How to Make the Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
Our vegan mac and cheese recipe is creamy, cheesy and dairy-free! It cooks in 30 minutes and is every bit as comforting as the traditional version.
Whether you’re following a vegan diet or trying to cut back on your dairy consumption, this vegan mac and cheese is the perfect recipe. It’s quick and easy to make, with 10 simple ingredients. And, even better, it’s incredibly versatile and easy to adapt. Add vegan bacon or steamed veggies, spice it up with red pepper flakes and hot sauce, or give it a crunchy topping by finishing it off in the oven (or all three!).
I love prepping this dish ahead of time and enjoying it throughout the week as a wholesome vegan dinner.
Key Ingredients for Vegan Mac and Cheese
These ingredients result in a smooth, thick and creamy vegan mac and cheese.
When blended with water, raw cashews transform into an ultra-creamy base that can be used for vegan pasta sauces, vegan queso, vegan cheese sauce or even a cashew cheese that’s perfect for a vegan charcuterie board.
Nutritional yeast, also known as “nooch,” is a vegan’s secret ingredient. It has a naturally nutty, cheesy taste that’s packed with vitamins and minerals. In this recipe, it also helps give the mac and cheese its yellow-orange color.
For classic mac and cheese, I suggest using elbow macaroni. Any pasta shape will work, though—try penne, shells or rotini to switch things up.
The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe
This Taste of Home Test Kitchen-approved recipe uses a combination of soaked cashews and nutritional yeast to create a savory sauce for vegan macaroni and cheese.
- 2 cups raw cashews
- 16 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Step 1: Soak the cashews
To soften the cashews, rinse in cold water then place in a large bowl. Add water to cover the cashews by 3 inches. Cover the bowl and let stand overnight.
Step 2: Cook the macaroni
Cook the macaroni noodles according to the package instructions.
Step 3: Blend the vegan cheese sauce
While the noodles cook, drain and rinse the cashews. Discard the liquid. Transfer the cashews to a food processor and add the water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and seasonings. Blend until pureed and smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides as needed.
Step 4: Stir to combine
When the macaroni is cooked, drain and return to the pot. Gently stir in the cashew mixture to fully coat each noodle. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until warmed through.
Step 5: Bake in the oven (optional)
Elevate your dish by making baked vegan mac and cheese. Pour the mixture into a greased baking dish, top with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven at 350°F for 20 minutes.
Tips for Making Vegan Mac and Cheese
Vegan mac and cheese varieties
- Gluten-free vegan mac and cheese: To make this recipe gluten-free, simply swap in your favorite gluten-free pasta.
- Nut-free vegan mac and cheese: Use pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds in place of the cashews.
If you’re not a fan of nutritional yeast or don’t have any on hand, substitute with shredded vegan cheese.
You can also customize this mac and cheese recipe by adding vegetables like steamed broccoli or peas. Pump up the plant-based protein by serving it with vegan bacon, crumbled tempeh or crispy baked tofu.
How to store vegan mac and cheese
Store leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 5 to 6 days. Or, you can freeze vegan mac and cheese. Put it in a freezer-safe bag or container and store for up to 3 months.
To reheat vegan mac and cheese, you have three options. Warm it on the stovetop with a splash of dairy-free milk, heat it in the microwave in 30-second intervals, or place it in an oven preheated to 350° for 10 to 15 minutes. If it was frozen, let the mac and cheese thaw in the fridge before following the reheating instructions.