Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese

Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese / www.loveandlemons.com Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese / www.loveandlemons.com

Jack here, writing for the blog today while Jeanine writes for the book…

I have something to admit that I’m having a hard time with. I’m starting to prefer vegan “mac and cheese” to actual mac and cheese. Now, this is a hard one for me. You see, I love cheese. Almost every time we go to whole foods, I raid the “under $3 cheese” bin to find crazy new cheeses that I can barely pronounce. And a great grilled cheese is work of art.

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But these vegan “mac and cheese” recipes Jeanine comes up with pretty much hit everything I need out of mac and cheese. This one is as creamy as mac and cheese could ever get, the paprika and turmeric give it an incredible depth of flavor, and the spinach gives it the right amount of texture. I honestly can’t get enough…

Sorry, Kraft.


4.8 from 11 reviews
Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese
 
Author:
Recipe type: main dish
Serves: serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked 3 to 4 hours, preferably overnight, and drained
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup water, more as needed
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, optional
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces macaroni or small shell pasta
  • 4 cups packed spinach
Instructions
  1. In a small skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and garlic and sauté until soft, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the paprika and balsamic vinegar and cook another 30 seconds.
  2. In a high speed blender, puree the sautéed shallot mixture with the cashews, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the water, nutritional yeast, cayenne and turmeric (if using). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 ¾ cups of sauce.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package, cooking until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain and return the pasta to the pot. Stir in the sauce, adding the pasta water as needed to thin the sauce and make it creamy. Add the spinach, stir until wilted, season to taste, and serve.
Notes
gluten free option: use brown rice pasta

 


If you make this, let us see! Tag your photo with #loveandlemons on Instagram.

83 comments

  1. This looks delicious! Sorry if this has already been addressed, but what is the brand/name of pasta you use? I can never find those larger macaroni/shells. Thanks!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Medha, it’s called Pipe Rigate, and it’s the Whole Foods Brand pasta.

  2. Liese on said:

    I used to have a wonderful goat family, milked and made cheese, so at that time we were vegetarian. But that world showed me how dairy animals are very much mistreated, even the University husbandry programs are much less humane than you would want to know about. So when giving up cheese (and all dairy) feel good that you aren’t contributing to the terrible cycle of birth & death involved with most dairying. This mac & sauce dish is very nice, good comfort food!

  3. After having made Jeanine’s sweet potato vegan alfredo I can see why you prefer this mac & cheese. I do too! And I will certainly be making this version as well.

    • Wow, this was an amazing meal. I used blanched broccoli instead of spinach because I prefer the bulk and crunch it adds. Otherwise it’s just a perfect recipe. My husband is partial to the traditional mac & cheese but he loved this. This is topping my “go-to comfort food” list!

    • Wow, this was an amazing meal. I used blanched broccoli instead of spinach because I prefer the bulk and crunch it adds. Otherwise it’s just a perfect recipe. My husband is partial to the traditional mac & cheese but he loved this. This is topping my “go-to comfort food” list!

  4. Ellie from rovinglights.wordpress.com on said:

    This looks amazing! The ultimate comfort food made healthy.

  5. I really need to get on this vegan mac and cheese train! If there’s anyone I would trust with this, it would be Jeanine. 🙂 Can’t wait for that booooooook <3

  6. jessica on said:

    Can’t wait to try this! I always run into the left over problem. Is this just as good reheated?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Jessica – yep, the sauce is great leftover – I keep it separate though. I basically make as much pasta as the 2 of us want to eat, scoop on as much sauce as I want and store the rest in the fridge in a sealed container for 3-4 days. It’ll thicken some, but the next time you make it, add enough pasta water to thin it out.

  7. Annaliese from thedirtysifter.com on said:

    Looks delish! I love greens in mac n cheese…broccoli, peas….now spinach. Love it!!!

  8. Cilicia on said:

    This sauce looks fabulous! Does anyone have any tips on how to get a creamy cashew sauce? Whenever I try it comes out very lumpy.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Cilicia, these are my best tips:

      – if you don’t have a vitamix (or blendtec or similar), you might need to add a little more water or olive oil and blend longer (up to a minute), until your sauce is creamy. Be sure to soak your cashews, that’ll help too (although I usually shortcut that).

