The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese (Oil-free, Healthy)

by Alena
Aug 21, 2016
two bowls of vegan mac and cheese with broccoli standing on the counter
16K Shares

If you're looking for the best vegan mac and cheese out there, look no further! This one is super creamy and tasty, you'd never think it is secretly healthy. And it comes without any bad health consequences.

The one single food item that keeps vegetarians (or even meat eaters, for that matter) from going vegan is almost always the cheese.

We love it so much, we don't just put it on the pizza - we actually put it inside the crust! And we were both no exception from the rule. Cheese was the biggest reason why our transition to a fully vegan diet took us so long.

We simply couldn't imagine a life without a block of solidified dairy milk.

It wasn’t before we learned just how much cruelty was behind this food and that it consists of 70-80% artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol. Many cheeses are made with rennet, which is an enzyme that comes from a calves’ stomach lining. So technically, your cheese might not even be vegetarian. It is also likely to be crawling with bacteria and might have been sprayed with mold, especially the slimy cheeses.

What really made us reconsider things was the fact that there is an allowance of somatic cells and pus in every glass of milk. The average somatic cell count in U.S. milk per spoonful is 1,120,000. The fact that milk cows have to be impregnated regularly in order to actually give milk and that their new-born calves will never taste their mother’s milk is just heartbreaking.

So in order to make veganism tasty and very healthy for you, we decided to come up with an easy and delicious vegan mac and cheese recipe that’s made with mostly staple foods that you likely have laying around somewhere. Won’t believe it?

Pasta and Broccoli ingredients

Beautiful Pictures made by Logan Inc

We tasted vegan cheeses before. Many different brands. And we could never get over the artificial taste or the high fat and salt content, so these were not an option for us. But fortunately, there’s a very inexpensive and tasty alternative to sprinkle on your food in order to make it cheesy: nutritional yeast. This food item is also known as the “vegan crack” because a lot of us are likely to be sprinkling it on every dish we’re about to eat.

pasta and broccoli

But it’s still not the same as a creamy cheese sauce. So how did we do it? Instead of using copious amounts of olive or coconut oil like similar recipes suggest, we decided to use veggies as a base. When we don’t have any nuts around, we even make the sauce with veggies alone!

vegan mac andcheese with broccoli

But since we wanted to give you the advanced and even more irresistible version, this recipe does include some nuts. If you can't or don’t want to have them though, just omit them. And when it comes to your pasta, don't just limit yourself to macaroni! You can use penne, spaghetti, farfalle, whatever you have in your house.

vegan mac and cheese

And since we’re known to be sneaking some more veggies into our meals for an extra boost of antioxidants and micronutrients, we decided to also add some broccoli. It also makes for some nice color and extra texture! If you have picky kids or grown-ups, feel free to leave out the broccoli. The sauce already has some veggies in it!

Okay so let’s get right into this goodness because who isn’t excited for some pasta? This quick and delicious comfort food will be super creamy and can be made within 15 minutes if you have pre-cooked potatoes on hand. 

Feel free to share with us in the comment below if you liked our vegan mac and cheese and also rate our recipe. You can also tag us on Instagram if you made it!

The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese (Oil-free & Healthy)

This delicious creamy mac and cheese recipe is 100% vegan, free of any oil and made with no-fuss ingredients in just 15 minutes or less! Kids and omnivores love it, guaranteed.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 400 kcal
Author Alena @ Nutriciously

Ingredients

  • 7 oz dry whole grain maccaroni (or any kind of pasta) (200g)
  • 7 oz broccoli florets (200g)

Sauce

  • 2 medium sized potatoes, cooked
  • ½ medium sized carrot
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced
  • ½ cup cashews (65g)
  • ¾ cup water (180ml)
  • ¼ cup soy milk (or any plant-based milk) (60ml)
  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • dash of paprika
  • dash of cayenne

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, peel the cooked potatoes and the carrot, then chop finely. Put in a small pot together with the chopped garlic and onion. Heat up with a little bit of water and let cook until soft enough to blend and the water has almost disappeared.

  2. Remove pot from stove and put the warm sauce ingredients in a blender jar together with the spices, milk, water, and cashews. Blend cautiously until smooth.

  3. Chop up the broccoli florets and sauté with water in a non-stick pan until soft but still a little crunchy. Add all ingredients in a bowl, mix thoroughly until everything is coated with the sauce. Enjoy warm!

about alena.

Alena has been eating a plant-based diet for 6 years and is passionate about sharing her learnings in the fields of nutrition, wellbeing, and vegan ethics. She is the co-creator of nutriciously and loves music, reading, nature, traveling, yoga & good food. Alena received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy, and social work.

16K Shares

55 thoughts on “The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese (Oil-free, Healthy)”

  1. I have been looking for nutritional yeast in my grocery store and cannot seem to find it anywhere. I’ve asked a few workers and they didn’t even know what it was. Do you order it online or is in a part of the store I’m not looking, maybe? I can’t wait to try this!

