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Meet the best Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe you’ll ever try. It’s quick to prepare and tastes just as delicious and creamy as the traditional version!

vegan mac and cheese lifted on spoon.

This recipe is just as fast as the popular boxed version, only it’s made without dairy. While the pasta cooks, you can quickly whip up the plant-based sauce in a blender.

When you stir the simple vegan cheese sauce into pasta, most people can’t tell that it’s not the real thing. It’s perfect for those looking for dairy-free comfort food.

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

vegan mac and cheese ingredients labeled in glass bowls.

All you need is a handful of pantry ingredients, plus nutritional yeast for a “cheesy” flavor.

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

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.

While the noodles are cooking, combine the cashews, water, lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, nutritional yeast, and spices. Secure the lid and 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.

vegan cheese sauce mixed in blender.

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 to help loosen the sauce if needed.

cheese sauce poured over pasta.

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 stovetop since the cheese sauce will thicken when chilled.

Flavor Variations

Prefer 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. 

vegan mac and cheese served in small white pots.

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.

 Looking for more vegan comfort food? Try Vegan Quesadillas, the Best Veggie Burgers, Vegan Pad Thai, or Lentil Bolognese for more ideas.

vegan mac and cheese lifted on spoon.

Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

4.75 from 405 votes
Vegan Mac and Cheese is just as quick to prepare as the boxed version! Tossed with a quick creamy sauce, everyone loves this dairy-free alternative.
prep10 mins cook10 mins total20 mins


  • 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.



Nutrition information is for roughly 1 cup of prepared mac and cheese. This information is automatically calculated, and is just an estimate, not a guarantee.
Don’t have a high speed blender? Use 1 cup of boiled water in that case, and let the cashews soak in the hot water for at least 10 minutes before blending. This will help them break down more smoothly.
Looking for a nut-free recipe? Try Southwest Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese, or my nut-free vegan cheese sauce.
Video Note: I made a mistake in the video for this recipe and used only 1 cup of cashews. The result was still delicious, so if you are short on cashews, feel free to try using that amount without changing the amount of other ingredients.


Calories: 352kcal | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Sodium: 449mg | Potassium: 325mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 38IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 3mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vegan mac and cheese

If you try this Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like it.

Megan Gilmore leaning on her white countertop.

Megan Gilmore

Hi, I’m Megan. A former fast food junkie turned best-selling cookbook author. I create healthy recipes made with simple ingredients to make your life easier.

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  1. 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 🙂

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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

  7. 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! 🙂

  8. 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?

    1. 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! 🙂