Weeknight Cooking

Best Vegan Mac & Cheese

November  2, 2022
3 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
  • Prep time 2 hours
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

There are lots of ways to make vegan mac and cheese, believe it or not, but this is the recipe I return to again and again. It's easy, fast, and super creamy—everything a stovetop mac should be. —Gena Hamshaw

Test Kitchen Notes

Bookmark this recipe for a cold, snowy day or anytime you’re craving vegan comfort food. This vegan mac and cheese doesn’t involve any plant-based cheese substitutes; instead, it gets its creamy, cheesy sauce from a mixture of soaked cashews, cannellini beans, white miso, and nutritional yeast. The flavor of the sauce really comes to life with kosher salt. If you’re open to adding it as an ingredient, several grinds of black pepper perk up the sauce, too. You have to love the flavor of umami-rich miso and starchy nutritional yeast to get on board with this version of mac and cheese, but if you do, it’ll change your life.

Pro tip: Before draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of pasta water and add in a splash or two to the noodles when you combine them with the sauce. The starchy water helps to create a silkier, creamier sauce that coats each noodle completely. Keep adding it, slowly but surely, until you reach your desired consistency.

Want to add cooked green vegetables? Fold them into the pasta just before serving so they don’t become too soggy. Try this recipe with broccoli, peas, leafy greens, or a combination—of course, you can leave the vegetables out altogether if you prefer mac and cheese in its pure, unadulterated form. This dairy-free mac would also taste great topped with breadcrumbs and baked or broiled for some golden-brown crunch! 
To bake it, cook the pasta just shy of al dente and mix a few tablespoons of melted butter in the breadcrumbs. Transfer the pasta to a 2-quart baking dish, sprinkle with buttery breadcrumbs, and bake in a 425℉ oven for 25 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden-brown but not burned. —Food52

What You'll Need
  • 2/3 cup (about 3 ounces) raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours (and up to 8), drained
  • 1/2 cup cooked cannellini, great white northern, or navy beans
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 ounces elbow pasta or mini shells (whole wheat, gluten-free, and regular pasta are all fine)
  • 1 cup cooked green vegetables, such as chopped broccoli or cauliflower florets, blanched peas or chopped asparagus spears, or steamed spinach (optional)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  1. Place the cashews, beans, lemon juice, paprika, turmeric, miso, nutritional yeast, garlic, cayenne, and water in a blender and whir until totally smooth. Set aside.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.
  3. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Add the sauce and fold everything together gently, until the pasta dish is creamy and evenly coated. Adjust seasoning to taste. You may not need to use all of the sauce: If you have some leftover, use it as a dip or as dressing for a grain bowl.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • louisez
  • Sandi Cornez
    Sandi Cornez
  • Maren Epstein
    Maren Epstein
  • Cindy hylton
    Cindy hylton

6 Reviews

Cindy H. January 14, 2024
Holy WOW! This is AMAZING! I’ve been on a journey to find a really good vegan cheese sauce for several years, and THIS IS IT! I have been using the Bob’s Red Mill recipe with a few additions recently (and it isn’t bad), but this just has that extra oomph! I was hesitant to try, as I’m not a huge miso fan, but that must be the secret ingredient! And I love that it uses beans in addition to cashews, so a bit healthier, too!
I must say, I did ruin a sweater trying to get every drop of delicious sauce out of the blender, but it was worth it!
Thank you for this game changing recipe!
Sweetkarma December 19, 2021
I just made this for dinner tonight, but I baked it and added panko breadcrumbs on top with some parsley and a little salt. I undercooked the noodles by about 4 mins since I was baking it and added some pasta water to the sauce to thin it out because when baked it becomes very dry. I was skeptical when I tasted the sauce but really loved the end results. I also added some peas and a good amount of black pepper to the mix before baking. If you don’t want thin the sauce out with water, you could try it with some cashew cream. I just prefer a lighter flavor.
louisez November 2, 2016
This is now our family's favorite (vegan) mac and cheese.
Thanks !
Sandi C. March 20, 2016
Gina, sounds yummy. You can also use veggie ribbons in place of pasta.
gael C. March 20, 2016
Gena...can you prep the dish then bake it in the oven later on? Thinking of taking this to a pot luck dinner.
Maren E. March 10, 2016
That sauce sounds really interesting! I'm going to try it. Thanks Gena!