Vegan Mac and Cheese

The BEST vegan mac and cheese recipe! With a creamy, cheesy sauce made from sweet potatoes and nutritional yeast, it's just as good as the real thing.

Vegan mac and cheese

When I’m craving comfort food, this vegan mac and cheese recipe is the first thing I make. It calls for a handful of ingredients that I almost always have on hand, it’s quick and easy, and it’s absolutely delicious. The creamy sauce is rich, luscious, and filled with nutty, tangy cheddar cheese flavor. Even Jack, who LOVES classic mac and cheese, will happily devour a bowl (or two) of this plant-based pasta any day.

In the past, I’ve made dairy-free mac and cheese with coconut milk, cauliflower, or a big scoop of cashews, but this recipe is my favorite by far. The super creamy sauce still contains a small amount of cashews, but its base is blended yellow potato and sweet potato. The yellow potato gives it a delightful gooey texture, and the sweet potato makes it vibrant orange. Apple cider vinegar, garlic, onion powder, and nutritional yeast perfect its cheesy taste. It’s fun, yummy, and even healthy too! I think you’re going to love it.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, cashews, and nutritional yeast

How to Make Vegan Mac and Cheese

  • First, make the vegan cheese sauceSimmer sweet potatoes and potatoes until tender. Then, drain them, and add them to a blender with raw cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, water, and olive oil. Puree until smooth.
  • Next, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook it according to the package directions, until al dente. Before you drain the pasta, set aside 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water.
  • Finally, toss it all together! Return the cooked macaroni to the pot and add the cashew cheese. Stir to combine, adding the reserved pasta water, as needed, to loosen the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the vegan mac and cheese with a simple veggie side dish like roasted broccoli, roasted Brussels sprouts, lemony green beans, or roasted cauliflower. Enjoy!

Pouring vegan cheese sauce onto macaroni

Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe Variations

  • Swap the sweet potato. If you don’t have sweet potato on hand but you still want to try this recipe, don’t worry. An equal amount of diced carrot or butternut squash would work just as well.
  • Make it smoky. Blend 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, to taste, into the vegan cheese sauce for a smoky twist. Or, for texture, stir in a handful of crumbled tempeh bacon bits!
  • Spice it up. Make spicy vegan mac and cheese by pureeing the sauce with 1 tablespoon pickled jalapeños or a chipotle pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo.
  • Go gluten-free. Use your favorite gluten-free pasta! I like to use brown rice elbow macaroni.
  • Add extra veggies. Of course, this vegan mac and cheese tastes good on its own, but adding extra veggies certainly doesn’t hurt. Stir in thawed frozen peas, spinach, or steamed broccoli for a bright pop of green.

How do you like to make your vegan mac and cheese? Let me know in the comments!

Best vegan mac and cheese recipe

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Vegan Mac and Cheese

rate this recipe:
4.95 from 100 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Serves 3 to 4
The BEST vegan mac and cheese recipe! Sweet potatoes, potatoes, and cashews blend into a luscious, creamy sauce with a crave-worthy cheesy flavor.

Ingredients

For the vegan cheese sauce

For the mac and cheese

  • 12 ounces elbow macaroni
  • sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  • Make the vegan cheese: Place the Yukon Gold potatoes and sweet potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water by 1 inch. Add a few pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until fork-tender, 8 to 12 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and transfer to a high-speed blender with the garlic, cashews, apple cider vinegar, nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, olive oil, and water. Blend until smooth.
  • Make the mac and cheese: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions, cooking until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water before draining.
  • Drain and transfer the pasta back to the pot. Stir in the vegan cheese sauce, adding up to ½ cup pasta water to loosen the sauce, as necessary. Season to taste and serve.

 

144 comments

4.95 from 100 votes (41 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Carrie McCormack
    09.27.2021

    4 stars
    I’ll preface this review by saying that I’m probably the world’s biggest cheese fan. So, I was skeptical that this would be anything as good as traditional mac & cheese. However, I went all out with this – I even roasted poblano peppers from my garden and stirred them in for some green chile mac. It was so much easier to make than I thought it would be. It’s got a subtly “cheesy” flavor (maybe it would have been less subtle of a cheese flavor if I hadn’t made it so spicy, haha) and is impressively creamy! All in all, I’d probably make this again (even if I’ll also keep making traditional mac & cheese too – there’s a place in my heart for everything). Delicious!

