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
Amazing! My husband can’t eat dairy so I miss having a lot of cheesy meals but this hit the spot! .I also added shredded soy cheese on top and fresh spinach. I have extra sauce though. Can I freeze the leftover sauce? Thanks very much.
Is it possible to soak a bunch of cashews and store them in the freezer to use later? Would they still be effect in recipes like this? I love how they taste and the creaminess they give, but often don’t remember to do them in advance. My meal planning is pretty non-existent, so having them pre-frozen would help!
I’ve tried making many different vegan cheese sauces, and this is by far the best. The flavour is amazing. Thank you for this recipe!
Great recipe! Can’t wait to try it! I was wondering though, how many cups in one serving? I can’t seem to find serving size. Thanks!
I’ve never actually measured it out in cups before. I usually just pour it into the 9×13 pan and eyeball it into roughly 8 servings. You could divide it into 8 individual containers if you are trying to closely monitor your calories.
I make this all of the time for my fiance and me. It is so so so yummy. We like to add in different things for variety like barbeque jackfruit, Amy’s chili, lentil sloppy joes I mean the list goes on and on! Thank you so much for a delicious vegan version of mac and cheese.
I just made this and the non-vegans in my house loved it. YAY! I added more nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, and some almond milk for more creaminess. Thank you!!
SO GOOD. I have been making vegan mac and cheese for years and this is one of the best, if not the best, recipe I’ve tried to date. I’m especially jazzed that it doesn’t call for vegan cheese, or require a bunch of prep.
Amazing amazing amazing!
I told my husband I made some nutritious Mac and cheese, even mentioned it had cashews and nutritional yeast in it.
After eating it he asks ‘how is that possibly healthy when I just ate so much cheese?’ So… he thought he was eating dairy cheese.
This was sooo yummy. I added more garlic cause I’m a garlic fiend and accidentally spilt about half a teaspoon of cayenne in but we like spicy things so it was all good. Definitely going to be a staple now.
Can you Bake this M&C?
Yes, the result is just a little drier that way. My husband prefers it baked!
How long is the sauce good for in the fridge? We love this recipe. Thank you!
I think it should last up to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge.
I don;t really think this tasted like Mac and cheese but it was delicious and super easy.
This was great, I’ve had some processed meals and not so good. This is perfect and able to adjust spices and creaminess. Added bread crumbs and broiled to add another layer of texture.
Thanks for the recipe.
Hi, I’m going to give this a try for a gals trip this weekend. Is it ok to make this sauce a couple days in advance? I don’t want to pack the blender! 😊
I tried the other mac n “cheese” recipe from this website (the InstantPot one) and this one is far superior, in my opinion. This went into my favorites recipe folder, it’s that good. I’ve served it to people who had no idea it was plant-based and they loved it!
Yum, yum, yum! Great recipe. Delicious! Thank you.
I was skeptical because I have tried so many other vegan mac recipes without success, but this was amazing!! However, mine appeared a little gritty from the cashews even though I soaked them all day. Does that mean I needed to add more water? Or does that mean that my food processor isn’t good enough? I have a ninja. I’m thinking of making this for Thanksgiving next week, and I need to impress omnis, so I’m hoping I can make it a little smoother. Thanks!
Just made this dish pretty much exactly as listed, and it ended up testing kinda sweet. I think it’s probably from the cashews, which u didn’t soak, so maybe that’s the problem.. I’ve finely had much better cake cheese sauce though. Overall, I’ll eat it, but I probably won’t make it again
You should heat the blended sauce, stirring continuously, maybe in the pot you cooked the past. Otherwise it has a raw flavor, or that is, no flavor.
I LOVE Mac n cheese (with dairy), and I was so suspicious of this recipe when I decided to give it a try. Ofc I still tried, because I’ve been wanting to cut back on dairy. I have to admit this is even better than the ones made with real cheese! Awesome recipe, thanks so much!!
The consistency was good but it was lacking flavor. I didn’t expect it to taste like cheesy Mac and cheese but it wasn’t very flavorful. It looked very good though.
I was not expecting it to taste that amazing!
Thank you for this recipe!! I’ve tried so many different ones out there and this is, hands down, the BEST recipe. I can’t wait to use this cheese on Vegan Nachos 🙂
It was quick and easy to make and tasted delicious.Thanks!
This is the 2nd vegan mac and cheese I tried and I can’t say I’d make it again. It’s dry and the only real taste is the mustard. Kind of bummed.
Would raw cashew butter work as a short cut?
I took this recipe to a party buffet and brought nothing home.It is very good. I do recommend that if you take it to a buffet make sure you label it as having nuts for those with Nut allergies.
Recently started following a plant based diet and this sauce has blown my mind! It is so cheesy and tasty! Thanks so much for a fab, easy recipe! I’ll be making this often 🙂
Hi! I was wondering if cashew butter would work? The natural kind of course, with no additives.
Yes, probably. Usually 1/2 cup of cashew butter = 1 cup of whole cashews, in my experience.
Cant stop making this,I add broccoli, spinach and peas to it, favourite sauce.
