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 have tried many. many, many vegan mac and cheese recipes. I think this just took over as my favorite.
Hi, a question for baking. Are you supposed to just pour the sauce over the pasta (and brocolli), or do you mix the sauce in? Thanks!
Delicious!! My boyfriend n his mom love it!
I am new to your blog, thank you for the recipe!
Do you think it is possible to make the sauce the night before, put it in the fridge and then heat it up the next day with freshly made cooked pasta? Do you think the sauce would be dry?
Yes, I think that would work just fine! You can always add a little water the next day if you find it needs more moisture. Hope you enjoy it!
Just had leftovers after making this last night……………….LOVED it!!!!! Thank you!
I just bought a bunch of cashews so I could make this but I realized they are roasted (unsalted), not raw. Will that be a big issue?
I put hot sauce in this and some field roast sausage omg so good.
I made this a while back and it was delicious! I added mushrooms and roasted broccoli. It’s very filling and satisfying!
Shouldn’t the cashews be soaked first?
This is the best thing I have ever eaten! I’m in love. I added some broccoli and next time I’m definitely adding some mushrooms, would be perfect! Thank you for all the amazing recipes.
Wow! Just wow – this is hands down the most amazing vegan mac & cheese EVER. I can hardly believe how good it is, and am having trouble resisting the urge to snarf down the cheese sauce by itself before mixing in the macaroni. I did make a couple of substitutions – I used unsweetened coconut milk in place of the water, and added about 4 tablespoons of fresh pressed carrot juice for color, as I did not have any turmeric. The chili powder I had on hand was hot chipotle, so I omitted the cayenne & black pepper. I also soaked my cashews in hot water for about half an hour, because I don’t have a Vitamin and I thought they would blend better in my old blender if softened. Again, thank you so much for this recipe – it is PURE GENIUS.
Hi my sauce was a tad bitter ? I wonder why
I’d check to make sure you used nutritional yeast, and not “brewers” yeast, which is very bitter. I’m not sure what else would cause that!
This was ridiculously good! My daughter is a mac and cheese freak and has missed it since going vegan. We added roasted broccoli, which was perfect. Definitely don’t skimp on the salt if you want it to taste like “Real” mac and cheese. We used brown rice pasta from trader joe’s. Next time I’d potentially top it with panko bread crumbs if we could find vegan ones.
Not sure why my message is showing up in all caps. I am not yelling!
Is the mustArd PREPARED mustard Or mustard powder?
Thank you for this recipe. I’m just wondering if I can omit the nutritional yeast or if there is a substitutes for it. I’m not a fan of the flavor it gives dishes. I haven’t made this recipe so I’m wondering if you can taste it in the cheese sauce? From the comments it looks like it delicious, I’m just afraid to make it and have to waste the ingredients.
Cathy, I made it without nutritional yeast and it still tasted good to me.
AM-AZ-ING. Thank you! Fooled my kids. They thought it was “fancy cheese” and didn’t think for a second it wasn’t “real”. Picky and non alike LOVED it.
I love to hear that! So glad the picky eaters enjoyed it, too. 🙂
Can cashews get substituted for anything else, since my dsughter is highly allergic to them, so we dont even have them in the house…
This looks delicious but I can’t eat cashews…do you think there is anything else that would work in this recipe? Maybe raw macadamia nuts?
Excited to try this recipe… so you think I️ could use cashew butter instead of raw cashews? Would you use the same amount, 1 1/2 cups?
I would use 3/4 cup cashew butter.
Hi, we made this tonight and it was great!
We really enjoyed this recipe, particularly my 2 yr old son. He kept asking for more, while needing mini breaks in between because of the spice. And it was great for us since we were all sick and it cleared up our congestion. 😂 Thank you!
Can you add milk to this recipe? For a non vegan option?
I made this sauce and used Trader Joe’s frozen Riced cauliflower. It reminded me of the old
Broccoli and rice my mom used to make. It was so good!! I would even add the broccoli next time.
I made this for lunch for a little birthday lunch for my son with my in-laws and my Italian father-in-law had seconds! 🙂 Thanks for the nice recipe!
I am not sure if I did something wrong but It had a very nutty taste to It and really didn’t take like Mac n cheese. I am not sure if I added too many cashews? I am going to try and make It again and wanted to check to see if you had any thoughts. Thank you!
Did you use roasted cashews? That might make the nut flavor more pronounced. The raw cashews are more pale in color and have a very mild flavor that blends in with the other seasonings. Sometimes I add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to give it more of a cheesy “tang” flavor, too.
Wow! I’m lactose intolerant and have tried my fair share of vegan cheese sauces and this is far and away the best. I love that it’s so quick and easy to throw together and it tastes phenomenal. Thanks for such a great recipe!
This is absolutely the best!! I have made this for our family and many others who aren’t health conscious at all. They raved and wanted the recipe. I added cooked mushrooms,and onion along with the roasted broccoli. It is quick to make and so good. Thank you Megan
Can this recipe be frozen?
I don’t think pasta reheats as perfectly, but you could freeze the sauce easily and then just cook the pasta in 10 minutes before serving. I like to freeze sauces in ice cube trays so that they thaw faster.
