Say hello to the BEST vegan mac and cheese recipe! Your choice of pasta is tossed in a rich, creamy, and cheesy sauce. It’s secretly made with healthy ingredients like cashews, carrots, and nutritional yeast. Prepare it in 30 minutes with one pot and a blender. You’d never know it’s entirely dairy-free, oil-free, soy-free, and gluten-free friendly!

two bowls of vegan mac and cheese beside a bowl of cashews and a bowl of nutritional yeast

Who doesn’t love mac and cheese?! There’s a reason this dish is the ultimate comfort food. I think we can all agree it’s a meal for the body and the soul. However, unlike most indulgent pasta recipes, this one is secretly healthy!

Seriously, you’ll be surprised once you read the wholesome ingredients list. Nourishing items – like cashews, carrots, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and miso paste – magically create the creamy cheese sauce. It’s a gorgeous yellow-orange color, imitating the classic mac we all know and love.

What’s more, the recipe is quick and easy to make. With just 30 minutes or less, you can prepare it on the stovetop with one pot and a blender. Use your favorite pasta shape, whether it’s a flour, gluten-free, or grain-free option. And feel free to serve it with vegetables or protein for a more complete meal.

This dairy-free mac and cheese makes a perfect weeknight dinner for families. You’ll love it, your partner will enjoy it, and the kids will certainly never know it’s made from vegetables. What an easy way to sneak more veggies into your diet! If you love this recipe, you’ll also enjoy my Vegan Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese.

This cashew mac and cheese is:

  • Vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, and oil-free
  • Easily made gluten-free & grain-free
  • Rich, creamy, “cheesy,” and flavorful
  • Made with healthy ingredients
  • A quick and easy 30 minute dinner idea
  • Kid-approved and non-vegan approved!
vegan mac and cheese with cavatappi shells

What is dairy-free mac and cheese made of?

  • Pasta: You can use any type of pasta, but I recommend elbow noodles or shells. If needed, use a grain-free or gluten-free kind.
  • Carrots: Carrots are a key ingredient for the vegan cheese sauce. In addition to being loaded with nutrients, they help create a vibrant yellow-orange color. Make sure you boil the carrots before adding them to your blender. Raw carrots will not produce the same results.
  • Cashews: The raw cashews are soaked in water, which makes them plump and helps them blend smoothly. This gives the dairy-free cheese sauce a creamy consistency.
  • Nutritional yeast: This ingredient is frequently used in vegan cheese recipes because it naturally has a “cheesy” flavor. Also, it’s loaded with B vitamins. Don’t skip it, it’s an essential part of the recipe.
  • Water: Water thins the cheese sauce and helps the ingredients blend together smoothly. If you want an even richer and creamier sauce, you can swap it for non-dairy milk.
  • Lemon juice: Lemon juice adds a tanginess that helps imitate the flavor of real cheese.
  • Tomato paste: This concentrated paste contains a savory, umami flavor. Additionally, it enhances the color of the cashew cheese sauce.
  • Mellow white miso paste: Similarly to tomato paste, this ingredient provides an umami flavor. If you cannot find it at your grocery store, you can omit it. However, it really elevates the recipe.
  • Tamed jalapeño: Be sure to use sliced tamed jalapeño from a jar. Do not use sliced hot jalapeño or fresh jalapeño slices.
  • Garlic, onion, salt, and pepper: These ingredients enhance the overall flavor of the dish.
a white and marble board topped with chopped carrots, cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon, tomato paste, pasta shells, jalapeño, turmeric, and salt

How to make vegan mac and cheese with cashews and carrots

For the full ingredient measurements and step-by-step instructions, scroll down to view the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

raw cashews soaking in water inside a glass pyrex bowl
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the raw cashews to a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the cashews. Soak for 20 minutes, then drain the water.
chopped carrots boiling in a white le creuset dutch oven
Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the chopped carrots and cook for 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. After, drain the water.
pouring elbow noodles into a white le creuset dutch oven
While the carrots are boiling, cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
cooked elbow noodles inside a white le creuset dutch oven
After, drain the pasta.
boiled carrots, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, mellow white miso paste, jalapeños, garlic, salt, and pepper in a Vitamix blender
In a blender, add the cooked carrots, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, water, lemon juice, tomato paste, mellow white miso paste, tamed jalapeño, garlic, onion powder, salt, and black pepper.
carrot and cashew vegan mac and cheese sauce inside a Vitamix blender
Blend on high speed, until completely smooth and creamy.
pouring vegan cheese sauce over elbow noodles in a white le creuset dutch oven
Transfer the cooked pasta back into the pot. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta.
a wooden spoon mixing vegan mac and cheese inside a white le creuset dutch oven
Gently toss to combine and warm. Serve with any garnishes of your choosing, such as breadcrumbs or fresh herbs. Enjoy!
two bowls of vegan mac and cheese beside a bowl of cashews and a bowl of nutritional yeast

Ingredient substitutions for cashew mac and cheese

Missing an ingredient? No worries! Although I recommend sticking to the recipe as written, you can make a couple substitutions with delicious results. Please note that I do not recommend omitting or substituting all of these at once. It’s best to stick with just one omission/substitution at a time.