  2. Colette Schwene
    09.26.2021

    5 stars
    This vegan mac n’ cheese is not only my personal favorite, but is my 7 year old daughter’s preferred mac n’cheese now. She enjoys helping me make it now too. Peeling the potatoes is her job now. I love adding micro-greens and pecan parmesan for garnish. Chef’s kiss!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.27.2021

      Aww, I’m so happy to hear!

  3. Katie Lebow
    09.26.2021

    I made this recipe this weekend. My 11 year old son, a mac and cheese connoisseur, ate two servings. My daughter liked that it wasn’t as heavy as traditional mac and cheese. Thanks for the tasty recipe!

  4. 5 stars
    Beautiful color compared to other cheez recipes that only use nuts and look grayish! I added spinach to make it a one dish meal. As long as I was dicing and boiling the sweet and white potatoes I made lots extra and added them to my dogs’ food for a few days. They loved it!

  5. Carol Theiss
    09.25.2021

    5 stars
    Loved it. Added some broccoli to veg it up. Thanks for bringing vegan cheese into my life. I had no idea it could be this good, + easy to make!

  6. Laurie Betts
    09.25.2021

    5 stars
    Okay I’m not going to lie, I had my reservations about this recipe. However, it was DELICIOUS and so quick and easy! Who knew vegan mac & cheese could be so good (and healthy)?! I added some smoked paprika and a chipotle pepper and served with a side salad. When I make it again (and that’s a definite), I will add some sauteed veggies. Thank you for the recipe!

  7. Annika Carnes
    09.25.2021

    5 stars
    This is absolutely delicious! Even my husband and adult son who are very suspicious of anything new and different loved it. Very easy and quick to make after work also so it’s a win win recipe. This one will definitely be on repeat. I don’t have a heavy duty blender so I just soaked the cashews over night and my regular blender was able to do the job no problem.

  8. Connie Schrider
    09.25.2021

    5 stars
    Yummy! We added sauteed onions, garlic, smoked paprika, sriracha and topped with parsley. My husband tried the vegan cheese with chips and loved it. We used corkscrew noodles. We can’t wait to try it on more dishes. Delicious!

  9. Lauren Winston
    09.24.2021

    5 stars
    I have never ever been successful at making dairy-free mac n cheese (and I’ve tried many times) until this recipe. I did add a little more salt and threw in a healthy helping of broccoli. It was quick and easy to make and the vegan sauce can be used for so much more than just this mac n cheese. Delicious!

  10. Tiffany Starr
    09.24.2021

    5 stars
    Yum! I added green chiles, smoked paprika, and topped it with some crispy shallots. I can’t believe how creamy this vegan cheese sauce is!

  11. Sara Miller
    09.22.2021

    5 stars
    I loved this recipe! I added a pinch of turmeric for the color and used mini shells for the fun. I also made a veggie chili to serve alongside. Everyone loved it!

  12. Sarah Fucik
    09.21.2021

    This was my first time making vegan cheese and it was a hit!

  13. Brenda Leis
    09.21.2021

    5 stars
    I made this for lunch for my husband and he didn’t notice there was no cheese. I love the way the cooking club gets me to try different recipes.

  14. Kelsey Berndt
    09.21.2021

    5 stars
    I love that the cheese sauce doesn’t need time to thicken like other vegan cheeses I’ve made. I also added tempeh bacon, so delicious!

  15. Sarah Zuber
    09.20.2021

    5 stars
    I made this for my kids and I tonight, and this cheese sauce is AMAZING. Dare I say better than real cheese sauce? I also put it on broccoli and it felt good feeding my kids and I a hearty, healthy dinner.

  16. Caroline Arata
    09.20.2021

    5 stars
    Didn’t have Yukon potato so just used any old yellow potato from the fridge. Topped with bread crumbs!

  17. Elizabeth Martin
    09.18.2021

    5 stars
    This vegan mac and cheese is yummy! I will definitely make again.

  18. Barbara
    09.18.2021

    My first time making vegan cheese was a success. I don’t have a power blender, but it still worked.

  19. Melissa Olin
    09.16.2021

    5 stars
    We made this for my kids lunch and it was a huge hit. I also used the vegan cheese sauce for enchiladas with butternut squash and spinach which turned out super yummy.

  20. Leah
    09.16.2021

    I am super excited to make this version of mac & cheese! (Mac & cheese is my number one comfort food). I can’t seem to find a Yukon gold potato anywhere! Is there another potato I could substitute it for? Yellow skinned potato maybe?

    Thank you!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.16.2021

      Hi Leah, yep, any yellow potato will work great.

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Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.