This creamy vegan mac and cheese is made with pasta smothered in a creamy, flavor-packed but totally dairy-free sauce. Easy to make and a guaranteed hit with kids and adults alike!
To say that I’ve made a lot of vegan mac and cheese over the years is an understatement. I’ve tried so many recipes! I’ve also tried to develop so many recipes! And while many were good, it took a while before I really felt like I nailed it.
Mac & cheese is pretty much the ultimate comfort food. I needed a recipe that was better than good. I needed one that was knock-your-socks-off awesome. Well, I think I finally did it!
Vegan Mac & Cheese Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this:
- Dried elbow macaroni
- Raw cashews
- Non-dairy milk
- A potato
- Miso paste
- Nutritional yeast
- Roasted red peppers
- Red wine vinegar
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Vegan butter (optional)
- Hot sauce (optional, but great for flavor!)
How to Make Vegan Mac & Cheese
Prep by peeling, dicing and boiling your potato until it’s soft.
Now make your sauce. Place the cashews into a food processor bowl with some non-dairy milk. Blend them to a smooth paste. Be patient! This can take a few minutes depending on how powerful your device is.
Add the potato, along with some more milk, nutritional yeast, miso, roasted red peppers, vinegar, onion and garlic powders, and salt. Blend again until the sauce is perfectly smooth. Give it a taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
For extra flavor, add some mild hot sauce! A tablespoon or two of something like Cholula or Crystal hot sauce will add a lot of cheesy flavor, but not all that much heat.
Boil your pasta, and when it’s done, toss it with a bit of vegan butter. Pour in the sauce and stir up your mac until it’s smooth and creamy. You can thin the sauce with some extra milk if you’d like.
If you find the macaroni has cooled down too much, just place the pot on the stove and heat it back up, stirring all the while and adding more non-dairy milk as needed.
Shortcut Method — For High Powered Blending Devices
Use this tip if you have a high powered blending device, like a Vitamix, and would like to save some time.
Instead of soaking your cashews for hours, just boil them with your potato, then blend everything for the sauce at once.
Variation: Baked Vegan Mac & Cheese
Okay, this isn’t technically baked. I don’t usually recommend baking recipes with cashew-based sauces, because they just tend to dry out too much.
Instead, broil it. Preheat your broiler. Make sure your mac & cheese is hot. If not, heat it up on the stove, adding non-dairy milk as the sauce dries. You want it to be very hot and very creamy before broiling.
Once it’s hot, place your macaroni into an oven-safe container. Sprinkle the top with some breadcrumbs — most panko breadcrumbs are vegan. You can season them with some spices and salt if you like. Pop it into the oven and broil until the top is browned and crispy.
Tips for Making Perfect Vegan Mac & Cheese
- If you aren’t opposed to some heat in your macaroni, please do add some hot sauce! It’ll make it taste extra cheesy. A vinegar-based brand like Crystal or Cholula should work out great.
- Save time the day of making this by prepping the cheese sauce in advance. It’ll keep for about 2 days in the fridge. It may thicken up a bit — just thin it with some water or non-dairy milk if it does.
- Can I use roasted cashews? I don’t recommend it. Roasting cashews brings out their nutty flavor, so your cheese will taste less like cheese and more like cashew butter.
- Want to make this gluten-free? Just use your favorite gluten-free pasta!
- Prefer a nut-free vegan mac? Try my coconut milk vegan macaroni and cheese.
- Try adding some veggies! I like to throw some chopped up broccoli or greens into the pasta water during the last minute of boiling.
- Where can I find miso paste? Try the international foods section of your supermarket, or an Asian market. If all else fails, order it online.
- Where can I find nutritional yeast flakes? Try the natural foods section of your supermarket, or a place like Whole Foods. Or order them online.
Classic Vegan Mac and Cheese
This creamy vegan mac and cheese is made with pasta smothered in a creamy, flavor-packed but dairy-free sauce. A guaranteed hit with kids and adults alike!
- 1 medium (12 ounce/340 gram) russet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 16 ounces dried macaroni pasta
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup unflavored and unsweetened soy or almond milk, plus more as needed, divided
- 1/4 cup white miso paste
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Place the potato into a medium pot and cover it with water. Place the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil.
Lower the heat and allow the water to boil until the potato is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and drain the potato into a colander. Return it to the pot.
While the potato cooks, boil the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions.
Drain the pasta into a colander, return it to the pot, and add the butter. Stir to melt the butter.
Place the cashews into a food processor bowl with 1/4 cup of milk and blend to a smooth paste. You can add more milk if needed to help this along.
Add another 3/4 cup of milk, the potato, miso, nutritional yeast, peppers, vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Blend the mixture until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. This can take a few minutes.
Thin the sauce with additional milk if needed, then taste test and season with additional salt if you like. Adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
Pour the sauce over the pasta and stir until evenly coated. If the macaroni needs reheated, place the pot on the stove over medium heat. Heat the pasta, stirring frequently and adding more milk as needed, until hot.
Divide onto plates and serve.