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. Dr. Dopey

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

  2. Jennifer

    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? 🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      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!

  3. Annie

    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

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

  4. Kyle

    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!

  5. m

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

    • jeanine

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

  6. ChrisD from

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

  7. Kari

    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.

  8. natalia mori

    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!!

  9. Sonia

    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.

  10. Victoria


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

  11. Liz B

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

    • jeanine

      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

        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.

        • Jeanine Donofrio

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

  12. Liz

    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

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

  13. is pasta making easiy recipy?

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

  14. Must be delicious! I love pasta and spinach together 🙂

  15. Helena

    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.

  16. Alesha

    This looks amazing! Is the nutritional yeast a must?

    • jeanine

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

  17. Lindsay

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

  18. Eva

    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

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

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.