Comfort Food

Here's What You're Looking For in a Vegan Mac and Cheese

March 17, 2016

Believe it or not, there are many, many ways to make vegan macaroni and cheese.

“Creaminess” can come from silken tofu, non-dairy milk, or commercial vegan cheese. The sauce can be made as a traditional roux, or it can be an unconventional blend of cashews, beans, cauliflower, butternut squash, and any number of additional plant-based ingredients. I’ve seen vegan mac made with coconut, sweet potato, zucchini, and even Noni juice. And this is before we even get to the flavorings: chili mac, caramelized onion mac, spinach mac, spicy mac, and more.

Clearly, operating without milk, butter, and cheese does not limit the possibilities of a mac and cheese dinner. If anything, creating a dairy-free recipe seems to open up a lot more possibilities as far as flavorings and ingredients go.

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So, I won’t claim that this is the “best” or the “ultimate” vegan mac. Instead, I’ll tell you (and it’s true) that this is my favorite vegan stovetop mac and cheese recipe, mostly because it’s incredibly easy to make (blending is half the battle) and also because it’s as creamy, flavorful, and satisfying as any conventional mac I can remember.

As you’ll see, my base of choice is a mixture of cashews, white beans, miso, nutritional yeast, garlic, and other seasonings. Much as I like to make fun of myself for using cashew cream in just about everything, this is one recipe in which cashews really do work magic, creating all of the creaminess that this recipe deserves without weighing it down. Stir in some of your favorite spring vegetables—from peas to asparagus tips—if you’re feeling sophisticated.

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The Food52 Vegan Cookbook is here! With this book from Gena Hamshaw, anyone can learn how to eat more plants (and along the way, how to cook with and love cashew cheese, tofu, and nutritional yeast).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Wenonah Lefthand
    Wenonah Lefthand
  • Ali Wald
    Ali Wald
  • allyeats
  • Gena Hamshaw
    Gena Hamshaw
Gena is a registered dietitian, recipe developer, and food blogger. She's the author of three cookbooks, including Power Plates (2017) and Food52 Vegan (2015). She enjoys cooking vegetables, making bread, and challenging herself with vegan baking projects.


Wenonah L. March 19, 2016
Wondering if anyone knows of a substitution for the miso? Non soy based.
Gena H. March 20, 2016
Hi Wenonah--

I'd simply use more salt to replace the saltiness of the miso (the miso also adds umami, but the recipe will do just fine without it). So, an extra pinch of salt, to taste.

Wenonah L. March 20, 2016
Thank you!
Ali W. March 17, 2016
Sounds great1 Would yellow miso work?
Gena H. March 20, 2016
allyeats March 17, 2016
Because of my son's milk and egg allergies, I end up using a lot of vegan recipes for him, but he's also allergic to cashews...would any other nuts work in place of the magical cashew?
Gena H. March 20, 2016
Hey Allyeats! Yes: sunflower seeds, pine nuts, macadamias, and hemp seeds will all work. Just be sure to soak them all thoroughly :)