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. (And for those who also appreciate traditional, cheesy mac and cheese recipes, you don’t want to miss my new stovetop mac and cheese recipe.)
Please let me know how you like this recipe in the comments! If you’re transitioning to vegan or dairy-free recipes, don’t miss my vegan sour cream and vegan Parmesan.
Watch How to Make Vegan Mac and Cheese
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!
To die for sauce!!!! Totally in love
First time making it…all the comments made this recipe sound so yummy. And I’m not even going to have the Mac and Cheese because I don’t have the pasta at home and am not going back to the store for just that. This time around it’s broccoli with cheese sauce. So looking forward to the whole experience.
You’re welcome, Bonnie! Thank you for your review.
I made this recipe today and was really pleased with it. Instead of adding vinegar I substituted lemon juice. I added a little Rooster Sauce to the final product to give it a bigger kick as I felt the actual “cheeze” sauce to be lacking somewhat in depth. It’s an easy recipe and very good and we are able to play around with it. I am thinking of adding a fire roasted pimento the next time to make the sauce more colorful. Thank you for posting this and working on this for so long. The grated potato is genius and adds not only a thicker texture but a great taste.
This is incredible! So easy and so delicious!! I will use this as a cheese sauce for burgers, schnitzels etc.
Creamy, Thick and super easy.
I am very impressed with this meal, exactly what i was after !
I’m glad you liked it, James! Thank you for your review.
Loved this recipe. I definitely added more salt and vinegar. I also threw in some agave and used regular mustard bc I didn’t have dried mustard powder. Kiddo ate it right up! I could eat the sauce with a spoon it was so yummy.
Absolutely amazing! Thank you! We ate it so fast I forgot to get a pic! I will be making again! Next time I’ll take a photo.
Thank you for your review, Kathryn! I’m glad you enjoyed it and plan to make it again.
This was a great recipe find. I am helping my 20 year old explore new recipes as he’s been vegetarian for two years and recently started leaning more towards veganism. It surprised my husband that there was actually no dairy in this! I made it with kale and the sauce is one I’ll return to and experiment with in other dishes.
I’m glad this one worked for your family, Abbie! I appreciate your review.
Would it work to replace cashews with tofu? If so how much would you recommend? If not what other substitution would work?
Hi Lily, I didn’t test it with tofu so I can’t say for sure.
Any suggestions for a substitute for the cashews please? I was hoping to make it for friends but they’re allergic to cashews.
I don’t have a great alternative for cashews right now. Sorry!
Just made this – best vegan cheese sauce ever thank you – Irene :)
You’re welcome, Hersk!
Made this dish tonight, didn’t make any changes to the ingredients and loved it. Only negative is a few too many things to wash up :)
I’m glad you enjoyed the end result, Hannah!
I just made this for dinner as I had nutritional yeast and wasnt sure what to do with it. What a surprise, very tasty, I will definitely make again, with a bit more flakes. Thank you for the recipe.
You’re welcome, Andrea!
This recipe looks fairly simple and it looks delicious on the picture. I would really love to try it out but I have one problem – I’m intolerant to onions. Would I need to substitute something else for the onions or double up on something else? Or would the sauce be ok without the onions? Does anyone know?
Hi Rachel, sorry to disappoint but the onions is really big for the flavor of this. I don’t have a suggestion right now, sorry!
I made this for my lactose and gluten intolerant husband using gluten-free pasta. We both LOVED it! So creamy, savoury and more-ish, absolutely satisfied our mac cheese cravings.
I have made this a second time, adding a head of cauliflower, broken into florets roasted at 200c for 20 mins instead of the broccoli which gave it a more intense flavour. Yummy!
Wonderful, Gemma! I’m delighted it was a hit. I appreciate your review.
This was delicious, I added more pepper flakes for a spicy zing….great job!! Served it as prepared with broccoli added sauted mushrooms and asparagus on the side!
Sounds delicious, Angela! Thank you for your review.
I’m a big mac n cheese fan so I knew it was going to be tough to convince my tastebuds. I wanted to try this to see if I could get my macky fix without cheese. The sauce tasted okay but not cheese for me. I found a generous sprinkling of nutmeg helped push the flavor more towards cheese.
