Just because you have made the decision to forgo dairy does not mean that you can’t eat mac and cheese ever again. This Vegan Mac and Cheese is testament to that. Believe me I know the name is a bit of a misnomer. Mac and CHEESE!? I get it. There isn’t actually any cheese in this recipe, vegan or otherwise. HOWEVER, there is a bunch or other ingredients and spices that produce the look and flavor of the original while also managing to bring the comfort and nostalgia we all desire from this particular dish as well. Give it a chance!
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Special Ingredients in Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Raw Cashews: Raw un-roasted, unsalted cashews are an absolute staple in vegan cooking. Raw cashews that have been soaked blend easily in a high speed blender with other ingredients producing creamy sauces, dessert bases and soups without the use of dairy. Here they work exceptionally well in producing a “cheese” sauce.
- Nondairy Milk: When choosing a nondairy milk for this recipe you will definitely want to pick one that is unflavored and unsweetened. Almond, oat or rice milk will work best here. Do not use coconut.
- Nutritional Yeast: Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast that is golden and flaky in appearance. It has a nutty, cheesy flavor and is often used in vegan cooking. It can be found in the bulk section of most natural food stores (Bob’s Red Mill has a good one) and boasts a large serving of Vitamin B12.
- Dijon Mustard: Even if you don’t like dijon, do not leave this out. Just a small amount is needed in the sauce and the acidity in the dijon works as a great flavor balancer.
- Tomato Paste: Tomato paste adds both sweetness and color to the “cheese” sauce. I would recommend purchasing tomato paste in a re-sealable container. This way you are not discarding the rest of the can after taking out a couple tablespoons.
- Lemon Juice: Like the dijon, you need lemon juice for acidity. It also brings a level of brightness and freshness that is severely lacking in most mac and cheese dishes.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: Most grocery stores carry Panko breadcrumbs, which are a Japanese-style breadcrumb. They have a lighter, flakier look and texture. When mixed with vegan butter and sprinkled over the top of a dish, they crisp up in the oven. The result is always a more rustic look and more texture in every bite.
Tips for Making Vegan Mac and Cheese
- If you forget to soak your cashews, no worries! Under those circumstances, place them in a bowl and pour boiling water over the top of them. Allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes before draining.
- Whether you have a high speed blender or not, it is a good idea to rest your machine after each minute of blending. To explain, this will keep your blender from over-heating. This is also important as depending on the strength of your machine the blending process could take up to 5 minutes.
- When boiling your macaroni noodles, cook them until they are just al dente. You will also be baking them in the “cheese” sauce in the oven and you don’t want them to get mushy.
- If you would like to get ahead, you can prepare the “cheese” sauce in advance! Once blended, place it in a sealed container in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. Sauce will keep like this for at least 3-4 days.
What to Serve with Vegan Mac and Cheese
Vegan Mac and Cheese goes great with anything you would traditionally serve with regular mac and cheese. Nevertheless, here are a few of my favorite ways to eat it.
- On its own (duh)
- With broccoli! (Mac and Trees anyone?)
- With a salad (make your fave!)
- As a side to a main course (I made this to go with Thanksgiving dinner and I ate it alongside my non-vegan family. Everyone liked it and it was fine.)
How to Store Mac and Cheese
Homemade vegan mac and cheese will keep in an airtight container stores in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Despite this, it is best eaten the day it is prepared. This recipe is not freezer-friendly.
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Vegan Mac and Cheese
If you didn’t think it was possible for mac n cheese to be vegan think again! This vegan mac is everything you love about traditional mac n cheese without the addition of dairy.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Bake Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 4 Servings 1x
- Category: Savory Recipes
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Vegan
2 c raw cashews, soaked overnight and drained
1 lb macaroni noodles
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c chopped onion
1/2 c chopped carrot
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 c nondairy milk
1/2 c nutritional yeast
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 c panko breadcrumbs
1 tbsp vegan butter, melted
1 tsp dried parsley
- Prep Noodles and Veggies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C). Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil on the stove. Cook macaroni according to package instructions. While macaroni is cooking, preheat olive oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic to the pan and sauté until lightly golden, about 5-7 minutes.
- Blend Sauce: Add cashews, sautéed veggies, nondairy milk, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, tomato paste, lemon juice, sea salt, garlic powder, onion powder and paprika to a high speed blender. Blend until mixture is smooth and creamy. Depending on the power of your machine this could take up to 5 minutes. Run the blender 1 minute at a time to avoid overheating.
- Assemble and Bake: Drain your macaroni and return it to the pot. Pour your cheese sauce from the blender over the noodles. Stir and pour into a casserole dish. I used a 10 inch oblong dish. In a small bowl stir together panko breadcrumbs and melted vegan butter. Sprinkle crumbs over the top of the macaroni. Do the same with the dried parsley. Place macaroni in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
*Mac n Cheese will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or can be frozen for up to 1 month.
**Soaking your cashews overnight is ideal as it makes things a lot easier for your blender. If you forget you can cover the cashews in boiling water and let them sit for 30 minutes. This should do the trick.
Keywords: vegan dinner, vegan pasta, vegan comfort food, dairy free mac n cheese, baked pasta, pasta casserole