Miso paste: You can find mellow white miso paste in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. It should be near the dairy products. Miso paste provides a savory depth of flavor that enhances the mac and cheese. However, if you cannot find it, you’ll be OK removing it completely.

Cashews: If you cannot consume cashews, you can use macadamia nuts instead. Make sure they are raw, not salted and roasted. Don’t forget to soak them in water as instructed.

Carrots: If you’d like to, you can swap the carrots with red bell pepper or sweet potatoes. The flavor will be a bit different, but delicious nonetheless.

Tamed jalapeño: Tamed jalapeño (from a jar) is a secret ingredient that makes the sauce taste like nacho cheese. If you don’t have any, you can remove it from the recipe. You may enjoy a pinch of cayenne pepper or chili powder to add a little spice.

hands holding a white bowl filled with vegan mac and cheese

Tips for making the best vegan mac and cheese

Soak the cashews. Don’t forget to soak the raw cashews. When the cashews soak, they absorb some of the water. This makes them soft and plump, which allows them to blend smoothly.

Salt the pasta water. I always salt my pasta water. It enhances the flavor and helps the pasta cook more evenly. I recommend using 1 tbsp of salt per pound of pasta. That sounds like a lot, but the majority of it drains along with the water later on.

Make it gluten-free or grain-free. I always use chickpea pasta. It’s packed with plant-based protein, naturally gluten-free, and tastes no different than regular pasta. This a convenient way to make it a high protein mac and cheese.

Serve with vegetables. I’m a huge veggie lover, so I always pair this dish with a side of roasted vegetables. I suggest broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, and/or peas.

a bowl of vegan mac and cheese beside a bowl of cashews

If you try this Vegan Mac and Cheese, please let me know your thoughts by leaving a rating and comment below! Ready for more? Subscribe to my newsletter or follow along on Instagram and YouTube!

Note: This post was originally published on July 5th, 2020. The recipe and photos were updated on January 14th, 2024.

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
two bowls of vegan mac and cheese beside a bowl of cashews and a bowl of nutritional yeast

Vegan Mac and Cheese

  • Author: Kaylie Grace
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 5 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Cook, Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

The BEST vegan mac and cheese recipe! It’s easy, dairy-free, and contains healthy ingredients. The creamy cheese sauce is made with cashews, carrots, and nutritional yeast. You’d never guess it’s plant-based, oil-free, soy-free, and gluten-free friendly. This healthy comfort food is a great dinner for families. The kids will never know it’s made with vegetables!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 lb pasta of choice (gluten-free or grain-free if needed)
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp mellow white miso paste
  • 4 slices tamed jalapeño* (from a jar)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Soak cashews: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the raw cashews to a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the cashews. Soak for 20 minutes, then drain the water.
  2. Boil carrots: Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the chopped carrots and cook for 10 minutes, or until fork-tender. After, drain the water.
  3. Cook pasta: While the carrots are boiling, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. After, drain the pasta.
  4. Blend cheese sauce: In a blender, add the cooked carrots, soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, water, lemon juice, tomato paste, mellow white miso paste, tamed jalapeño, garlic, onion powder, salt, and black pepper. Blend on high speed, until completely smooth and creamy.
  5. Combine: Transfer the cooked pasta back into the pot. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta. Gently toss to combine and warm. Serve with any garnishes of your choosing, such as breadcrumbs or fresh herbs. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Jalapeño: Use sliced tamed jalapeño from a jar, NOT fresh jalapeño or sliced hot jalapeño. If you cannot find this ingredient, remove it from the recipe.
  • How to store: This recipe is best enjoyed immediately upon making it. However, if you have leftovers, store them in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator. Enjoy within 2 days. If you are meal prepping this recipe, I recommend preparing the sauce ahead of time and storing it in the refrigerator. Then, simply cook the pasta and add the sauce.
  • Nutrition: The nutrition information below uses regular flour pasta. If needed, you can use a high protein chickpea pasta or a gluten-free/grain-free pasta. This will change the nutrition breakdown.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 440
  • Sugar: 6g
  • Fat: 6.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 78g
  • Fiber: 9g
  • Protein: 17g

Keywords: vegan mac and cheese cashews, dairy-free mac and cheese, vegan mac and cheese carrots

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products I personally use, trust, and love!