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Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

This Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese dish is one of my favorite comfort foods, and my version happens to be gluten-free too! The cheese sauce can also be used in lots of other recipes and dishes as well.

vegan mac and cheese in white bowls

Mac and cheese is a dish that pairs well with so many meals like vegan meatloaf, shepherd’s pie, and even black bean burgers.

This is one delicious food that the whole family can agree on!

We love this vegan mac and cheese because it’s…

  • Made with wholesome ingredients
  • Creamy
  • Cheesy
  • Comforting
  • Packed with flavor
  • Delicious
cast iron pan filled with vegan mac and cheese

Vegan cheese sauce

When I first switched over to a healthy plant-based lifestyle back in 2013, one thing that I really missed was CHEESE.

Cheese for pizza, tacos, baked potatoes, lasagna, and so much more. That’s why I came up with this amazing Creamy Vegan Cheese’ Sauce!

Incredibly some of the ingredients used to make this amazing cheese sauce are…

How to make mac and cheese without dairy

To make this delicious cashew mac and cheese, you’ll need to start by making the cheese sauce which is surprisingly easy.

Dice up potatoes, carrots, and onion.

russett potatoes on wooden board being diced

In a medium pot, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Place potatoes, carrots, and onion in a pot and allow to cook until veggies are tender approximately 15 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on how small the veggies are diced.

potato slices in large stock pot boiling

When veggies are tender, drain and place them in a blender. NOTE: reserve 1 cup of the broth, and add to blender. Add all the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth.

I have a Vitamix blender and so don’t take the time to soak my cashews. That thing is powerful and everything that goes into it comes out creamy. However, if your blender isn’t jet engine speed, soaking the cashews in warm water for at least 30-minutes before adding to this recipe will help this recipe come out more creamy. 

vegan cheese sauce in blender

Use cashews or white beans

Originally, I made it with 1/2 cup raw cashews. Now, I sometimes sub out white beans–like navy beans or cannellini–to lower the fat content even more.

Nowadays, I mostly make with a combination of the two–1/4 cup cashews + 1/4 cup white beans. It has a warm creamy texture with less fat.

cashews soaking in water and bowl of beans with labels

Pasta options

Other than the cheese sauce, the only other ingredient needed to make this plant-based mac and cheese recipe is the pasta. There are lots of different pasta options.

Though I am not gluten-intolerant, I like the taste and texture of brown rice pasta, which just happens to be gluten-free.

Normally, I like to use brown rice elbow pasta with this dish. Another great option is whole wheat elbow macaroni.

stainless pot with cooked elbow pasta

Whichever pasta you choose, cook it according to package directions. Once it’s done, drain the water from it and run cool water over the pasta. The cool water helps to stop the cooking process and rinses off the starchy covering.

Add the cooked pasta to a large mixing bowl and pour the cheese sauce over it. I like to add a little turmeric powder to enhance the orangy color. Stir together well.

clear bowl with elbow pasta and vegan cheese sauce

Serve immediately with any of your family’s favorite meals.

*Originally published February 2015.

Your dairy-free mac and mheese questions answered:

  • Q: What is vegan mac and cheese made of? This healthy mac and cheese sauce is made from potatoes, onions, carrots, nutritional yeast, cashews (or white beans), and a few spices.
  • Q: Can you make the cheese sauce without nutritional yeast? To me, the nutritional yeast is a pretty important ingredient because it is what gives this sauce its cheesy flavor. It can be made without it, but the flavor of the recipe will change somewhat.
  • Q: Is this recipe gluten-free? If you decide to use rice pasta or other gluten-free pasta, this recipe can be made completely gluten-free.
  • Q: Can this be made into a macaroni pie? Sure! I would just add some bread crumbs to the top and brown it in the oven at 350°F for about 15 minutes.
vegan mac and cheese with green peas in white bowl

What to serve this dairy-free dish with

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.

vegan mac and cheese in white bowls

Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

This gluten-free vegan mac and cheese dish is one of my favorite dairy-free comfort foods! The cheese sauce can also be used in lots of other recipes and dishes as well.

