The Ultimate comfort food - Mac and Cheese! Only this time with a plant-based dairy-free spin. This Vegan Mac and Cheese is Creamy and Mind-Blowingly easy!
If your mind automatically goes to big pots full of cheesy pasta-y goodness when you think about comfort food, you are absolutely not alone. It reminds us of childhood. Simpler times.
They're like a hug for the soul from the inside out.
Of course, with a plant-based lifestyle, those cheesy comfort foods can be a little tricky to make happen. But do not fret! I will not let you live a life without the comfort of mac and cheese.
This Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe has all the comfort and warmth you remember from the good ole days.
Ingredient Spotlight & Substitutions
What I love most about this vegan mac and cheese recipe (besides how freakin' saucy it is!) is how the sauce is made up of vegetables and seasonings! Yet, you'd never even know it was veggies you were eating by how deLISH it is!
Carrots - When carrots are cooked and blended with the rest of the sauce ingredients, you won't even notice them. Your kids won't know they're there. Yet, you'll be getting veggies with each bite!
Potato - Potatoes are perfect for this sauce, making it thick and velvety once they're cooked and blended to creamy perfection.
Raw Cashews - Cashews are the main base here, adding a creaminess without adding a nutty flavor. If you are looking or a nut-free option, this may not be the recipe for you, but you could check out my 5-minute no-cook vegan cheese sauce and pour it over your macaroni noodles.
Unsweetened Almond Milk - you definitely want to go with an unsweetened milk here to keep everything as neutral as possible.
Nutritional Yeast - also known as "nooch." Some people love it. Some hate it. You are welcome to omit it, but it is going to take the cheesy flavor away from your vegan mac n cheese. I personally can't imagine a vegan cheese recipe without using nutritional yeast.
Tapioca Flour - tapioca flour is what's going to thicken your cheese up as it heats up and you mix the sauce with your noodles. You can also sub in arrowroot powder or even cornstarch if that's what you have on hand.
Lemon Juice - It might seem weird to use lemon juice in a cheese sauce recipe, but it adds just the right amount of tang to balance out the other flavors. Fresh lemon juice definitely works out better than the bottled stuff.
Step-by-Step Instructions for Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe
What I love the most about this recipe is how quick it comes together. Almost just as easy as the boxed version we all learned to make as a kid.
Step 1 - Cook macaroni noodles according to package instructions. Drain. Do not rinse.
Step 2 - In a medium saucepan, add 2 cups of water and insert a steamer basket. To the basket, add carrots, potatoes, and cashews. Cover with a lid and steam for 15-20 minutes until carrots and potatoes are fork-tender.
Step 3 - Add carrots and potatoes to high-speed blender. Also add the remaining ingredients. Blend on high for at least 1 minute or until completely blended and smooth.
Step 4 - Add cooked pasta back into the large pot and pour cheese sauce on top of the pasta. Gently stir together to coat completely. At first, the sauce will be thin, but as you stir, it will thicken up. Allow vegan mac and cheese to rest for 5 minutes and stir again.
This Vegan Macaroni and Cheese is everything you've ever needed when it comes to comfort food:
- uber creamy
- super saucy
- easy on the wallet
- makes a ton to feed a crowd (or gives you leftovers!)
- so simple to make
- healthy REAL ingredients
Holly's Insider Pro Tips
Add more protein.
Yes we could all eat bowls and bowls of creamy cheesy pasta, but there isn't a whole lot of protein when you eat it by itself. I like the idea of adding in protein-packed options to make this a balanced meal:
- crumbled tempeh
- cooked lentils
- black beans
Freezer and storage instructions.
Once you make the vegan macaroni, it will last 5-6 days in the refrigerator, in an air-tight container.
You could also freeze the assembled mac, but the noodles may end up a little mushy once defrosted. If you know you're going to freeze this one, I'd undercook the noodles by a couple of minutes before combining with the sauce.
One of my favorite combinations is macaroni and green peas. Such an odd one, but I love it. Here are some other options to take your vegan macaroni and cheese recipe to the next level:
- crumbled vegan bacon
- fresh herbs
- bread crumb topping
Use the right blender.
You definitely want to be sure you're using a blender that will make your cheesy sauce as creamy and smooooooth as possible. A high-speed blender is what you'll need for this recipe. I personally love my Vitamix blender because it pulverizes everything. A Blendtec or Ninja may be other good options.
The last thing you want is for the kids (or anyone) to realize you've tricked them with carrots in their mac! They'll never trust you again!
Vegan Mac and Cheese FAQs
Like I mentioned up in the ingredients section, you definitely can choose to omit the nutritional yeast, I personally wouldn't recommend it, as it adds a nice cheesy flavor. Combined with the other seasonings, its not nearly as strong as it can be in other recipes, so I suggest giving it a try.
Almost always, yes. Macaroni noodles and other pastas are generally vegan, but you'll want to check the label to make sure no eggs were added.
Yes! You can made the cheese sauce up to 3 days in advance so it's ready to just pour over your noodles when you're ready. You could also make the entire dish up to 2 days ahead of time, refrigerate in a 9x13 pan, and then bake when you're ready to serve it. You may need to add some almond milk and stir once it's gotten warm, as the sauce does thicken quite a bite once it sits for awhile.
You can. I like using chickpea noodles, or any other gluten free noodles you like will work.
Looking for more Vegan Comfort Food Recipes?
Complete the meal with these Vegan Dessert Recipes
Now that you know how to easy it is to make this vegan mac n cheese recipe, please give it a star rating below and comment letting me know how it turned out for you.
The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
- 16 oz dried elbow macaroni
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup carrots peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cup potato peeled and chopped
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tablespoon vegan butter melted
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- ¾ cup vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 ½ tablespoon tapioca flour
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1. In a large pot, cook elbow macaroni according to package instructions. Drain.
- 2. In a medium saucepan add 2 cups of water and insert steamer basket. Add carrots, potatoes, and cashews. Cover with a lid and steam for 15-20 minutes until carrots and potatoes are fork-tender.
- 3. Add steamed carrots, potatoes, and cashews into a high-speed blender. To it, also add garlic cloves, vegan butter, almond milk, vegetable broth, onion powder, salt, smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, tapioca flour, and lemon juice. Blend on high speed for at least 1 minute or until the mixture is completely combined and smooth.
- 4. Add cooked pasta back into the large pot and pour "cheese" sauce on top of the pasta. Gently stir together to coat completely. At first, the sauce will be thin, but as you stir, it will thicken up. Allow vegan mac and cheese to rest for 5 minutes and stir again. This will allow the sauce to thicken even more.