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
delicious!! I really loved it, but due to eating healthy vegan/paleo for a long while I don’t really trust my taste buds with most things 😉 but I tried this recipe on my brother who, lets say, has very ‘particular tastes’, he won’t take a second bite without a groan if it tastes remotely healthy. He loved it! and went for thirds!! great recipe! (I also added a little vegan mayo and df butter to thicken it a little more, but It wasn’t much,) thank you!!
Can you taste the mustard in this recipe?
I don’t think it’s very noticeable, but make sure you use a mustard that you like the flavor of, or you can leave it out if you really dislike it.
Made this tonight, it was such a hit! My toddler loves, and so did my husband who typically does not like traditional mac and cheese. Will definitely keep in rotation! Also made the coconut flour banana bread yesterday, these recipes are so flavorful and consistently delicious.
Awesome!! Glad you all enjoyed both of the recipes, and thanks for letting me know! 🙂
Do you soak the cashews first?
I don’t usually, but I have a high-speed blender that breaks them down no problem. I’d soak them for up to 2 hours if you have a standard blender to help get a creamy sauce!
First of all, I love this recipe!! But every time I make it, the sauce gets pretty hard right away, even when I add the extra water. Do you have any suggestions for keeping it creamy? Thanks!
I would just keep adding liquid until it’s as creamy as you’d like it to be. I’d stir in the pasta first, though, because sometimes the wet pasta makes the sauce creamier, too.
I’ve never left a review for any recipe before but I had to for this Mac and cheese. It was the best vegan Mac and cheese I have ever made! I didn’t use cayenne (I would’ve loved it) since it was really supposed to be for my 2 and 3 year olds. Anyways, it’s both kid and adult approved. Super easy and delicious!
Megan, you have the most amazing recipes in the world :). I admire your work. I am not even surprised that I was so amazed by this recipe, because all your recipes taste so good. So simple and healthy. Now I am going to bake your VEGAN FLOURLESS BLACK BEAN BROWNIES <3.
Fantastic! I just made this recipe and it is the best vegan Mac and cheese recipe I have tried. Mine did come out a bit dry but I will remember to add more water and your instructions list.
Question! Are you soaking the cashews overnight before blending them for the recipe?
I don’t recommend soaking cashews for more than 2 hours or so, or they tend to get slimy. I don’t soak them at all when I’m in a rush because my high-speed blender will break them down no problem, but I definitely recommend soaking with a standard blender.
Made exactly as written. Amazing!! Thank you!!
This is a great meal!! Thanks!
This Mac and cheese was amazing! Honestly, I was a little scared at first lol. Incredible though!
Ahhmazing recipe! I made it last night for my vegan daughter & her non vegan friends. Not a spoonful was left. I substituted plain nutritional yeast for Pop Zest’s Artisan Cheese flavored nutritional yeast because we love their seasoned line of nooch!! Thank you for posting this recipe.
Do you have to soak the cashews before making the sauce?
Delicious!!! I love that the cashews don’t need to be soaked ahead of time, which is quite common for vegan cheese sauce. I divided this recipe and only used 1/2c of cashews (for a single serve for my son and I) but left the rest of the recipe almost the same portions as originally called for. I’m a total flavor junkie!!
This one is a keeper!!
Loved it so easy – I added broccoli, some extra water and put in the oven with some breadcrumbs – was lovely thanks for the recipe
Do you need to soak the cashews?
It is thought to help with digestion to soak them, and it helps them blend if you don’t have a high-speed blender, but I often skip the soaking process myself and it turns out just fine!
what would happen if we put this into the oven? Would it get too dried out? Anyone try this yet?
This was amazing!!! I added 1/2 small cooked potato, 2 small cooked carrots and 1/2 soaked cashews..
I will make this again!
My kids are pretty picky and even they like it. Throw veggies in your bowl and you’ve got a meal.
Part of a Mac and cheese contest at a friends house and only one of two vegans going. Any suggestions on how to tweak this to be buffalo Mac and cheese?
I’ve tried a few vegan mac n cheese recipes and this one is by far the best!
I love this Mac and cheese! I actually had a question though. I baked this in the oven for 450°F for about 20 minutes and it made the Mac and cheese bland. It tasted completely different when eating it straight away and baking it in the oven. How should I bake it? What temperature? How long? I love this recipe it’s my favorite but I just want to bake it to get a crispy top to the mac and cheese.
If you’re only looking to crisp up the top, what if you tried putting it under the broiler for a few minutes? That way the rest of the dish won’t dry out.
Can i use a food processor to blend the sauce?
Or a nutribullet?
The nutribullet might work!
