Did you know that this seven-year-old vegetarian food blog did not have a macaroni and cheese recipe until today? It’s true. I’ve failed you on the mac and cheese front, but I’m making it up to you with this vegan (I repeat: dairy free) mac and cheese recipe.
From one cheese lover to another, I’m here to tell you that this mac and “cheese” is remarkably cheese-like and absolutely delicious.
I’ve been slowly working on this mac and cheese since I published my vegan queso recipe two months ago. The first time, I tried to use pasta cooking water instead of my queso’s secret ingredient (grated potato), and it was just ok.
Then, I added the potato back, and the potato starch makes this cashew-based queso super silky and creamy. It’s remarkable!
The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
Nutritional yeast is key, in addition to the grated potato. It offers some cheesy flavor and color. Frontier Co-Op just started offering it in smaller bottles, and after using it in this recipe, I really believe their product is superior. It has less funk than the regular store-bought brand, so if you haven’t enjoyed nutritional yeast in the past, please give it a shot.
I kept tweaking the amounts and spices until we had just the right amount of sauce for one-half pound of pasta. I’ve finally nailed it. Don’t be intimidated by the ingredients list—it’s all basic pantry ingredients!
I couldn’t help but incorporate some broccoli for some extra flavor, color and health benefits. Keep it or leave it out—I’ve included guidance for either option in the recipe below.
Vegans, dairy-free friends, and cheese lovers who crave a more redeeming mac and cheese recipe, this recipe is for you.
Amazing Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Pasta
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Vegan
This vegan mac and cheese recipe is incredibly creamy and remarkably cheese-like! You won’t believe how delicious dairy-free mac and cheese can be. Recipe yields 2 large or 4 modest servings.
- 8 ounces whole-grain macaroni elbows
- 1 head of broccoli, florets cut into small bites (about 1 ½ to 2 cups), optional*
- 1 ½ tablespoons avocado oil or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 cup peeled and grated russet potato (4 ounces, about 1 small or ½ medium potato), preferably organic
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, more to taste
- Small pinch of Frontier Co-op red pepper flakes
- ⅔ cup raw cashews**
- 1 cup water, more as necessary
- ¼ cup Frontier Co-op nutritional yeast
- 2 to 3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar, to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook according to package directions. If using broccoli, stir it into the pot when just 2 to 3 more minutes remain. Drain, and transfer the contents to a large serving bowl.
- Meanwhile, in a medium-to-large saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender and turning translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the grated potato, garlic, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, salt and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute to enhance their flavors.
- Add the cashews and water, and stir to combine. Let the mixture come to a simmer. Continue simmering, stirring frequently and reducing heat as necessary to avoid a rapid boil, until the potatoes are completely tender and cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Carefully pour the mixture into a blender. Add the nutritional yeast and 2 teaspoons vinegar. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary. If the mixture won’t blend easily or if you would prefer a thinner consistency, add water in ¼ cup increments, blending after each one.
- Taste, and blend in additional salt until the sauce is utterly irresistible (I typically add at least another ½ teaspoon). If it needs a little more zip, add the remaining teaspoon of vinegar. Blend again.
- Pour the sauce into the bowl of pasta. Stir until well combined, and serve immediately. Leftovers keep well, chilled and covered, for 3 to 4 days. Gentle reheat, adding a tiny splash of water if necessary to loosen up the sauce.
Recipe adapted from my vegan queso.
Make it gluten free: Simply use your favorite gluten-free noodles.
*On broccoli: You can omit the broccoli altogether, or replace it with finely chopped kale or peas (about 1 ½ cups). If you omit it, you might not need to use all of the sauce.
**Raw cashew notes: Most recipes like this suggest soaking the cashews for 4 hours in advance to make them easier to blend and to digest. I honestly never soak mine since I have a powerful Vitamix that blends them right up. The cashews in this recipe are cooked in hot liquid, so they’re softer and even easier to blend. However, if you don’t have a great blender or if you’re concerned about the digestibility factor, go ahead and soak them in advance.
▸ Nutrition Information
This post was created in partnership with Frontier Co-op and I received compensation for my participation. Opinions are my own, always. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who support C+K!