      – when you combine your sauce with your pasta be sure to add lots of the hot starchy pasta water as you go – stir it in until it’s creamy. This helps the sauce from being sort of lumpy to really loosening up over the pasta. (In the instructions, I list up to 1 cup, which feels like a lot but this trick really works for me).

      • Sarah on said:

        What would you suggest using in place of the starchy water when using gluten free pasta? The brown rice pasta always produces a sludge that I don’t imagine would be conducive to thickening the sauce. Would corn pasta work, or maybe making an arrowroot flour and water mixture to add in? Thanks in advance!

        • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

          Hi Sarah,

          I make this with brown rice penne all the time – the pasta water is meant to loosen the sauce over the pasta, not thicken it (the sauce is thick enough as it is with the cashews and all).

          • Sarah on said:

            Interesting, thanks for the clarification Jeanine! I’ve never thought of the brown rice pasta water as usable but I’m excited to try it out!

  9. A good mac and cheese is as fine as any fine dining experience, and all the better in the in case because it is actually good for us, too. Please send Jeannine best wishes on the writing. We look forward with eager anticipation the result of her kitchen and computer labours!

  10. adina from whereismyspoon.com on said:

    I was looking for an idea for my vegan day tomorrow and I even bought macaroni today. We are having this tomorrow, it sounds and looks delicious.

  11. Alexandra from chezsasha.com on said:

    Cashews are total superstars when it comes to creamy vegan things. I wonder if one could sub out nutritional yeast for miso here…?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      yes – not with the same ratio, but miso would give a great flavor.

  12. Ronsky on said:

    One of the main ingredients od pasta are eggs… so how is this a vegan dish?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      most dried pastas do not contain eggs – just check the ingredients on your package.

      • Melissa on said:

        But Pasta contains gluten

        • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

          this (pictured) isn’t gluten free, but if you want it to be, feel free to sub in brown rice pasta, it’s delicious.

  13. Charlie from lemonbutterlove.com on said:

    I’ll have to try this sometime when my husband is out of town. He usually overseas my cheese addition to regular mac & cheese to make sure that I add enough! A healthier, non-cheese option is very, very interesting! Thanks for all the tips in the other comments, I’m sure they will come in handy! – Charlie, http://www.lemonbutterlove.com

  14. Paulina from urudejnatalerzu.blogspot.com on said:

    It looks so delicious ! I’m hungry again :}

  15. Lauren from gilkeyrestaurantconsulting.com on said:

    What a wonderful recipe for mac and cheese! Thanks for sharing this healthy version of a very popular dish.

  16. Eva on said:

    I just had my mind blown!!! I made this mac & cheese for dinner and it was amazing – both me and my boyfriend really enjoyed it despite both being enthusiastic “real” cheese eaters. It is super creamy and has lots of flavor. I added broccoli as well so the ratio of veggies and pasta was 1:1 – so yummy! Thanks for this great recipe

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Eva, oh I’m so glad you both liked it! Thanks for coming back to share!

  17. Lindsay on said:

    oh wow, it’s serious if Jack is shunning cheese for this!

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  19. Alesha on said:

    This looks amazing! Is the nutritional yeast a must?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      It helps it taste “cheesier,” it might be ok without it but it’s definitely better with it :).

  20. Helena on said:

    I really love Mac and cheese & I love spinach!
    I also want to eat a bit healthier.
    So I am really happy that you showed me a way to combine all of the above.
    I think it looks really tasty! Even my little sister (who doesn’t like spinach) might agree.
    And on top of that all it is really healthy, It doesn’t look like it is really hard to make and you can find all of the ingredients in most of the regular supermarkets.
    To me, maybe the best thing of all is that it is a vegetarian dish.
    I read just about everywhere that eating vegetarian dishes more often is really good in lots of ways. It is good because I don’t have to feel sorry for those sweet animals that are killed to feed us. And eating vegetarian is told to be much healthier.
    So I will definitely try to prepare this meal and I really want to thank for your great advice and recipe.
    P.S.: This is a task for school.

