Instant Pot Vegan Mac n’ Cheese

vegan mac'n cheese on a plate

It might sound far-fetched, but this Instant Pot Vegan Mac n’ Cheese is inspired by Ina Garten’s recipe that I make every year at Thanksgiving. Her recipe is incredibly rich and decadent– hence why we only make it once a year– and it’s also exhausting to prepare because you have to shred over a pound of cheese. What makes her recipe special is her use of gruyere cheese and nutmeg, which provides a subtle nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with the salty aged cheese.

While my recipe doesn’t actually contain any cheese, adding nutmeg to my cashew-based cream sauce makes reminds me of Ina Garten’s original recipe. My dad tasted it recently and told me it’s my best Mac n’ Cheese yet! (Which is saying something if you’ve already tried my best Vegan Mac n’ Cheese recipe.) Perhaps we’ll be serving this one at Thanksgiving this year, since it would save us a LOT of time and effort.

vegan mac'n cheese on a plate

This Vegan Mac n’ Cheese requires just 3 simple steps: Blend, Dump, and Stir. This is my first time developing a recipe where the pasta cooks in the sauce all at the same time, and I love the results. The starchiness of the pasta thickens the sauce, leaving you with a creamier result than if you were to prepare the pasta separately. The only downside to cooking pasta in the pressure cooker is that you can’t stop and stir the pot they way you could if you were cooking it on the stove. As a result, some of the pasta does stick to the bottom of the pan. I found that this issue is easily resolved by stirring a bit more water in at the end of the cooking cycle, which helps un-stick any pasta and also helps to thin out the sauce, making it creamier.

Something else to note while making this recipe is the size of your pasta package. This was a total “duh” moment for me, but while I was working on this recipe (making it over 10 times!) I found that I had accidentally bought two different sized bags of gluten-free pasta. So, when I thought I was consistently using a one-pound bag for testing, I was actually using a 12-ounce bag sometimes. No wonder it took me so long to figure this one out! My favorite pasta that I tried while testing this recipe was DeLallo’s gluten-free shells (made from 100% brown rice flour), so I highly recommend you seek out a similar pasta for best results. Enjoy!

4.88 from 8 votes
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Instant Pot Vegan Mac n' Cheese
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 mins
Total Time
20 mins
 
A fast and creamy dairy-free and gluten-free mac n' cheese made in the Instant Pot!
Course: Main Course
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 493 kcal
Author: Detoxinista.com
Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw cashews , soaked in water for 2 hours*
  • 4 1/2 cups water , divided
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 12 ounces gluten-free pasta (I used DeLallo brand)
Instructions
  1. Drain the cashews and discard the soaking water. In a high-speed blender combine the cashews, 2 cups of water, nutritional yeast, salt, lemon juice, vinegar, and nutmeg. Blend until smooth.
  2. Add the pasta to the bowl of your Instant Pot, and pour the sauce over the top. Stir well. Use 2 more cups of water to "rinse out" your blender, swishing the water in the empty blender container to help pick up any of the seasoning that may have been left behind. Pour the water from the blender container into the Instant Pot, then seal the lid and make sure the knob at the top is turned to the "sealing" position. Cook on high pressure for 10 minutes, then let the steam pressure naturally release for 10 more minutes. (This amount of time might not be totally necessary, but it has always given me great results-- I don't like my pasta cooked al dente.)
  3. Carefully release the steam in the pot by turning the vent at the top from sealing to "venting," then remove the lid. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of water into the pot and use a wooden spoon to stir well, making sure to remove any pasta that has stuck to the bottom of the pot. Adjust any seasoning to taste, and serve warm.
  4. Feel free to make this more of an "adult" Mac n' Cheese by adding your favorite vegetables before serving. I love to stir-in roasted broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, or simply fold in fresh baby spinach so that it wilts before serving.
Recipe Notes

*Note: I made this recipe so many times that I didn't always soak the cashews, and the results turned out fine. It's just better for digestion when you soak nuts first. If you don't have a high-speed blender, I recommend soaking the cashews to help them blend easier, but if you're rushed for time and have a good blender, the cashews don't have to be soaked.

instant pot with noodles and blender pouring cheese mixture on top

I have a feeling this method would work well for my nut-free Mac n’ Cheese recipes, like my Sweet Potato Mac n’ Cheese or the Butternut Mac n’ Cheese found in my cookbook, No Excuses Detox. I plan on trying those in the future (when I’m not burnt-out on eating Mac n’ Cheese), but if you want to experiment, I’d use the same 4-ish cups of water to 12 ounces of pasta ratio.

