Ask any vegan to describe the perfect vegan mac and cheese recipe, and they’ll tell you that it has to be easy to make, and use simple, easy to find ingredients. On top of that, this mac and cheese has to taste rich, creamy and totally delicious – the kind of flavor and texture that make you feel like you’re eating something that’s definitely not good for you.
What if I told you that my new vegan mac and cheese recipe has all of those qualities except for one? Believe it or not, it’s actually healthy!
Mac and cheese is one of the foods that I like to talk about when I want to explain why vegan diet has more variety than the standard American diet (another food I mention is lasagna).
Regular, dairy-based mac and cheese that non-vegans consider to be good is usually made with about the same ingredients – cheese, cheese, and let’s see how much more cheese we can stuff in there. However, with vegan mac and cheese, there are so many variations in existing recipes that I myself have probably made at least ten of them in the six years of being vegan.
Speaking about variations, I’ve seen all kinds of ingredients in vegan mac ‘n cheese recipes. Nuts! Potatoes! Cauliflower! Carrots! While I’ve had a few bloopers, I’ve also found a few recipes that my family loved a lot.
The only thing I didn’t love about those good recipes was that they usually were still far from healthy. They often used oil, processed ingredients, or relied on large amounts of nuts to make the cheese sauce rich and creamy. Still healthier than hormone-filled dairy, but not quite where I wanted it health-wise.
That’s why I recently set out on my own journey for the best vegan mac and cheese recipe I could come up with. So today I’m excited to share with you my final creation:
This vegan mac and cheese is:
- – rich
- – creamy
- – gooey
- – flavorful
- – scrumptious
- – healthy
- – oil-free
- – made without processed ingredients
- – easy to make
- – includes a gluten-free option
This recipe is oil-free, but I’m still using raw cashews to get that delicious, creamy depth of flavor. I’ve tried nut-free, low-fat vegan mac ‘n cheese recipes, but I find that they usually don’t have the richness that the non-fat-free recipes allow.
I’ve had lots of fun experimenting with making my own vegan cheese substitutes. For example, see my vegan ricotta cheese recipe that’s ideal for use in any recipe that calls for dairy-based ricotta. I plan to post more cheesy vegan recipes in the future.
How to Make Vegan Mac and Cheese
First, I make the vegan cheese sauce. I toast some all-purpose flour (gluten-free all-purpose flour can be substituted) in a dry sauce pan until it takes on a tan color and releases a slightly smoky aroma. The flour will help the cheese sauce to get thick and creamy without the need for extra nuts or other thickeners. Make sure to watch the flour closely and stir often – it can burn easily!
I then add the toasted flour into the bowl of a high-speed blender along with cashews, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, mellow white miso paste, lemon juice, turmeric, paprika, granulated onion and garlic, salt, and water (see ingredient amounts in the recipe card below). Everything gets blended into a smooth, creamy sauce. The sauce will be quite runny at this point – we’ll need to cook it to make it thicker.
Next, the cheese sauce goes back into the skillet we used to toast the flour. I cook the sauce over medium-low heat, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, until it lowers in volume and takes on a thick, almost custard-like consistency. This step takes less than 10 minutes.
While the sauce cooks, I boil pasta (small shells, elbows, or whatever I have available) to al dente. A couple minutes before the pasta is ready, I add chopped broccoli to the pot to cook it lightly.
Once the pasta and broccoli are cooked, I strain them and toss with the thickened vegan cheese sauce. That’s it!
Tip: This method of cooking broccoli along with pasta, and then tossing in the sauce also works well with pesto instead of the cheese sauce. Try it with my kale pesto recipe, and get ready for a flavor explosion!
Can I Make This Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe without Broccoli?
Sure! I personally love the texture of broccoli in this recipe (plus it’s nice to know that it’s even healthier that way), but you don’t have to feel obligated to use it here.
Since you’re reducing the volume by taking the broccoli out, you’ll need to add more pasta to the dry pasta amount listed in the recipe. Depending on how cheesy you prefer your mac, you may need to use anywhere from 1 extra cup of dry pasta (more ‘saucy’ mac and cheese) to doubling the pasta amount listed in the recipe (less ‘saucy’ results).
How Do I Reheat Vegan Mac and Cheese?
This mac ‘n cheese can be reheated in the microwave as is. Or, if the sauce turned too thick in the fridge overnight, add a splash or two of unsweetened non-dairy milk and mix well before microwaving. Make sure the milk is not vanilla-flavored, or you’ll end up with vanilla mac and cheese 🙂
How Do I Store Vegan Mac and Cheese?
This mac and cheese will keep for 3-4 days when stored in an airtight container in the fridge. I personally haven’t tried freezing it – once I do, I’ll update you! (Or, if you try freezing it, please let me know how it went!)
For the Cheese Sauce:
- 1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour*
- 3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked (no need to soak if using a high-speed blender)
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbsp mellow white miso paste
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp granulated onion
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cups filtered water
- Salt, to taste
For the Mac and Cheese:
- 1/2 lbs small pasta (I used shells)
- 5 cups broccoli***, florets and stems, chopped into small pieces (less than bite size)
- Toast the flour: slowly heat a dry heavy-bottomed sauce pan, add the flour, and toast it, stirring frequently with a rubber spatula, about 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn the flour! Once toasted, the flour takes on the color of a brown paper bag and releases a warm, slightly smoky aroma.
- Add the toasted flour to a blender (high speed blenders work best) along with the rest of the cheese sauce ingredients. Blend on high, pausing and scraping the sides, until the mixture is smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning**.
- Boil the pasta to al dente following the package instructions. About 2 minutes before the pasta is done, add chopped broccoli*** to the same pot. Drain and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, gently heat the cheese sauce in the same sauce pan that you used for toasting the flour until the sauce thickens. Stir the sauce with a rubber spatula to prevent sticking to the pan. The sauce is ready once it takes on a smooth, custard-like texture.
- Mix the drained pasta and broccoli thoroughly with the sauce. Enjoy!
*Gluten-free option: use gluten-free flour in step 1, then use gluten-free pasta.
**You want the sauce in step 2 to be a bit on the salty side - the saltiness mellows out once the cheese sauce is mixed with the pasta.
***If you want to skip broccoli, you'll need raise the amount of dry pasta: use anywhere from 1 extra cup of dry pasta for more ‘saucy’ mac and cheese, or double the pasta amount for less ‘saucy’ results.
Vitamix E310 Explorian Blender, Professional-Grade, 48 oz. Container, Black
Silicone Spatula set : U-Taste 450ºF Heat-Resistant Spatula - One Piece Seamless Design, Non-Stick Silicone Rubber with Reinforced Stainless Steel Core (4 Piece Set, Red)
Anthony's Premium Nutritional Yeast Flakes (1lb), Verified Gluten Free
Ancient Harvest Gluten Free Pasta Shells, 8 Ounce
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Serving Size:1 bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 327 Total Fat: 13g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 0mg Carbohydrates: 45g Fiber: 9g Sugar: 5g Protein: 14g
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This post contains affiliate links to Amazon.com. If you make a purchase through affiliate links on my blog, I receive a very small commission that helps me run this blog, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!