Vegan Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese tastes like a jalapeño popper in pasta form! It’s ultra creamy, perfectly spicy and crave worthy.
Similar to my Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese and with flavors inspired by Jalapeño Poppers, this mac and cheese dish is incredibly tasty and will keep you coming back for more!
If you don’t like really spicy foods, don’t worry, the jalapeño spice is quite mild. If you want it spicier, you can leave some of the seeds in. My kids all enjoy it and they can’t handle a ton of spice.
How to make it
(This is simply an overview, for full instructions and amounts see printable recipe at the bottom of the post)
- Soak your cashews, then make the cheese sauce in your blender. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- Sauté onion, garlic and jalapeños in a small pan.
- Add drained pasta, cheese sauce and vegetables to the casserole dish, and stir. Sprinkle on panko topping and bake for 20 minutes. That’s it!
If you don’t want to bake it, you can omit the panko/vegan butter topping and simply add the cheese sauce and vegetables to a pot with the cooked pasta. Stir over medium heat until the sauce thickens, and serve!
Want more mac and cheese recipes?
Vegan Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups raw cashews
- 3 cups water
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow or white onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 jalapeños, seeds removed and diced small
- 16 ounces elbow pasta
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9x13 inch casserole dish.
- Soak the cashews: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Pour the hot water over the cashews and let soak for 5 minutes.
- Make the cheese sauce: Drain the cashews and discard the soaking water. Add them to a blender along with 3 cups of fresh water, lemon juice, salt and tapioca starch. Blend until very smooth, and set aside. It will appear a bit watery, but that is right as it thickens while it bakes.
- Cook the pasta: Cook the pasta according to package instructions, but one minute less. The noodles will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and set aside.
- Sauté vegetables: In a small pan on the stove, sauté the onion, garlic and jalapeños in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until softened. Remove from heat.
- Add the drained, cooked pasta to the casserole dish. Pour the cheese sauce on top and add the vegetables. Stir to combine right in the dish.
- In a small bowl, mix the panko breadcrumbs and melted vegan butter, then sprinkle the mixture on top of the pasta. Bake for 20 minutes until warm and bubbly, and the sauce has thickened. Do not over bake or the sauce will dry out. Enjoy!
- Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, but it does not freeze well.
- Gluten free: Use gluten free pasta and breadcrumbs to make this gluten free. You could also use almond flour in place of the breadcrumbs.
- May omit the tapioca starch if needed, but it makes it slightly stretchy like melted cheese.
- I prefer to remove the seeds from the jalapeños as it would be super spicy if you included them. Cooking them with the onion and garlic tame the spice a bit as well.
- If you don't want to bake it, omit the panko topping and add the drained pasta back to the pot, along with the cheese sauce and vegetables. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens.
Absolutely perfect! Family favorite
I’m so glad your family is loving the Mac and cheese! Thank you for sharing your positive feedback and review!
Best Mac n’ Cheese as voted by my family. We’re vegan and sometimes the flavors can taste redundant. Not this!! What a nice change. I subbed sautéed cauliflower for the pasta and omitted the butter. Delicious!! Thanks, Nora, I love your recipes!
Hi Sarah. I love that this was voted best by your family! Thanks for sharing your great review and ideas!
I love this recipe!! It is by far my very favorite Mac n cheese and I’ve tried many 🙂 I rarely make the same recipe twice; I’ve made this several times. Yum!Yum!! Thank you for all of your amazing creations, Nora!!
Hi Rachel. I am so glad you are loving the recipe! Thank you for sharing your great feedback! It so encouraging! Happy cooking!
Wow! This is so good! I only had diced jalapeños and used 3 tablespoons which turned out to be perfect. Spicy but not so much that your mouth felt like it was on fire. Nora, we love all your recipes. Thank you so much for another smash hit!
LOVE this recipe!!
Have you ever made it the night before and baked the next day? I was thinking of prepping it Wednesday for thanksgiving. Thanks!!
I’m glad you love it! I wouldn’t make it the day before and then bake, because the noodles will absorb the sauce, making it dry when you finally bake and serve it. You could keep the noodles and sauce separate but ready to go in the fridge, and then bake it a day later. Hope that helps!
You are welcome! Happy holiday cooking!
I make this meal once a week or two and we LOVE it. The only difference I make is that I add a tonne of mushrooms to the onion, garlic and chilli and cook it all until it starts to caramelise. Such. A. Great. Meal! Will be a family favourite for time to come. Thanks again, Nora!
Hi Sarah. I’m thrilled the Mac and cheese is part of your weekly meal rotation, and that you love the recipe! Thanks for taking your time to share! Happy cooking!
Hi Nora! I’m curious if it would work to make the cashew sauce ahead of time and store it in the fridge for a day or two? I’m making your BBQ tofu and cheese grits for dinner tonight and would like to prep the mac to save myself some time later.
Yes, that works! Hope you enjoy it all! ?
We loved this! Three adults (vegan and non-vegan) thought this was GREAT! Fun to make, too! I used an immersion blender (because I don’t have a high-speed blender), and blended thoroughly, and it was just fine. No cashew lumps. The flavor and texture are delightful, and I wanted to eat more and more! The kind of thing you nibble on as you put away the leftovers. Well done, Nora!
Thanks so much for the comment! I’m so glad you all enjoyed it!
Will make again! Whew this recipe was so yummy and easy to put together. I used a protein elbow macoroni and it turned out well. As her recipe states, the sauce will be runny but it will turn out just fine. I followed everything except adding a couple spices to it.
I thought that this recipe seemed interesting but too easy to be true. (I thought, at least, that you forgot the nutritional yeast). I decided to give it a try mostly because I had some jalapeños in the fridge that needed using up. My household, unlike yours, are all adults now so I threw in about a third of the jalapeño seeds for a little extra kick. To go with it, I made your BBQ baked tofu and some sautéed garlic string beans. And, for good measure, I made your chocolate cake with a peanut butter frosting. As you see, I owe you an overdue great review. Thanks for your work and your inspiration.
You’re so welcome!! I’m so glad you enjoyed it all!
This was De-lish-ious!
My recently turned vegetarian hubby loved it!! .. as did I!
I did add 1/4 tsp garlic powder to the topping and I split the garlic evenly between the sauce and the veggies!
Can’t find tapioca starch/flour here. Will corn starch work? Or should I just wait til I can get some tapioca starch?
You can use cornstarch, or just leave it out the recipe will totally still work. Thanks!