    • This message is for Jenna, you can find (if you live in or around Montreal) the best nutritional yeast (Red star ), at Aliments MERCI. They have four stores plus a warehouse in Montreal-North open to the public, where you can buy in bulk,different quantities and save money. Ps:if your not from around you can reach them by Internet ,and they will deliver a cross Canada… The warehouse phone number is 514-955-7295 .

    • I live in Australia and it is labelled as savoury yeast flakes here, not nutritional yeast. So, depending on where you live, it might have a different name. In my experience, nutritional yeast isn’t stocked in general grocery stores, but in health food type stores.

    • Hey Jenna,
      we can buy nutritional yeast in many grocery stores here in Germany. I’m glad Elisabeth and Regan helped out regarding the situation in other countries!
      If you cannot get it anywhere near you, consider ordering it on amazon, it’s sometimes even cheaper and you can store it for a long time if you choose to buy it in bulk.
      Where do you come from?

    • Cashews blended with water make a super creamy almost milk. They can be blended with and used to dip your toast in French toast. Sounds weird but just try it.

    • Hi Dianna,
      yes cashews work well in this recipe. Since there aren’t any truly raw cashews (they were all heated in the process), I’d rather describe them as ‘plain’. Not roasted or salted, just one single ingredient.
      Hope this helps! Let us know if you like the recipe.

  2. Thanks everyone! I actually live in Pennsylvania…not the most vegan friendly place. I ordered it on Amazon and I’m making this tomorrow night!

  3. Hi! Maybe a silly question, but you say ‘peel cooked potatoes’ but don’t say how you cooked them. Do you bake or steam them or something else first?

    • Hey Elena,
      so sorry your comment was somehow lost! Yes it seems like I didn’t mention that you need to cook potatoes first for this recipe. It just says “cooked potatoes” in the ingredients section. You can just steam or bake them, doesn’t really matter. We love making this recipe when we have some leftover potatoes :)
      Hope this helps!
      Warmly,
      Alena

  4. when i make vegan mac n cheese – BOIL potatoes, carrots & onions until tender then drop them in the blender. cashews should soak for and hour or two s well. ALSO if you are in PA (me too) you should be able to find Nutrional Yeast aka Nooch at Giant Eagle and Whole Foods. i get mine in bulk at local Food CoOp. But its definitely at the grocery store… check baking &/or spice isles. ✌?

    • It never lasted longer than a day in our household to be honest because it’s just so yummy! I would shoot for 2 days to be safe? But no idea, honestly. Since it doesn’t contain any animal products it can last a little longer. I have batch cooked a similar sauce and have eaten it over the course of 5 days or so.

    • Hi Eliza,
      you can use almonds here or just omit them altogether to make them nut-free and lower in fat.
      Hope this helps :)

  5. This was DELICIOUS. I was craving Mac n cheese and was very nervous to try a vegan version (we have been eating completely plant based for 7 days and counting) and thus completely hit the spot. Thank you so much!

    • Hey Krizia,
      thank you SO MUCH for your feedback! We’re very happy that our recipe resonated so much with you. We’re sometimes nervous to offer vegan dishes to people who aren’t used to them but this Mac N Cheese is usually a hit. Please let me know if I can support you in some way – congrats on the 7 days plant-based!! That’s so awesome.
      Hope this finds you well,
      Alena

      PS: How about joining our free e-course? :)

  6. As my first ‘intentional’ vegan recipe, it was a triumph! Even my vegetable-phobe daughter ate (& liked) it! Trying more recipes very soon! Thank you!

    • Hi Tracy,
      thanks so much for the amazing feedback! We’re very happy that you and your daughter liked it :) We’re planning on sharing more recipes like these on the blog soon.
      Best wishes,
      Alena

  7. This recipe is INCREDIBLE. So good. And so healthy. You won’t believe it’s vegan. Vegan recipes of non-vegan foods are usually disappointing but that’s not the case here. The only thing I would suggest is putting the cashews in with the potatoes, carrot etc so that they soak in some water and get a bit softer and easier to blend. Yay mac n’ cheese!

    • Hi Maria,
      so happy you like the recipe! And your suggestion is AMAZING, never thought of that… especially helpful to those who don’t have a highspeed blender like we do.
      Again, so glad you liked it :) Share it with friends and family, make their world a little brighter!
      Best,
      Alena

  8. This is by far the most amazing vegan sauce I’ve ever tried. As a lactose-intolerant person, Mac and cheese always meant sickness after, even with lactaid. This is just hands down sinful. There is no way this sauce is healthy… also, I’m new to cooking. This wasn’t difficult to follow at all. I’m so grateful for this recipe, thank you!

