Vegan Broccoli Mac and Cheese is the ultimate comfort food recipe that's also perfect for meal prep! A cashew-based vegan cheese sauce is mixed with pasta, broccoli and chickpeas to make this casserole nutrient-packed and filling.
It doesn't matter that we're still hitting weather in the 90s here in Georgia, because as soon as the calendar hits fall my house is a flurry of casseroles, comfort food, and seasonal produce.
Sometimes a homemade casserole is the only logical answer to the changing of seasons.
This vegan broccoli mac and cheese casserole is the answer to all of your comfort food and meal prep dreams. It's seriously one of my new favorite recipes and I think that you'll love it too!
This casserole hits every mark for a balanced meal: whole grains, vegetables, protein and healthy fats. All mixed up into one creamy, comforting dish that will make you say "That's vegan?!"
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Like any good casserole, this broccoli mac and cheese is composed of a few different components mixed together in one dish. Let's break down each of those parts:
Creamy vegan cheese sauce: After being soaked overnight (or for at least 6 hours), cashews are blended with nutritional yeast, flour, non-dairy milk and seasonings into an ultra-creamy dairy-free sauce.
Pasta: I use whole wheat rotini in this recipe, but you can also use elbows, shells, or any other small shape.
Steamed broccoli: You can use fresh broccoli florets or frozen broccoli - they are nutritionally equivalent and yield the same end result.
Chickpeas: While cashews contribute a fair amount of protein to this dish, chickpeas help to fully balance the plate. If you don't have chickpeas on hand, you can use any other canned bean.
How to make
The evening before you plan to make this recipe cover 1 cup of cashews in water. Let soak for at least 6 hours, or overnight. I usually soak the cashews in the morning if I plan to use them after work.
Step 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Cook until al dente -- this is the shorter amout of recommended time on the box. For example, if the package says 8-10 minutes you should cook the pasta for 8 minutes.
Step 2. Steam broccoli. There are a few ways that you can do this. I place a medium-sized pot filled with one inch of water on the stove over medium-high heat. Place a steamer basket in the pot (this is the set that I use and love because all of the parts come together).
Once the water is boiling, cover with a lid and steam until the broccoli is al dente, about 2-3 minutes. You can tell it is ready because the broccoli is bright green and can be easiy pierced with a fork.
Step 3. Make the cashew sauce. Drain water from the soaked cashews. Add cashews and ½ cup non-dairy milk to a food processor (this is my food processor -- it's simple and gets the job done!). A high-powered blender will also work. Process until cashews are mostly broken down.
Step 4. Add remaining sauce ingredients to the food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy.
Step 5. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 or 11 x 11-inch casserole dish. Add cooked pasta, broccoli, and chickpeas. Cover with the cashew sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
Step 6. Melt ¼ cup vegan butter in a small dish in the microwave. Stir in the spicy panko breadcrumbs. Crumble this mixture on top of the assembled casserole. Cover the casserole with foil before placing in the oven.
Step 7. Bake covered for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or until the panko is crispy.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy warm with a garlic knot or on its own.
Looking for similar recipes? These are a few of my favorite vegan dinner recipes:
- Black-Eyed Pea Veggie Bowls
- Vegan Tofu Pot Pie
- Black Bean Veggie Burgers
- Hummus Pasta with Lemon & Arugula
- Instant Pot Lentil Sloppy Joes
If you're looking for a nut-free vegan macaroni and cheese you might like my coconut-milk based vegan macaroni and cheese.
Vegan Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 cup raw unsalted cashews
- 2 cups dry rotini or preferred small pasta
- 1 pound fresh broccoli or ~2 large crowns
- 2 cups unsweetened soy milk
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar apple cider vinegar also works
- 1 15 ounce can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- ¼ cup vegan butter
- 1 cup spicy panko breadcrumbs
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- At least 6 hours and up to 1 day before you plan to make the recipe: Cover 1 cup of cashews in room temperature water. Let soak until ready to use.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, until al dente.
- Remove the broccoli stem and chop broccoli into florets. Using your preferred method, steam broccoli for 2-3 minutes, until tender but not completely soft.
- Add remaining sauce ingredients to the food processor: 1 and ½ cups soy milk, nutritional yeast, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, turmeric, vinegar. Process until smooth.
- Lightly oil a 9x13 or 11x11-inch casserole dish. Add cooked pasta, broccoli, and chickpeas. Cover with the cashew sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
- Melt ¼ cup vegan butter in a small dish in the microwave or stovetop. Stir in the spicy panko breadcrumbs. Crumble this mixture on top of the assembled casserole. Cover the casserole with foil.
- Bake covered for 20 minutes on the middle oven rack at 350 degrees F. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 10 more minutes, or until the panko is golden brown and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy warm topped with freshly ground black pepper.
- Al dente pasta: You want the pasta to be fully cooked but not mushy. Use the shorter about of recommended time on the pasta instructions. For example, if the package says 8-10 minutes you'll want to cook the pasta for 8 minutes.
- How to steam broccoli: There are a few ways to steam brocolli. I place a medium-sized pot filled with one inch of water on the stove over medium-high heat. Place a steamer basket in the pot (this is the set that I use and love because all of the parts come together). Cover with a lid and steam until the broccoli is al dente, about 2-3 minutes. You can tell it is ready because the broccoli is bright green and can be easiy pierced with a fork. If you don't have a steamer basket, you can use a metal colander or sieve.
- Frozen broccoli: An equivalent amount of frozen broccoli can be used in place of fresh. Cook frozen broccoli until tender before adding to the casserole.
- To make gluten-free: Substitue the pasta for your favorite gluten-free pasta. An all-purpose gluten-free flour mix can be used in place of the regular all-purpose flour. If unable to find gluten-free Panko, a gluten-free brand of regular breadcrumbs will work.
- Non-dairy milk: If you are soy-free, you substitute with cashew milk. Choose a non-dairy milk that is unsweetened and unflavored for best results.