A simple mac and cheese is everything! I mean, who doesn’t love mac and cheese? It is creamy, cheesy, and very wholesome. You can serve it as a side dish or enjoy it as a main course. When you don’t have anything else to make, simple mac and cheese are all you need.
It is super easy to make, and thus you can enjoy it literally any time of the day. Even when you feel untimely hunger pangs, mac and cheese can come for your rescue!
Are you looking for a vegan mac and cheese recipe? Look no further; this is by far the best vegan mac and cheese recipe; it is so reminiscent of my mom’s mac and cheese recipe. This vegan macaroni and cheese recipe is so creamy and flavorful. It is the best thing that has ever happened to you. Plus, in this article, we have talked about everything there is to talk about when it comes to vegan macaroni and cheese.
Where did mac and cheese come from?
Macaroni and cheese are undoubtedly the most popular and loved comfort food of all time. That is because of its ease of preparing, its rich and creamy texture, and its cheesy flavor. Now you might have a happy memory of enjoying mac and cheese as a kid, but have you ever given the thought to how did it come into being? I mean, who was the mastermind behind this amazing dish? Well, if you don’t know, let me tell you a little bit about this amazing dish.
The earliest record of a recipe that is very similar to the modern-day mac and cheese came from a cookbook published in the 13th century in Italy, of course. However, there is another record of a similar recipe mentioned in a cookbook that dated back to the1769. Then there is one more mention in a cookbook published in the 18th century.
However, it wasn’t until the famous company “Kraft” came up with their premade macaroni and cheese as dinner in 1937 that the dish actually gained popularity. It was known by almost every person in the USA back then. It was a quick fix for so many and was super comforting. Of course, the original recipe used macaroni, cheese, and cream. All these ingredients were fairly basic, so people really adopted the dish and gave it their heart and soul.
As for the vegan version, there is no true record of who first came up with the vegan version but whoever that was! You rocked, truly!
Can Vegans Eat Macaroni?
Why not? Even if a classic mac and cheese have dairy ingredients in it, you can still satisfy your craving by switching a few ingredients. Choose plant-based substitutes for dairy ingredients, and that’s it! A few tricks can help you enjoy rich, creamy, and tasteful mac and cheese.
Moreover, most brands of pasta available in the market are vegan, which is very good news for us. However, you should still double-check the labels.
How Can I Make My Macaroni And Cheese Gluten-Free?
Yes! You can easily turn any pasta recipe into gluten-free. The same goes for this Mac and cheese recipe. You can do so by choosing gluten-free pasta. You can find these in the gluten-free aisle of any grocery store. For instance, choose Walmart 365 brand! It has gluten-free pasta.
What Makes A Mac And Cheese Perfect?
Although making vegan mac and cheese is easy, it’s tricky to get the right flavors and textures. Over the years, I have tried hundreds of recipes in search of a perfect recipe. But unfortunately, I haven’t had a very memorable experience. All these vegan mac and cheese are either too bland, too dry, or too tangy. In short, there is always a punch missing.
That’s what compelled me to create my own recipe. I took notes, and thanks to my unlimited brainstorming sessions, I came up with a recipe that gives you a mac and cheese with the following characteristics:
- Cheesy: The perfect mac and cheese have to be cheesy without too much overpowering flavor. Now I have used a combination of nutritional yeast or noni juice and coconut milk which is not just a vegan ingredient but also gives this macaroni cheese a cheesy flavor.
- Velvety: The texture should be rich and velvety. It’s the Cashews and coconut milk that give you the perfect velvety texture.
- Creamy: You can either add heavy cream or dairy milk to get creamy mac and cheese in a traditional recipe. However, for a vegan version, Cashews and coconut milk shine here.
- Buttery: You don’t need butter to make mac and cheese buttery. You can use Coconut milk which helps to give a buttery flavor.
How to Make Vegan Mac and Cheese?
Making vegan mac and cheese is very easy. It’s a matter of a few simple steps. These are:
Step 1: Firstly, you have to cook your pasta according to the directions given on the package. Once it is al Dante, drain it and set it aside.
Step 2: Meanwhile, you can work on the cashew cheese sauce. It is super quick to make. You literally have to through everything in the blender jug and blend. That’s all.
Step 3: Now, it’s time to assemble all the ingredients. Add all the ingredients to a large pot and mix well over low to medium heat until everything is well combined and the mac and cheese is warm enough for your liking. Now you can serve this as it is or bake it at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes. Baking it will give the top a beautiful golden color.
A word of caution: Now, If you decide to make vegan baked mac and cheese, you will need to make some extra sauce or add extra water/broth, so it doesn’t dry out.
Tips for Making the Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
Making the best vegan mac and cheese is an art! You have to keep these tips in mind to enjoy perfectly cooked vegan mac and cheese:
- Nutritional yeast is an amazing ingredient. However, not everyone uses it. So, if you are living in a place where it is not available, or you don’t have or don’t like it for any reason, you can use noni juice instead of nutritional yeast. This ingredient is vegan and gives you the same cheesy flavor without using any dairy ingredients.