Stove Top Directions: If you don’t have an Instant Pot, but want to make it on the stove, I would use the same method as described above. Instead of pressing a button on the Instant Pot, simply bring the mixture to a boil, then cover and steam for 10 minutes. Then let it sit for another 10 minutes with the heat off. Feel free to stir occasionally, to help prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add extra water at the end if you feel that it is needed for texture, and adjust seasonings to taste.

Slow Cooker: I haven’t tested this recipe in a slow cooker yet, but most vegetarian recipes I’ve tried cook well on low for 6 hours, or high for 3 hours. If you try it this way, please leave a comment below letting us know how it worked for you!

Variation: If you have leftovers of this Mac n’ Cheese, I like to pour my favorite marinara sauce over the top for a “creamy tomato sauce.” It’s so good, you won’t miss a sprinkling of cheese on your pasta!

Food Combining: This nut-based sauce is not properly combined over grain-based pasta, but you can reduce the water for the sauce to one cup and serve it over steamed veggies, cooked spaghetti squash, or spiralized zucchini noodles for a properly combined dish.

Reader Feedback: Have you ever made a one-pot pasta before? Let me know if you have another favorite I should try!

 

 

 

 

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Comments

Sherry

Would this work with pasta that does contain gluten? Thanks! I finally found nutritional yeast for a good price, so I’m eager to try it. Trader Joe’s now sells it for $2.99!

    Megan Gilmore

    I imagine it would work the same, but I only tested this with gluten-free pasta. Will you please let us know if it works for you?

      Sherry

      I will post when I try it. Thank you!

Izzy

This looks so good!
Izzy | Pinch of delight

Jennifer

Did you ever try this with Tolerant Lentil pasta? The package says to use a gallon of water per 8 ounces. I’ve never made a full box and never measured out the water, but wondering if there is enough liquid in this recipe for it? I really want this right now and that’s all I have 🙂

    Jennifer

    It worked super well with the Tolerant lentil pasta. I only had an 8 Oz box so I used that, made the sauce exactly, but I only added one of the two cups of rinsed out blender water. It got a bit stuck to the bottom, but so delicious.

      Elizabeth

      Good to know — thanks!

Jocelyn

Just got your recipe in my inbox and had to click on because my Instant Pot just arrived TODAY. Perfect timing! Can’t wait to try out my IP! Will you be doing more IP recipes? I hope so! I love your recipes 🙂

Laura

So excited to try this– I love the Trader Joes Quinoa pasta. Think the timing will be the same? 10 minutes with another 10 minutes of pressure release seems like SO long. I’m worried about it turning to mush.

    Megan Gilmore

    Gluten-free pasta is usually super-tolerant of overcooking. I used Trader Joe’s brown rice pasta for a few of my trials, and it was just fine– but I didn’t love the flavor as much. (Their quinoa pasta does taste better.) Feel free to experiment with less time, if you like. Some recipes I looked at while researching this one had you cook for half of the “recommended cooking time” at high pressure, with a quick release, but that always left me with pasta that was too al dente for my tastes.

Laura

Last time I made a recipe with nutritional yeast, my husband, mother, and I all experienced the worst gas ever!! It was so awful, and I’ve never used it since. Is it something you can build up a tolerance to? There’s not really a good substitute for it is there… So sad because I really want to try recipes like this but I’m scared to now!

    Wanda Brigman

    It might have been the cashews. Some people, like me, cannot eat much raw cashews..

Beth Abdillah

This was so good! I made it on the stovetop. In the future, I may put a little oil in the bottom to grease the pot, as some burnt and stuck in my metal pot, but overall AMAZING for a gulten/dairy free mac and cheese.

Lynn

Is the 1 tablespoon of salt, correct? I made it and it was very salty! Next time I think I will only do 1 teaspoon. I really enjoyed it otherwise and will be trying again for sure!

    Megan Gilmore

    Yes, it is correct, but did you use sea salt or Kosher salt? The “saltiness” of salt varies, as weird as that sounds. I used Real Salt brand, if that helps. Also, Ina Garten’s recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of salt, and that’s not including the already salty pound of cheese in her recipe, so I was trying to gear this recipe towards people who are coming off of mainstream recipes. If you already eat a reduced-salt diet, you probably won’t need as much. 😉

      Lynn

      I think I just have sensitive taste buds! I did use the Real salt brand as well. The recipe is amazing regardless! I will definitely be making it at least once a month for the family! Thank you!

