30-Minute Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe, No Cashews and No Dairy!

30-Minute Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe, No Cashews and No Dairy!

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Satisfy your Cravings with The Perfect Vegan Mac and Cheese, No Cashews or Dairy Needed!

A dairy free, nut-free rendition of the classic macaroni and cheese with our vegan recipe developer holding a Cosmo Casserole of creamy mac and cheese.

Chances are, if you were to ask anyone what their comfort food is, you wouldn’t have to go very far to get several “mac and cheese” answers as a response.

And, honestly, who can blame them for wanting to indulge in a wonderful serving of mac and cheese from time to time – or perhaps even more than just time to time? As far as comfort food goes, it’s the perfect one, as a dish that’s smooth, rich, and filled with silky cheese sauce and decadent cream sauce.

This recipe from our Cosmic Cookware partner and vegan recipe developer Chloe Wheatland, you can push those worries aside with the vegan mac and cheese of your dreams, totally allergen-friendly for everyone by being completely dairy-free, plant-based, and without cashews or vegan cheese!

Plus, it resembles the classic mac and cheese you know, love, and crave for, with the same creamy sauce that has enough power to make your mouth water simply through imagining it.

A classic macaroni and cheese is easily a comfort food for many, featuring a flatlay of a white plate of macaroni and cheese, garnished with breadcrumbs and powders, laid on top of a wooden table. Photo by Hayden Walker.

What is a Vegan Mac and Cheese?

Before we get started, let’s roll back to the basics – so what actually is vegan mac and cheese made out of?

Generally speaking, while the pasta remains relatively untouched and pretty self-explanatory, the “cheese” part of your vegan mac and cheese is where the main substitutes kick in. These usually swap out any dairy products with plant-based ones. Typically, vegan cheese and vegan butter are considered staples for the regular vegan mac and cheese recipe. In lieu of these, cashews or potatoes are a common trade-off in creating the essential sauce to go with your macaroni.

However, these replacements might not account for certain people’s diets, allergies, or wallets. To illustrate, vegan cheese is not just pricier but usually higher in sodium than regular cheese. Using cashews is also a no-no for people who have nut allergies, and if people are looking to lower their caloric intake, potatoes – which are famously calorie-dense and starchy – are not the ideal alternative when it comes their meals.

Luckily, here, we’ve taken that into consideration with an oil-free, dairy-free, and nut-free recipe that is both vegan-friendly and plant-based as well!

Vegan Mac and Cheese with No Cashews? Then What’s in the Cheese Sauce?

That’s a great question, and here’s where we put the main star of our cheese sauce on centre stage: nutritional yeast!

Nutritional yeast is a yellow powder that is easily found in most health food stores, and in the bakery aisle of any supermarket or grocer near you. It has a naturally cheesy, umami-packed flavour that really seals the cheesy deal without actually containing any dairy whatsoever, making this recipe 100% dairy-free.

So if you’re a fan of cheese, you can opt to amp it up by adding more nutritional yeast to your taste preferences! That said, if you’d prefer to stick to a vegan cheese of your choice (I admit I have a few vegan cheddar brands I use on super lazy days), you can easily do just that by swapping out the nutritional yeast in this recipe with that instead.

Is this Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe Gluten-Free?

Yes, this particular recipe can be adapted for gluten-free diets as well! All you have to do is swap out any of the ingredients that normally contain gluten with their gluten-free alternatives.

In this case, the pasta and flour can be swapped out relatively effortlessly. You can also use any gluten-free flour blends of your choosing, and, while you could really use any gluten-free pasta of your choice, we recommend gluten-free macaroni to really capture the essence of the classic mac and cheese. 

Don’t worry though, to make it easier, we’ve already listed them down in the recipe below for you, so you can be sure to single them out and pick up everything you need in the shops.

I’m Vegetarian. Can Vegetarians Eat Mac and Cheese?

If it’s vegan-friendly, it’s very definitely vegetarian-friendly! Our ingredients are all plant-based from our milk to our cheese, so you don’t have to worry about it not being able to meet your dietary needs!

Mac n cheese is a go-to for any occasion. Featuring a flatlay of a glass bowl filled with macaroni pasta seasoned with red powder atop a white tray. Photo by Hermes Rivera.

Replace Ingredients in this Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe to Fit Your Tastebuds Better

This meal is not just easy to make, but also incredibly versatile if you feel the need to switch out any ingredients into the mix, all while keeping it extremely allergen-friendly and cost-friendly with just simple, everyday ingredients found at your nearest store!

With pretty straightforward items like nutritional yeast, soy milk, tofu, spices, and mustard, this vegan mac and cheese recipe is free of high-calorie and high-fat ingredients, creating a creamy vegan cheese sauce from the blend of just these few ingredients. All while maintaining that delicious cheesy flavor associated with traditional classic mac and cheese.

Nevertheless, it’s also easy for you to get the taste of your dish just right and change out any ingredients you might want to give a miss, or even if you’re looking to pile on the nutrition calories with the addition of other foods that you want to incorporate into your diet.

Why Soy Milk, and What Else Could I Use Instead?

The milk we use in this recipe adds a creamier texture to your mac and cheese, and is necessary to thin the mixture in the processor. Ideally, any non-flavoured and unsweetened dairy-free milk is preferable here, so it doesn’t disrupt the flavour of your mac and cheese.

Because we're keeping it nut-free, we won't be recommending almond milk unlike most vegan mac and cheese recipes because soy already offers the neutral flavour we’re looking for when it comes to retaining the central flavours of the vegan cheese sauce.

