This vegan macaroni and cheese is packed with flavor, super smooth and creamy and ready in under 30 minutes. The best part? This recipe is made without cashews AND it's blender free!
If you're like me and love comfort food and vegan mac but don't like getting out a blender, soaking nuts, or boiling veggies, then this recipe is for you!
If you're looking for a vegan mac and cheese made without cashews, then this recipe is also for you.
- Dietary features: vegan, dairy-free, nut-free, can be made gluten-free and oil-free
- Made without a blender or food processor.
- Super creamy: Uses coconut milk for a smooth, rich, and creamy texture
- Quick and easy recipe: Ready in under 30 minutes using pantry staples.
- Flavorful: Packed with umami, savory flavors.
What you'll need
- Coconut milk is the key ingredient. Choose cans of coconut milk, not boxed/refrigerated "coconut milk beverage" or coconut cream. Lite coconut milk works but will result in a thinner sauce.
- Miso adds a lot of saltiness and depth. I use yellow or white miso (they are very similar) but red miso will work in a pinch.
- Nutritional yeast contributes to the "cheesy" flavor. You can find nutritional yeast in the baking aisle or by the spices at most grocery stores. I usually use Bragg's brand.
- Seasonings: Ground mustard powder, Old bay, and onion powder are classic mac n cheese seasonings. Old Bay is a multipurpose seasoning that is useful to have on hand for roasted veggies and fried tofu.
How to make vegan mac and cheese
Step 1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, sauté 3 cloves of minced garlic in olive oil until lightly golden and fragrant.
Step 2. Sprinkle in ¼ cup of all-purpose flour. It will be slightly lumpy- don't worry! Toast the flour for 1-2 minutes, until it is deepened in color. This removes the raw flour flavor.
Step 3.Slowly add the coconut milk to the flour mixture, whisking to combine. Start with just a little bit and slowly add in more to prevent lumps.
Step 4. Add the nutritional yeast to the flour and garlic mixture. Stir in the miso, lemon juice, mustard powder and salt. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth. Let simmer over medium-low heat until thickened.
The cheese sauce is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon without sliding right off. It will continue to thicken when you turn the heat off.
For a lower-fat option
Use one can of light or reduced-fat coconut milk in place of a can of full-fat coconut milk. The recipe will be slightly less creamy, but still delicious.
To make gluten-free vegan mac and cheese
Use an all-purpose gluten-free flour in place of regular all-purpose flour. My favorite brand is Bob's Red Mill all-purpose flour blend.
Adjust for salt
I don't add any table salt because miso is very salty. If you prefer a saltier sauce I recommend tasting for salt at the end.
This recipe does have a subtle coconut flavor so if you really don't like coconut then this recipe may not be for you. The coconut flavor is not overpowering because the other ingredients mellow it out and give it that cheesy umami flavor.
Yes! If you prefer baked mac, this recipe can easily be modified. My broccoli mac and cheese recipe has a golden panko topping you can add if you'd like a golden crust.
If using the broccoli mac method, add to a lightly greased 9x13 or similarly sized casserole dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake covered for 15 minutes on the middle oven rack at 350 degrees F. After 15 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or until the panko is golden brown and crispy.
No, coconut milk is required for this recipe. You might like my broccoli mac and cheese recipe if you're looking for a cashew-based sauce.
No, but I do have an instant pot vegan mac and cheese that is very similar to this recipe.
If you want to serve mac and cheese with a veggie, I recommend steamed or roasted broccoli. Cauliflower is also a great option.
Make-ahead tips and storage
- Leftovers: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days. The sauce will thicken as it is refrigerated so you may need to add a splash of unsweetened milk (I usually use soy milk) or vegetable broth.
- Reheating: Reheat a single serving in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until warmed through.
- Freezing instructions: This freezes well. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw completely in the fridge before reheating.
- Make-ahead: You can make the vegan cheese sauce in bulk and freeze it for later use. It will need to thaw in the fridge for up to 24 hours before using and will need to be stirred and heated before using.
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Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese (Cashew-Free!)
Creamy Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
- 8 ounces dry elbow macaroni or pasta of choice, see note #1
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 2 cans (13.5 oz each) unsweetened full fat coconut milk see note #2
- 2 tablespoons yellow miso white miso also works
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice from 1 small lemon
- 1 and ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon Old bay seasoning optional
- Cook pasta to al dente in well salted water according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, drizzle in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute, until golden and fragrant. Stir frequently to prevent burning.
- Sprinkle in flour, whisking for 1-2 minutes, until lightly toasted. Whisk rapidly while slowly pouring in ¼ cup of the coconut milk. The mixture will appear lumpy at first but should thin out as you continue whisking. Slowly pour in the remaining coconut milk while whisking.
- In a small container, whisk together the miso and 2 tablespoons water to thin the miso out. Add in the thinned miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, mustard powder and Old Bay seasoning.
- Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high, then lower down to a simmer over medium-low. Simmer until thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon without falling off. Continue to whisk occasionally to prevent clumping. If needed you can add in water 1-2 tablespoons at a time to thin the sauce.
- Stir in the cooked pasta and taste for seasonings. Enjoy!
- Pasta: This is a pretty sauce-y mac and cheese. Increase up to 12 ounces of pasta if you want less sauce.
- Coconut milk: Choose canned coconut milk. For a lower-fat option, you can use one can of light or reduced-fat coconut milk in place of a can of full-fat coconut milk. The recipe will be slightly less creamy but still delicious.
- To make gluten-free: Use an all-purpose gluten-free flour in place of regular all-purpose flour.
- Freezing: You can make the cheese sauce in bulk and freeze it for later use. You can also freeze the mac and cheese. It will need to thaw in the fridge for up to 24 hours before using and will need to be stirred and heated before using.
- Leftovers: Keep refrigerated in a closed container for 3-4 days for best quality.
- I usually serve this recipe with coconut bacon bits or tempeh bacon.
Note: This recipe was originally shared August 2018. It was updated May 2021 with new photos, a video and extra tips. The recipe remains the same.