Pasta is one of life’s greatest comfort foods, and this vegan mac and cheese recipe is no exception! It is made with a base of potato, carrot, and cashew nuts and flavored with nutritional yeast, turmeric, onion, and garlic.
Not only is this a realistic take on a dairy-based macaroni cheese dish, but it is also much more nutritious. So we won’t judge you if you eat this on the regular.
Before we show you how to make this delicious plant-based recipe we will first shed some light on the magic behind making vegan mac and cheese taste cheesy. We will also let you in on some secrets on transforming this macaroni cheese into a variety of other exciting dishes.
What is vegan mac and cheese made of?
There are a few different ways in which you can create vegan mac and cheese. Most recipes simply substitute the ingredients with vegan versions. For example, the grated cheese will be swapped with grated vegan cheese and the dairy milk will be replaced with plant-based milk. This would allow you to use an existing mac and cheese recipe that you already know and love.
However, we are certain you are going to enjoy this take on mac and cheese, which comes from vegan recipe developer Molly Patrick (owner of Clean Food Dirty Girl). Instead of using vegan dairy alternatives, it uses vegetables and nuts. As well as some clever seasoning. It has a great depth of flavor and creates a wonderfully creamy mac and cheese.
Does vegan mac and cheese taste the same?
No vegan mac and cheese is going to taste the same as its dairy counterpart unless you get your hands on a realistic vegan cheese alternative. But the flavors of this recipe do come pretty close!
The nutritional yeast brings a lovely umami cheese-like flavor whilst the cashews make it wonderfully creamy. Mac and cheese is all about comfort and this variation is like a big hug in a bowl.
What to serve with macaroni cheese
We believe that mac and cheese is a tasty dish on its own, but if you want to serve it with some sides, we suggest pairing it with strong umami flavors, such as BBQ-seasoned mushroom steak.
Vegan mac and cheese recipe variations
This vegan mac and cheese is a great base recipe that is perfect for experimenting with. If you like batch cooking, this means you can keep things exciting throughout the week. It also means that if you have any preferences, dietary or personal, then you can adapt the recipe to suit you.
Here are some of our favorite variations for this plant-based macaroni cheese recipe:
- Make it crispy: Who doesn’t love a crispy mac and cheese? We recommend putting your finished mac and cheese under the grill with some grated vegan cheese (we like to use Applewood) on top until it turns a dark golden brown color
- Experiment with the flavors: Love spicy food? Try adding some chili sauce to the sauce. Love herbs? Try mixing in some fresh thyme or sage
- Add some protein: Mix in some fried vegan bacon pieces, some torn-up pieces of tofu, or some white beans
- Include some healthy fats: Blend some avocado into the mix (like in this recipe)
- Hide some extra veggies: Finely chop up some vegetables, like broccoli or cauliflower, and cook them into the dish
- Make it gluten-free: Substitute the pasta like-for-like with a gluten-free alternative
What can you do with leftover vegan cheese sauce?
Make sure to prepare extra of this tasty vegan cheese sauce since it goes well with many dishes. You can use it as a sauce for vegan nachos, lasagna, or any other pasta dish. Alternatively, you could use it as a dip for bread and chips.
Vegan mac and cheese recipe
- 2½ cups water divided (591 ml)
- 1½ cups russet potato peeled and chopped (215 g)
- 1 cup carrot chopped (115 g)
- ½ cup yellow onion diced (70 g)
- 1 tablespoon fresh turmeric root chopped (7 g / can sub with 1 teaspoon turmeric powder)
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and left whole (9 g)
- ½ cup raw cashews soaked in water for 10 minutes (65 g)
- ½ cup nutritional yeast 40 g
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pasta of your choice refer to label for serving suggestions / if using gluten-free pasta, we like brown rice or quinoa pasta
- black pepper to taste
- Place the potato, carrot, onion, turmeric, and garlic in a medium-sized pot, cover with 2 cups of water, and place lid on the pot. Bring just to a light boil, lower the heat, and simmer with the lid on until the veggies are fork-tender – about 20 minutes.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to cook as much pasta as you’d like. Serving guidance can be found on the label. Drain and set aside once it’s ready.
- Remove your cooked veggies from the heat and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Then carefully add everything from the veggie pot, including the remaining water, to your blender. Drain the cashews (discard the water) and add the cashews to the blender, along with the nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, salt, and the remaining ½ cup of water. Blend until the sauce is creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes.
- Return your pasta to its pot and place it over very low heat. Pour as much cheesy sauce over the pasta as you like and stir to coat everything. Add black pepper to taste.
- Dish up and serve!
More like this: