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Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese

Winner, Winner… Vegan Mac and Cheese Dinner baked to perfection with a golden, crispy topping, and tender, creamy macaroni underneath. This dairy-free, mac and cheese recipe is healthy, delicious and SO easy to make. It’s a family favorite and I’m sure it will become yours too!

top down view of baked vegan mac and cheese with spoon.

Why We Love This Recipe!

It’s all about the ‘cheese’! The vegan ‘cheese’ is non-dairy and made with cashews, water, nutritional yeast, miso or dijon, lemon, and a few spices. It blends up in minutes using a high-speed food processor or blender. The result is a quick and easy, creamy sauce perfect for any pasta. There is no need for any flour, oil, or butter – just wholesome cashews and a few flavorful add-ins!

It’s kid-approved! This recipe is kid-tested and a top hit with my 12-year-old daughter, who usually turns her nose up at almost everything I make. Now had I added veggies, it would not have passed (we are so opposite). This is just a simple recipe, but feel free to add in veggies like broccoli, kale, peas, etc., whatever you may usually add into your favorite mac and cheese!

As for myself, I seriously could have sat and eaten the whole thing myself. The crunchy topping adds a wonderful texture and is especially delicious!

More dairy-free mac and cheese options:

top down view of ingredients used to make baked vegan mac and cheese.
Vegan Mac and Cheese ingredients: pasta, raw cashews, miso (or dijon), nutritional yeast, lemon (or acv), garlic, turmeric, salt, panko, and oil.

Ingredient Notes

Pasta: Use any pasta you like. I’ve used both penne and shell pasta, as well as the elbow macaroni, shown here. Make this gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta made with rice, quinoa, beans, or lentils.

Cashews: Cashews should be raw and unsalted, whole or pieces. For best results soak your cashews in water before using them. They only need to soak for 2 – 3 hours in cold water or 5 minutes in hot water (not boiling). Drain cashews before using. Soaking cashews aids in digestion and softens the cashews so they easily blend into ultra-creamy deliciousness!

Cheese Sauce: For the cheese sauce flavoring, the nutritional yeast will add a ‘cheesy’ flavor and nutrition, the miso (also healthy) will add umami flavor. If you don’t have miso on hand 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard (or 1 teaspoon dried mustard) will be great too. Turmeric is used to add a nice light golden hue, but if you don’t have turmeric on hand, no worries, you’ll end up with a white ‘cheese’ sauce instead.

side by side process of making vegan mac and cheese sauce.

How To Make Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese

Making classic baked vegan mac and cheese can’t be any easier!

Here is a quick overview (the full printable recipe card is below):

  • Start with soaking the cashews to soften them up for blending.
  • Cook the pasta according to package directions.
  • Make the cheese sauce by combining the cashews, garlic, miso, nutritional yeast, turmeric, salt, and water sauce to the cup of a high-speed blender/food processor (above right). Blend until smooth and creamy.
side by side photos showing the process of making vegan baked mac and cheese.
  • Add the pasta to a baking dish and pour the cheese sauce over top (above left), give a good mix. You can eat it as is or continue to the next step and bake.
  • Sprinkle the mac and cheese with bread crumbs (above right) and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Tip: If the top browns too much, place foil over top. And if it doesn’t brown enough for your liking, put it under the broiler for a few minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t burn.

Now your work is done.

Enjoy friends! xo

top down view of freshly baked vegan mac and cheese with spoon.

Can I Make Vegan Mac + Cheese Ahead?

Yes, you can prepare vegan mac and cheese one or two days ahead, but keep the cooked pasta and cheese sauce separate until ready to bake. If you assemble it and store, the sauce might get soaked up from the pasta and make for a very dry mac + cheese. When ready to bake, combine the pasta and sauce, and cook according to the directions given.

Can I make This Recipe Without Baking?

Yes! Instead of baking the mac and cheese, make a stovetop version by simply combining the cheese sauce with the pasta and gently warming it on the stovetop over low heat until warmed through.

What Type of Baking Dish Can I Use?