- Keep an eye on the pasta when cooking it. It shouldn’t be undercooked or overcooked. Because different brands of pasta may offer different cooking times, always read the directions before cooking it.
- There is no specific brand I would recommend to you. All vegan and gluten-free pasta are created equal. So, you can use your favorite brand. Moreover, you can try a few different brands to see which one you like the most. I love using Barilla Pasta.
- Mac and cheese don’t need baking, but you can bake it in a casserole dish until it is golden brown. Also, if you are baking it, make sure the mixture is wet than usual otherwise, it will become extremely dry.
- You can substitute the red bell pepper with cooked carrots for the nice orange color.
- Substitute the coconut milk with any other unsweetened non-dairy, plant-based milk like almond or soy milk. You can also use vegan sour cream or vegan cream cheese instead of plant-based milk.
- Take your macaroni and cheese to another level, add pieces of sautéed vegan sausage, vegan bacon, and broccoli. Use spices like Italian seasoning or paprika for more flavor.
How To Make Vegan Mac And Cheese?
To make this easy vegan Mac and Cheese recipe, prepare pasta according to package directions, meanwhile, blend cashew cheese sauce. Mix with drained pasta, additional ingredients. You can serve as is or bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 20-30 minutes.
Note: If you decide to make vegan baked mac and cheese, you will need to make some extra sauce or add extra water/broth so it doesn’t dry out.
I have added optional ingredients that take this already delicious Vegan Mac and Cheese out of this world. Make the Mac and Cheese as instructed in the directions below, then stir in vegan cheese shreds (Daiya or Follow Your Heart brands), mayo (Just Mayo brand), and butter (Earth Balance brand) or cream cheese (So Delicious brand), so yummy! Best served to skeptics and they will be blown away!
Can You Make Vegan Macaroni And Cheese Without Nutritional Yeast Flakes?
Yes, you can, it will taste yummy but it won’t have as much cheesy flavor as the one with the nutritional yeast flakes. Don’t forget to substitute with noni-juice if you want the cheesy flavor and you don’t have nutritional yeast flakes.
How To Store Your Macaroni And Cheese?
Cool your macaroni and cheese completely and place it in a container with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator for 2-3 days if you will be reheating portion size as needed or in a casserole pan is you will be serving it for the entire family or guests or freeze for 3 months in a freezer-safe container.
Is It Ok To Make Mac And Cheese Ahead Of Time?
Yes, it is okay to make yours ahead and place in a casserole pan and store it when it is completely cooled in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
What Vegan Milk Is Best For Mac And Cheese?
Any plant-based milk can be used for your mac and cheese, however, my favorite for a rich and creamy taste and texture is coconut milk.
Can you skip adding coconut milk to this vegan mac and cheese recipe?
Honestly, although you can use any other plant-based milk, I recommend you use coconut milk. That’s because coconut milk is naturally very creamy. Since you don’t have any dairy ingredients to bring that creaminess, coconut milk is the perfect ingredient that helps us reach that level.
Also, you have to make sure you are using full fat creamy canned coconut milk. The coconut cream is what makes the coconut milk creamy. Without it, it is pretty much like any other plant-based milk. So, if you want creamy, velvety, and rich vegan mac and cheese, don’t skip adding coconut milk.
Can you use any other shape of pasta for this recipe?
Of course, you can. I mean, as long as it is pasta, the shape doesn’t really matter, does it? Most people use elbow-shaped pasta because they are pretty common. However, you can use a spiral shape, shell, or any other shape you like. Even spaghetti will work if you don’t have any other shape available in your kitchen pantry. It doesn’t really matter.
Mac And Cheese Ingredients
- Elbow Pasta
- Raw cashews
- Coconut milk
- Nutritional Yeast Flakes
- Red Bell Pepper
- Lemon juice
- Cayenne pepper
- Parsley flakes
- Scroll Down To The Recipe Card For The Full Ingredient List
How to make vegan mac and cheese taste even better?
It’s all about the ingredients you put into a vegan mac and cheese that makes it more flavorsome. Honestly, mac and cheese taste just perfect with three simple ingredients. I mean, the creaminess alone compensates for everything else. But if you still want to make your vegan mac and cheese taste even better, we have a few ingredients that you might add to it. These are:
- Vegetable stock/bouillon: Adding vegetable stock while cooking the mac and cheese or while making the cheese sauce instead of water makes a lot of difference. It adds tones of flavor to the dish. Moreover, you can also use vegetable bouillon to add more flavors to the dish instead of vegetable stock.
- Scotch bonnet pepper: Scotch bonnet pepper is a popular Caribbean pepper that is super spicy. If you love heat and spice, add them to the dish. Moreover, you can also add jalapeno, red chili powder, or smoked paprika. Whatever you love will work.
- Herbs and spices: If you are a herb and spice lover, feel free to try a few herbs and spices by adding them to this humble vegan mac and cheese recipe.
