A vegan mac & cheese recipe that’s totally nut free! Coconut milk is the magic ingredient. Bonus: this creamy mac is super easy to whip up and requires no blending!
I’ve mentioned a few times recently that I’m trying to make this site a bit more allergy friendly. I mean, for most of the five years I’ve been posting, my attitude has basically been, “hey, my recipes are vegan and that’s it.” I wish I could test out every variation on every dish!
But I do post a lot of cashew recipes. And I get a lot of requests for alternatives from people with nut allergies.
A few weeks ago I got a request for a kiddo in my family who has lots of allergies, including dairy, nuts and soy, and I wasn’t able to be of much help at the time. I don’t have many nut-free, soy-free recipes on this site that also happen to be kid-friendly. So I decided to just go out and make one!
This mac and cheese is not only vegan (and therefore suitable for people with dairy allergies too!) but it’s also nut free, and, if you like, soy free. Super allergy friendly. And bonus: it’s easy. You don’t even have to bust out the food processor.
I adapted the sauce from my creamy pesto pasta, which uses coconut milk, but for this recipe I seasoned up the coconut sauce to taste cheesy.
You’ll start by cooking some flour in a bit of oil. This is your thickener. Next, in goes a mix of coconut milk and another (not quite as rich) non dairy milk. You can use whatever non-dairy milk works with your diet here, as long as it’s unsweetened and unflavored. Soy milk, nut milk, rice milk, and hemp milk are all good choices.
Let the sauce simmer for a while to thicken up. Seasonings go in at the end, to make it look and taste nice and cheesy.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta. One thing I don’t recommend here is using a gluten-free pasta. Stick with wheat, because the pasta is actually going to help the sauce thicken up even more, but I’ll get to that in a minute!
When the pasta is almost done cooking, add in some broccoli. Or add in your favorite veggie, but broccoli goes really well with mac and cheese, so that’s what I picked. And of course you can skip the veggies if that’s how you roll.
Cooked pasta and broccoli go into the cheesy coconut sauce. Let them simmer for a minute. The starch from the pasta will thicken up the sauce even more.
Serve and enjoy!
Tips for Making Amazing Coconut Mac
- Maybe you noticed that I called this recipe “kid-friendly,” but also that it contains hot sauce. That’s not a mistake! Stick with a mild, vinegar-based hot sauce (like Cholula), and just use 2 tablespoons. Your mac will not be hot! The hot sauce will make it taste cheesier though. Trust me!
- To keep this recipe soy free, use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce.
- I mentioned above that I used wheat pasta and flour, and therefore I don’t have a gluten-free option, or at least one that I’ve tested. But I can tell you what I think will work: try thickening the sauce at the end (skip the flour + oil) with some arrowroot powder, use a gluten-free pasta, and skip the step where you let the pasta simmer in the sauce at the end — just stir it in and serve. I’d love to hear how this works out if anyone gives it a try!
Creamy Coconut Mac & Cheese with Broccoli
A vegan mac & cheese recipe that's totally nut free! Coconut milk is the magic ingredient. Bonus: this creamy mac is super easy to whip up and requires no blending!
- 10 ounces dried macaroni or pasta shells (or your favorite pasta shape)
- 3 cups chopped fresh broccoli
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, or another neutral flavored cooking oil, plus a dash
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (from a can)
- 1 cup unflavored and unsweetened non-dairy milk of choice (almond, soy, hemp, or non-canned coconut milk all work)
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 2 tablespoons vinegar-based hot sauce, such as Cholula
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set the timer according to the package directions for cooking the pasta until al dente.
When the timer gets down to 2 minutes, add the broccoli to the pot and give it a stir.
When the timer goes off, drain the pasta and broccoli into a colander and return them to the pot. Toss with a dash of oil to prevent sticking.
Coat the bottom of a large pot with 1 tablespoon of oil and place it over medium heat.
When the oil is hot, whisk in the flour to form a thick paste. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture darkens a bit and begins to smell nutty, about 3 minutes.
Whisk in the coconut milk and non-dairy milk of choice.
Raise the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, whisking frequently, for about 7 minutes, until it thickens up a bit.
Whisk in the nutritional yeast, soy sauce or coconut aminos, hot sauce, vinegar, onion and garlic powders, and salt. Taste-test and season with salt to taste. Adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
Add the pasta and broccoli to the pot with the coconut mixture and give it a good stir. Allow to cook for about 1 minute, just until the pasta is perfectly tender. The sauce should thicken up a bit more during this time.
Remove from heat and serve.