I made this and am new to anything vegan . It truly was amazing.what else can I use sauce with as I have a lot left over and how long does it last without going off.
I’m glad you loved it, Maudie!
Okay, I admit it: I was skeptical. I’ve made plenty of vegan sauces in my time and most are actually quite good, even though they won’t fool anyone into thinking there’s dairy.
This one? It was well beyond quite good, in fact I would call it excellent, and while it still won’t fool anyone, it was genuinely worth the extra effort compared to easier sauces.
I tripled the sauce and served with 1lb of pasta and 2lbs of frozen chopped broccoli (that I simply microwaved separately and combined with pasta after draining).
Thank you, Kate! Thank you, Cookie! You’ve got a winner here for sure!
Hooray! I’m glad you thought it was worth the extra effort. I appreciate you taking the time to share.
Amazing sauce!!! I could eat it all day long it is so good. Using it for an oven baked Mac and cheese but will definitely try it with other dishes too. First time trying a vegan version of Mac and cheese, I have a go to recipe which I loved growing up but have since given up and trying to find alternatives hasn’t. been easy since being diagnosed with milk protein intolerance and have been lactose intolerant since I was small so I am used to drinking both store bought and homemade nut milks like cashew, almond and macadamia.
I’m glad you can enjoy this recipe, Andrea! Thank you for sharing, Andrea.
Hi Kate! Thinking of making this as a side dish for thanksgiving! Do you think it would work well baked in the oven with panko on top? Thanks! Looking forward to making this!
I can’t say without trying it. But this recipe isn’t designed for the oven so I’m not sure how well the sauce will hold up. Let me know if you try it!
It was a big hit with the local vegans. I added a bunch of extra salt/turmeric/cajun spices at the end to get the flavor and color jusssst right.
Thank you for your review, Carlo!
Delicious when I made it. But I usually double recipes to freeze. Can this mac n cheez be frozen?
Hi Laura, I don’t find that pasta dishes freeze the best. But, it does do ok as leftovers.
Really tasty recipe, added cayenne and nutmeg too while blending. Two thumbs up from husband who loves “real” mac and cheese.
This sauce is awesome. It’s not overly yeasty like lots of the vegan sauces out there can be. I only had half the amount of cashews called for and it still worked out really well! Thanks for sharing!
Amazing! My 3 year old and 10 month old just finished an entire adult sized bowl each!
I love that! Thank you for sharing, Pip.
This was so easy to make and absolutely DELICIOUS!! Thanks, Kate!
You’re welcome, Sydney! I appreciate your review.
I recently discovered I’m lactose intolerant and I’ve been looking for a good dairy free mac and cheese recipe. This recipe is so good! Hits the spot for that cheesy craving.
You’re welcome, Lavy! I’m glad it hit the spot.
Ann Galbraith Miller
My grandchildren are vegetarian (as am I), and too often we give them mac & cheese because it’s quick and easy and they can be picky about some dishes. I served this to them, and they never knew the difference!
Can I use yellow potatoes instead?
This is best as written.
We followed the recipe and it tastes like water with garlic and onion. I’ve tried simpler recipes that turned out incredibly thick and cheese. You have to add least 1/2 -3/4 cup of nutritional yeast. And instead of water add cashew milk. And more potatoes to get it to thicken up. And for the color tumeric. It’ll turn out really yellow.
Hi Christian, I’m sorry you didn’t like this one.
Wow this was so good! I had pretty much given up on vegan mac and cheese. Even my toddler who doesn’t like dairy mac and cheese loved this. I would say the flavor wasn’t quite as cheesy as the real thing, but the texture was phenomenal.
Thank you, Ann! I’m glad it was a hit for both of you.
Didn’t have broccoli so used peas and eliminated onion and garlic powder. Made with a side of roasted beets. Always love your recipes!
I wasn’t too sure how this would turn out since I over cooked the onions but it was very good. However, we found it too bland for our taste so I will definitely use more onion, garlic & mustard powder next time. We added prepared Dijon mustard at the table and it went from very good to great. The sauce had a great consistency (I needed to add more water) and it was the perfect amount for 8 oz. of pasta (I used Bonza cavatappi pasta) & 1/2 head of cauliflower florets. Next time, I’ll also add peas for color. Really great recipe with a few tweaks to satisfy our taste buds.
