Making a mac and cheese that's vegan friendly is so simple and way healthier than traditional Mac and cheese. The best part is this vegan baked mac and cheese recipe is naturally dairy free, nut free and gluten free - did I mention it's healthy?
Although this recipe calls for elbow noodles, any noodles will work fine. The real star of this recipe is the vegan cheese sauce. It can be used for pasta, nachos or in any recipe that calls for cheese sauce or queso. Finding a vegan mac and cheese without cashews is hard but especially important for people with nut allergies.
When I was a vegan high school student in a household of omnivores, this was my easy peasy recipe I went to often. Although I'm no longer vegan, I still reach for it frequently because I love Mac and cheese and can't eat it as much as I want to with how high calorie the sauce is.
Ingredients and Substitutions
The star of this vegan baked Mac and cheese is the sauce. The bulk of the sauce recipe is carrots, potatoes and onions - which makes it incredibly healthy and pretty low calorie compared to a traditional Mac and cheese.
The only ingredients that aren't pantry staples are potatoes, carrots and onions. The best part about this ingredient list is that it doesn't call for raw cashews - which not only adds lengthy soaking but it makes it not allergy friendly.
What if I don't have carrots and potatoes? You could use butternut squash in equal amounts to replace the carrot and potato, but I prefer the balance the carrot/potato duo brings. If you're feeling fancy, you can even add butternut squash or sweet potato to the carrot, potato and onion mix but I don't like taking the extra step of baking the squash.
What can I use instead of nutritional yeast? Honestly - not much. Nutritional yeast is an amazing pantry staple to have in a vegan household. It's a bonus that it's relatively inexpensive. If you have vegan parmesan on hand, you can sort of substitute this, though it will change the texture and taste slightly.
I don't have x seasoning... What can I use instead? Although the ingredient list on this looks fairly long, a large portion of this recipe is spices and seasonings. In my opinion, they're all necessary to complete this recipe, but the one you could leave out is turmeric. Other than that, if you don't have mustard powder, you can use the same amount of dry yellow mustard for a slightly less potent taste.
FAQs and Other Tips
This depends on the recipe, but most vegan cheese sauces include nutritional yeast as an ingredient as it's similar to parmesan cheese and also high in B12 - a nutrient many vegans lack.
Absolutely! If you're going this route, I recommend cooking the noodles al dente and/or separating the noodles and the sauce before freezing. As for reheating, it's best cooked in the oven or an air fryer. Bonus that the reheating method gives you a great baked vegan mac and cheese.
In the fridge, vegan mac and cheese will last for up to 5 days. If you freeze the pasta, it can last for up to 3 months.
Cashews are a great agent to make a creamy base for soups and sauces. It also has a high fat content. To make this vegan cheese sauce without cashews, you need to replace the creaminess (enter the carrots, potatoes and onion) and use something else for the fat (the olive oil).
Although you don't have to bake the final product, it really does add to the flavour of a classic Mac and cheese. The star is the panko bread crumbs for the breadcrumb topping - enhanced by nutritional yeast, olive oil and spices.
Yes - this question sounds silly to ask but if you don't want to dirty a baking dish, you can just as easily skip the topping entirely for a slightly less complex flavour. Alternatively, you can take the "topping" ingredients and toast them in a nonstick pan until golden and fragrant.
Want more delicious vegan recipes? Check out some of my favourites!
Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese [Nut-Free, Healthy]
- 1 pound dried elbow noodles 450g
- 2 medium potatoes (or 300g) peeled and diced
- 3 large carrots (or 250g) peeled and diced
- 1 white onion (150g) peeled and chopped
- ½ cup reserved water from boiling veggies
- ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin recommended
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric optional
- pepper to taste
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Place potatoes, carrots and onion in a saucepan filled with water. Boil the vegetables until cooked through and tender, about 15-20 minutes. Reserve ½ cup of the water and remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon. Set aside.
- In the same water, cook the noodles as per the instructions on the package. This step is optional - you may also strain the vegetables and use new water, but this step infuses the noodles with more flavour.
- While the vegetables and reserved water are still hot, place all ingredients except the noodles into a high powered blender. Blend on high until completely smooth.
- Preheat the oven on your broil setting (usually 500 degrees).
- Mix together all of the ingredients for the topping in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Stir the sauce into the cooked pasta until well incorporated. Cover with the topping ingredients and broil until the top is browned. Serve immediately.