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My Favorite Vegan Mac and Cheese

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When I feel like making something comforting and satisfying (but still healthy), this vegan mac & cheese recipe always hits the spot. It can easily be dressed up with fresh veggies like broccoli and sliced red peppers for crunch. And, the cashew-based creamy sauce gives a boost of protein.

Vegan mac and cheese in bowl

I’m not going to say this dairy-free version of mac and cheese tastes just like the real thing. Honestly? I think it’s better. It took many batches to get this recipe right where I wanted.

Recipe highlights

  • This mac and cheese dish is so versatile. You can add fresh chopped veggies, spices, or even use gluten-free noodles for a modified version.
  • This is very quick and easy to make. After the cashews have soaked and softened (don’t skip this step, just plan ahead!) all you need to do is whizz it up in the blender.
  • The vegan cheese sauce also makes an amazing dairy-free queso dip for tortilla chips.
  • It’s comforting, satisfying and more filling than traditional mac and cheese. For an even more satisfying meal, I suggest using Brami protein pasta.
  • There are no artificial colors, dyes, or mystery ingredients in this wholesome recipe.

How to make creamy vegan mac and cheese (with cashews)

Vegan mac and cheese on spoon

The reason this recipe is so good and creamy is because of the cashews. So, you can’t skip this ingredient or swap it out with a different nut. First, soak your cashews for at least 3-4 hours to soften up. You can use hot water to soften them quicker, or leave them in the fridge covered overnight.

Tip: don’t skip this step if you want truly smooth mac and cheese!

After soaking, drain the cashews and combine them in a high-powered blender with the rest of the sauce ingredients. Blend till smooth and creamy. Add 1 Tbsp. of water as needed to thin the sauce.

Vegan mac and cheese sauce

Taste and adjust as needed. If you used unsalted cashews (which I prefer to use), you may need to add a touch more salt. Or, consider adding a dash of cayenne pepper for spice.

Prepare the macaroni noodles you are using according to the box instructions and drain. Then, add cheese sauce to the noodle and serve immediately. You can add the sauce to the same pan and allow it to heat up a bit, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Vegan mac and cheese in pan

Recipe tips and tricks

  • Do not skip the step of soaking the cashews! I know it is tempting when you’re in a rush, but it really does contribute to the creamy texture of the sauce.
  • Add fresh veggies like broccoli, peas, or sliced red pepper for added crunch and nutrition.
  • Add vegan cheesy for a more melty consistency.
  • If you love the flavor of garlic, you can also use fresh garlic cloves instead of garlic powder.
  • You can easily make this a baked mac and cheese recipe with breadcrumbs. Prepare the sauce a bit thinner (with a few extra tablespoons of water) and top the pasta off with breadcrumbs and vegan butter. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 350° F.

Storage and make-ahead instructions

I suggest only mixing the noodles and sauce together if you plan on eating it right away. Store the sauce separately in the fridge, and mix with cooked noodles when you’re ready to eat.

If you have leftovers and the sauce has dried up a bit, you can add a splash of plant-based milk and stir before heating.

Use the stovetop to heat this recipe up for best results.

Vegan mac and cheese

So, there you have it. My favorite vegan mac and cheese recipe. I’m not a fan of using vegan cheeses in recipe (though I still do on occasion). I just love how delicious this recipe is with minimal, fresh ingredients.

If you try it, leave a comment and let me know how you served it up. And as always, don’t tell anyone it’s vegan until after they tell you how delicious it is!

More vegan comfort food recipes

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Vegan mac and cheese in bowl
This creamy and comforting vegan mac and cheese is made with cashews for a healthy, dairy-free recipe.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Serving Size 6

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted cashews (soaked for at least 4 hours or overnight, drained)
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp salt (start with 1/2 tsp if using salted cashews)
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • tsp black pepper
  • tsp turmeric (optional, for color)
  • 12 oz elbow macaroni of choice (I like Brami protein pasta)

Instructions

  • Soak cashews in water overnight or for at least 3 hours to soften up. Use hot water to soften them up quicker.
  • In a high powered blender, make the cheese sauce by blending cashews with all ingredients (except macaroni). Add water by 1 tbsp. amount if needed to blend.
  • Prepare macaroni according to package instructions. Drain. Return to pot.
  • Add cheese sauce to the pot with macaroni and mix to combine, and serve right away. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Calories: 339kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 407mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 2mg

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