Vegan Mac & Cheese

This vegan macaroni n cheese pasta is healthy, smoky comfort food. The sauce - from coconut milk, dijon mustard, and paprika - is amazing!

Vegan Mac & Cheese in a casserole dish and bowls with peas

I’m not going to lie and tell you that no one will believe this doesn’t have cheese. If you’re vegan, this will taste darn cheesy… if you are a true cheese lover (as my husband Jack is), you won’t be totally fooled but you will devour it anyway.

Jack likes to make fun of me when I make things like this… calls it “mac & sauce” and “vegan velveeta,” In the end he always eats his words. And most of the food on the table.

Vegan Mac & Cheese in glass bowl

This one is just as tasty as this recipe… except this time the creaminess comes from coconut milk. The cheesy flavor comes from nutritional yeast and a kick of dijon mustard. But the star ingredient is the smoked paprika which ads a real depth of flavor.

Vegan Mac & Cheese in a bowl with fork

vegan mac & cheese
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup earth balance vegan butter (or regular butter)
  • ¼ cup flour, I used spelt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast (not regular baking yeast)
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • ¼ to 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (to taste), plus a little more on top
  • 8-12 oz elbow pasta, I used this brown rice brand
  • 1 to 1-2 cups pasta water, use a little at a time
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • salt & pepper
crusty topping:
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped pine nuts
  • pinch of cayenne & smoked paprika
  • drizzle of olive oil on top before baking
  • salt & pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onions, a few pinches of salt, and simmer until translucent (about 5 minutes). Add flour and whisk to thicken. Add garlic and cook for a few more minutes on medium-low.
  2. Add a good squeeze of lemon and stir to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add coconut milk, nutritional yeast, mustard, tomato paste, turmeric, paprika, and a few more pinches of salt. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook your pasta.
  3. Optional step - vitamix the sauce together to make the sauce really creamy.
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings. In a large bowl stir together the cooked pasta, some of the sauce, and peas. Stir in pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. You can stop here and serve this now if you like, or continue on to bake it.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place everything in a baking dish, add more pasta water and possibly more sauce. This will dry out a little while baking so make sure it's really creamy first. Add the breadcrumbs, panko, a little more salt, cayenne, and paprika on top. Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and bake for 8-10 minutes, just until the crust starts to become golden brown. Serve with extra sauce.

75 comments

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  1. Ashley from edibleperspective.com
    01.31.2013

    Ahh. Love me some vegan mac n’ cheese! Smoked paprika is a constant addition in mine, but I have yet to try coconut milk. The peas are perfect. Looks like I know what I’m making tonight!

  2. This looks AMAZING! I am going to make a gluten-free version of this for dinner next week. Do you use full fat coconut milk from a can or unflavored coconut milk from a carton?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com
      01.31.2013

      I used full fat coconut milk from a can… mine was close to being gluten free (I used brown rice pasta) so it’s totally possible… use a gluten free flour & gluten free bread crumbs and you should be good to go.

      • Thanks so much Jeanine! Headed to the grocery store in just a little bit to grab what I need. Have a great weekend!

  3. Jess from inquiringchef.com
    01.31.2013

    I’m looking forward to trying this. I finally got my hands on some nutritional yeast and have been searching for a really good first recipe to test it out on my husband. – he might be a tough sell, but this has a pretty good chance of winning him over!

  4. I am totally down with vegan velveeta. It’s gotta be better for me than the original. Tell Jack he’s an intuitive man.

  5. Joyti from darjeelingdreams.blogspot.com
    01.31.2013

    I AM a “true cheese lover” myself…but regular mac ‘n’ cheese is just too much for me to eat regularly, so I can’t wait to try this myself. It looks DELICIOUS.

  6. Kathryn from londonbakes.com
    02.01.2013

    Coconut milk is a great idea to add that rich, creaminess that mac & cheese demands.

  7. ileana from alittlesaffron.com
    02.01.2013

    Coconut milk! How interesting. I guess this would be a good way to play around with other vegan “cheesy” pastas, too.

  8. Jacqui from goodthingsgrow.com
    02.02.2013

    I make something almost exactly the same! I’ve since even taught my husband how to make it for himself! Although, he usually tops it with a little extra cheese before going into the oven, ha!

  9. Jaylene
    02.05.2013

    I made this last night. Very tasty! I recommend using the two full cups of pasta water (maybe a bit more). I did and it turned out nice and creamy (not dry). Thanks for sharing!

  10. Thank you, thank you for posting this recipe! I’m trying to eat less dairy because no matter how much I love cheese, it doesn’t always love me back. Mac and cheese is one of my favorite foods, so I look forward to trying this.

  11. k from fogandswell.com
    02.06.2013

    This was so tasty – thanks for the recipe! I often find the vegan mac & ‘cheese’ recipes that call for sweet potato/squash are too starchy for my liking, so this version was fantastic. Instead of the peas (my man hates peas) I tossed in both sundried tomatoes and little plum tomatoes.

  12. This version of vegan mac n cheese sounds perfect. I cannot wait to try it!

  13. Kathryne from cookieandkate.com
    02.10.2013

    I experienced my first vegan mac and cheese at a local restaurant the other day (and liked it), but your version looks even better! Though I do love cheese, I don’t often indulge in super creamy, cheesy things, and this looks like a satisfying yet less indulgent option. Hope to give this a try before winter is over!