It’s good, I added some almond milk to make the sauce creamier. Thank you!
Strange, I guess I am the only one who thought this didn’t make nearly enough sauce to go with 16oz of pasta. Mine didn’t come out creamy but kinda dry. Some noodles didn’t even get covered in sauce and dried out in the oven. Delicious, but just not nearly enough “cheese” for this amount of macaroni.
Sarah, that’s really strange–I felt like I had more than enough sauce with a whole box of “shells” pasta. Is it possible you didn’t use enough water in the sauce?
I made this and it’s so good. Except I feel like the mustard taste is so strong. I made double to freeze. Anyway to calm down the mustard taste with all of this I made?
This is literally the best cheese sauce recipe I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many!!). This is the first one my boyfriend (new vegan & partial skeptic)approved of! I did use better than Bouillon(beef flavor)+water mixture instead of just water, and I added a little full fat coconut milk while blending and the texture and taste are both AMAZING! Thank you!
Megan. This mac and cheese is incredible. My partner and I recently switched to WFPB and we are sooo excited to find a recipe we like even more than regular mac and cheese!
Do you need to soak the cashews first? I know the recipe doesn’t call for that but most recipes that I’ve seen that use cashews to add that creamy texture have you soak them first. Either way this looks delicious!!!
I never (read, never) post comments on a blog. However, this smelled of yeast or mold (obv. because of the nutritional yeast). As you probably know, smell is a huge portion of taste. I followed the recipe exactly (w/ 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast), so I don’t know what went wrong. I’ve tried a few other recipes on this site before, which were good, but I was disappointed with this one. I tried to rescue it with a bit more mustard, garlic, salt, etc. but I couldn’t stomach it. I’m glad others were satisfied! If you have a sensitive palette, I just wanted to warn you of that.
I made this tonight and it’s my favourite Mac and cheese and I’ve tried a lot!
I’ve made this a number of times and it’s incredible. I normally use recipes as a starting point and make a number of tweaks. Not with this one. It’s perfect as is.
Had anyone tried replacing the water with almond milk? I added jalapenos and topped it with lemon pepper also and won a non vegan mac competition!
I used Hemps seed milk or vegetable broth. Great both ways. Half/half would be great too
Vegan, gluten-free Risotto recipe please..
I’m looking forward to trying this, but I’m not supposed to have garlic (and I’m avoiding onions, as well). Any suggestions for alternative seasonings that might be able to substitute for garlic in this recipe?
This is so good, i chopped pickled jalapeños and mixed them in and then sprinkled my hibenaro hot sauce on top because i like super spicy. yummmy!!
Love this. I made it many times. I use vegetal broth instead of water and add sauteed enoki mushrooms and baby arugula.
My 5 year old is dairy free due to allergies so I’ve been trying new recipes for him. He did not like this at all with the mustard in it. Thankfully I halved the recipe so I didn’t have too much sauce. I made it again without the mustard and he liked it more. 🙂
Made this sauce as soon as I saw the recipe! You changed my life today! So many new dishes about to be disturbed with this cheesy deliciousness!! Tysm! <3
Mind blowing!! This truly is the BEST! I loved it and my cheese loving non-vegan husband LOVED it too!
This recipe blew my mind! I’d never made any vegan sauces and this one was a perfect, creamy mac & cheese sauce. And so easy! This recipe is literally done in 10 minutes. Thank you so much for sharing!
BEST VEGAN MAC AND CHEESE RECIPE!!! I am in awe.. this came out better than I could have even imagined.. it’s even better than the dairy versions I used to eat as a kid that have become romanticized. Thank you for sharing this pure genius with the world!!
I just wanted to say that I have been making this recipe for YEARS now and it is one of my ‘old reliables’. Thanks for such a great recipe.
Didn’t this recipe originally have a step where you baked it? And added broccoli?
Hi, I just made this and I love it! Is it freezer friendly for like for meal prep? And how long is it good for if refrigerated?
I don’t normally leave comments, but I have made many of your recipes and like all the others this one DID NOT DISAPPOINT!!’ Even my super picky 8 and 3 yr old ate this! I’ve tried so many vegan Mac n Chz recipes that ALL of us will eat and this one is most definitely it!!
Thank you, thank you!👏👏👏
My first time making a vegan cheese sauce- it was great
Love this recipe but I want to vacuum seal it and freeze it… to be eaten in a few weeks… do you think that would work/be okay?
OMG! Such a GREAT post!! My kids really don’t like veggies. I have tried many things for them but nothing good happened. I found this post and made it and they loved it!! Thank you very much! Hope to hear from you soon!