If you have been following me for a while you probably know that I am a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen. Their crew is behind some of my favorite recipes and cookbooks. I was even lucky enough to visit their Test Kitchen in Boston a few years ago!
I’ve learned so much from them over the years and still get excited when I see them on TV or if they release a new book. That’s why I wanted to share a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks of theirs, Vegan For Everybody (affiliate link.)
This book provides detailed information, how-to’s, and the ins and outs of vegan cooking (which, understandably, can be daunting for beginner level vegan cooks like me.)
They’ve created this not-so-average “no cheese” Vegan Mac and Cheese using elegant, yet simple flavors. You won’t find any potatoes in this dish either!
The delectable cashew cream sauce blends together nuts, cauliflower, and nutritional yeast for a creamy, cheese base.
Vegan Mac And Cheese That Tastes Real
I can understand if you’re hesitant. Mac and cheese WITHOUT cheese? Is it even possible?
While it’s not hard to replace certain flavors, a non-dairy mac and cheese recipe will never taste the same as using the real thing. However, this homemade version is a close second. You’ll be amazed at how plants can be turned into such realistic versions of our favorite animal-product-based meals.
There’s a magical ingredient revered by vegans all over the world that imitates that irresistible cheesy flavor without using dairy: Nutritional Yeast.
A few tablespoons of this gold, flaky seasoning has the ability to transform an entire dish! I promise you won’t be missing the dairy if you have nutritional yeast (or “nooch”) laying around.
The Cashew Mac and Cheese Sauce
There are many base options available when creating a vegan mac and cheese sauce, such as potatoes, nuts, or carrots.
In their version here, folks over at the ATK chose to use cashew and cauliflower and blended them together with nutritional yeast and almond milk for the most creamy “cheesy” vegan pasta sauce.
It also happens to be a great dairy-free, soy-free, plant-based alternative that you can use to serve with nacho chips on the side or layer it on top of my vegan chili recipe, or with burrito bowls.
Ingredients For Cashew Cheese:
The ingredients to make this out of this world creamy vegan “cheese” cashew sauce recipe are:
- Raw cashews – The nuts will beef up this sauce quite a bit.
- Nutritional yeast – This is what makes the dairy-free sauce taste like cheese. Find it in the bulk section of your grocery store or at a health food store.
- Cauliflower florets – Cauliflower is full of moisture, meaning when it’s softened and blended with the rest of the ingredients, it helps the sauce become super creamy.
- Dry mustard – The whopping 4 teaspoons of dry mustard enhances the cheesy flavor. More on this below.
- Turmeric – This bright seasoning helps the cashew cheese sauce transform from a bland beige to vibrant yellow.
- Almond milk – Make your own almond milk using my comprehensive guide.
- Salt – You might think that 2 teaspoons salt is way too much, however, it’s a very important part of the “cheese” flavor and maintaining balance in the sauce.
If you’re a new fan of cauliflower: It’s one of the most versatile vegetables and popular in keto recipes. It can be deep-fried and covered in barbeque sauce, boiled and blended into alfredo or cheesy sauce, or take on a ton of seasonings and added to a cauliflower curry.
A Note On Using Dry Mustard In This Recipe:
This was my first time using dry mustard in my cooking, and thinking that this might be your first too I wanted to provide you with a little more information.
Additionally, since dry mustard is one of the key ingredients to simulate the “cheesy” flavor, I wanted to take a minute and answer substitution questions you might have.
What is Dry Mustard?
The below definition comes from Eat By Date:
Dry mustard is simply ground mustard seeds which are derived from the mustard plant, a vegetable plant related to the brussels sprout and broccoli plants. Dry mustard is most often used in adding mustard flavor to vegetables and meats.Citation: Eat By Date
Is It Okay to Use Dijon or Yellow Mustard Instead?
Good question. I wondered if I can substitute dijon mustard for dry mustard as well. Apparently, dijon mustard is a recommended substitute for dry mustard.
While it might work for other recipes, I would not recommend using dijon/yellow mustard in this plant-based mac and cheese recipe. During my recipe testings, I quickly learned that dijon mustard has more of an overpowering flavor compared to dry mustard.
In my opinion, using wet mustard made the “cheesy” vegan pasta sauce taste more like mustard than cheese.
