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
Amazingly tasty!!!!!! I have been vegan for over 15 years and have just thrown my tried & true Mac n “cheese” recipe out the window & am replacing it with this one. It really is the best, as the name says! Have never tasted better even in a restaurant.
This was amazing. I’ve made it twice Thanks!
…I added Old Bay Seasoning. I’m in Maryland. It goes on almost everything.
I know this is an older post so not sure if you’ll see my comment but I’m planning to make this sauce for dinner tonight and would like to bake it with veggies as a casserole with no pasta. Would I have to cook all the veggies first or would they just bake enough in that 30 min? Specifically, cauliflower. Thanks!!
Omg! I just thought that I should let you know that this is sooooooooooo good! Actually, I am making it for the 2nd time. I made this several months ago, and I am craving for it today. I just wanted to let you know that I LOVE this recipe! Thank you for sharing.
Great recipe! I might have missed it, but how much cashew butter should I use to replace the whole cashews and water? Thanks!
I am a huge fan of your website and I have made several of the vegan dishes which have been a huge hit for my family however I made the mac and cheese tonight and my family and I had a really hard time with it. It tasted very strong of nuts and nutritional yeast. It wasn’t creamy but griddy and had an awful aftertaste. I followed the recipe and only added broccoli and mushrooms but I had to throw it out. Can you tell me where I went wrong?
You might not have blended the ingredients enough.
I have been making this dish quite a few times over the past month. I think the key to getting it absolutely perfect is to reserve 1C of the cooked pasta water to add to the cheese sauce and pasta. I use Quinoa pasta and I do not bake it (turns out way to dry for my liking if I bake it).
Thank you so much for a fun, delicious recipe!
I only ever had boxed mac n cheese before becoming vegan and it doesn’t taste anything like that… but it’s delicious so who cares? 😉
My non-vegan roommate had half of it and loved it too.
Only problem is it’s so expensive to make… over $5 of cashews for 2 bowls of it. Going to try some cheaper alternatives to see how it turns out.. wish me luck 🙂
Tried it with 1/2 cup of the “natural” peanut butter (no hydrogenated oils or other crap) from Aldi instead of the cashews and it came out great! And at 1/10 the price of the cashews it actually fits into my budget now ^^
Officially added to my short but growing list of delicious vegan recipes, thanks so much!
You are a legend! I added half an avocado to this and was AMAZING!!! Didn’t bother baking it, the pasta was still hot so it worked beautifully. Thank you so much for the best recipe EVER!
Hello, I know this is an older post but I still wanted to ask, what exactly is nutritional yeast? I’m hearing about it everywhere now!
It’s a deactivated yeast that has a “cheesy” flavor, so many vegans use it to make cheese substitutes! It’s also a source of complete protein and B-complex vitamins.
Sweet! Thanks for the response. Do you happen to know how it’s deactivated?
Nutritional yeast is the byproduct of making molasses, so I assume that heat deactivates the yeast, similar to the way that yeast in bread is deactivated when you bake it.
You aren’t kidding when you say this is the BEST vegan mac n cheese! I just made this for dinner and it is fantastic! I added lots of spinach to go along with the roasted broccoli and mushrooms. My lactose-intolerant boyfriend and grandmother are very thankful to you lol. This is going to be my new go-to macaroni recipe. Thanks so much!
I apologize if this has already been asked, I didn’t have time to look through every comment, but here’s my situation:
I tried a raw cashew based cheese sauce a few weeks ago, and….ugh! I love cashews but this was the first time I’ve tried raw cashews, and my husband and I both could not believe how absolutely gross they were. They tasted nothing like the roasted cashews we’ve eaten our whole lives. Therefore, the cheese sauce I made with them was also absolutely awful. And I am not a picky eater at all, so I’m wondering if there’s a possibility the raw cashews I got were bad, or were processed with some sort of chemical incorrectly. Have you heard of anyone else having that reaction? Or should I give it another try with a different brand? I’m basically wondering how is it possible that this many people think raw cashews could possibly be used to make anything even remotely resembling a yummy cheese sauce. Thanks for your help!
