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:
4.96 from 101 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.

 

146 comments

4.96 from 101 votes (41 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Cathy C.
    02.24.2024

    Question, could this be made oil free or would it not turn out? In my 12 days since changing to vegan I’ve opted to do the oil-free version of vegan. There are lots of options to sub something for the oil in lots of recipes, any idea what would be the best in this recipe?

    I will rate this after I make it. Thanks.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.01.2024

      Hi Cathy, we haven’t tested this recipe without oil, so I can’t guarantee the results, but I think unsweetened almond milk or additional water would be a fine sub for an oil-free version.

  2. Lucy
    02.23.2024

    5 stars
    I had to go vegan for my son while I’ve been breastfeeding. I made this once and loved it – and now I make the sauce every other week and I put it on everything! Sandwiches, baked potatoes, other pastas. It’s been an amazing addition to my cooking, and helped me feel less deprived of my favorite food (cheese). It is SO DELICIOUS and so easy to make. Thank you!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.01.2024

      Hi Lucy, I’m so glad you love the sauce and that you’ve found so many delicious ways to use it!

  3. Sandy C.
    01.06.2024

    As with C. Dazey, there is a cashew allergy problem for me. Any substitutes for the cashews??

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      01.09.2024

      Hi Sandy, I skip the cashews, reduce the water to 2T, and add a bit more olive oil for richness.

    • Kirsten
      02.28.2024

      4 stars
      I tested out subbing with cannellini beans to help thicken and added more olive oil. Not bad!

  4. C. Dazey
    12.24.2023

    We have a cashew allergy in the family. Is there anything that can be substituted? We’d love to try this recipe as we’ve tried several of your other recipes and loved them.

  5. Erin
    12.23.2023

    Should the cashews go in as-is, or after soaking in hot water? Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.24.2023

      Hi Erin, I don’t soak my cashews – it’s not necessary if you have a powerful blender.

  6. Dot S
    12.18.2023

    Can this be made the day before and what’s the best way to store and reheat?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.21.2023

      Hi Dot, yes, I store it in a glass container and reheat it in the microwave. Stir in a little bit of water if the sauce thickens too much. Or better yet, store the sauce separately and cook a portion of pasta as you’re ready to eat.

  7. Caroline M
    12.07.2023

    Can this be made the day before, and what’s the best way to store and reheat?

  8. Lonas P
    11.22.2023

    5 stars
    Um, 3 days a week this get’s made! Smashing! By far the best Mac and Cheese (vegan) out there! In fact, making some tonight. Thank you so much and please continue to treat us with your recipes!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      11.23.2023

      I’m so glad it was a hit!

  9. Angie
    11.08.2023

    Can I make this a few days ahead and then reheat in a crockpot for a work event?

  10. Susan Luloff
    11.05.2023

    Comments indicate this is great recipe. Because granddaughters are allergic to nuts, what could I substitute for cashews?

  11. Tracy
    10.30.2023

    5 stars
    My mind is blown: that was amazing! Wouldn’t change a thing.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      10.31.2023

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  12. Chantelle
    06.23.2023

    I swear this website used to have a max and cheese recipe using silken tofu as the base then additional spices and sauces, and I can’t find it anywhere in the site or internet in general. Please please SOMEONE share this recipe with me..

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.26.2023

      Hi Chantelle, hmmm, I think that one might have been a really old recipe that we’ve improved on a few times over the years and I don’t think I saved it. I promise this current version is our best vegan mac & cheese.

  13. Samantha
    03.09.2023

    This really blew me away! I paired it with your air fryer buffalo cauliflower. Amazing combination. A little time consuming but worth it. This is coming from someone who loves mac and cheese. I was finding it hard to find good cheese alternatives after going vegan recently. And realized none could really compare. So this is a great alternative! And worth the extra steps.

    Also your buffalo cauliflower is SO good. I made it with the buffalo sauce. I’m also super impressed. And i live in Buffalo. I definitely approve. Two thumbs up!!

    Thanks so much! I really love your creativity in your recipes. 🙂

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      03.10.2023

      Haha great to know a Buffalo resident loves the cauliflower! I’m so glad you enjoyed both recipes.

  14. Barbara Chapman
    02.13.2023

    5 stars
    wonderful recipe. We enjoyed it. I used some baked sweet potatoes I had with the white and turned out very delicious. Thanks!

  15. vanessa
    01.03.2023

    5 stars
    This was AMAZING! We made it with gluten free elbows and couldn’t even tell the difference. My only feedback would be for anyone who wants to brown it in the oven, which we did after topping it with toasted gf panko (highly recommend!). The sauce to pasta ratio looked like it would be a little dry, so we reserved about 1.5 cups of cooked pasta and it came out perfect. Next time we make this, we’ll probably just double the sauce so we can use up the full box of elbows in one go and have leftover queso. Thanks for a great recipe!!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      01.03.2023

      So glad you loved it!

  16. Karen
    12.29.2022

    5 stars
    WOW! This nails it! This is absolutely the best vegan cheese sauce ever! I should know, I’ve tried countless recipes, taste them, and usually throw them in the trash! This is a keeper! I made this for a potluck today, and everyone loved it. I plan on making the cheese sauce this New Year’s weekend, and adding smoked paprika and serving it as a vegan queso.

  17. Julia
    09.20.2022

    I am not vegan, but my son and his girlfriend are vegetarian…and I am a curious cook and eater! This cheese sauce is really good. I was honestly surprised.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.21.2022

      I’m so glad everyone loved it!

  18. Irene
    03.25.2022

    5 stars
    Being Australian, I’m certainly no expert on Mac & Cheese, however this was delicious. This was such an easy recipe, I really enjoyed making it and the vegan cheese. I added a little dijon mustard and tumeric to the vegan cheese sauce, for my own specific taste, but it certainly didn’t need it as it’s very flavoursome. Thanks so much not only for this recipe but the recipes you’ve provided the community for so many years.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.27.2022

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  19. Rebecca
    03.24.2022

    5 stars
    I love this recipe!! I am in transition to being vegan!! I know if I can find more recipes like this one then I have a fighting chance! I made up my meals for the week and really wasn’t sure how it would hold up and it did wonderfully!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.27.2022

      Aw, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  20. Jackie S
    03.16.2022

    Wow !! Made your vegan cheese sauce served it with roasted vegetables. Broccoli and califlower. It was beyond amazing !!! Can’t wait to try it with pasta !!!!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      03.17.2022

      I’m so glad you loved it!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
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.