Best Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe (2024)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy.

This vegan mac and cheese recipe from scratch is the absolute best rendition of the classic comfort food but also good for you. It’s so creamy, cheesy and flavorful served with a crispy golden brown panko bread crumb topping for the perfect bite everyone is sure to love.

Jump to Recipe

Best Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe

Made with the creamiest dairy free cheese sauce from cashews, nutritional yeast, lots of aromatics and spices. It’s easy to whip up on a weekday but it tastes so good that you’ll want to also serve this at all the holiday dinners; Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s and any chance you get! You simply can’t get this goodness out of a box.

Using easy to find whole food ingredients, this veggie vegan mac and cheese recipe is irresistibly creamy, cheesy and super delicious! Outstanding when topped with your choice of golden panko bread crumbs, smoky tempeh bits or crispy fried onions. This is definitely that one recipe that is sure to become an instant favorite and a family tradition.

About the Ingredients

  • Macaroni – A traditional elbow shaped pasta will work just fine here; I opted for cavatappi or corkscrews for their beautiful ridges that hold way more sauce than elbows ever could. Ultimately the pasta you choose is your choice, you can use a comforting durum wheat semolina, go for healthy whole grains or choose a gluten free pasta you love.
  • The Cheese Sauce – It’s the silkiest cashew based sauce from scratch, no store bought processed cheese needed. The first layer of flavor comes from deeply sauteed onions and garlic that are then blended together with raw cashews, dry spices (onion, garlic, smoked paprika), cheesy nutritional yeast balanced out by a squeeze of lemon and a kiss of dijon mustard. It’s exquisite and simply the best!
  • Crispy Topping – This is totally optional but recommended. I toasted panko bread crumbs in some olive oil on the stove top until golden brown. It’s really nice to start with some fennel seeds if you fancy them, otherwise the bread crumbs and a pinch of sea salt flakes is just lovely.
  • Garnish – Any fresh herbs like Italian parsley, dill, onion chives or thinly sliced scallions will compliment the macaroni. Pan seared smoked tempeh bits are a favorite of ours and boosts the protein content of the dish.

Recipe Tips + FAQ

  • Make Ahead – The cheese sauce can be prepared a couple of days in advance and brought to a bubble while your pasta is cooking. It’s best to boil the macaroni right before serving.
  • Storage – Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge up to 5 days or freeze in freezer proof containers for up to 3 months.
  • Can I make it without nutritional yeast? – technically you can make a cheesy sauce without it but it is an important ingredient in this recipe. It adds tons of savory cheesy flavor and vitamins but if you must omit it I suggest adding 1 tablespoon of white miso paste instead to make up for that umami flavor.
  • Make it Smoky – The recipe calls for a symbolic amount of smoked paprika, just enough to add a little depth of flavor. If a smokier flavor is desired you can double and even triple the paprika, or better yet add in about a teaspoon or two of liquid smoke.
  • The Topping – I prefer to make my crispy topping in a skillet on the stove top but you could choose to place everything in a 9×13 inch casserole, top with the breadcrumbs and bake for 20 minutes or so until golden brown and crispy. Alternatively pop the skillet under the broiler for a few minutes until golden brown.

Serving Suggestions

  • vegan chicken cutlets or crispy nuggets
  • roasted broccoli
  • tofu nuggets
  • meatless ribs
  • sesame tofu
  • vegan steaks
  • roasted carrots
  • vegan gyros
  • + these fried oyster mushrooms.

how to make vegan mac and cheese

Best Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe (8)

5 from 3 votes

Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

This veggie vegan mac and cheese recipe from scratch is the absolute best rendition of the classic comfort food but also good for you. It's so creamy, cheesy and flavorful served with a crispy golden brown panko bread crumb topping for the perfect bite everyone is sure to love.

Print Recipe

Prep Time:10 minutes mins

Cook Time:15 minutes mins

Total Time:25 minutes mins

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb macaroni (elbow, cavatappi, rigatoni)

The Cheese Sauce

Topping

Garnish

  • onion chives, scallions, smoky tempeh bits, chili flakes, crispy fried onions etc

US Customary - Metric

Instructions

  • If not using a Vitamix or other powerful blender, make sure to soak the cashews in hot water for a couple of hours.

