just didn’t taste that great. Your recipe is AMAZING! even better the next day, thank you so much! your website is now my go to recipe finder, cant wait to make the parmesan cheese! you just know me too well!
I recently was forced to go on a milk elimination diet while nursing my fifth child. I was devastated. I rely on milk for cream sauces to help stretch meals for our large family. This was a great recipe. I didn’t like the baked consistency, so next time I will make the sauce and warm it on the stove before pouring over noodles. Don’t bake if you like creamy texture!
I can’t find nutritional yeast so with what could I substitute it with?
This looks amazing! My little nephew is allergic to eggs, milk and peanuts. We have been in search of a mac n cheese recipe for him!
Is there anyway to substitute the cashews in the sauce recipe? I’m intolerant to dairy, eggs, gluten, wheat, beef and cashews.
I just made this with almonds as I had no cashews; I wouldn’t advise it, the taste was ‘unusual’ to say the least…however, after reading all of the other comments I will get some cashews and try it again.
Have you thought about substituting the cashews for pinenuts?
I also found it very salty, so instead of 1.5tsp of salt I’ll just use a pinch
Hope this helps!
I’ve done a lot of experimenting with vegan mac and cheese and this one is for sure my favorite!! I usually put either roasted broccoli or sauteed mushrooms in there – YUMMM!!!
I LOVE this recipe!!! It is the best Macaroni ever and I did like Kraft : )
I make the “sauce” ahead of time then We spiralize either zucchini, summer squash, carrots or cucumbers (my husband can’t tell the difference between a zucc and a cuke)…
anyway we lightly steam the noodles with frozen or fresh Fennel, Peas, Mushrooms and very thinly sliced Kale/Collard/Chard whatever, and it is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO tasty, FAST (Working mother here) and healthy! I can’t tell you enough about how much I appreciate this recipe! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
I made this last week for my family. My kids use to love mac n cheese back in the old days, the days before no cheese. So, when I saw this recipe I thought I would suprise them. I made it not knowing what the response would be. WELL, I was instructed by my 12 and 13 year old that I need to double the recipe next time! It sounds like they LOVE it! Yahoo, thank you so much!
My very carnivorous and mac-n-cheese-loving boyfriend was blown away by this. I threw this together for our dinner tonight and it was so easy, it almost makes itself. I added the roast broccoli and can’t imagine it any other way, except perhaps to add roasted butternut squash and shallots in stead. Another bookmarked recipe! Brava!
I’m going to make this dish this week. I wish I knew the calories and fat etc.
OMG!!! I have been looking to cut dairy back in my diet, but I soooo like cheese, and mac n cheese has always been my most favorite comfort food. Thank you! I didn’t have any chili powder or cayenne pepper but did have paprika, so I just substituted that and added a little extra turmeric. This was so delicious that I didn’t want to wait to bake it. I just added fresh spinach, which I stirred right in with the pasta and sauce. My sinuses and my tummy thank you for a most delicious dairy alternative recipe!
Winner Winner Vegan Dinner!!! I made this last night and my family inhaled it. Husband had 3rds and daughter #1 had seconds. I added the roasted broccoli to it and then had some more broccoli on the side. I think mushrooms would make a GREAT addition along with sliced tomatoes on top (while baking). Thanks!
Made this last night as a trial-run of sorts for our first Vegan Thanksgiving- Best. Dish. On the table. Hands down- after the guests left, I pulled the leftovers out of the fridge and ate it straight out of the bowl, cold.
THIS CHEEZE SAUCE RECIPE IS AMAZING. We have tried many recipes (New Farm Cookbook, Vegan Vittles, How it all Vegan) This one is by far the best! We have used your cheeze sauce recipe for a Mexican-style rockfish casserole (layered tortillas, rockfish, spinach, veg, etc topped with the cheeze sauce – we doubled the chili powder – and baked) It was unbelievably delicious. 5 stars on this one. Thank you for posting!!!
Made this last night. Sooooo delish!!! Even Hubs, who is a carnivore loved it! Didn’t even know it was Vegan until I told him.
Your recipes are giving us hope! We made the green bean casserole last night and tonight, this mac and cheese. I recently found out I have severe allergies to dairy, wheat (plus all other grains except white rice/noodles), soy, nightshades, eggs and a host of other things which has made finding good recipes very difficult. I can finally eat again! Thank you, from a food lover.
I just made these last night and they are wonderful! A definite 5 star recipe for anyone who has a serious sweet tooth! I’m planning on taking them on our trip to see family this Thanksgiving so I can have something for dessert.
Thank you very much for sharing this!
Just found your website. I became vegan after being diagnosed with follicular lymphoma- a very slow growing type that can be managed for years thru lifestyle. Probably healthier over a year after diagnosis than I was. I have tried several vegan “cheese sauces” that are ok, but this recipe was amazing!! I added the roasted broccoli and sautéed shiitakes. This will definitely be a keepr recipe. Also made a version of the green bean casserole, changing up the sauce- also amazing. Thanks for your great website!!! I can’t wait to try more of your recipes. The balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts are next. I eat them every day so doing something different will be a nice change. Thanks for all you do to improve one’s nutrition- it is the best medicine:)
Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been making this recipe for a few months now (because it’s so good!) so I decided to add it to our Thanksgiving meal today. My non-vegan family DEVOURED it. My sister called it “addictive” and my 2-year-old niece kept asking for “more pasta.” One friend even asked for the recipe. 🙂
Thanks so much!!