I’m sorry you didn’t love it. I appreciate your feedback, Elizabeth!
I make this religiously once a week – the sauce serves so many meals not just one and I keep what I don’t need for the first meal because u only need a certain amount to coat I find – don’t overload the sauce – btw cauliflower gratin is amazing with the sauce
Thank you so much for this amazing staple – all my non vegan friends ask for this when they come over for a meal – it’s so good
I’m so glad you love it, Hersk! Thank you for your review.
Yummy, just made this for the family, it was delicious
I would describe myself as someone that finds cooking a real chore because nothing I ever do turns out like it’s supposed to! However, I have triumphed in the kitchen thus I now have the love of strangers & family! This is so easy to cook and it is absolutely lush and so filling and cheap to make.
THANK YOU for sharing this recipe Kate :-)
You’re welcome! I’m glad you loved it.
This is a super lazy question, is there any shortcut on the grated potatoes? Has anyone tried frozen hashbrown?
Hi Melissa, I didn’t try it and not sure if it would provide the same result. If you try it, let me know.
I have a son who had a cashew allergy…and a dairy allergy ♀️ Could I substitute cashew with almond?
Hi Lubna, I don’t find almonds get the same creamy texture. Some have suggested sunflower seeds or macadamia nuts. However, I haven’t tired that myself so I can’t say for sure. Sorry!
Thank you for another great recipe, Kate! I trust that you always test your recipes, so I made it exactly as written (I typically tweak recipes, even on the first time making it). Absolutely delicious vegan mac n’ cheese. The only things I might change next time is to more aggressively season the sauce in the blender because my whole wheat noodles had a stronger flavor on their own, and save a little pasta water to add at the end. I love how guilt-free this dish is!
Thank you for your review, Tara!
The instructions don’t explain how to incorporate the potatoes. I even searched the page.
Hi Shonda, See step 4 & 5. The potatoes are apart of the mixture. I hope that helps!
Yes. I see it on my desktop computer. I think the phone view must have been blocked by an ad. I even used ‘Find on Page’, but it didn’t show. Thanks.
So good, as usual, Kate! Thank you. I added a carrot and a 1/4tsp of turmeric for more colour. I also added in cauliflower. It was delicious! I reserved some pasta water instead of adding salt and put it on the leftovers I’m excited to have for lunch! Thanks for this easy and delicious meal.
Thank you for sharing, Kara! I’m happy you enjoyed it.
This was delicious! I didn’t change a thing. I could just eat that sauce with a spoon. Even my very, very picky 2 year old loved it. First thing I have made in awhile that she would actually eat! Thank you!!
You’re welcome, Bailey!
Yum and eee. I modified my sauce by sautéing chopped up Portobello mushrooms, my husband and I love mushrooms. I removed some before I puréed the sauce to add texture with the veggi. It did make the color a bit off, but tasted delish. Next time I may add a bit more pepper flakes only because we prefer our food a bit spicy. Thanks Kate, definitely a do over.
Absolutely delicious, I have made this numerous times over the last few weeks! I’m not vegan, but I would say this is at least as good as the real deal! Mustard works just fine as a substitute for mustard powder, and mashed sweet potato is lovely instead of regular potato (though regular potato works well too).
Hi Kate, I’m from Perth Australia, and I LOVE your content -how ‘home style’ and healthy (or NOT! ) they are :)
Quick couple of questions for this Vegan Mac n cheese recipe
~will the white sauce component freeze?
~what can I use (if anything) to substitute the cashews with for a nut-allergy friend?
Hi! I haven’t tried freezing the sauce, so I can’t say for sure. I don’t have a great alternative for cashews. I know other recipes can call for sunflower seeds.
So delicious! Cooked it for my son’s birthday party and everyone enjoyed it. Thank you Kate!
This exceeded expectations. I didn’t expect the broccoli to add anything more than nutrition, but it was delicious with the pasta! I even overcooked my pasta, so it was kinda mushy, but still delicious! Next time I’ll be more careful, and there will definitely be a next time!
