Vegan mac and cheese recipe | Pamela Salzman & Recipes Skip to content

Vegan mac and cheese recipe

Vegan Mac & Cheese|Pamela Salzman

If someone tried to coax me a year ago with a “vegan mac and cheese” recipe, I would have politely said, “no, thank you.”  First of all, I actually don’t really like mac and cheese.  Not the boxed kind and not even the homemade kind.  Weird, I know.  And sad for my husband who looooooves it.  I used to have to make him the famous “Ronald Reagan’s favorite mac and cheese” recipe all the time when we first got married.  Tons of butter, cheddar cheese, milk, stomach ache for me.  Just not my thing.  It’s now the 21st century, and we’re both eating differently and I am open minded to alternative recipes.

potatoes, carrots, shallot, onion cook the veggies in water, but cover them everything into the blender"cheese sauce"

Although open minded or not, I’ve always felt if I’m not going to like the real deal, why would I like something pretending to be the real deal?  And most vegan mac and cheese recipes call for fake processed cheese or nutritional yeast and they’re just not that tasty, in my opinion.  Are you with me?  Well, according to myself and according to Mr. Picky who still doesn’t like cheese except Pecorino Romano in some soups and on pizza crust, this mac and cheese is the bomb.  I think it’s better than mac and cheese and he likes it because he has watched me make it and is confident there is not a morsel of cheese, real or fake, anywhere in this dish.

bread crumbs


You may have seen on a month ago a picture I posted of “vegan nachos” I made for the kids.  Here it is below.  That’s the same sauce for this!  You may have also seen a strange looking bowl of yellow stuff on my baked potato bar.  Same vegan cheese sauce!  Do you see the potential here?  What about as a dip for steamed veggies?  I might even make a soup out of this.  We are not just talking about a mac and cheese recipe.  We are talking about a life-changing delicious not-cheese sauce.   This sauce is a miracle.  It is made from potatoes, cashews, carrots, onions and a bunch of other completely natural foods blended into creamy, cheesy deliciousness.  Completely digestible (unless you are nut-free, in which case I am so sorry.  Buggers.)  I know I sound crazy.  I wouldn’t believe me either.

vegan nachos | pamela salzman

vegan mac & cheese|pamela salzman

vegan mac and cheese | pamela salzman

The only trick with this recipe is that you have to follow it exactly!  No eyeballing measurements.  No leaving things out.  Anytime I have guesstimated an amount with this recipe, it hasn’t worked quite as well, especially with ingredients like cayenne, lemon juice (you can leave this out, but just don’t add more than indicated) and garlic.  Some of the images on this post were taken of light spelt macaroni and some of whole spelt macaroni.  My family much prefers the light spelt pasta with this sauce, but you should use whatever suits you.  I have also tried this with brown rice pasta and a corn-quinoa pasta — both super!   Once I threw some small cauliflower florets into the pasta pot two minutes before the pasta was done and made a cauliflower mac and cheese.  (See above.)  I’m sure broccoli and kale would be great, too!  Can you see how much fun we are going to have with this??!!

