Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese

A creamy vegan mac & cheese made with cashews, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, balsamic, and cayenne. A healthy & delicious weeknight dinner.

Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese / Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese

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.

Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese

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.

4.7 from 24 reviews

Vegan Spinach Mac & Cheese

Recipe type: main dish
Serves: 4
  • 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
  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.
*Gluten-free option: use brown rice pasta



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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Elisa

    The first time I made this recipe, my family and I liked it, but felt it was a bit bland. I resolved this by doubling the shallot and garlic for the sauce and it’s perfect for our taste buds that way!
    Quick tip for those who wait until the last minute to figure out dinner: I boil the water for the pasta and toss in the cashews for about 5 minutes, scoop them out with a strainer to let them cool (or you may explode your blender cup making the sauce – yes, I did this once!), then cook your pasta.

  2. Linda

    My entire family (including my 2 somewhat picky kids) devoured this mac and cheese! The “cheese” sauce was so flavorful, and I used whole wheat pasta shells to boost up the nutrition and fiber. Delicious! This will go in our rotation….I love a one-pot meal!

  3. Richa

    It was absolutely delicious! I didn’t have nutritional yeast, substituted it with soy sauce. Turned out yum. Will definitely be making it again. Thank you Jack & Jeanine!

    • Richa

      P.S. my non-vegan husband loved it too and couldn’t stop eating it.

      • Jeanine Donofrio

        I’m so glad you both loved it so much!

  4. Tamish

    I just made this recipe this evening, and had to come here to leave my review immediately.

    This recipe was AMAZINGGGGG! A-MA-ZING!

    Major kudos and thanks to you for creating it.

    Definitely my new fav vegan mac and cheese recipe, and this is coming from a ‘soul food’ lover/former eater, before I became vegan.

    So good! Definitely try it everyone! Loved it.

    Thanks again!!! 💛💛💛

  5. Fabio

    Never tasted something so good!
    I was eating from the pan already!

  6. First of all, this was delicious! But, I think it should not be called Mac and Cheese. It really tastes nothing like it at all. Needless to say, I’ll make this again and again because we loved it. Thank you!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Molly, I’m so glad you loved it 🙂

  7. Andrew Iucci

    Delicious! I am not a huge fan of standard Mac and Cheese but I really enjoyed this recipe. Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad!!! Thanks for coming back to let me know!

  8. Charlotte

    What is the conversion into grams? Thank you!!

  9. pamela

    I have tried a bunch of dairy-free mac n cheese recipes, and this one is THE BEST. Thank you! Your blog has a new fan. 🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      LOVE hearing that! Thank you for coming back to comment with your feedback!

  10. Amanda from

    WOW! Soooooo good and so simple! Thanks so much for your awesome recipes!!

  11. Diane

    Thanks. I dry sauté onion and garlic all the time in a good stainless pan without oil and do add a bit of water/or broth as needed to keep veggies from sticking but not enough to steam them. It works out fine. Thanks for you reply. Diane

  12. Diane

    I don’t cook with oil or add oil so would I be able to leave the oil out of the sauce with good results still?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I wouldn’t cook the shallot and garlic in a dry pan, but the sauce should be fine – add a few tablespoons of water, if necessary, to help it blend. Hope that helps!

  13. ShibaFan

    An update: I froze half of the sauce for a couple of weeks, thawed it in the refrigerator for a day, and reheated it over low-ish heat on the induction cooktop. We cooked pasta, added the heated sauce, stirred in fresh chopped spinach, and it tasted just like it was made fresh. Extra convenient for weeknight dinners!

    Modifications to the sauce: I added a Tablespoon of light miso paste, and more water (we settled on 1-1/4 C) to make the sauce a bit thinner.

    I shared this recipe with meat-eating friends…I wasn’t sure if they would like it, but they loved it! They thought it tasted a bit like curry.

    Still our favorite vegan mac & cheese!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Thanks for the tips about freezing the sauce! I’m glad that worked out well.

      I’m glad your friends loved it too! You could try lessening (or eliminating) the turmeric and the curry taste would go away.

      • ShibaFan

        Good point about the turmeric! Luckily we all like curry and turmeric (and it’s good for you too), so we like the amount in the recipe. 🙂

  14. I made this recently and thought it was delicious! I was a little apprehensive about presenting it to my cheese-loving husband, selling it as “pasta with a creamy cashew-based sauce” rather than calling it vegan mac and cheese, but of course he devoured it. Thank you for sharing <3

  15. ShibaFan

    I made this recipe last night; it’s the best vegan mac & cheese recipe I’ve ever made! I thought the spinach might be a bit weird in it, but it was quite tasty and added a nice little crunchiness to the dish. The smoked paprika is an excellent addition, too. This definitely gets a “Yum!”

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Yay, I’m so glad you loved it! Thanks for coming back to let me know!

  16. Scott

    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. 🙂

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.