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!
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:
- If you’d like a version of vegan mac and cheese that’s cashew-free, try this stovetop Easy Spicy Mac n Cheese or Creamy Broccoli & Pasta for a change.
- And for another cashew version, this Vegan Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese and Mac and Cheese with Peas is amazing!
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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.
- Blackend Tofu
- The Ulitmate Vegetable Lentil Loaf
- Vegan Collard Greens
- Savory Sauteed Kale
- Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts
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!
- 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
- 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
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked (see notes *)
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 – 1/2 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
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.
Store: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 – 6 days.
*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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Great recipe! Have made it several times!!
Wondering if I can sub the 1 and 1/2 cups water with same amount of unsweetened almond milk?
Glad you’re enjoying the recipe! And yes, you can sub the water with unsweetened almond milk!
I’m wondering how to make this as a freezer ready meal – would I assemble and freeze and then put in the over or cook and then freeze? Trying to make some easy freezer meals for post baby…
Congrats on your little bun in the oven! I suggest preparing the vegan mac and cheese one or two days ahead and keeping 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. I hope that helps and enjoy your sweet baby!
I had the similar experience of some other individuals where the sauce was very creamy before baking, but thickened up a lot after cooking. It was very delicious, but I’m wonder how I can reheat it and make it less dry?
I’m wondering what I did wrong. Or if maybe you don’t actually need the cornstarch. This was sooooo thick and not creamy at all. The sauce was creamy until I baked it then it turned into almost a scrambled egg consistency. The flavor was great so if the sauce could be saucy I would love it. Maybe I just try on the stove top and don’t bake it or take out the cornstarch next time. Anyways thanks for the recipe!!
Hmm, that could be the issue in your case. The sauce does thicken during cooking so it can be added to the baking dish pretty runny, but you don’t want it too runny that it all falls to the bottom and doesn’t cling to the pasta. Next time, try without the cornstarch and that should do it. Sorry you had an issue, but glad flavor was good. I’m sure next time it’ll be just perfect and creamy the way you want it!
Looks delicious! Do you think it’s possible to make the sauce using an inversion blender? It’s all we have in our little apartment and we’ve had so many mishaps trying to make soaked cashew recipes that I’m nervous to spend a million euros on cashews only to have to force feed myself for the next three meals…
I don’t think an inversion blender will do as good of job blending as a standing blender. But you can always try, you’ll just need to be patient and give it a little extra time to blend. I personally love my little NutriBullet, and have used it to make cashew cheese for this recipe many times. It’s compact, fairly inexpensive and easy to clean. You may consider getting one for your small apartment. Hope that helps!
I’m dying to make this recipe but don’t have a high-speed blender. I’ve spent hours on the VitaMix site and finally gave up trying to figure out which model would be the best for me — plus there’s the cost. Please tell me about your NutriBullet. Which model is it?
Hi Judy, I know the feeling! Luckily with making cashew based recipes, as long as you soak the cashews to soften them before blending, pretty much any blender will work. But if you’re looking to make nut butters, that’s where a good high speed blender is truly needed – usually the top of the line is best. You can use any low end Vitamix or Blendtec for this recipe. As you noticed I used a NutriBullet, which I love, and it works great. Plus, it will save some money and should last a few solid years. I actually used a NB 600 watt while making this recipe, and have since upgraded to the NB Pro 900 watt. These are both Amazon affiliate links, but use this as a guide and do a internet search for the best prices if you go this route. You may find better deals that include extra cups and such. Hope that helps!
Thanks so much, Julie. I’ve driven myself crazy reading reviews over the past few months, so I really appreciate your sharing your experience.
BEST VEGAN MAC N CHEESE RECIPE EVER! Easy and delicious- we cannot stop eating it! We doubled the sauce and it was super good. I would give it 100 stars if I could!!!
SOOO good!!!! My family loves this! It’s now a favorite.
I used Follow Your Heart soy free veganaise instead of the soaked cashews and it was amazing.. my broke single mom version 😅 cashews are so expensive and in all the best vegan recipes, also since it was for my picky 7 and 2 year old boys I snuck in veggies by using beet, spinach rotini noodles in combo with brown rice elbows. It went over quite smoothly 🎉
Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipe 🙏
Wonderful, so glad that worked for you and everyone loved it! Cashews are sooo expensive, but make the best creamy anything! I buy them in bulk when they go on sale and that helps a little. I love the addition of the veggie noodles, very smart, and pretty too! Thanks for sharing! :)
I now buy cashews 10# at a time and save 50%! Totally worth the investment.
My brother in law has a nut allergy. If subbing vegan mayo would I sub 1 1/2 cups of mayo for 1 1/2 cups of cashews?
Such a great, simple & delicious recipe!! I discovered it earlier this year and have made it 8+ times so far, so good! Thanks Julia for creating & sharing. :)
My bad, I totally meant Julie**
I’m late to the recipe but wanting to try too, only thing is I can’t eat nutritional yeast, what would you recommend? Thank you.
Hi Bry, you can omit the nutritional yeast all together. It will still be just as delicious, and no need to add anything else to replace it. Enjoy and do let us know how you liked it! Cheers :)
We’ve made this several times. Like everyone said it was delish and fairly simple to make! It’s a great base recipe and I love how you can customize by changing the spices and adding veggies. Also love that there is an option for those of us who are not organized enough to soak cashews ahead of time! Thank you so much for sharing!! I don’t miss old mac and cheese any longer! ;-P
So creamy! I was definitely surprised how much this tasted like regular mac and cheese. Will definitely be making again! Thanks!!
Yay, so glad you liked it! It’s easy too. :)