Ingredients

Cheese Sauce

  • 1 cup potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup broth from veggies
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, unsoaked, (or 1/2 c. white beans)
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 pinch paprika
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper, optional

Pasta

Instructions

Pasta

  1. In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add pasta, and cook according to package directions. Don't overcook it! 
  1. Once pasta is tender, but not overcooked, pour into a drainer and rinse with cool water. Set to the side.

Cheese Sauce

  1. To make this delicious cashew mac and cheese, you’ll need to start by making the cheese sauce which is surprisingly easy. Dice up potatoes, carrots, and onion.
  2. In a medium pot, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Place potatoes, carrots, and onion in a pot and allow to cook until veggies are tender approximately 15 minutes. Cooking time will vary based on how small the veggies are diced.
  3. When veggies are tender, drain and place them in a blender. NOTE: reserve 1 cup of the broth, and add to blender. Add all the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth.
  4. Originally, I made it with 1/2 cup raw cashews. Now, I sometimes sub out white beans–like navy beans or cannellini–to lower the fat content even more. Nowadays, I mostly make with a combination of the two–1/4 cup cashews + 1/4 cup white beans. It has a warm creamy texture with less fat.

Notes

Detailed instructions, in-process photos, and my personal helpful tips can be found in the article above.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 212Total Fat: 6gCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 4gProtein: 9g

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.

Did you make this recipe?

Please rate and leave a comment because I love hearing from you. Remember SHARING IS CARING!

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photo collage for vegan mac and cheese pinterest pin
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Kat

Monday 10th of May 2021

I just made this for dinner after getting the recipe by email from you. It is delicious, but I will add a bit of mustard powder next time to give it an extra kick. Great recipe though and I love your website. It's one of the first places I check if looking for a recipe.

Terri Edwards

Monday 10th of May 2021

Hi Kat- I love the mustard powder addition! I will have to give that a try myself. So glad that you're enjoying the recipes. :D

Janet L Guthrie

Thursday 1st of November 2018

When you mention using beans instead of nuts, are you talking about canned beans or dry beans? Thank you! Looking forward to making the cheese sauce and using it in many different dishes!

EatPlant-Based.com

Thursday 1st of November 2018

Definitely use cooked beans. They can be from a can or cooked from dry. Either will work well. Hope you enjoy the cheese sauce!

sweetonnh

Monday 26th of February 2018

How much breadcrumbs would you add to the top?

EatPlant-Based.com

Monday 26th of February 2018

I haven't added bread crumbs to the recipe before but, if you would like to, maybe use 1/2 cup to a full cup, depending on your preference.

Jenna

Tuesday 8th of August 2017

Can I use butter beans for white beans In place of cashews? Not sure what kind of beans you meant.

EatPlant-Based.com

Tuesday 8th of August 2017

Jenna, I haven't tried butter beans, but I think they would work just fine. I normally use either Northern or cannellini beans.

Olwyn Irving

Thursday 17th of December 2015

Dear Terri - I am so grateful for your blog and your recipes! You are making my transition to no oil/plant based eating possible. This cheese sauce recipe is wonderful and the man I am dragging through this diet change, likes it. In fact, he said it was great! consider that high praise! I have used this sauce a number of ways and they all work! Cannot thank you enough! Olwyn

EatPlant-Based.com

Friday 18th of December 2015

Thanks so much, Olwyn! It's terrific to hear your health journey is going well and that you have company, even if you're having to 'drag' him, lol! This cheese sauce is one our our favorites too because it can be used for so many different things. We use it to drizzle over pizza, top a baked potato or steamed broccoli, to make Cheddar Broccoli Soup, and much more. Thank you again for your kind words, and keep up the good work! :)

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