This is the BEST vegan mac and cheese recipe! It’s easy to make, creamy, flavorful, and oh so delicious. The pasta is tossed in a “cheesy” sauce made with healthy ingredients like carrots, cashews, and nutritional yeast. You’ll be shocked this recipe is entirely dairy-free and oil-free!
Who doesn’t LOVE mac and cheese? There’s a reason this meal is such a classic. It’s my go-to whenever I’m craving a giant bowl of comfort food. Unlike most comfort-style meals, this one is secretly healthy! That means you can indulge without actually indulging.
As we all know, traditional mac and cheese isn’t notorious for its nutrition. In fact, it’s loaded with dairy and fat due to all the butter, milk, and cheese inside. Well, what’s different about this recipe? It’s entirely vegan and dairy-free! That’s right; no cheese, no butter, and no milk. We’ll only use whole plant foods to create this delicious pasta dish. You’ll love it, your spouse will surely enjoy it, and the kids will never know it’s made from vegetables!
This mac and cheese is:
- Vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and oil-free
- Creamy, “cheesy,” and packed with flavor
- Made with healthy ingredients
- Quick, easy, and ready in 30 minutes
- Perfect for family dinner
- Kid-approved and non-vegan approved!
What is vegan mac and cheese made of?
For this dairy-free mac and cheese recipe, the “cheesy” sauce is made from 10 ingredients: carrots, cashews, nutritional yeast, lemon, tomato paste, miso paste, pickled jalapeño, garlic, onion, and turmeric.
- Carrots: Surprise! The bulk of the vegan cheese sauce is made with carrots. They’re rich in vitamin A, K1, B6, and potassium.
- Cashews: Cashews help to create a creamy consistency for the cheese sauce. They also provide lots of healthy fats.
- Nutritional yeast: The “cheesy” flavor comes from nutritional yeast! It’s loaded with B vitamins and contains a nice amount of protein.
- Lemon juice: Lemon juice is required to replicate the slightly tangy flavor of real cheese.
- Tomato paste: Tomato paste adds a depth of flavor.
- Miso: Be sure to use mellow white miso paste for this dish.
- Pickled jalapeño: Pickled jalapeño brings a sort of “nacho cheese” vibe to the vegan cheese sauce. Make sure you use pickled jalapeño, not fresh jalapeño.
How to make vegan mac and cheese
Check out the recipe card at the bottom of the page for the full recipe and step-by-step instructions.
Soak the cashews
What is the purpose of soaking cashews? Soaking raw cashews causes them to soften, which leads to easy blending later on. To do this, simply pour boiling water over the cashews and soak them for 20 minutes. After, drain the water.
Cook the carrots
While the cashews are soaking, cook the carrots. Simply add chopped carrots to boiling water and cook, covered, for 10 minutes or until fork-tender. Drain the water afterwards.
Create the vegan cheese sauce
This vegan cheese sauce is so easy to make! After the cashews have soaked and carrots have cooked, add them to a blender along with all other ingredients. Blend everything up until a smooth, creamy, “cheesy” sauce forms! Then, toss the cheese sauce over cooked pasta and enjoy.
Missing an ingredient? No worries! Although I highly recommend sticking to the exact vegan mac and cheese recipe, a few omissions and substitutions can be made. Please note that I would not recommend omitting or substituting all of these. It is best to stick with just one omission/substitution.
Miso paste: I recommend using white mellow miso paste. It provides a depth of flavor that is required of dairy-free mac and cheese. Instead of miso paste, you can add an additional tablespoon of tomato paste.
Nutritional yeast: Okay, you can make this recipe without nutritional yeast. Does that mean you should? Errr, I’m always going to lean toward a “no” on that one. There’s a reason nutritional yeast is included in lots of vegan recipes. It provides a cheesy flavor that simply cannot be replicated with any other ingredient. However, if you cannot get your hands on a bottle of that flakey yellow goodness, the recipe will still be tasty! It will not be as “cheesy,” but you’ll create a nice creamy sauce to pair with your pasta.
Pickled jalapeño: In my opinion, pickled jalapeño provides a nacho-y flavor that makes the cheese sauce more realistic! If you don’t have pickled jalapeños, omit them from the recipe. You can alter the other flavor enhancers (like garlic, onion, salt, and pepper) to adjust, if needed.
Cashews: I strongly recommend including the cashews, but you can replace them with 1/3 cup olive oil instead. This will substitute the fat content of cashews, but the consistency will not be as creamy.
Kaylie’s tips for perfecting this vegan mac and cheese recipe
Soak the cashews. Don’t forget to soak your cashews! It’s an important step in order to plump and soften them. They will not blend as well otherwise.
Salt the pasta water. I always salt my pasta water. It enhances the flavor and helps pasta cook more evenly. I recommend using 1 tbsp salt per pound of pasta. I know, I know – that’s A LOT of salt! Don’t worry, it drains along with the water later on.
Make it gluten-free. I have no issue with gluten, but I always use chickpea pasta. It’s packed with plant-based protein, naturally gluten-free, and tastes no different than regular pasta. For this recipe, I used the cavatappi variety.
Serve with vegetables. I’m a huge veggie lover, so I always pair this dish with a side of roasted broccoli and cauliflower. You toss any of your favorite vegetables into this vegan mac and cheese, or enjoy them on the side!
More vegan pasta recipes
- Vegan Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese
- Vegan Pesto Cavatappi
- Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo
- Vegan Peanut Noodles
- Vegan Broccoli Pesto Pasta
This is the best vegan mac and cheese! It’s creamy, flavorful, easy, and ready in 30 minutes. The pasta is tossed in a “cheesy” sauce made with simple + healthy ingredients. It’s a delicious vegan comfort food that’s secretly loaded with nutrition!
- 1 lb pasta (elbow, cavatappi, rotini, or shells)
- 2 cups chopped carrots
- 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 pickled jalapeño* (tamed, not hot)
- 3–4 cloves garlic (or 1–1.5 tsp garlic powder)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground turmeric (optional, for color)
- Soak cashews: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add cashews to a bowl. Pour boiling water over the cashews. Soak for 20 minutes, then drain the water.
- Cook carrots: Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add chopped carrots and cook, covered, for 10 minutes or until fork-tender.
- Cook pasta: While the carrots are boiling, cook the pasta according to package instructions. After, drain and rinse the pasta.
- Blend ingredients: Add cashews, carrots, nutritional yeast, water, lemon juice, tomato paste, miso paste, pickled jalapeño, garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper, and turmeric to the blender. Blend until smooth and creamy.
- Combine: Transfer cooked pasta back into the pot. Pour “cheesy” sauce over the pasta and mix together. Cook until warm. Serve and enjoy!
- *Use tamed pickled jalapeño, NOT fresh jalapeño.
- Read blog post for ingredient substitutions.
- Nutrition information below reflects the use of chickpea pasta.
- Serving Size: 1/5 recipe
- Calories: 423
- Sugar: 12g
- Fat: 10g
- Saturated Fat: 1g
- Carbohydrates: 63g
- Fiber: 16g
- Protein: 28g
Keywords: vegan mac and cheese, vegan mac and cheese cashews
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