How strange! Raw cashews don’t taste like roasted cashews, but they shouldn’t taste bad– raw cashews just have a very MILD flavor, which is why they can be blended into things like cheese sauces so easily. I really like the taste of raw cashews, so you may want to try a different batch to see if you got bad ones. But, if you don’t like the taste of them before mixing them into a recipe, you probably won’t like the resulting recipe, either.
Megan, Thank you so much for this and all of your recipes. This Mac’n’cheese with roasted broccoli, cremini’s, etc. was so darn good. I took a chance, given all the comments, and made it for a dinner party. Love, Love!!
I made this last week for myself and loved it. I decided to make it again today. I went ahead and made 5 packages of all the dry ingredients for a recipe so I will be ready for the next craving. My husband, an omnivore, has a fear of all things vegan. He tried this “cheese” sauce and liked it enough to put it on his roast beef. He wants a bowl of the mac and cheese for dessert! lol. thank you!
Within one hour of hearing about your website, I’d found this recipe and was already making it.
Well, 4,000 people can’t be wrong! (at least it seems like that’s how many comments rave about it~)
It was REALLY delicious (like: “I can’t wait to pack my lunch for tomorrow and include a serving of this” delicious)
As a new vegan, I really haven’t dabbled much with sauces or casseroles yet, but this was a snap.
I went with the broccoli, and baked it with bread crumbs and ground walnuts on top.
Oh yeah! Thank you for the inspiration.
(now, have to go pack my lunch for tomorrow….!!!)
My husband swears he can not survive without dairy despite his allergies. After tasting this recipe he said it’s opened up a whole new world to him. This was truly delicious.
this “cheese” sauce on corn tortilla chips with guac. omg.
Just made the “cheese” portion of this to put on veggies. OMG. It is amazing!! Can’t wait to see if the hubby likes it!
Hands down the best Mac and Cheese recipe ever!!!!!
Just ate this for dinner and LOVED it!
Any idea what the calorie and fat grams per serving are?
I figured it in the my fitness pal app. Not including the noodles just the cheese sauce. I figured this serves 8. So per serving is 199 calories, 12.8 fat, 11.9 carbs, and 12.8 protein.
This was so yummy! I have never made cashew cheese sauce before and was really reluctant. I’ve only used nutritional yeast once and hated the dish I used it in. I decided to give this a try. I LOVE it! I am not vegan but I am a vegetarian and try to cut out less good for us foods and replace with better for us foods. This is going to be my new go to Mac and cheese! I added a little milk (sorry again no vegan) before I baked it and I’m glad I did. It would have been really dry after baking it. I think not baking it would leave it creamy but baking makes it more of a southern style homemade dish. Thank you so much. This was a hot with my family as well. THANK YOU!!!
We love this recipe!! My 9 year old daughter and I are vegan (we also have a vegetarian and 2 omnivores in the house) and this is my go to recipe for the best cheesy sauce!! I use it on veggies as well as noodles and with my Vitamix it is a breeze! It satisfies all of our tastes! Thank you!
This recipe has been number one at our house for three weeks in a row!! My kids are requesting it daily, but they are only getting it once a week 😉 This recipe has been so inspiring for my cooking; like adding cashews and coconut milk to my roasted zucchini soup. And tonight most of all ; I added tomato sauce to your cheese sauce to make a rose and mixed it with spaghetti squash and roasted veg. We are occasional pescatarians, but many of our recipes are vegan, these days, thanks to you! Thank you for the inspiration! I’ll be attempting the cauliflower pizza crust this weekend!
You’ve done it again! My hubby and I made the version with broccoli last week and it was DIVINE! I wrote up a post about it here 🙂 http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/the-healthiest-mac-cheese-youll-ever-make-gf-v/
This is THE BEST Mac n Cheese recipe ever! Made this and added vegan chicken,mushrooms and spinach. HEAVEN!!! I couldn’t stop my hubby from eating what was left in the blender from the sauce =D
Just stumbled across your website and LOVE IT!! Can you tell me why you use the yeast?