- Vegetables: Add vegetables like broccoli florets, bell pepper, potatoes, roasted butternut squash to your mac and cheese and celebrate your love for vegetables. I mean, there is no such thing as a lot of vegetables!
- Breadcrumbs: Now, you can add breadcrumbs to this vegan mac and cheese recipe, especially when you are thinking of baking it. You can either use dried breadcrumbs, panko, or toast fresh breadcrumbs in vegan butter. Spread it on top of the vegan mac and cheese and bake. The crisped-up breadcrumbs taste so good! It is very satisfying.
How to Store Your Macaroni and Cheese?
The good news is that mac and cheese last for up to 3 days in the refrigerator, given you store it properly. So, firstly you must ensure that the mac and cheese are at room temperature. Now, put them in an air-tight container and refrigerate. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days. You can reheat it in the microwave or stovetop and enjoy it.
Moreover, you can also freeze vegan mac and cheese. Put the leftover vegan mac and cheese in an airtight and freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months.
Is It Ok To Make Mac And Cheese Ahead Of Time?
Absolutely! If you are hosting a dinner or a huge party at home and cooking everything from scratch, I recommend you neutralize your load and prepare mac and cheese ahead of time. You can place it in the refrigerator, and it will last for up to 3 days. So, prepare it at least two days ahead of time, and you can freshen it up before serving.
How to Reheat Mac and Cheese?
You can easily reheat refrigerated vegan mac and cheese. Now you don’t have to reheat all the leftover mac and cheese every time. You can scoop out the portion you want to eat and reheat it in the microwave or over the stovetop.
If you feel it’s a bit dried (which usually happens when you refrigerate mac and cheese), you can add a dash of water, vegetable stock, coconut milk, or any other plant-based milk and stir until you get the desired consistency and the mac and cheese is heated completely.
Moreover, if you have stored vegan mac and cheese in a casserole dish, simply remove it from the refrigerator or freezer, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Add about ¼ cup of water or plant-based milk and cover it with parchment paper followed by aluminum foil. Place it in a preheated oven and back for about 30 minutes. Now remove the parchment paper and aluminum foil and continue to bake for ten more minutes until its top is golden and bubbly.
What to serve with vegan mac and cheese?
Like I said before, vegan mac and cheese is a perfect side dish or a main course. You can serve it with a number of other dishes. Here is a list of ideas you might want to try:
- Cauliflower Nuggets: Cauliflower nuggets are crispy and very wholesome. They taste even better when you pair them with vegan mac and cheese.
- Vegan Coleslaw: Coleslaw is very versatile. Its refreshing flavor and crunchy texture are a perfect combination with the velvety and creamy vegan mac and cheese. It also goes well with salads like kale salad or any other vegan salad.
- Garlic bread: Enjoy crusty garlic bread with vegan mac and cheese. You can also pair it with vegan cheese bread. It is a perfect start and is just the right choice with this mac and cheese recipe.
- Black Eyed Peas Curry: A rich and tasteful curry and mac and cheese may sound like an unusual combination, but it is a good one. But you will have to try to find out!
- Vegan Soups: Whether it is creamy leek soup or roasted butternut squash soup, it pairs well with this vegan mac and cheese recipe.
Other Non-Dairy Mac And Cheese To Try
- Instant Pot Vegan Chili Mac And Cheese
- Nut-Free Vegan Mac And Cheese
- Cajun Vegan Baked Mac And Cheese
- Sweet Potato Vegan Mac And Cheese
Here Are Some Other Delicious Pasta Recipes For You To Try!
- Creamy Lentil Pasta
- Creamy Basil Pesto Pasta
- Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
- Vegan Alfredo with Vegetables
- Vegan Macaroni Salad
- Noni Juice can be used in place of nutritional yeast if is not readily available.
Get discounted copies of my cookbook here.
Fortunately, because of the Ads on our website, readers and subscribers of Healthier Steps are sponsoring many underprivileged families.
- Energy: 305 kcal / 1275 kJ
- Fat: 13 g
- Protein: 9 g
- Carbs: 41 g
- Preparation: 10 min
- Cooking: 10 min
- Ready in: 20 min
- For: 6 servings
- 8-ounce box elbow pasta or your favorite pasta, ( I used gluten-free pasta)
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for a couple hours
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk, (full-fat from the can)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/2 medium red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 tablespoons onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Pinch Cayenne pepper
- parsley flakes, for garnish
- paprika, for garnish
Additional optional ingredients
- Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Drain and return to pot.
- Drain cashews and discard water. In a high-speed blender process cashews, water, coconut milk, nutritional yeast flakes, red bell pepper, onion, garlic, lemon juice, salt, cayenne until smooth and creamy. Add additional optional ingredients for an extra special mac and cheese.
- Pour sauce over pasta and stir to fully coat, add extra salt if needed. Cook on low until thickened.
- Serve immediately or transfer to a greased baking dish and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F. for 30 minutes.