This truly is the BEST Vegan Mac and Cheese ever! Made with just 7 simple ingredients and ready in under 20 minutes. It’s as easy as making boxed mac and cheese!

sliver serving spoon in large pot of mac and cheese

My favorite thing about this recipe is how easy and quick it is to throw together. It’s ready in the same time it would take for you to make a box of regular mac and cheese!

When I’m craving comfort food, I turn to a big bowl of noodles, and this vegan mac and cheese hits the spot. The luscious sauce is oh-so-creamy, cheesy and mild with just a little tang. It’s sure to become a staple meal in your home!

I highly recommend pairing it with some sort of vegetable. My favorite add-ins are: thawed frozen green peas, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower or broccoli, roasted asparagus or cooked kale.

spoon lifting out a lot of mac and cheese from a pot

Ingredients needed (with substitutions)

  • Raw cashews – This is what makes the sauce so delightfully creamy and cheesy at the same time. There isn’t a good substitute for this recipe, but if you need a nut free cheese sauce, try this Nut Free Vegan Cheese Sauce instead and pair it with noodles.
  • Water
  • Fresh lemon juice – From about 1 large lemon. Use fresh squeezed for the best flavor. I love my lemon juicer and use it daily.
  • Nutritional yeast – If you really dislike it or don’t have it, you could leave it out. But it adds a lot of cheesy flavor.
  • Turmeric – Mostly for color!
  • Garlic powder 
  • Salt
  • Elbow noodles – Or your favorite pasta. Use gluten free if needed, whole grain or even a bean based pasta. But for classic mac and cheese, use white elbow noodles.

How to make Vegan Mac and Cheese

It’s so easy to prepare, you won’t believe it!

  1. Pour boiling hot water over the cashews in a bowl or measuring dish. I usually heat water in my tea kettle or a small pot, then pour it over the nuts. Get your pasta cooking as well.
  2. Let the nuts soak for about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a Vitamix, you may want to let them soak for an hour or even overnight so they will get smooth when you blend them.
  3. Drain the cashews and add them to a blender, along with the fresh water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic powder and salt.
  4. Blend until very, very smooth! This will take a few minutes, perhaps a little longer if you are using a regular blender.
  5. Drain the cooked pasta and add back to the pot. Pour the cheese sauce on top of the noodles.
  6. Stir very well; the cheese sauce will thicken slightly from the hot noodles. Serve immediately for best results!

collage of how to make vegan mac and cheese

How to thin the sauce if it’s too thick

Serve the mac and cheese right away for the best texture and flavor. The sauce will thicken as it sits, even after 20 minutes. But I have a solution! Simply add some additional warm water (a few tablespoons at a time) and stir it in well. The sauce will thin perfectly – problem solved!

Do the same thing with leftovers. When reheating, add some more water and stir until you reach the desired consistency.

Tips for the best mac and cheese

  • Classic elbow noodles – While other pasta is totally fine to use, classic elbow noodles will give the dish that certain mac and cheese feel.
  • High powered blender – This is probably the most important thing. It might work okay with a regular blender or food processor, but to really create a cheesy, perfectly smooth sauce out of cashews, you need a Vitamix or other high powered blender.
  • Fresh lemon juice – The flavor will be much better with fresh squeezed lemon juice than if you use bottled.
  • Add in some vegetables! I think this makes mac and cheese amazing. My favorite is stirring in some roasted vegetables, yum.
  • Sprinkle some vegan bacon for extra flavor and protein – Try my tempeh bacon or tofu bacon.

two bowls of cheesy elbow noodles, blue towel

Leftovers and freezing

The sauce itself freezes wonderfully, and is great for freezing, then taking out small portions for single meals or kids lunches. You could even freeze the sauce in an ice cube tray, then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag.

If you want to freeze the pasta + cheese, that is fine but the noodles will be a bit mushier. If you are planning to freeze it, I would undercook the noodles by a few minutes, add the sauce, then freeze in a container. You can reheat the dish on the stovetop from frozen, or bake it in the oven. You could even microwave it if you wanted.

The dish will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator. And like I said above, add more water to the leftover pasta so it’s not too thick.

looking down on a bowl of vegan mac and cheese

More drool worthy vegan noodle recipes:

square image of large spoonful of mac and cheese

The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

This truly is the BEST Vegan Mac and Cheese ever! Made with just 7 simple ingredients and ready in under 20 minutes. It's as easy as making boxed mac and cheese!
4.99 from 54 votes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews (soaked)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large lemon, squeezed for juice (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 12 ounces elbow pasta (use gluten free if needed, or whole grain)

Instructions

  • Soften your cashews by covering them in boiling water for 5 minutes. I do this by heating up water in my tea kettle, and then pouring the boiling water over the cashews in a large glass measuring cup. 
  • Cook the pasta according to package instructions, but do not overcook. 
  • While the pasta is cooking, add the soaked cashews, 1 cup water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic powder and salt to a high powered blender and blend until very smooth.
  • When the pasta is done, drain and return it to the pot. Stir in the cheese sauce, and serve!
  • Optional veggie add ins: Thawed frozen peas, roasted brussels sprouts, roasted cauliflower, roasted broccoli, cooked kale or roasted asparagus.

Video

Notes

  1. The cheese sauce freezes well, so feel free to make extra sauce and freeze some for a super quick meal or kid's lunch option.
  2. Leftovers will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator. The sauce does thicken when it cools or sits out for awhile, but there is an easy fix. Simply add a little warm water and stir, noodles and all, while you reheat it. The sauce will thin and it will be perfect again.
  3. Gluten free - Use gluten free pasta, any variety you like.
  4. Nut free - This recipe won't work for you, but you might want to try my Nut Free Vegan Cheese and pair it with pasta, it's really yummy too!

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 304kcal, Carbohydrates: 41g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Sodium: 443mg, Potassium: 309mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 18mg, Iron: 2mg

*This recipe was originally posted in August 2018 and has been updated November 2020 with new photos and better instructions. The recipe itself is the same. Thank you!

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