    • Hi Mikayla,
      we were so happy to read your comment! Thanks sooo much :) Very happy this sauce tasted delicious to you. I know it’s really healthy and you probably don’t miss the tummy ache after a heavy dairy cheese sauce… I love simple recipes as well!
      Thanks again for checking in and feel free to email us for more support.
      Best wishes,
      Alena

    • Hi Jenna,
      I haven’t tried it but assume you could even use water instead of the soy milk since the cashews already make the cheeze sauce very creamy :)
      Hope this helped!

  9. I have been eating a plant-based diet for 4 months now and have tried what feels like thousands of cheese sauce recipes. I’m always so hopeful, but ultimately disappointed – UNTIL NOW. I was skeptical when I read the recipe because it’s just similar enough to the other recipes that i’ve tried, that I thought the results would be the same, but this is the most cheese-like sauce! Right away I took a 1/2 cup and mixed it with my favorite salsa and it was an amazing queso! I’m looking forward to making broccoli cheese soup with it, too – thanks so much! (My only changes were to use mild flavor coconut milk and also cooked the potatoes and cashews with the other ingredients in step 1. )

    • Wow, that’s an AMAZING feedback! Thank you so, so much for leaving that comment, we had no idea that this recipe could excite you so much, haha :) Guess we’re just so used to the flavor by now. So happy to know that this has been a game changer! Curious to see how else the sauce can be used :)
      Thank you so much for everything, keep sharing if you like x

  10. My 3-year-old grandson is visiting for the week. I prepared the recipe with orzo pasta and broccoli. He LOVES it. Thank you for sharing. This is definitely a keeper.

    • Hi Lisa,
      thanks so much for sharing! We’re so happy to hear that the little one is enjoying this recipe – what a great, delicious way to eat more whole plant-based foods :)
      Hope other readers will be inspired by your words!
      Warmly,
      Alena

  11. SO GOOD! Any recommendations for rehearing? Had some left over last night. Brought it for lunch today and it’s still yummy but not quite cheesy.

    • Sorry to not have seen your comment any sooner! Definitely add some salt and nutritional yeast when reheating for a stronger cheese flavor :)
      Glad you like the recipe x

  12. Hi! I wanted to know if instead of using raw cashews, would the sauce still work/taste good if I add in cashew cheeze to the blend? Looking forward to making it this week!

    • Hey Maria,
      actually never tried it with actual cashew cheeze! Have you by now? I can imagine that you just have to adjust the other ingredients for the taste and consistency but it should overall be fine :)
      Looking forward to your feedback!

  13. I’m new to cooking. My mom would always just shoo us out of the kitchen. So I’m not sure what cooked potatoes means. In the oven? How long? What temp? I need instructions ?

    • Hey Melissa,
      sorry for the late reply. We cook our potatoes in a small pot on the stove, cutting it in 1-inch pieces and covering with water, letting it boil for a bit, until soft. Hope this helps :)
      Best wishes,
      Alena

      PS: I’m sure you can use baked potato here too, it just shouldn’t be raw.

  14. I just finished making this with walnuts (didn’t have cashews). Sauce consistency is amazing! Very good protein main dish with pea pasta. I’ll try cashews next time and see if there is a major change in flavor. Good stuff!

  15. Great recipe! We love this sauce on baked potatoes with chives from the garden! We added a little turmeric for flavor, anti inflammatory properties and of course, color!
    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

  16. I made this today for my kids and I. They really liked it! I’m new to the plant-based diet (only a week in) but I already feel amazing! This recipe was easy enough, though I couldn’t get the consistency very smooth. I think next time I’ll blend the cashews separately and see if that helps. It’s definitely going to be a staple for us! Thank you for sharing!

    • Hey Jessica, that’s so wonderful to know! Thanks for the feedback :) Yeah, you truly need a high-speed blender for the cashews. Did you soak them prior to blending for an hour or so?
      Really happy to hear you discovered a new staple for the family! Makes me want to create more such recipes.
      Best wishes,
      Alena

  17. I’m planning to make this amazing sounding pasta dish and wondered if it’s suitable for freezing.
    Thank you so much.
    Sue.

    • Sounds great, Susan! I haven’t tried freezing it before but wouldn’t know why that should be a bad idea :) Seems like you’re more experienced in this regard, would you like to let us know whether that works?
      In any case, enjoy the pasta x

  18. This is amazing! I am new to plant-based eating and it has been a hard adjustment for my children. This recipe is just what I needed to show them they don’t have to give up their favorite foods. Thank you so much for posting!

    • so happy to read that, Amber! You’re exactly right, just tweaking old favorites and preparing healthier versions is a great way to change someone’s diet for the better :) Really glad they liked it x

  19. If you cook the broccoli florets with the pasta – the last 3 minutes – it will save you some time. Just throw them in with the pasta and when the pasta is done cooking … voila … the broccoli will be ready too.

Leave a Comment

16K Shares
Share
Tweet
Pin