The yeast provides the “cheesy” flavor.
This was delicious. I put tomatoes and kalamata olives in mine, chipotle tabasco, a little liquid smoke, and used smoked paprika. It was a bit salty so i’d reduce that by 1/2 next time. This will be my new go-to recipe for this. Thanks!
This is one of the best Mac and cheese recipes I have tried. I didn’t even wait to bake it I just pour the sauce over my pasta squirted on some sriacha sauce and eat it while I was roasting the broccoli. Well done!
I made this last night and I have to say it was absolutely delicious. Everyone in the family raved about it and it’s definitely going to become a part of the regular rotation! I added sauteed broccoli, crimini mushrooms, and onions, as well as adding a little bit of rice milk to the sauce to make it stretch a little farther. I topped it with panko bread crumbs to give it a little bit of a crunch. AMAZING. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe 🙂
This recipe is a total game-changer! Mac and Cheese is definitely my biggest food craving so I make this at least once a month – helps reduce the trips to the Whole Foods hot bar for sure 🙂 The sauce is a great base for experimentation, too. So far I’ve made a tuna-spaghetti squash casserole that was super comforting and a buffalo chicken version by adding leftover shredded chicken and Tessemae’s wing sauce. Yum.
Can’t wait for your book to come out – thanks for making healthy eating more accessible!
Thank you so much – this is such a delicious recipe for those of us who can’t have regular mac and cheese! I’ve made it many times now and played around a bit – just wanted to share a surprisingly amazing addition: a couple spoonfuls of the juice from raw garlic-sauerkraut, the kind that is fermented just with salt (like the brand ‘real pickles’). the juice has a tanginess and umami flavor that is amazing in this sauce. it gives it such a cheese-like complexity. enjoy if you try it!
Maybe I’m just in a hurry to make this but I don’t see you soaked the cashews anywhere?
I’m with Paul, soak the cashews in the water recommended for the recipe before blending and happiness ensues!
P.S. I agree with all, no need to bake after, since there is no cheese to melt, but toast a little almond meal, or hemp seeds, or pine nuts, and sprinkle on top… DELISH!
This is amazing! People who don’t even like cheese have told me they love this. I make it now for all holiday events/potlucks. The only thing is that the mustard was way too over powering so after the first time I cut it in half. Also, I soak the cashews for a few hours up to overnight to soften them before mixing. The baking step is my favorite. It makes the mac n cheese so good. I sprinkle with breadcrumbs before baking. Yum!
Hi! I wanted to say that the consistency is wonderful in this cheeze sauce, but for some reason it tastes suuuuuuper sweet to me. Do you have any ideas on how to tone down the sweetness of the cashew? (I should have tried a different nut since this is always my issue with anything cashew based, but they seem to have the creamiest consistency…). I added a but more nooch after my first batch to tone it down, and it seemed to do the trick somewhat, but it still seems incredibly sweet (and I’m going on three cups of nooch at this point). I’m afraid to temper it with other spices because I don’t want to waste everything as I go along 🙂 don’t get me wrong — It’s really good, just really sweet! 🙂 Maybe you’ll have some ideas for next time i try this 🙂 (made it in my vitamix, which basically heated the mixture for me!) Also, please ignore the star rating if it is crazy… The website isn’t recognizing my phone browser, so I apologize if it didn’t register! thanks for posting!
I can not thank you enough for the recipe. I had lost it and about went into melt down trying to find it. I’m so glad I don’t have to miss out on macaroni and cheese. You are the best!!!!
Hiya! I made this tonight with zucchini noodles and loads of roasted veggies; broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and mushrooms. It was fantastic! We are looking for ways to increase our veggie intake. Thank you for the recipe.
