Creamy, cheesy, yet entirely dairy & nut-free, this vegan mac and cheese is comfort food at it's finest! This mac and cheese is made without cashews, with nutritional yeast, and is ready to eat in under 30 minutes, making it the perfect easy weeknight meal!
This recipe is definitely not like the typical vegan mac and cheese recipes out there. The majority of them use cashews, potatoes, and/or carrots whereas this one does not. Those versions are delicious and totally have their place but I'm sorry, that's not mac and cheese.
This one, however, is the same rich, creamy, full of flavor, and actually cheesy mac and cheese that you know and love. This vegan mac and cheese is made with nutritional yeast and some of the best vegan cheeses on the market.
Aside from being dairy-free and nut-free, it's 100% kid approved and can easily be made gluten-free, making it totally allergy-friendly! No blender is required for this simple vegan mac and cheese, just a pot or two.
- Pasta: you can use any pasta shape you like! I personally love using shells, elbows, or cavatappi. Feel free to use regular, gluten-free, or protein pasta.
- Non-dairy milk: I used soy milk, but you can use any plant-based milk you prefer! Almond milk works perfectly, too. Just make sure whatever milk you use, it's unsweetened and unflavored.
- Nutritional yeast (aka 'Nooch'): to add a cheesy flavor, thickness to the sauce, and to add plant-based protein and fortified vitamins!
- Vegan cheese: I use shredded vegan cheddar cheese in this recipe! I usually use VioLife, as I love the way the taste and melt, and they're free from nuts, keeping this mac and cheese recipe nut-free. Feel free to use a blend of vegan mozzarella shreds and vegan cheddar shreds, or one or the other.
- Flour: just a small amount to create a roux, which will thicken our cheese sauce.
- Vegan butter: to add some flavor and to sauté the garlic and shallot in.
- Garlic & Shallot: a must! You can use a regular white or yellow onion instead of a shallot, but I do think a shallot adds the perfect flavor.
- Mustard: this might seem strange, but don't skip it! Homemade mac and cheese is seriously bland without a small dollop of dijon mustard.
- Spices: salt, pepper, and the optional pinch of paprika.
Other than how it tastes, the best thing about this mac and cheese is how quick and easy it is to make!
Start by cooking the pasta in salted water according to the package instructions. If you are making this ahead of time or for meal prep, slightly undercook the pasta so that when you reheat it, the pasta will be cooked perfectly.
In a large pot or dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté for 3 minutes, or until translucent. Then add in the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Sprinkle the flour over garlic and shallot and stir to coat and combine. Keep stirring for 1 minute to cook down the flour flavor.
Slowly stir in your plant-based milk, whisking constantly, until smooth and slightly thickened. Bring to a low simmer and stir in the nutritional yeast, vegan cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper.
Remove from heat and add in the cooked pasta, mixing well to coat. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking!
Substitutions & Variations
Make this vegan mac and cheese without nutritional yeast by removing it entirely and increasing the amount of vegan cheese.
Easily make this recipe gluten free by using gluten free macaroni and gluten free all-purpose flour.
Make this mac and cheese more healthy by adding your favorite veggies! I personally love to add cauliflower, broccoli, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and/or mushrooms. To be sneaky and keep this recipe kid-approved, you can blend cauliflower into the sauce! Your children will get their dose of veggies and never know it!
Swap out the vegan butter with a splash of vegetable oil and use only nutritional yeast to make this recipe totally oil-free.
Turn this into baked vegan mac and cheese by pouring the mac and cheese into a greased baking dish, topping with breadcrumbs, and baking for 15-20 minutes until golden at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Make this into spicy mac and cheese by adding a generous shake of cayenne pepper, a few dashes of hot sauce, or a diced jalapeño pepper.
Add tempeh or tofu! Not only will it boost the amount of plant-based protein in this dish, it'll make it even more filling.
- Make the roux on low heat. If you burn it, there's no going back! It will not only ruin the flavor of the cheese sauce but it won't get nice and smooth to yield a velvety sauce.
- Whisk quickly and constantly when adding the milk to the roux. This will ensure that the roux gets broken down smoothly and the sauce will thicken.
- Simmer and stir until the cheese fully melted. Vegan cheese takes a bit longer to melt than dairy cheese, so be patient and allow it to fully melt for optimal creaminess!
- For a thicker cheese sauce, add more cheese or leave as is and stand for 5-10 minutes. The sauce will naturally thicken as it sits!
This vegan mac and cheese is great alone, topped with toasted breadcrumbs, or it could be made even better when served with:
- Kale caesar salad
- Steamed or sautéed vegetables (broccoli, mushrooms, green beans, etc)
- Grilled portobello mushrooms
- Vegan meatloaf
- Dinner rolls
Refrigerator: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Freezer: This mac and cheese is freezer friendly! I recommend freezing the mac and cheese in single serve airtight containers for up to 3 months. The mac and cheese sauce can be made ahead of time by itself and can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Note: if you plan to freeze a large batch, I recommend slightly undercooking the pasta, as it will cook more when you reheat it.
Stovetop: Warm on the stovetop over low heat, adding a splash of non-dairy milk, vegetable broth, or water to bring back its creaminess.
Microwave: Using 30 seconds intervals, microwave until warmed through, stirring between each interval.
Oven: Heat in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until warmed through.
If you're reheating after you've frozen the mac and cheese, be sure to thaw in the refrigerator first then follow the above instructions!
Yes! You can use any plant-based milk, just make sure it's unsweetened and unflavored.
Yes! You don't need nutritional yeast or cashews to make vegan mac and cheese. This recipe does use nutritional yeast, but feel free to omit it and only use vegan cheeses.
This recipe will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.