    2.5 cups raw cashew pieces

  • Preheat a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat with a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the chopped onion, a pinch of salt and saute until softened and you start seeing some color. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds or so, just until the garlic is fragrant taking care not to burn it.

    1 medium onion, 4 garlic cloves

  • Transfer the cooked onion and garlic to the blender together with the cashews (drain if you soaked them), water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion and garlic powders, paprika, mustard and salt. Process on the smoothie setting until completely smooth and creamy. Transfer to a large skillet and bring to a bubble. Simmer for a couple of minutes constantly sitting until the sauce starts to thicken.

    1 medium onion, 4 garlic cloves, 2.5 cups raw cashew pieces, 2.75 cups water, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, 1/2 lemon, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 3/4 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 3/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1.5 tsp sea salt

  • Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a heavy sprinkling of salt and cook the macaroni until al dente, following the instructions on the package. Drain well then add the cooked macaroni to the skillet with the cheese sauce and toss until combined.

    3/4 lb macaroni

Crispy Bread Crumb Topping

  • Preheat a skillet over medium high heat, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and stir in the fennel seeds. Toast until fragrant then add the panko bread crumbs. Toss to coat well and allow to toast for a few minutes until golden brown to your liking but stirring often. Season with a pinch of sea salt flakes and spoon over the macaroni and cheese before serving. Garish with thinly sliced scallions, onion chives. chili flakes or black pepper.

    1 cup panko bread crumbs, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp fennel seeds

WFPB + Plantricious

  • To make the recipe Plantricious compliant make sure to saute in water or veggie stock instead of oil, omit the panko bread crumb topping and use whole grain macaroni of your choosing.

    Best Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe (9)

Video

Notes

  • Make Ahead - The cheese sauce can be prepared a couple of days in advance and brought to a bubble while your pasta is cooking. It's best to boil the macaroni
  • Storage - Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge up to 5 days or freeze in freezer proof containers for up to 3 months.
  • Can I make it without nutritional yeast? - technically you can make a cheesy sauce without it but it is an important ingredient in this recipe. It adds tons of flavor and vitamins but if you must omit it I suggest adding 1 tablespoon of white miso instead and a cooked carrot or boiled potato.
  • Make it Smoky - The recipe calls for a symbolic amount of smoked paprika, just enough to add a little depth of flavor. If a smokier flavor is desired you can double and even triple the paprika or better yet add in about a teaspoon of liquid smoke.
  • The Topping - I prefer to make my crispy topping in a skillet on the stove top but you could choose to place everything in a 9x13 inch casserole, top with the breadcrumbs and bake for 20 minutes or so until golden brown and crispy.

Nutrition

Calories: 937kcal | Carbohydrates: 109g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 25g | Sodium: 1024mg | Potassium: 992mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 191IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 8mg

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Keyword: Vegan Mac and Cheese, veggie mac and cheese

Servings: 4 people

Calories: 937kcal

Author: Florentina

Pasta Recipes:

Best Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe (2024)

FAQs

What's the best milk to use in mac and cheese? ›

Any milk is fine. I usually use whole milk, then add some cream, sometimes, just to make it richer. Then you add the cheese of your choice, and melt that, then put the cooked macaroni in. If you are used to using evaporated milk, it's because it makes the sauce a little creamier/richer.

How does Gordon Ramsay make the best mac and cheese? ›

Preparation
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, combine the pasta and milk. ...
  2. Once the pasta is cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter, cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper. ...
  3. Divide between serving bowls and top with the bread crumbs.
  4. Enjoy!
  5. All your favorite recipes, stored in one place.
May 4, 2023

What not to do when making mac and cheese? ›

The 5 Biggest Mac & Cheese Mistakes
  1. Using Only Cheddar cheese.
  2. Not Adding Spice and Seasoning with Salt.
  3. Choosing the Wrong Pasta. There's a reason why elbow macaroni is the classic shape for macaroni and cheese. ...
  4. Overcooking. No one wants grainy cheese sauce and mushy pasta. ...
  5. Skimping on the Toppings.
May 21, 2020

Is heavy cream or evaporated milk better for mac and cheese? ›

It is better to use heavy cream for Mac and Cheese instead of milk, or better yet, use evaporated milk which has the thickness of heavy cream without all of the fat! Furthermore, it is more stable than heavy cream so your Macaroni and Cheese is less likely to curdle or separate.