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  23. kino_domowe from bafomet.pl on said:

    Must be delicious! I love pasta and spinach together 🙂

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  25. is pasta making easiy recipy? on said:

    i wish . i will make pasta . whenever i tried to make it .it being wrost

  26. Liz on said:

    I made this last night, and it was excellent! My first foray into vegan “cheese” sauces, and it did not disappoint — very creamy and flavorful. It did remind me more of an alfredo sauce than a cheddar cheese sauce, but it was delicious. I made it with whole wheat fusilli pasta, too, which was a good combo.

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Liz – I’m so glad you liked it!

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  28. Liz B on said:

    Sounds amazing! If someone were allergic to all nuts, what could you use as a cashew substitute?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      sunflower seeds – they become really creamy just like cashews (double check to make sure that the ones you buy aren’t processed a facility that does nuts too).

      • Ana from debajo-un-boton.com on said:

        Oh thank you! I was scouring through the comments to see if you had already answer this question… but I didn’t expect to find such a simple answer. Can’t wait to test this on my allergic family.

        • Great – let me know how you like it with the sunflower seeds!

  29. This recipe looks amazing! I really like what you are doing with your blog. If you get a minute I would love for you to checkout our list of the Best Cooking Blogs that features your blog Love and Lemons http://www.listsforall.com/best-cooking-blogs/. Keep up the good work!

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  33. Victoria on said:

    Hello!

    what happens if I use this recipe without yeast? I have candida.

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  35. Sonia on said:

    Made this today and I will try it again without the turmeric. I only used 1 tsp but it is a very strong flavor that just doesn’t agree with me. Loved how creamy it was though. Very simple and quick. I added broccoli and it was perfect.

  36. natalia mori on said:

    Perfect! the kids loved it (including my 14 months baby) 🙂
    I have never tried the nutritional yeast before.. what a surprise! Can’t wait to use in other recipes!!

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  39. Kari on said:

    This recipe sounds wonderful — I can’t wait to try it out And see what my daughter thinks!

    P.s. Where did you find the plate? It’s beautiful.

  40. ChrisD from realfoods.co.uk on said:

    Oh boy, I cannot wait to try this one. Thanks J & J!

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  43. m on said:

    made this but added a tablespoon of miso because i thought it needed some salt. super yummy!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      great idea! Love adding miso to things, thanks for the feedback 🙂

  44. Kyle on said:

    We made this tonight. One of my daughter’s has a dairy intolerence/allergy and I wanted some kind of creamy pasta soooo badly but can’t usually make anything like that. This was a big hit. Super ridiculously easy, packed with protein, and the kids loved it too. Very filling and cheap. Thank you!

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  46. Annie on said:

    This is the second recipe I tried from you. The first was the vegan carrot cake (which was out of this world) and so I decided I wanted to give another recipe a shot. I’ve been lactose intolerant for over three years now and have been vegan for awhile so let’s just say I haven’t had any mac & cheese for a very long time. This was AMAZING. I made it last night and it was probably one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever whipped up. I will definitely be trying another recipe soon because so far every single one has been right on the money!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com on said:

      Hi Annie – I’m so glad you liked it, and the carrot cake! Thanks for coming back to let me know!

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  51. Jennifer on said:

    Your recipes are the best! I’ve been hankering to try this a long time and finally read the full recipe. I’m not a fan of strong balsamic vinegar—do you think it could be left out, subbed for apple cider vinegar, or could you reassure me that it doesn’t end up tasting like a balsamic sauce? 🙂

    • Ha! it doesn’t taste like balsamic sauce, but if you’re worried about it you can skip it or maybe just add less to be on the safe side (say 1 teaspoon instead of a tablespoon). Let me know how it goes!

  52. Dr. Dopey on said:

    I will try this with Banza Pasta. This pasta is made from chickpeas. I love it.

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  54. Scott on said:

    Very pleasantly surprised! Will definitely make it again. Didn’t see the comment/reply about leftovers and keeping the sauce separate until too late, but I am sure it will still taste good. 🙂

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