vegan mac and cheese | pamela salzman

Vegan Mac & Cheese|Pamela Salzman

4.8 from 13 reviews
Vegan Mac and Cheese
Serves: 6 as a side dish
  • 8 ounce package elbow macaroni pasta (I like spelt.)
  • 2 slices bread, torn into large pieces (whole grain works!)
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter (not vegan) or organic Earth Balance (vegan), divided
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 1 cup (about 7 ounces) chopped Yukon gold potatoes (you can leave the peel on)
  • ¼ cup chopped carrots (about 1 small carrot)
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup raw cashews (soaked for 1-5 hours and drained if you your blender is weak)
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt (use 1 ¾ teaspoons if using Earth Balance)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic, minced (about 1 medium clove)
  • ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  1. In a medium saucepan, add the shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion and water and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, drain and put back into the pot.
  3. Put the bread pieces, 1 Tablespoon of butter and paprika in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until combined to a medium-fine texture, set aside.
  4. Place the cashews, salt, garlic, 5 Tablespoons butter, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne in a blender or food processor. Add the softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender or food processor and process until perfectly smooth.
  5. Pour the “cheese” sauce over the cooked pasta and combine until completely coated. Spread the mixture into an un-greased 11 x 8 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared breadcrumb mixture. Bake for 30 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the top is golden brown. If you add veggies (such as 1 or 2 cups of blanched cauliflower or broccoli) to the macaroni, cook in a 13 x 9 dish.
I actually don't make the vegan version for us because we can eat butter.   But I have made this with Earth Balance (which is vegan) many times and it has always turned out great.  I have never made this without the bread crumbs, though.  I think they provide a nice contrast in texture to the soft and creamy macaroni, but if not everyone will eat the bread crumbs, I am sure you can leave a square of the baking dish free of them.

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  1. Hi! Love this recipe and make it all the time. Do you think you could use the sauce for vegan creamed spinach?

    • I haven’t tried it, but you can try omitting the carrot for a lighter color. I have a recipe for a vegan “creamed” kale you can try with spinach. I’ll have my assistant email it to you.

  2. I’m crazy about this sauce. In one of your books you mention “cooking it in the stovetop for a few minutes and serving over cauliflower” or potatoes, or something. I’ve also been looking at recipes for “vegan cashew mozzarella cheese” and notice they blend cashews and then simmer them on the stove until they suddenly become a sort of stretchy, creamy sauce which they then use as “mozzarella dip.” Here’s my question: would it be possible to melt in some cheddar and cream cheese into your sauce after it’s blended? That is, “cook it not the stovetop” first, then melt in the cream cheese and perhaps cook it for a bit, then melt in the cheddar? Then pour it over cooked noodles and eat it right then as a STOVETOP Mac and cheese??? I’ve been sort of itching with curiosity about it, but the people I talk to are skeptical of the cheese staying emulsified without a roux. But would not the cashews act as an emulsifier???

  3. Hi! I’ve made this recipe tons of times and love it! Especially with adding whatever veggies I have in the fridge. I have a baby on the way and am thinking of prepping the recipe but then not baking it and freezing it instead. Just wondering if you or anyone else has tried this and how it’s turned out and how long/ what temp to bake it from frozen. Thank you!

    • I haven’t tried freezing this, but based on other recipes I’ve seen, you can reheat it in the oven from a frozen state somewhere between 350 – 400 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes. I would cover the dish with aluminum foil when you reheat and uncover during the last couple of minutes to allow the breadcrumbs to brown. Let me know if you try it.
      Congratulations on the baby!

  4. Omg! This is by far my favorite fake out recipe! How is it soooo delish? I made with roasted cauliflower instead of pasta…simply Devine. I didn’t have much water left in the pot after simmering veggies but just added some more to blender to thin out. Thank you!

    • Thank you, Patti. It’s the best!!

  5. Hi Pamela! Would MIYAKOS Vegan butter work here instead of the earth balance? Or is Earth Balance better consistency for this dish?

    • Miyokos vegan butter works great here!

  6. Is there a way to substitute the cashews?

    • You can try swapping in 1/2 cup of cooked white beans.

  7. I’ve made this recipe more times than I can count ever since I discovered it years ago. Every time I make it for a new person, they cannot believe that there is no cheese, and they also usually say that it’s the best mac and cheese they’ve ever eaten. I make it for all holidays and anytime I need a good side dish for a crowd. I absolutely love this recipe!!

    • Ah, thanks for writing in! It’s pretty miraculous, isn’t it?

  8. Made this tonight and it was AMAZING! Only thing is, I was meal prepping and used up all my potatoes before realizing I needed them for this recipe. No worries though, I had a butternut squash and tossed it in the oven. Replaced the potatoes with the squash and oh my goodness. Added riced cauliflower that
    I had in the freezer and it was perfectly disguised and went unnoticed by my kids so that’s a win! Thanks for such a delicious recipe!