Which Pasta Should I Buy?
I used brown rice pasta to create a gluten-free and dairy-free mac and cheese. Feel free to use any type of pasta for this recipe. Try quinoa pasta, linguine noodles, or classic elbow macaroni.
Pro Tip: When it comes to buying pasta at the store, be sure to double-check the labels and ingredients on the packaging. Most will not contain dairy or eggs, but it’s a good idea to check to make sure that it is vegan.
How To Make Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Prep the seasonings: Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the nutritional yeast, dry mustard, tomato paste, garlic, turmeric, and salt. Stir this mixture constantly for 1 minute.
- Add the milk and cook the cauliflower: Pour the almond milk into the saucepan while scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Turn up the heat to medium-high. When the mixture comes to simmer, add the cauliflower and cashews. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, partially covered, until the cauliflower is fork-tender (about 20 minutes).
- Make the cheese sauce: Working in two batches, process the cauliflower mixture in a blender or a food processor until smooth.
- Cook the pasta: When the cheese sauce is complete, cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.
- Combine the cheese and pasta: Pour the cauliflower sauce into the now-empty pot and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Add in the drained macaroni and vinegar. Cook the mac and cheese, stirring constantly until warmed through and the sauce is slightly thickened (about 3 minutes).
- Adjust the consistency and flavor: If needed, use the reserved liquid to adjust the dish’s consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve each bowl with a sprinkle of toasted panko breadcrumbs (for extra crunch) and chopped parsley.
- Oil – Use refined coconut oil to avoid a coconut flavor in the sauce. If you don’t have any on hand, use olive oil instead.
- Cashews – It is possible to create a nut-free vegan cheese sauce if need be. Substitute them for boiled potatoes or leave them out altogether.
- Gluten-Free – Remove the panko bread crumbs and use brown rice or quinoa pasta for a gluten-free version.
- Spice – Add a little kick with a sprinkle of chili flakes on each serving.
- Nutritional Yeast – If you’re running low on this cheesy seasoning, use 3 tablespoons of white or yellow miso paste.
- Paleo Version – If you are looking for a paleo version of this no cheese mac and cheese recipe, substitute pasta for zucchini noodles.
A Few Tips For Making The Best Vegan Mac And Cheese:
- Don’t worry if you think the sauce is too thin. It will naturally thicken once mixed with the pasta and cooked for an additional 3 minutes.
- If you’ve decided to remove the cashews, the sauce will be very thin. Blend in 1 teaspoon of tapioca powder, arrowroot flour, or cornstarch to help the sauce thicken as it cooks.
- You can make this recipe even more hardy and nutritious by adding frozen peas or steamed broccoli. Mix any additional vegetables when stirring the sauce and pasta together.
- Ensure it’s completely cooled before storing in the fridge. Mac and cheese will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 to 7 days.
- Vegan mac and cheese can easily be reheated in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, or heated in a saucepan with a little extra almond milk or oil.
Want more? Most Popular Vegan Recipes on The Blog:
Get your veggie on with these super delicious vegan recipes:
- Mexican Quinoa Recipe – Made in one pan & ready in 30 min.
- French Lentil Soup
- Vegan Sweet Potato Soup Recipe
- The Best Vegan Chili Recipe
Other Pasta Recipes To Try:
Try any of these easy pasta recipes as a versatile main or side dish:
- Zucchini Pasta – 5-ingredient recipe
- Sweet Potato Pad Thai
- Butternut Squash Noodles
Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 1/3 cup coconut or olive oil
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 4 teaspoons dry mustard
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and minced
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 4 ½ cups unsweetened almond milk
- 10 ounces 3 cups cauliflower florets, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 ¼ cups raw cashews chopped
- 1 pound 16 ounces brown rice or regular elbow macaroni
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- ¼ cup panko bread crumbs lightly toasted - Optional
- 3-4 tablespoons Italian Parsley chopped - Optional
- Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in nutritional yeast, dry mustard, tomato paste, garlic, turmeric, and 2 teaspoons of salt*. Cook, stirring constantly for a minute.
- Stir in the almond milk, scraping up any browned bits and bring it to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir in the cauliflower and cashews; reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, partially covered, until cauliflower is soft enough that it falls apart when poked with a fork, 20 minutes or so.