  14. :D
    02.12.2013

    I’m wondering why you don’t use vegan cheese?

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com
      02.12.2013

      You could if you wanted. I tend to eat it only occasionally because it’s very processed and doesn’t have much nutritional value. (I’ll eat it on a grilled cheese now and then). For this recipe, I was just playing around with an alternative and I had some coconut milk that I needed to use up. Another great creamy alternative is cashew cheese… and another is a pureed sweet potato sauce (I linked to in the post above).

  15. VELLE
    02.12.2013

    Great recipe!!! But is this coconut milk from a can or carton???

      • VELLE
        02.20.2013

        Thanks so much!!! And I just wanted to say that I love reading your blog! The layout is so perfect, and each picture is a work of art!! : D I find myself coming back to view your posts (even though i looked at all the recipes!) because it’s so pretty and I love the recipes and photos!!!!!

  16. Nancye
    02.20.2013

    This is for tomorrow night’s dinner, can’t wait to try it… I have all the ingredients at hand, so I’m sure it will be a satisfying meal for my hubby….

    Thanks so much for sharing…

  17. Vivian
    03.20.2013

    Looks delicious! Thanks for making vegan recipes 🙂

  18. New cook
    03.23.2013

    For the nutritional yeast…is it the flakes or the seasoning. What is the nutritional yeast supposed to do in the recipe? I went to the store and it was almost $40. Then there was the powder for $15. Just trying to figure it out.

  19. Lindsey
    04.01.2013

    A whole tsp was waaaay too much paprika for me- I’d recommend taking it down to 1/2 tsp or even 1/4!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com
      04.01.2013

      thanks, I’ll update the recipe suggesting to starting with less and adding more if necessary, to taste. Sometimes dry spices can also vary in potency.

  20. elaine
    04.08.2013

    Hi There I have a family of 5 is this recipe enough for a full serving for each member???
    Thanks!!!!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com
      04.08.2013

      Hi Elaine,

      It might depend on the ages of your children (how much they eat), but to me this seemed to serve about 3 good meal-sized helpings. I’m pretty sure I had extra sauce, so you might just want to scale up the amount of pasta you use.

  21. Amanda
    04.14.2013

    Just made this mac & cheese. I stopped just before baking as I made it for a 5 year old who doesn’t care about that part. I only made slight changes/substitutions due to what was on hand and it came out very cheesy and covers quinoa elbow noodles very well. This is a very tasty version, and I thank you for posting it. He loved it and told me more than once!

  22. Olivia
    04.27.2013

    I just made this and it was delicious! I used chopped kale instead of the peas, and next time I might double the amount of nutritional yeast (I like it cheezy!). Thank you for this recipe – even my non vegan friends liked it!

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com
      04.30.2013

      Hi Olivia, so glad! I love to win over the non-vegan friends 🙂

  23. juana
    04.30.2013

    Can I leave out the tomato paste? Can I use regular mustard?

  24. Danni
    05.07.2013

    Hi this looks so yummy and I love coconut milk, but not sure I’d like It in a pasta dish. Could I substitute It with another non dairy milk such as rice milk?
    Thanks

  25. Danni
    05.13.2013

    Thanks so much for that, I’ll give it a go with the coconut milk first
    Cheers

  26. Jane
    06.01.2013

    I just tried this (with almond milk because we only had sweetened, vanilla coconut milk) and thought it was amazing! My husband and I have very different taste in foods and it’s hard to find something that I can eat with all my food allergies and that we both actually like. This is definitely a winner on both of those accounts. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  27. Kat from Www.playthetriangle.com
    07.08.2013

    Tried this, it was delish. I used lime juice instead of lemon and omitted the tomato paste and paprika (didnt have those ingredients on hand) and I used coconut cream instead of milk. Overall, delicious!!

  28. I’m transitioning to a plant-based diet – and the one thing holding me back is cheese. I love cheese – not often or in large quantities – but I do love cheese. Thanks for sharing this recipe…I’ve been wanting to try a vegan mac & cheese and this version will be my gateway!

  29. Jess
    06.27.2014

    I’ve been seeing a lot of cheese recipes that use coconut milk. Do u mind if I ask does the cheese have a coconut taste? Thanks!

  30. Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs?
    I have a blog centered on the same information you discuss and would
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  31. Jen
    11.23.2014

    I just made this recipe and I LOVE how it came out! The paprika gives it almost a bacon-y flavor. Bringing it to an omnivore potluck tonight, with pride!

    Other unrelated note:
    On these types of blogs I always find myself sorting through all the comments to find anything written by someone who actually made the recipe. Any way to sort out the “sounds great!” comments from the “turned out great!” comments? 🙂

    • jeanine from loveandlemons.com
      11.23.2014

      Thanks! I’m so glad you liked it (I always say smoked paprika is like vegetarian bacon :)). Thanks for the suggestion, let me think about a way we can make the comments more helpful.

  32. Astha
    10.11.2015

    This is the second time I am making this…thanks so much for the recipe! I added a bunch of veggies to mine…spinach, carrots, broccoli and soyrizo inspired by the Homeroom Mac and cheese and what they have as add ons.

  33. Iulia
    10.26.2015

    Hi! Can I make this ahead? Like assemble it and bake it later? I am looking for something I can make part of the way (earlier in the day) and finish it off in the evening for dinner. Can I do this with this recipe or should I find something else?
    Thank you.

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.