Why is evaporated milk better for mac and cheese? ›

Evaporated milk is a highly concentrated source of milk protein micelles—bundles of proteins that can act as powerful emulsifying agents—which help to keep the sauce creamy and smooth.

What are the 3 best cheeses for mac and cheese? ›

What Is the Best Cheese for Mac and Cheese? Sharp cheddar is the overwhelming popular choice, but for extra-creamy results, we think medium cheddar is even better. Other delicious options include Gruyère, smoked Gouda, and Monterey Jack.

What makes mac and cheese taste so good? ›

1. It takes two cheeses to tango with mac. For really great macaroni and cheese, you need a cheese that melts well and a cheese that packs a punch. A few cheeses do both (that's a shout out to you, cheddar, emmentaler, and your other alpine-style, fondue favorites).

How do you keep mac and cheese creamy? ›

If you want a very creamy mac n' cheese, you can add Velveeta processed cheese or American cheese (from the deli) to your melted cheese base mixture. The American cheese provides the creaminess you are looking for, and when reheating the mac n' cheese add a little bit of milk.

What can I add to my mac and cheese to make it better? ›

8 Ways to Elevate Your Macaroni and Cheese Dinners
  1. Add extra cheese to your dish.
  2. Mix in some hot sauce and chicken to make buffalo chicken mac n' cheese.
  3. Add in vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and spinach.
  4. Sprinkle some bacon bits or breadcrumbs on the top of your dish.
  5. Add spices and fresh herbs to your dish.
May 21, 2022

Why is my homemade mac and cheese bland? ›

If your mac and cheese tastes bland, it's either because it's under-seasoned, you didn't use flavorful cheese, or you didn't use enough cheese. Try adding a little more salt first, because that might fix it.

What thickens mac and cheese? ›

Unsalted Butter + All-Purpose Flour: The combination of these creates a roux, which thickens the cheese sauce. Milk: The base of the cheese sauce! I recommend using whole milk for a richer, thicker sauce, but 2% will also work.

How do you moisten homemade mac and cheese? ›

Add 1 tablespoon of milk per cup of mac and cheese and mix to incorprate as much as possible. *If you'd like to add more creaminess and flavor, substitute half-and-half or cream. 3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven at 350°F for 20-30 minutes, or until heated through.

Is half and half or evaporated milk better for mac and cheese? ›

Why Evaporated Milk Makes Better Mac. That higher concentration of milk proteins means evaporated milk is more stable, so it's less likely to “break” or curdle. Evaporated milk also usually contains stabilizers, such as carrageenan, which help keep your mac's sauce super smooth and silky.

What milk products can you use for mac and cheese? ›

To make mac and cheese without milk, the best choice is to find something that has a similar texture and a milk flavor. Things like heavy cream, almond milk, oat milk, yogurt, cream cheese, and even pasta water all work very well in boxed mac and cheese.

Why use condensed milk in mac and cheese? ›

Start your cheese sauce by making a roux. Add 1/2 stick of butter to your sauce pan and melt. Add sweet condensed milk (1-2 tbsps) and combine with butter. This step is optional, but the sweetness helps balance the natural acidity from all of the cheese and ties all of the flavors together.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Velia Krajcik

Last Updated:

Views: 6340

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (74 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Velia Krajcik

Birthday: 1996-07-27

Address: 520 Balistreri Mount, South Armand, OR 60528

Phone: +466880739437

Job: Future Retail Associate

Hobby: Polo, Scouting, Worldbuilding, Cosplaying, Photography, Rowing, Nordic skating

Introduction: My name is Velia Krajcik, I am a handsome, clean, lucky, gleaming, magnificent, proud, glorious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.