Mac and cheese can be baked in just about any type of oven-safe dish such as an 8×8 square with about 3-inch sides, 9×13 rectangular, cast iron skillet (pref 12″ if using 1 lb of pasta), round or oval 3qt baker. Need help deciding if you have the right dish? Just ask in the comments!

How To Store Leftovers

  • Refrigerator: Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to 5 – 6 days. It’s great for meal prep too!
  • Freezer: To store longer, mac and cheese will keep in the freezer for up to 2 – 3 months stored in multi-use freezer-safe containers (affiliate link) or freezer-friendly baggies.
  • Reheat: Warm on the stovetop, adding a splash of unsweetened plain non-dairy milk or water, until warmed through. Or microwave, adding a splash of unsweetened plain plant milk, using 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until warmed through.
side angle view of spoonful of baked vegan mac and cheese.

What To Serve With Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is a side dish that is loved by just about everyone! Here are a few of our favorite pairings on TSV that go well with this creamy pasta dish.

If you make this easy pasta recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment and rate it below. I love to hear what you think, or any changes you make.

Print

BAKED VEGAN MAC & CHEESE (+ STOVETOP)

Kid-approved, this cashew-based mac, and cheese is 100% vegan and so easy to put together in under 1 hour! It’s ultra-creamy and saucy with a delicious crispy topping that is a ‘tried and true’ family favorite recipe!

  • Author: Julie | The Simple Veganista
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 35 min
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6 – 8 1x
  • Category: Entree, Pasta
  • Method: blend, bake
  • Cuisine: American, Vegan

Ingredients

Scale
  • 16 oz. package pasta of choice (works with an 12oz package too)
  • paprika, garnish (optional)

For the crumb topping

  • two pieces of bread or 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • generous pinch of salt

Cheese Sauce

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked (see notes *)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/41/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon or 2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon white miso or 2 teaspoons dijon or 1 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch or arrowroot (will help keep it creamy), optional
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • dash of cayenne, optional

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook your noodles and set aside.

Bread Crumbs: While waiting for the water to boil, start with your bread topping first. I toasted two pieces of bread we had on hand really well and processed them in the food processor until crumbly, a high speed blender will work too. Place the crumbs in a small bowl, drizzle with olive oil and a twist or two of the salt grinder, mix well and set aside. Quickly rinse the processor/blender bowl and move on to the cheese sauce.

Cheese sauce: In food processor/blender, combine all of the cheese sauce ingredients and blend until creamy. Add more water, a tablespoon or so at a time, and blend again. Taste for flavor adding anything extra to taste – salt, nutritional yeast, garlic.

Assemble: Once pasta is cooked and drained. Add pasta back to the pot it was cooked in, add the cheese sauce and combine well (you can also mix it together in the baking dish). In baking dish, pour mac & cheese and top with bread crumbs.

Bake: Place in oven for 20 – 25 minutes, check after 15 minutes if crumbs are darkening too much for your liking, cover with foil. If your oven doesn’t brown the top very much (like mine didn’t), you can put it under the broiler for 5 minutes or so. Just keep an on it so the top doesn’t burn.

When done, let cool for about 10 minutes and serve. The sauce will thicken upon standing.

Serves 8

Store: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 – 6 days.

Notes

*Two ways to soak cashews (aids digestion and helps soften them): Soak in cool water for 2 – 3 hours OR soak in hot water for 5 minutes. Drain cashews and rinse before using.

If you use a smaller baking dish or use ramekins, lessen the cooking time to 10 – 20 minutes depending on the size of dish you use.

To make this gluten free use gluten-free pasta.

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baked vegan mac and cheese with crispy top and spoon scooping to serve

87 Comments

  1. I used a package of silken tofu and only 1 cup of cashews and 1 cup of water. Didn’t used any corn starch and added other various spices. Turned out super creamy

  2. I just made this for my daughter. She is recovering from wisdom teeth removal and really wanted a mac and cheese that she could easily eat, and vegan, of course. I left the bread crumbs off to avoid any issues with them, and used coconut oil instead of the olive oil (our family’s preference). It is incredible! I’ve made other vegan mac and cheese before and this ranks as one of the best. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow, this was an amazing recipe and the whole family loved it! Cheers!

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