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square image of pan of mac and cheese with jalapenos
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5 from 4 votes

Vegan Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese

Vegan Jalapeño Popper Mac and Cheese tastes like a jalapeño popper in pasta form! It's ultra creamy, perfectly spicy and crave worthy.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8 servings
Calories: 411kcal
Author: Nora Taylor


Cheese Sauce

  • 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

The Rest


  • 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!


  1. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, but it does not freeze well.
  2. Gluten free: Use gluten free pasta and breadcrumbs to make this gluten free. You could also use almond flour in place of the breadcrumbs.
  3. May omit the tapioca starch if needed, but it makes it slightly stretchy like melted cheese.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 411kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 498mg | Potassium: 340mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 228IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 35mg | Iron: 3mg