Too much lemon juice. Turned out sour.
Loved this! Can I freeze it? We’re a family of two so there’s lots left over! Thank you x
Yes, I think the sauce will freeze well.
Insanely tasty! We will be making this a regular recipe in our house!
hooray! my MIL gifted me a Vitamix blender. After smoothies last night, I looked up this recipe. Win win win! after following the exact instructions (omitting the cayenne) I tasted it and wanted a bit more yeast. Added two additional TBSP. perfect! Waiting for my kale to steam so I can add that to my pasta and “cheese” lunch. Thank you for a great recipe!!!!
I will rate this when I try it but it sounds delicious! I’m deffo going to add roasted mushrooms (and peas!) and perhaps a little Truffle oil…Oooooooooooo and maybe Lobster!!!!! Thanks for the recipe 🙂
Good recipe. It won’t fool my dairy-eating son but that’s fine. He’ll still eat it! And be happy. Only change I made was to add a big chunk of roasted winter squash. He needs the veggies!
I first tried this recipe a couple of years ago, and since then it has become a staple at my house! I love this mac and cheese either baked or just warmed up on the stove, though I’m usually too impatient to bother with baking. My favorite way to serve it these days is with a big dollop of kale-basil pesto and some toasted pepitas on top, but I also love it plain and with roasted veggies. Thank you so much for creating one of my all-time favorite recipes! I’ll be making it for years to come.
Made this for some friends tonight and OH MY GOODNESS it is delicious!!! Served it with radish sandwiches and everyone got seconds! Will definitely be making this again and again.
I absolutely LOVE this recipe! It’s so quick, easy and tasty. I’m not actually vegan but this recipe is so good.
I made it for a dinner party and it went down a storm (vegans and non-vegans alike!)
Just one quick question – can I freeze it?
I really like it the smell was on point and the taste was great. Mine did tend to turn into almost a cashew butter like consistency once it had cooled slightly. I’d like to attempt to use maybe more water next time to thin it out a bit to prevent this. Overall tasted great and VERY filling.
This is my go-to mac and cheese recipe. It’s a crowd pleaser for vegans and non-vegans alike. I also use the cashew sauce in other recipes so I try to just have some on hand. It’s quick to whip up and stays in the fridge for two or three days without a problem. Great recipe!!
I would have left 5 Star but your ads are annoying. 4 ads in such a short video? I get you have to monetize but that’s too much.
So sorry about that, Jess! I had no idea that more than 1 ad shows on my video– I’ll have my advertising team look into that, because I agree that would be annoying!
This is such a great fine. Being vegan, I miss macaroni and cheese! It is such a comfort food, especially while the weather is still cold outside. Thank you for sharing! I love your site, and all the helpful information on healthy eating. It is such a challenge with our abundance of convenience food.
Soul Food Sunday: I added this recipe to my menu, and I was so happy with it! My 3 year old loved it, and a non-vegan guest gobbled it up. Two thumbs up!
This was so easy and delicious- a great comfort food feeling without any guilt!
3 T Lemon juice was overpowering. Even after adding additional water, cheese sauce really thickened when mixed with the pasta. Can’t say I would make this again. I will say it was easy and fairly quick to make. Followed recipe exactly, but was disappointed.
Just wanted to say that my wife and I have been making this recipe about once a week since finding it a little over a year ago. Using a garlic clove over garlic powder makes a remarkable difference (we used powder for a long time for convenience).
Although this is a vegan mac n cheese recipe, I wouldn’t really call it “mac n cheese” because the flavors of classic mac are not really being replicated. I usually just refer to this recipe as an extremely delicious cashew & lemon sauce pasta.
We found that the “cheese” is much more creamy when we run the cashews through a food processor first and then add them to the mixture for blending. As a lemon fanatic myself, I add a little bit extra and I love the taste. Somehow, I’ve found a way to make it taste even better each time, which is why I want to consider more modifications to continually improve it!
I’m thinking about letting the processed cashews sit in the water and lemon used in this recipe for a few hours to have them be well soaked for the recipe. I also am wondering if roasting the garlic would create a nice addition. Please let me know if you have made or found any favorable modifications to this recipe since posting!
hi I made this tonight, not crazy about it but not so bad considering the fact I did not use mustard I don’t like mustard. I did feel something was missing perhaps you can suggest something? before I begin experimenting with other recipes?
thanks so much
Hello! I wanted to know how long I can keep this in the fridge?! Thank you!
I would think it could last up to 5 days in the fridge. Otherwise I’d freeze it if you want to store longer.
Just whipped this together. Made exactly as your recipe suggests and I tasted from a spoon. I am in cheesy sauce heaven! Can’t wait to try it tomorrow on something, or in something, rather than the back of a spoon because I know that tomorrow will be heavenly too! Thank you so much. Look forward to trying all of your recipes. My husband and I are new vegans and recipes such as yours help so much. Hugs from Beacon, NY!
Hi! My son is allergy to all nuts except for almonds…what’s a good substitute for the cashew?
Sounds like almonds might be worth a try?