I’m happy to hear that, Liz! Thank you for sharing.
Hi Kate, amazing recipe, thank you. I’d like to make a batch of the sauce for my son. I know pasta doesn’t freeze particularly well but would the sauce freeze and thaw okay?
Hi! I haven’t tried to freeze it, so I can’t say for sure.If you try it, let me know!
This is one of my favorite recipes! I’m curious if you think the sauce could be frozen and used later?
Hi Kelsey, I haven’t tried it. Sorry!
is there a substitute for the cashews or can they be omitted all together? I’m allergic to them but id love to try this recipe!
Hi Brandi, I don’t have a great substitute. I know there are “cheese” sauces with sunflower seeds. I haven’t tried that, but you can try that.
Great base sauce recipe, the potatoes make it very creamy. I added and extra bulb or fresh garlic and a red onion, vegan cheese, a pinch of fresh chilli, macadamias and a little coconut cream (bringing to the boil removes coconut flavour)
Lovely with French green beans or broccoli and any good quality pasta.
Just made this tonight for my family. Only thing I did differently was added half and half water/oatmilk instead of just water. It was seriously delicious and I cannot thank you enough for this wonderful recipe!
I would live to try this recipe but my daughter has a nut allergy. Can I replace the cashews with anything and it still taste good?
Hi Drena, I’m haven’t found a great nut free option to get the same result that cashews provide. I know there are sauce recipes with sunflower seeds. Although I haven’t tried that here.
Thank you for perfecting this! As a forced dairy free eating mama, I miss eating Mac and cheese for comfort food ! This was fantastic! Thank you ❤️
Ivy Cooks Vegan
I tried this recipe out last night! It does require a good bit of ingredients but most are common household seasonings and vegetables so I had everything I needed on hand. The sauce is creamy and delicious! For next time, I would have added a touch of water to the sauce (like recommended) before mixing with the noodles & broc so the sauce is a little thinner. My daughter and I both ate a large portion and could have kept going! I cant wait to reheat leftovers! Thank you! #Ivycooksvegan
Our family didn’t like this. It tastes like a creamy onion sauce with overpowering vinegar. It was very very creamy and we enjoyed that aspect. If I were to make again, I would halve the onion (or even use 1/3) and omit vinegar. I’ve had vegan Mac and the “cheesy” flavor from nutritional yeast comes through but the other things were too overpowering.
I’m sorry this wasn’t a hit. I appreciate your feedback.
Bonnie D MacEvoy
This is a delicious recipe. I used green peas instead of broccoli, added 3T shredded carrots for color (and adds a touch of sweetness), and 1/8tsp black pepper (in addition to red pepper flakes). I didn’t need to thin it, but if I did I was going to use unsweetened non-dairy milk.
It does taste good with higher salt level. We have been substituting potassium salt for 1/2 of the regular and love the flavor. 50:50 worked well here!
Bonnie (another one; not the same one who previously posted)
Thank you for sharing how you made it, Bonnie!
I accidentally forgot to peel the potato before grating it. Should I compost it and grate another one? Or can it be used if it wasn’t peeled?
What did you decide to do? I think it would still turn out.
Hi, will a regular white potato work or does it need to be russet? Thanks
This is best as written. I hope you try it, KP!
Delicious! Was craving mac and cheese and was gonna head to the shops to buy a box vegan pack. I don’t really like them though as they sometimes make me feel ill. This recipe was delicious and healthy. My only fault was the GF pasta and brocolli were overcooked, even though I took then out before 9 mins. Next time I’ll be more careful. Will make again, thank you!
I’m glad you loved it, Renee!
thank you for this recipe. I recently cut out cheese and this recipe helped with my craving for mac n cheese. I messed up a little in not softening the cashews enough. Next time I will cook and blend them better. I didn’t have vinegar. So I added light miso, mostly because I just discovered miso… It was really good, and makes a good leftover
My 5-year-old daughter is OBSESSED with the box Mac and cheese – and she is currently gobbling this down. I let her try the sauce and she very seriously gave her nod of approval. First time I’ve found a vegan cheese substitute that my kids don’t question. Thank you!
I love to hear that! Thank you for sharing, Emily.