This Vegan Mac and Cheese is creamy, cheesy, and made with absolutely no cashews! It's quick and easy to make, with just 20 minutes needed! Nut-free and gluten-free.
This is the best vegan mac and cheese recipe you'll ever make! It's SO delicious and truly irresistible, you'll never guess that it's made without cashews. Dare I say, it's even better than traditional mac and cheese.
While most recipes use sweet potatoes and raw cashews to create the sauce, this one uses real cheese, butter, flour, and milk (all vegan of course).
The pasta is cooked until al dente, then coated in a silky smooth cheese sauce that's buttery and packed with flavor.
Once you try this vegan mac and cheese without cashews, you'll find yourself making it time and time again. It's the kind of tastiness that leaves you licking the plate even after you've eaten two servings.
Ingredients and notes
See the recipe card below for exact measurements.
- Elbow macaroni or any small-shaped pasta.
- Vegan butter. To give some clarity, you can use any margarine that doesn't have animal products in it. Margarine and vegan butter are almost the same things.
- Vegan cheddar. You can use any vegan cheese you like that melts well.
- Frozen green peas. I like to add them to have some veggies, but they're totally optional.
- Flour. You can use any kind of flour you like including white flour, gluten-free all-purpose, or rice flour.
- Non-dairy milk. I use soy milk, but almond milk, oat milk, and even coconut milk will work as fine. Just make sure to use unsweetened and unflavored.
- Nutritional yeast. It can be found at most big food stores, or at a health food store. It gives a cheesy flavor to the sauce.
- Spices. You'll need garlic powder, onion powder, and ground nutmeg, as well as salt and black pepper.
How to Make Vegan Mac and Cheese Without Cashews
Step 1: Cook the pasta
Fill a large pot with water and stir 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Cook pasta according to package instructions, until al dente. Add frozen peas in the last 2-3 minutes (optional). Then, drain and toss with olive oil to prevent it from sticking.
Step 2: Make the roux
In a cast-iron skillet or a rimmed pan, melt butter over medium heat. Then, add minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
Turn the heat to low and add flour. Using a whisk, mix until a paste is formed. Slowly pour the plant-based milk, while whisking constantly to prevent clumps. Then, add dijon mustard and spices, and stir.
Step 4: Finish the cheese sauce
Add lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and shredded cheese, and stir. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the cheese fully melts.
Step 5: Coat the pasta
Add the cooked pasta and peas in and toss until everything is well coated with the cheese sauce.
Serve this vegan mac and cheese without cashews right away, and sprinkle with some vegan parmesan for even more flavor (optional).
- Make the roux on low heat. If you burn the roux, there is no going back, so make sure not to cook it on too high heat.
- When adding the milk, whisk constantly. This will ensure that no big clumps of flour will remain and that the cheese sauce will turn out smooth and creamy!
- Cook the sauce until the cheese fully melts. Vegan cheese takes longer to melt than dairy cheese, so you'll need to keep cooking and stirring the sauce for 3-4 minutes for the shreds to melt.
- Remove the cheese sauce from the heat immediately after it's ready. The more you cook it, the more it thickens, which can lead to dry mac and cheese. Cook it just enough so that the cheese melts, then remove it from the heat.
You can make the cheese sauce 5 days in advance, and reheat it on the stove with a few splashes of milk before using it.
Cashews are mainly used for adding richness, creaminess, and volume to vegan cheese. They're high in fat and when you soak them in water they get plum and soft, which allows them to blend into a creamy and smooth consistency.
Yes, you can make mac and chees with any plant milk you like! I've found that soy milk works best because it's rich and creamy, whereas almond milk can make the cheese sauce thinner. Whatever milk you chose, just make sure that it's unsweetened and unflavored!
Yes! You can freeze this recipe for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container. Make sure to let it thaw overnight before reheating.
Substitutions & Variations
- Make it without nutritional yeast: It's best to substitute the nutritional yeast with 1-2 tablespoon white miso paste. It will give that savory and umami flavor that we're looking for. However, if you have neither of them on hand, it's fine to omit it.
- Spicy mac and cheese: Add ½ teaspoon chili powder or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper to the cheese sauce and stir.
- Gluten-free mac and cheese: Use gluten-free macaroni and gluten-free flour such as rice flour.
- Baked mac and cheese: If you didn't prepare that pasta dish in a cast-iron skillet, pour it into a greased baking dish. Top it with breadcrumbs, and spray with cooking spray. Broil for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown, or bake for 15-20 minutes at 350ºF (180ºC).
- Oil-free version: You can swap out the oil with vegetable broth and water, but expect slightly different results.
- Vegetable mac and cheese: Besides the green peas, you can also add spinach, broccoli, roasted sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, or any vegetable you like!
- High-protein mac and cheese: Toss in 2 blocks of crispy fried tofu to add protein and fiber to this easy vegan mac and cheese.
- Make it smoky: Add a teaspoon of liquid smoked, smoked paprika, and a little BBQ sauce. You can also add some of our smoky tofu.
This vegan mac and cheese without cashews is great to serve alongside garlic bread, roasted veggies such as Brussels sprouts or broccoli, or a fresh salad like this sweet potato beet salad.
You can also serve it with cauliflower soup, stuffed zucchini, or our teriyaki cauliflower wings.
How to Reheat
- Stovetop: Add it to a small pot with a splash of water or milk. Heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until warmed through.
- Microwave: Add it to a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 1-3 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until warm.
Let leftovers cool to room temperature. Then, transfer the mac and cheese to an airtight container and cover it with a lid. Save in the fridge for up to 5 days.
More Vegan Comfort Food Recipes
Vegan Mac and Cheese without Cashews Recipe
- 8 oz elbow macaroni (gluten-free if needed)
- 1 cup frozen peas (optional)
- 3 tablespoon vegan butter/margarine
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 tablespoon flour of choice (all-purpose, gluten-free all-purpose, whole wheat, tapioca, etc.)
- 2 ½ cups non-dairy milk, unsweetened (we use soy milk)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
- ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- Juice of ½ lemon, or more to taste
- 3-4 tablespoon nutritional yeast (or more if desired)
- 2 cups shredded vegan cheddar* (or another vegan cheese of choice)
- Fill a large pot with water and salt generously. Cook pasta according to packaging instructions, until al dente. Add the frozen peas in the last 2-3 minutes. Drain well, and drizzle 1-2 tablespoon olive oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
Make cheese sauce
- To the same pot, or to a rimmed skillet, melt vegan butter over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until lightly golden.
- Turn the heat to medium-low and add the flour, whisking until a paste has formed. Slowly start pouring the milk, whisking constantly to prevent clumps, until creamy.
- Add dijon mustard, garlic powder, nutmeg (optional), salt, black pepper, and lemon juice. Stir.
- Add nutritional yeast, and shredded vegan cheese and mix. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese has fully melted. Add a splash of milk or water if the cheese sauce is getting too thick. Once ready, remove from the heat.
- Add the cooked pasta and peas, and using a spatula, carefully toss until everything is well coated. Taste and adjust the flavor if needed, adding more salt for saltiness, lemon juice for tanginess, or black pepper to taste. Serve!
Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with third-party calculations without including the optional ingredients.
This was the creamiest vegan Mac and cheese I have ever had! The kids loved it too!
Amazing! Thanks for sharing, Sarah!
Delicious! Saved some extra sauce for other recipes 🙂
So happy you enjoyed this recipe, Jenny!