Thank you so much for this recipe! It’s my go-to recipe for potlucks, because everybody is guaranteed to love it and there will be at least one meat-free dish there that I can eat! This past Friday, I made double the recipe, and there were absolutely no leftovers. I made double the recipe again the next day, and I still only got one serving. It practically evaporated. My mom ate it with some chicken, which kind of defeats the ‘vegan’ part, but oh well… Her reaction to it yesterday was hilarious: “I think you added too much water.” (I hadn’t baked it.) Me: “Mom, I just made cheese out of nuts.” My mom: “There’s no cheese in this?! Are you serious?!” The only people who seem not to like this recipe are people who live on a diet of junk food (burgers, pizza, hot dogs…). Anybody who actually enjoys real food can’t believe their mouths! I even fed it to an avid hunter who had never tried vegan food in his life, and he gave it the thumbs up! 🙂 I can’t decide whether the ‘cheese’ sauce or the baked broccoli is more amazing! 😀 I love how this recipe makes it seem like I’m such an awesome cook when all I did was follow a simple recipe! Thanks again! <3
I was very pleasantly surprised at both the texture and flavor of this recipe. I had several people taste the sauce before I told them what it was and they ALL liked it! I made it in the Vitamix and used brown rice elbow macaroni from Trader Joe’s. I baked it with a sprinkle of panko and it dried-out a little too much in the oven. I’ll skip the baking next time. When we sampled it from the pan after I added it to the noodles, it was perfect!!
Thanks for the recipes! I’ve got you bookmarked. 🙂
I made this last night (with broccoli, mushrooms and spinach added) and it was so yummy! I was surprised how much sauce the recipe made. I thought it would be dry but it was actually very creamy. I’ll definitely be making this again!Thank you for the awesome recipe!
This is always a hit at potlucks. I made it for my omnivore family for Chanukah and they enjoyed it. So damn easy in the vitamix. I make it a lot.
Thank you so much!
Looks wonderful. I have everything but the chili powder. Would leaving that out make a big difference in the taste?
I think it would still be delicious without it!
I’m not a vegan, but I eat like one a couple days a week and during fast days on the church calendar, and I have been HUNTING for THE mac and cheese for the stricter fast days. I like this even better than the cheese and milk version. This was FANtastic. I had to put it in the fridge before I ate the entire bowl in one sitting (not quite the spirit of a fast 😉
Anyway, this one just got five starts in my “keep” file. Thanks! next time I’m adding the roasted broccoli. And if it’s meatfare week, I just might toss in some bacon 😉
Hi Megan, If I am adding the roasted broccoli would I roast it first, then stir it into the mac & cheese and bake it for 30min? Or stir the broccoli in after?
O.M.G. Two years ago I was diagnosed with a wheat and dairy allergy and this is the best thing I have ate!!! It is SO close to the real thing-I don’t think my husband will even notice when I serve it to him!!!!:) I saw someone above sub in milk…so I used coconut milk instead of the water for the extra creaminess. 🙂 YUMMM. Off to eat a second serving…S
My husband made this last night for dinner (he is not a cook by any means). His extent of cooking is roasting vegetables and making a salad. No more, no less.
He roasted cauliflower and used it in place of the noodles, added spinach and mushrooms. It was AMAZING! Thank you so much for this recipe. It was easy and so freaking delicious! We had left overs and this was my breakfast, cold (and it was still freaking delicious).
What a great idea to use roasted cauliflower instead of the noodles! I will try this sometime.
This is delicious…instead of salt I added miso and also added more nutritional yeast for more cheesy flavor
I bookmarked this a few weeks ago and just made it today. I used a 16oz pkg of noodles because that’s what size I buy them in and it was just enough sauce to cover them generously. I have bought the boxed vegan mac but this recipe smokes that crap. I think my husband would even eat this (if there is any left when he gets home bahaha). 5 stars. Will be making this on a regular
Made this with roast spinach and some fresh olives, then crumbled some breadcrumbs mixed with paprika and garlic powder when I baked it. Fantastic recipe, made it to impress my girlfriend and needless to say it did A++++++++ Thankyou so much