Creamy, velvety, saucy vegan mac and cheese.
This mac and cheese recipe is perfect if you want a vegan meal you can prepare quickly (20 minutes or less) and easily (no messy blender, no extra pots). The method is a combination of boxed mac and cheese and homemade mac and cheese. Boil and drain your noodles and then toss them back in the pot you cooked them in. After that, stir in some vegan butter, non-dairy milk, vegan cheese shreds and seasonings. Stir gently until the sauce thickens and the cheese melts. Easy!
The vegan cheese sauce thickens briskly and without any real “thickener”. The trick is simple! Don’t rinse your pasta after draining it because the excess starch thickens the cheese sauce exactly the right amount.
For a classic taste and method, we’re going to add in our favourite vegan cheese shreds. For this recipe, I used Follow Your Heart (a.k.a. Earth Island in Canada) dairy-free mozzarella shreds because it has a clean, “real cheese” flavour and it melts into a luscious sauce. As a result, there’s no roux-base, no soaking and blending cashews, and no pre-cooking cauliflower, potatoes, or carrots.
White vinegar adds a clean sharpness and tang so it’s essential to a cheese sauce that won’t taste flat.
This vegan mac and cheese calls for a touch of added sugar. Most unsweetened non-dairy milks contain 0g of sugar per cup (oat milk contains 6g/cup), while dairy milk contains about 13g of sugar per cup. So we add a touch of sugar to bring the vegan cheese sauce more in line with a dairy cheese sauce. Adding the correct amount of sugar should be imperceptible, it shouldn’t taste “sweet”. Adjust the amount of sugar you add depending on the non-dairy milk you choose. Add more sugar when using unsweetened almond and soy milk. Add less if using unsweetened oat milk. Even with that added sugar, this vegan mac and cheese contains less than half the sugar of boxed mac and cheese.
You may notice that there’s no turmeric in this recipe. If you want that orange colour, choose cheddar shreds instead of mozzarella. I find the addition of turmeric doesn’t look or taste quite right. The orange colour has a greenish hue and the flavour doesn’t add cheesiness or compliment the dish.
Compared to Kraft Dinner this vegan mac and cheese contains half the sugar, 4x the fibre, and 8g more protein. This vegan mac and cheese falls under the umbrella of “comfort food” but packs a lot of vitamins and minerals. It’s a good source of iron and an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folic acid, and B12).
If you like this recipe, you might like our Vegan Cheesy Potato & Broccoli Casserole , Vegan Potatoes au Gratin, Vegan Garlic Alfredo with Asparagus & Peas, Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup, or Vegan Leek & Potato Soup.
Recipe Notes and Substitutions:
This recipe makes the same amount as a box of store-bought mac and cheese. The serving size is small, adequate for a small meal or a side dish. Feel free to double this recipe.
FOR A FIBRE BOOST, choose whole wheat of fibre-enriched pasta. INCREASE PROTEIN, choose unsweetened soy or pea milk. ADD SOME BROCCOLI: During the last 2-3 minutes of boiling the pasta, add 1 cup of small, chopped broccoli florets. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as directed. MISO is an incredible addition to vegan cheese sauces. It’s an all-in-1 ingredient to add saltiness, depth, and that touch of sweetness that’s ideal for replicating the flavour of dairy. Add 1 tsp (or more to taste), for a flavour boost.
Does gluten-free pasta work in this recipe?
I haven’t tried this recipe with gluten free pasta. The starch from the pasta thickens the cheese sauce. I’m not sure that gluten free pasta would work in the same way. If you want to give it a try I’d recommend adding a small amount of arrowroot starch to the seasoning mix.
Can you bake this mac and cheese in a casserole dish?
Yes! Add a little extra vegan cheese to the sauce. Cook the sauce and pasta until the cheese melts but before sauce fully thickens. Pour the mac and cheese into a casserole dish and top with seasoned bread crumbs (recipe below). Bake at 425°F (220°C) for 20 minutes, or until breadcrumbs appear golden-brown and toasty.
SEASONED BREAD CRUMB TOPPING: Mix together ⅔ cup panko breadcrumbs, ½ tbsp melted vegan butter, ¼ tsp Italian herbs, pinch each of garlic and onion powder, (optional: pinch of salt).
- 1 ½ cups (225 g) elbow macaroni
- ¾ cups (175 ml) unsweetened non-dairy milk
- ⅔ cup (60 g) vegan cheese shreds (I used Follow Your Heart/Earth Island Mozzarella)
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) vegan butter or margarine
- 2 tbsp (8 g) nutritional yeast flakes
- 2–3 tsp (10–15 ml) white vinegar
- 1 tsp (5 ml) garlic powder
- 1 tsp (5 ml) onion powder
- 1–2 tsp (5–10 ml) sugar
- ½ tsp (2.5 ml) salt, add more to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- In a small bowl, measure out the cheese, butter, nutritional yeast, vinegar, garlic and onion powder, sugar, and salt.
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil. Add macaroni noodles. Cook pasta al denté, according to package instructions. Drain the pasta but DO NOT rinse it. The leftover starch from cooking the pasta thickens the cheese sauce.
- In the pot you used to boil the pasta, turn heat to medium. Add the cooked macaroni, and stir in unsweetened almond milk, and measured ingredients from step 1. The mac and cheese will look a little soupy at this stage.
- Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until vegan cheese is melted, and the sauce is smooth and thickened to your liking. Taste and adjust seasoning.