    • Wow! I’ve been dying to try this recipe subbing butternut squash for the potatoes and you did it! I’m so excited to hear that it turned out well. Yay! And smart thinking adding cauliflower rice!

  9. So, i’ve been wanting to try this recipe for quite a while now. I finally remembered to soak the cashews. I made the mac & cheese and added steamed broccoli and some turkey bacon. Holy moly! This was so good. The flavor was unbelievable. My son loves mac and cheese and really loved this. I can’t believe the ingredient used makes this magic sauce. I don’t really make Mac and cheese very often but I think I will now with this recipe. My son is weird about cheese and doesn’t like nachos. I made this sauce for the second time this week and we had nachos with it and he said “oh, this is so good!” I can’t believe it took me so long to make this. You are a genius!!

    • Hi Monica! I’m so delighted you and your family enjoyed it! Believe me, I am not a mac and cheese lover and my son will not eat any cheese at all and we are both crazy for this. Search my site for Vegan Queso for a fun twist on this sauce that we love on nachos!

  10. I love this recipe so much. I lost it and have been searching the internet for months trying to find it again. The cheese sauce is so good I can’t believe there is no cheese in it. I have made it a little less thick and added broccoli to it as well, makes a great soup. Thank you so much for making something that doesn’t call for nutritional yeast(hate the stuff). You are truly a life saver!!!!!

    • You’re so welcome! It’s the only mac and cheese I like. And, although I don’t have a problem with the idea of nutritional yeast, I’m not a fan of the flavor either. 🙂

  11. Hi,

    How much cooking water do you add to the blender with the cooked potatoes?


    • You add all of it — everything in the pot including all the water goes into the blender.

  12. This was really delicious! I’m no longer a vegan but I like to try different things just to eat healthier. I have been so excited to try this for a while but also a little nervous of how it would come out. I love it. Definitely doesn’t have a cheese taste, and I wouldn’t be able to fool my husband with it, but the flavor is so good anyway! I will definitely keep to make again!

    • I agree! Not exactly like real mac and cheese, but who cares?? It’s so delicious anyway!

  13. Can I make this in advance? Or do I need to bake it….I remember you saying something about this in class but I didn’t find it in my notes. Thanks Pamela!

    • You can make it and refrigerate it before baking. Keep it covered in the fridge. 🙂

      • When baking after it has been refrigerated do you need to change the cooking time?

        • It may just need to cook for a few extra minutes. You just want to make sure everything is warmed through.

          • Thanks! I made the dish for dinner with a vegetarian friend on Friday night and it came out perfectly! Will definitely make extra sauce next time to store for nachos!

            • Nice! The sauce freezes well, too!

  14. Hi Pamela, thanks for the great recipe! I’ve made this delicious mac n cheese probably more than 10 times and just love it! My non-vegan son likes it better than the “regular” kind. I wanted to let you and your readers know that I recently made a nightshade free version, which turned out to be wonderful. I replaced the potatoes with sweet potatoes, and replaced the cayenne with cloves. I just left the paprika out of the breadcrumbs (half the time I just use crushed Ritz instead!). Like I said, it tasted sooooo good! Thanks!

    • Ooooh! So good to know. Thank you so much for writing in. 🙂

  15. God, that’s such a mouthwatering dish I wouldn’t want to miss! Love how you would combine vegan food with mac and cheese, nice!

    • It’s absolutely delish!

  16. Have you tried freezing the sauce?

    • Yes, and it doesn’t freeze well. 🙁

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I come from a large Italian-American family with 28 first cousins (on one side of the family!) where sit-down holiday dinners for 85 people are the norm (how, you might ask – organization! But more on that later …).

Some of my fondest memories are of simple family gatherings, both large and small, with long tables of bowls and platters piled high, the laughter of my cousins echoing and the comfort of tradition warming my soul.

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