This Vegan Baked Mac & Cheese is the perfect comfort food! With a rich, creamy sauce, and a crisp baked topping, you're sure to fall in love!
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Who doesn't like mac and cheese? It has always been one of my favorite dishes. That might be one of the reasons it took me so long to give up dairy products when I was transitioning to a vegan lifestyle. In fact, for many people, dairy is one of the hardest things to let go of when adopting a plant based diet.
Thankfully, it didn't take long after giving up dairy products for me to lose my craving for them. What made that change easier was finding delicious alternatives to the dairy products I loved. And we're so lucky now to have so many alternative options available to us.
If you're a lover of mac and cheese like me, you're going to love this recipe for Vegan Baked Macaroni and Cheese. The rich and creamy sauce gets its cheesiness from nutritional yeast. And it's baked to perfection with a crispy Panko topping. Don't you just love those crispy bits?
What's in this vegan mac & cheese?
- Pasta - Any shape or type that you like.
- Yellow potatoes - you can also use red or russet potatoes, if you prefer.
- Carrots - for their orange color, as well as the nutrients
- Onion - I used yellow onion, but you can use white
- Raw cashews - these are necessary fro the rich, creamy sauce. If you can't have cashews, you can try substituting with white beans, tofu, or slivered almonds.
- Nutritional yeast - this adds cheesy umami flavor to the sauce. It's also a good source of Vitamin B12.
- Soy milk - if you're avoiding soy, oat milk would be a good substitute.
- White vinegar - to give that cheesy sauce the necessary tang.
- Ground mustard powder - just a little for some extra zest
- Turmeric - this adds color to your sauce, and is an extremely healthy spice. If you don't have it, you can leave it out.
- Paprika - I add a bit to the sauce, and also sprinkle some on top of the mac and cheese before baking.
- Panko - for a nice crispy baked topping. You can substitute other bread crumbs for the Panko.
How to Make this vegan baked mac and cheese
Begin by cooking one pound of pasta according to the package directions. This time I used some fun cavatappi - corkscrew shaped pasta. You can use elbow macaroni, shells, penne, or any shape you desire. Gluten free pasta or whole wheat pasta can be used in place of enriched white pasta.
When it is done cooking, drain the pasta and set it aside.
Peel and chop the vegetables and cook them in a saucepan on the stove until they are tender. Meanwhile add the remaining ingredients to a high speed blender.
When the vegetables are done cooking, add them to the blender and blend all the sauce ingredients together until the sauce is completely smooth.
Then pour the sauce into the pot with the drained pasta. Transfer the pasta to a 9" x 13" pan, or an equivalent sized casserole dish. Sprinkle Panko breadcrumbs on top, and then sprinkle on some additional paprika.
Bake the mac & cheese for 30 minutes, until it is hot throughout, and the breading is starting to brown.
Can I make this macaroni and cheese ahead?
Yes! You can make this recipe a day or two in advance. I would recommend storing the sauce in a jar and the cooked pasta in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Then, when you're ready to bake it, mix the sauce into the pasta, transfer it to your baking pan, and add the topping. Add an extra 5 or 10 minutes to the baking time, since the pasta and sauce will be staring out cold.
Can I make this recipe gluten free?
You sure can! Use your favorite gluten free pasta, and top with gluten free Panko or some gluten free bread crumbs.
Special tips and instructions:
- If you don't have a high speed blender like a Vitamix or a Blendtec, add your cashews to the pot of veggies and boil them along with potatoes, carrots, and onion. This will soften them enough to blend smoothly.
- Don't overcook your pasta. It will continue to cook and absorb moisture from the sauce in the oven, and you don't want mushy mac and cheese.
Add-in ideas for this vegan baked mac and cheese:
- Frozen peas
- Vegan bacon bits
- Buffalo soy curls
- Vegan chili
- Diced green chilis or jalapeno peppers
- Chopped spinach or kale
- Diced vegan ham, pepperoni, or sausage
- Diced tomatoes
Storage of leftovers:
Leftover mac and cheese will keep for up to 4 or 5 days in the refrigerator. You can reheat it in the microwave or in the oven. I like to add a little non-dairy milk to it before reheating, since it becomes a bit dry in the refrigerator.
For other recipes with vegan cheese, see:
- Oil Free Vegan Mozzarella Cheese
- Vegan Loaded Queso Dip
- Easy Vegan Lasagna
- Pepperoni Pizza Panini
- Vegan Ravioli
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Vegan Baked Mac & Cheese
- 1 pound pasta
- 2 cups peeled and diced yellow potatoes
- 1 cup diced onion
- ½ cup diced carrot
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 3 clove garlic
- ⅔ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ cup soy milk
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Panko breadcrumbs for topping
- Paprika sprinkled on top
- Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, bring the diced vegetables and water to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 12 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
- When the vegetables are done cooking, add them along with the cooking liquid to a blender. Add all the remaining ingredients (except the breadcrumbs and additional paprika). Blend all the sauce ingredients until smooth.
- Pour the sauce into to the pot of cooked and drained pasta. Stir to combine. Transfer the pasta to a 9” by 12” glass casserole pan.
- Sprinkle the top with Panko bread crumbs and additional paprika.
- Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes.
Nutrition calculations are approximate.