For family gatherings, how far ahead can I make this dish? Can it last well in the fridge? Or freezer?
WOW! This was so easy and very delicious! I used a quinoa macaroni and I added some peas that I had ready in the fridge. This will be a staple in our house. Thank you!
This is so wonderful! I used to love Mac and Cheese before I went vegan and have been extremely disappointed with all of the recipes, I made it my mission when I went vegan to only eat flavorful, filling meals and these were all bland 😣. Then I came across this recipe wow just wow the flavor blew me away, I have made this 5 times now and it is now part of my weekly meal rotation. Thank you so much for creating a Mac and Cheese worthy of standing up to the dairy version!
Oh my gosh soooooo good!!! And quick and easy!! This will definitely become a staple in my house! Husband approved too!
Very good and very easy to make, Added a raw carrot to the VitaMix – no Cayenne, Dijon and a little more garlic. Thanks
I can’t wait to try this recipe out on the weekend! If we want to bake it once the sauce has been added to the cooked pasta, how long do you recommend baking it for? And do you simply just sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top?
I’ve been following various recipes of yours for years in particular this vegan mac and cheese recipe, it’s been a wee while since I last cooked it, previously the recipe included a casserole portion to it with the mushrooms & broccoli- I’m trying to recall if it was 30minutes @ 350 or 375 any help would be appreciated!!
I always bake at 350. 🙂 I removed those directions because people were complaining about it being too dry that way, but my husband prefers the drier baked texture.
Hi made this recipe in my VitaMiz and it was GREAT. I Did add a carrot or maybe two smallish ones. It was a very, very good cheese sauce! My adult son was crazy for it, it is good!!
Every time I serve this to non vegan peeps they freak out about how much they love the mac n cheese. This is my go-to vegan cheese sauce! I use it as a spread for my tomato and onion on wheat. I use it as the sauce for my version of veggie sheaperds pie, to make it super creamy. The list goes on…Thank you so much for this very delicious cheese sauce.
BEST. THING. EVER. My boyfriend and I literally gasped when we ate it. It seems too perfect to be real. Thank you
I think I’ve found my new go to mac and cheese recipe. I was a bit worried because my cheese sauce seemed a bit thin, but it thickened up as I heated it. Delicous!
Can this recipe be frozen?? If so, what is the best way to reheat?
Oh. My. God. This recipe is freakin’ AMAZING! I’ve been vegan for about a year and a half now and I haven’t had a good bowl of mac and cheese in what feels like forever, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to give it a go. That turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because this mac and cheese is ridiculously delicious. And it’s so easy and versatile! Seriously, go make it right now. It will literally change your life.
I gotta say, the cheese sauce in this recipe is AHHHMAZING!!! Seriously, so good! And so quick and easy to make.
Love this! I added some smoked paprika and a little more garlic. Then tossed it with roasted veggies and whole wheat penne noodles. Toddler approved, too!
This was super yummy! I was practically raised on boxed mac’n’cheese and have been searching for a healthy and easy plant based recipe that can satisfy my nostalgia. This recipe finally did it. The sauce uses pantry staples that I already had on hand, so no extra trips to the store were necessary. I also added about a tablespoon of yellow miso because I love the flavor boost it provides. To me it’s reminiscent of the tang of a sharp cheddar cheese. If you use miso, you might want to cut back on the sea salt since miso is already pretty salty. When adding the lemon juice, I recommend tasting as you go and adding just a little bit at a time until you get the flavor you want.
I only have a Magic Bullet, which doesn’t get the sauce as smooth and creamy as a Vitamix or other high powered blender would, but it was still really good. Also, since I was only cooking for one and leftover pasta tends to get soggy, I made just one serving of pasta (2 oz elbow shaped pasta), and stirred in about 1/4 cup of the sauce. I’ve saved the rest of the sauce for future lunches/dinners. It’ll be interesting to see how well it heats up.
Overall, I can’t recommend this recipe enough. I’m looking forward to making it again and maybe adjusting the seasonings a bit more to my individual liking. Thanks for sharing!
2nd time I’ve used the recipe and it was just as great the 2nd time.
Can the sauce be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge?
Delicious recipe! I’m not usually impressed by non-dairy cheese replacements, but I tried this one because of the raves. I substituted cashew butter for raw nuts, as I had it on hand (about 1/3 c. for a halved recipe) and I used homemade bone broth in place of the water (because, why not?) This gave the dish a nice deep umami flavor, even with less nutrimental yeast. With peas and chopped dill pickles (my favorite Mac-n-cheese add-in since childhood) it was downright awesome. Oh, and I added a small dollop of avocado oil mayo for creaminess. I’ll make it again and check out your other recipes. Thanks!
I am new to vegan life, so this may be a silly question, but do you soak the cashews first?
I don’t soak them when I use a strong blender like the Vitamix, but if you have a standard blender you should soak them in water for 1-2 hours to soften them up.
This is the best vegan mac and cheese recipe I have ever tried. 10/10 thank you so much
Thank you so much Megan! Can’t wait to try this!