Trust me, I know what you’re thinking. Why is this chick trying to make a vegan mac and cheese recipe? How does it work? Is it actually good?
I know you’re intrigued.
So let me explain…
First of all, you must know that this vegan mac and cheese IS DELICIOUS, creamy, cheesy tasting, a little spicy, dairy free, plant based, addicting and sooo damn good that my husband, a real cheese obsessed man, LOVED this vegan mac and cheese SO MUCH that he went back for seconds.
Typically, he pours ketchup over most of his food (even real mac and cheese) and didn’t want to do it with this recipe because he enjoyed it THAT much.
So now you know, that not only did this vegan mac and cheese pass a real cheese lover’s taste test, but that it’s also meat-loving man approved.
Ingredients in vegan mac and cheese
This easy vegan mac and cheese is made by making my simple vegan cashew cheese sauce then stirring it into fresh boiled noodles of choice. The cheese sauce is made up of nutritious ingredients that will leave you wondering how in the hell it tastes so dang creamy and similar to real cheese. Here’s what you need to make the recipe:
- Raw cashews: yes, RAW cashews are the base of this recipe, and when soaked and blended with a little water or milk, cashews form into a beautiful, super creamy nutritious sauce full of fiber, protein and healthy fats. Just remember you’ll have to soak the cashews for at least 45 minutes, so keep that in mind. Just put them in a bowl and walk away for a few hours; I’ve also added a way to speed up the process to only 30 minutes in instructions of this recipe.
- Nutritional yeast: have you ever had nutritional yeast before? My mom originally got me hooked during college. She’s put it on her buttered toast with a little garlic powder and salt and it tasted just like cheesy garlic bread. So, what is nutritional yeast? It’s a deactivated yeast made from sugarcane and beet molasses. It’s cheesy tasting, nutty and contains an incredible amount of B vitamins. You can buy nutritional yeast at most grocery stores including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
- Almond milk: make sure to use an unsweetened almond milk in this recipe. Water would likely also work, but I love how it gets super creamy with the addition of almond milk.
- Garlic: because what is life without a few cloves of garlic?
- Spices: another thing I use to flavor this mac and cheese is plenty of spices including ground turmeric, paprika and onion powder.
- Dijon mustard: This gives the mac and cheese a little zesty and adds a slight tang. Just TRUST ME!
- Jalapeno: you’ll put the entire pepper in (seeds and all) and it’s never been too spicy for me or anyone I know. It adds lovely flavor. If you’re nervous about the spices or making this for kids, take out the seeds or leave out the jalapeno completely.
- Salt and pepper: a decent amount of s+p to add flavor.
- Pasta: you can use any kind of pasta you like, including gluten free pasta! I love using pasta shells because the sauce gets into the each of the pockets for cheesy flavor in every bite.
How to make vegan mac and cheese
- This vegan mac and cheese SO easy to make! First you’ll need to soak your cashews for at least 2 hours. However, I’ve found that you can easily speed up the process by adding the raw cashews to a pot with water and placing over high heat. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat. Let the cashews sit for 30-45 minutes in the warm water, then drain.
- Add all vegan cashew cheese sauce ingredients to a blender and blend until completely smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
- Boil your pasta until al dente, then drain and add back to the pot. Stir in the vegan cheese sauce for the creamiest mac and cheese ever. Scoop into bowls and enjoy!
Jazz up your vegan mac and cheese with veggies
Another great thing about this delicious vegan mac and cheese recipe is that you can mix in your favorite veggies. I suggest either broccoli or peas (my fav) for a little nutritional boost.
- To add peas: you can stir in ¾ cup frozen peas to the pasta once you add in the cheese sauce. Give them a few minutes and they should defrost right in the pot with the mac and cheese.
- To add broccoli: you can boil 3-4 cups of broccoli florets with the pasta and then finish the recipe as-written.
I challenge you to make this vegan mac and cheese recipe soon and then come back and let me know what you’ve thought.
For being a plant based mac and cheese recipe, this has nearly 17g of protein. It’s filling, nutritious and a great way to impress your vegan or dairy free friends, or serve to kids who can’t have dairy. Promise they’ll gobble it right up!
See how to make this vegan mac and cheese recipe:
If you make this recipe, please take a moment to leave a comment below and rate the recipe. We appreciate you! xo.
Easy Vegan Mac & Cheese
The BEST vegan mac and cheese recipe with a deliciously creamy vegan cheese sauce! This easy vegan mac and cheese can be made in a few simple steps, has a hint of spice and will be your new favorite plant based comfort food.
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews*
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 jalapeño, chopped (you can deseed if you are sensitive to spice)
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound shell (Conchiglie) pasta* (or any kind of gluten free pasta you’d like!)
- To garnish:
- Freshly ground black pepper
*To make the cashew cheese sauce: soak the cashews in 4 cups of water for at least 2 hours; otherwise I've found that you can easily speed up the process by adding the raw cashews to a pot with water and placing over high heat. Bring water to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat; let the cashews sit for 30-45 minutes in the warm water, then drain.
Once the cashews have finished soaking you'll be ready to make the sauce: add drained cashews, garlic, nutritional yeast, almond milk, jalapeno, turmeric, paprika, onion powder, dijon mustard, salt and black pepper to a high powered blender. Blend until a thick sauce comes together. If you want a thinner sauce, add a bit more almond milk. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.
Cook the noodles according to the directions on the package, until they are al dente. Drain noodles, then add back to pot and stir in your cashew cheese sauce. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.
To make gluten free: feel free to use a gluten free pasta if you’d like.
If you’d like to add in broccoli, you can boil 3-4 cups of raw broccoli florets with the pasta.
If you want to add peas to the recipe, you can stir in ¾-1 cup frozen peas to the pasta once you add in the cheese sauce. Give them a few minutes and they should defrost right in the pot with the mac and cheese.
Recipe by: Monique Volz // Ambitious Kitchen | Photography by: Eat Love Eats
This post was originally published on March 21, 2018 and republished with updated photos on January 13, 2020.