That having been said, oat milk or canned coconut milk are the creamiest alternatives if you’re looking for an extra dose of richness when it comes to your vegan cheese sauce.

How to Add More Vegetables to Complete this Vegan Mac and Cheese Meal?

With over 35g of protein per serve due to the inclusion of tofu, this vegan recipe ensures you get a healthy dose of your daily nutritional needs while being super tasty as well. Although, if you are still looking to pack on more greens, it’s easy to add some vegetables as a side salad using leafy greens like spinach and kale.

However, you can get even more innovative and add veggies right to your meal! Ingredients such as steamed broccoli, roasted cauliflower, asparagus or green peas go exceptionally well with the cheese sauce.

That’s not all, though – for the busy parents who want to encourage their kids to eat more vegetables, you can easily do so by adding them into the cream sauce. This saves you the hassle of having to haggle with your children to eat their greens, on top of being simple to do.

All you have to do is chop up easy-to-mix vegetables that won’t interfere with the cheese sauce. Some easy options are sweet potatoes, cauliflower, or butternut squash. Then, mix them together into the cheese sauce to make a hidden vegetable pasta sauce that your kids would slurp out without a second thought!

A cooked pasta casserole of baked vegan mac and cheese.a side of olive oil and cutlery. Photo by Priyanka Aggarwal.

Experiment with Your Sauce and Garnish!

Once you’ve gotten the hang of this recipe (since we guarantee you’ll be making this more than just once!) you can venture even further and spice things up, adjust to your flavour preferences and get creative with toppings, additions, and really make your vegan mac and cheese your own.

Bonus tip: If you love a mac and cheese with a spicy kick, splatter on some hot sauce of your choice or a dash of chili powder to make a truly scrumptious spicy mac! My favourites include the classic Tabasco sauce or dried chili flakes if I'm not feeling something sourish for the day.

Layering your Vegan-Friendly Cheese Sauce with More Flavours

Try out any of these for subtler, and more layered tasting notes that integrates a new dimension of flavour to your vegan mac and cheese dish:

  • Smoked paprika to add a sense of smokiness and new depth to the flavour of your sauce. Just be careful not to overdo it, as paprika has an extremely distinct spicy flavour.

  • Lemon juice to incorporate a sour, refreshing brightness to the overall taste, and to cut through the thickness and richness of the sauce.

  • Apple cider vinegar to infuse a slightly tangy, stimulating freshness that undercuts the sauce’s decadence. I'd recommend apple cider vinegar if you're using a richer plant-based milk like oat milk, coconut milk, or coconut cream to create your sauce.

  • Miso paste to build on that umami saltiness. Once more, be careful not to overuse this as its taste can be overpowering. Start out with less and continue adding on if you feel like you want some more!

Add More Flavour…to Your Garnish!

We recommend gluten-free bread crumbs, parsley and smoked paprika. Breadcrumbs add a new textural difference to the dish, giving it a yummy crunch to complement its creamy interior, while parsley and smoked paprika lend it fragrance for an even tastier whole package.

But if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can give these garnish alternatives a go ahead instead:

  • Red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper or chili powder for a spicy mac and cheese that is sure to satisfy your need for heat!

  • Chopped green beans for even more veggies. Plus it replicates the crunchy texture that the breadcrumbs will give!

Cooked macaroni and cheese with warm sauce is the ultimate comfort food. Photo by Chris F.

Make your Vegan Mac n Cheese Your Meal Prep Go-To

While this recipe will already last you a good 4-5 days in the refrigerator, it’s also a great way to meal prep ahead if you’re foreseeing a pretty busy upcoming week…or just for one of those weeks where you’ll be needing something delicious, gooey, and comforting.

You can freeze it separately – with the cheese sauce and pasta segregated into different containers – or just chucked in the freezer as a whole dish as well. Just be sure to thaw it overnight in the fridge one night before you plan on eating it.

Ideally, you’d want to reheat it over the stove when it’s time to eat it. Just pop it into a non-stick pan at low to medium heat for a few minutes. You can also add more soy milk to your sauce to loosen it up. Be sure to stir it in often while it’s being warmed up to avoid any clumping and to really bring back that silky texture we want.

Of course there are easier ways to reheat your vegan mac and cheese. For instance, you could also pop it into the oven at around 180ºC for 15-20 minutes instead, or until it’s hot and bubbling. Keep it covered while it’s baking to keep the heating process uniform throughout the dish, and better yet, use a lidded casserole that distributes the heat evenly.

Alternatively, you could also reheat it using the microwave instead. Again, be sure to cover it and microwave at 30-second intervals while stirring in between to ensure everything is nice, warm, and melted all the way through. Just remember to use a microwave-safe bowl instead of a metal pot to prevent accidents!

Extra Good to Know Tips Before You Cook Your Yummy Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Now, the last thing you’d want is to excitedly prepare everything needed for this, only for it to not meet your expectations because of some unfortunate mistakes. So here are some extra expert tips on whipping up the perfect vegan mac and cheese, every time – yes, even the first!

  1. If you’re just starting out, make your sauce on low to medium heat. It’s much easier to control and there’s less possibility of ruining the flavour and desired smoothness of the cheese sauce.

  2. Whisk at a nice, brisk pace to ensure all the ingredients thoroughly mix together, and to properly coat your pasta in cheesy (or nutritional yeasty) goodness!

  3. If you want your cheese sauce to be of a thinner consistency, add slightly more milk in to balance it out.


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