- Working in two batches, process the cauliflower mixture in a blender (or a food processor) until smooth.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packaging instructions. Reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid and drain the pasta.
- Pour the cauliflower sauce into now-empty pot and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat.
- Add in the drained macaroni and vinegar and cook, stirring constantly, until warmed through and the sauce is slightly thickened, 3 minutes.
- If needed, use the reserved liquid to adjust consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If preferred, sprinkle each bowl with toasted panko breadcrumbs and chopped parsley.
- Oil - Use refined coconut oil to avoid a coconut flavor in the sauce. If you don’t have any on hand, use olive oil instead.
- Cashews - It is possible to create a nut-free vegan cheese sauce if need be. Substitute them for boiled potatoes or leave them out altogether.
- Gluten-Free - Remove the panko bread crumbs and use brown rice or quinoa pasta for a gluten-free version.
- Spice - Add a little kick with a sprinkle of chili flakes on each serving.
- Nutritional Yeast - If you’re running low on this cheesy seasoning, use 3 tablespoons of white or yellow miso paste.
- Paleo Version - If you are looking for a paleo version of this no cheese mac and cheese recipe, substitute pasta for zucchini noodles.
This recipe is adapted with minor changes from Vegan for Everybody.
This post was originally posted in April 2017. It has been updated with new helpful information with no changes to the original recipe in June 2020.
I have made vegan mac and cheese before but it was no where near this good. Seriously. This exceeded all my expectations.
Printed the recipe. I will definitely make it again.
YAY! I agree that it is truly a delicious recipe. I am so happy to hear that you liked it Chloe.
Thanks for coming by and taking the time to leave a review.
Who knew you can make a vegan cheese sauce with cauliflower. This was amazing. It exceeded all my expectations.
The only thing I didn’t use was the panko because I didn’t have it, but the rest was great.
So happy to hear that you enjoyed this recipe.
Cauliflower is one of those magical vegetables, no? 🙂
Thanks for coming by and taking the time to leave a review.
Who can say NO to Mac and Cheese, especially when it is vegan? Nutritional yeast is the star of this recipe. Of course, after cauliflower.
I doubled the amount of nutritional yeast because we really like the taste. Other than that, I didn’t make any other changes.
Came out great. Thanks.
I agree. And yes, the more nutritional yeast the better. I am glad you enjoyed this recipe Victoria.
This recipe looks delicious Aysegul! I just came across your website and love your content, will definitely be keeping an eye on your blog. Keep up the wonderful work!
Thanks for your kind words and stopping by. I am so glad you found me.
I hope you try and enjoy some of the recipes.
Please let me know if I can help in any way.
Very Impressed with this recipe! I’ve been a vegan for five plus years, having eaten mostly whole foods in my diet; my husband who has been vegan for a year, prefers comfort foods made vegan. This is a hit! It’s smooth and creamy, and tastes amazing. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s cheesy as in real cheddar taste, but it is a delicious tasting version, vegan style. I sampled it on a die hard non vegan who loves cheese, and she said its was amazing and she would definitely eat this. I subbed soy milk instead of almond, as I’m not a fan of almond milk. Will definitely make this again!
WOW! This mean so much coming from a vegan. We are not following a vegan diet, but this dish makes an appearance on our menu quite often.
So happy that it worked for you.
Thanks for leaving a review. It means the world to me. Cheers!
This is gorgeous! Hard to believe it’s vegan it looks so cheesy!
I know, right? ?
I was skeptical at first, but after making it myself I was hooked.
I hope you’ll give it a go and like it as much as we do.
Lori @ RecipeGirl
This is so amazing. I can’t believe you can create a mac that tastes so similar to the classic without using cheese!!
I was skeptical too, but it is soo good. ?
Toni | Boulder Locavore
Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! My family loved it!
Thanks for letting me know Toni. So happy they liked it.
This vegan recipe is a feat. Tastes amazing!
It sure is. Thanks Joanne. 🙂
Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes
Being on a dairy free diet right now I can’t wait for this!
So creamy!! Love the use of cashews to make it healthy but still tasty!
I can’t believe it’s vegan! So rich and creamy. Yummmm.
Looks delicious , definitely a great recipe.
Amazing! I love this recipe so much!
Looks delicious! A great way to eat Vegan.