Julianne

While every one of your recipes I have tried previously have been amazing, this did not work in my slow cooker. I used a 12 oz bag of Trader Joe’s black bean gluten free pasta, followed the recipe and put it in my slow cooker on high for 3 hours. I got a mushy savory pudding. Delicious, but not able to be served. I will stick to the non-instant pot recipes. Thanks anyways!

    JAMie bunkley

    That black bean pasta turns to mush when you cook on the stove for normal time on the bag so that is not a good pasta to cook for three hours in a slow cooker.

felicia

Hey guys/Megan

Does anyone know how this reheats? I wanted to make but will forsure have left overs, wondering how it reheats and how long it can be stored in the fridge.

Thanks!!

Susan Jackson

I’m on a strict diet trying to reduce GI and total body inflammation. No-no’s include dairy and wheat. I love mac n’ cheese so I tried this recipe. It doesn’t taste cheesy to me but I liked it alot. It’s filling and freezes well. This recipe is a keeper for me.

Taylor B.

This looks so amazing! I am always looking for new vegan mac and cheese recipes. I don’t have an instant pot, but I wonder if it will work the same if I cook it for longer? Or perhaps in a crock pot? I’ll give it a try and let you know!

Alison

I can’t have cashews but I can have walnuts. Do you think I could use walnuts?

    Nat

    Macadamia nuts work similarly. I’ve seen cashew mac recipes made nut-free with sunflower seeds, but the flavor will be stronger if you use those.

Shea

Has anyone tried tossing this sauce over steamed cauliflower?

Victoria

I only discovered your blog today (searching for cauliflower pizza bases!) and I’m so impressed by how good your recipes look. I HAVE to try this one; my youngest is lactose intolerant so we’re a mostly dairy-free house. I think we’ll all really enjoy this 😀

Amy

OMG!! I just ordered your book! My kids who are picky and difficult to introduce new foods to are in love! They ate this without any problem. I’m trying to clean up our diet and get them to love eating delicious, healthy foods as I did as a child, and I’m hoping with with a little help from you to achieve this goal. Thank you so, so much!

    Megan Gilmore

    Yay! I’m so glad to hear that!! I hope your kids enjoy the recipes in the cookbook, too!

Shelby

I love your blog and books! Thank you for introducing me to the instant pot. I bought one per your suggestion and I love it. I did try to make this recipe and didn’t have any luck. I have an 8 quart instant pot and the pressurizer button never popped up to seal the pot. I’ve had this happen with a couple of recipes. Also there have been times when I have had to push down on the handles to get the pressurizer button to seal (it didn’t work with this recipe). Is it possible that my pot is defective? Any suggestions? Thanks!

    Megan Gilmore

    I’ve had that happen with a couple of recipes, too! I thought mine was defective, but I found that sometimes that rubber sealing ring that wraps around the underside of the lid needs to be cleaned with a towel. (I also think the vent area needs to be cleaned sometimes– you might want to check your manual or the Instant Pot website for how to do that.) When I remember to clean the sealing ring, my Instant Pot usually works properly. Also, I think pasta is particularly more challenging for the Instant Pot, in general, so if that keeps giving you issues you might want to skip the pasta recipes and opt for more whole grain options, like quinoa or rice, which has never caused me issues.

Emma

I made this last night, it was amazing!! I added in frozen veggies and spinach.

Cari

Hi Megan! I’d like to try this recipe on the stovetop, but I’m a little confused with the stovetop directions. Could you basically prepare the sauce in one pot, cook the pasta in another pot and then mix drained pasta in sauce? How much water should be in the sauce when cooked on stovetop? Thank you for the clarification!

Elizabeth Keller

I MADE THIS WITH CHICKPEA FLOUR PASTA SHELLS AND IT WAS FABULOUS! I USED 16 OZ OF PASTA SINCE EACH BOX WAS 8 OZ AND I MAY ADD A 3/4 CUP OF WATER AFTER COOKING INSTEAD OF 1/2 CUP BUT THE FLAVOR WAS WONDERFUL. THANK YOU!

Callie

Hi Megan! We use use this recipe often and love it but I was wondering if cauliflower rice would work as the “mac”?

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