Healthy Vegan Mac and Cheese (Low-Fat)

by Alena

Try this creamy and healthy vegan mac and cheese for a low-fat comfort dish! It’s kid-friendly, nutritious and ready in under 30 minutes.

Any day is a good day for pasta! Whether that’s low-fat vegan white sauce pasta or protein-packed pesto pasta, we love all kinds of shapes and flavors.

Macaroni and cheese is a familiar childhood favorite for many, and while our whole food plant-based version doesn’t exactly taste like the boxed version, we’re positive that you’ll love it!

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Zero dairy or oil is needed for the creamy cheese sauce made with accessible ingredients, and you can serve it cooked with some added broccoli or bake it in the oven!

With major upgrades in the health department, you won’t feel heavy after enjoying this delicious dinner, and you probably have most of the components needed for the recipe already at home.

Be sure to check out more kid-friendly vegan recipes, easy plant-based beginner meals and oil-free vegan recipes for more goodness like this!

Here’s why you need to try our silky smooth, tangy and savory pasta dish.

pasta and broccoli in a white bowl over which plant-based homemade cheese sauce is pouredpin it

Images by Logan Ink

Recipe overview & features 

  • Dairy-free, oil-free & super creamy
  • Completely whole food plant-based
  • Easy beginner recipe for veg-curious people
  • Ready in under 30 minutes (almost as fast as boxed!)
  • Customizable & great for meal prep
  • Kid-friendly and family favorite comfort food

Once you try this mac and cheese, we can promise that you’ll want to make it all the time! It’s lower in calories but full of yum.

carrots, broccoli, potatoes, cashews and whole grain pasta next to a pan on a tablepin it

Ingredients needed

  • Pasta – choose wheat, whole grain or legume-based pasta; any shape is fine. We went with fusilli because that’s what we had in our pantry.
  • Broccoli – drenched in our homemade cheese sauce, it won’t taste half bad – even if you’re no brocco-holic!
  • Cashews – the whole food plant-based foundation of our dairy-free cheese sauce; make sure to soak them for a few hours if you don’t have a high-speed blender!
  • Potatoes and carrots – adding more volume and nutrition to the sauce without the extra fat; works great with leftovers.
  • Nutritional yeast – the cheesy secret ingredient in many vegan sauces! Definitely don’t skip this one.

This healthy vegan mac and cheese gets its signature flavor from a combination of nutritional yeast, salt and lemon juice. 

Together with some creamy blended cashews, you can make a speedy and healthy dairy-free cheese sauce at home to be served with your pasta of choice!

placing cooked whole grain pasta in a white bowl to prepare some healthy plant-based mac and cheesepin it

How to make healthy vegan mac and cheese

Cook your pasta

Get a medium-sized pot and cook your pasta of choice according to package instructions. 

Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into florets and add it to the pot with the pasta around 5 minutes before it’s al-dente!

Make the cheese sauce

While the pasta is cooking, heat a small pot over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and carrot.

Sauté using water, vegetable broth or a splash of olive oil to make it richer. Once the veggies have softened, add the cooked potatoes and let them warm up for a few minutes.

Next, place the cooked veggies together with the rest of the ingredients for the sauce straight into a blender jar and blend until smooth. Add more liquid if needed and adjust to taste preferences.

Assemble the dish

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add back to the pot. Pour the cheese sauce over the drained pasta and broccoli.

Mix well with a spoon but don’t overdo it if you want the pasta and broccoli not to get too mushy! Enjoy warm.

close-up of a bowl with whole food plant-based mac and cheese with broccoli and a spoonpin it

Storage & reheating

Store any leftover vegan cheese sauce separately in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days. It also freezes well and can be thawed to add to a quick weeknight meal!

You can also store the whole meal in a sealed container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Be sure to add a splash of water or soy milk when you reheat your mac and cheese!

Serving suggestions

You can certainly enjoy this delicious vegan dinner all by itself – but if you’re wondering what goes well with vegan mac and cheese, here are a few ideas!

plate of broccoli florets along with cooked vegan pasta and dairy-free cheese sauce on a tablepin it

Tips & FAQs

Vegan cheese sauce tips

Feel free to play around with the ratios to make your cheese sauce higher or lower in fat by increasing the cashews or the potatoes.

You can also add a splash of olive oil, a handful of vegan cheese shreds or swap soy milk for coconut milk to make this meal heartier. A handful of steamed cauliflower reduces calories in the sauce.

Try our high-protein vegan cheese sauce for this recipe if you like! We love it over our healthy vegan lasagna.

If you don’t have a high-speed blender, use cashew butter or almond butter instead of cashews.

For a deeper flavor, add a bit of mustard and miso paste to the sauce or add stretchy Daiya cheese shreds when combining the pasta with the sauce!

How many calories are in vegan mac and cheese?

Our whole food plant-based mac and cheese with broccoli is a super satisfying yet “skinny” or low-calorie dinner option.

It’s super comforting and remarkably cheesy despite being low in calories! One serving comes to about 420 calories while offering a good amount of volume and satiety.

For an even lower calorie version, skip the cashews and add some cooked cauliflower to the sauce! Butternut squash also works well if you have it on hand.

Add more plant-based fats like coconut milk to the cheese sauce to make a more decadent version.

two dark bowls standing next to each other on a table filled with whole food plant-based mac and cheesepin it

Food swaps

Make this recipe nut-free by replacing the cashews with tahini or hemp seeds; you can also omit the cashews, increase the potatoes and add some olive oil for the creaminess.

Feel free to add cooked butternut squash or pumpkin to your cheese sauce for a lovely orange color!

If needed, you can use legume-based or gluten-free pasta and add other veggies like baby spinach, cauliflower, kale, peas, or bell peppers to your healthy vegan mac and cheese instead of broccoli.

Suggested add-ons include breadcrumbs, vegan bacon, jalapenos and buffalo bites.

Baked version

For a baked vegan macaroni and cheese, preheat the oven to 350° F while preparing the pasta and sauce. 

Pour the low-fat cheese sauce over the cooked pasta, stir, then place the mixture into a baking dish and bake for about 20 minutes. 

If you want to add a crunchy topping, sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top before baking! 

More easy vegan recipes

If this vegan mac and cheese hits the spot, don’t miss out on our other delicious vegan meal ideas! 

Did you try our vegan mac and cheese and like it? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to rate the recipe! You can also Pin it here or share it with your friends.

two dark bowls standing next to each other on a table filled with whole food plant-based mac and cheese

Healthy Vegan Mac and Cheese (Low-Fat)

Yield: 3 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Try this creamy and healthy vegan mac and cheese for a low-fat comfort dish! It’s kid-friendly, nutritious and ready in under 30 minutes. A true classic gone fully plant-based!

Ingredients

  • 7 oz dry whole-grain macaroni (200 g)
  • 7 oz broccoli florets (200 g)

Cheese Sauce

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

Instructions

  1. Get a medium-sized pot and cook your pasta according to package instructions. 5 minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccoli florets.
  2. Once the pasta is al dente and the broccoli is soft with a little crunch, drain and set aside.

Make the Cheese Sauce

  1. While the pasta is cooking, heat a small pot over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and carrot. 
  2. Sautée in some water or vegetable broth until they have softened, then add the cooked potatoes to warm them up for a few minutes.
  3. Now, place all of the ingredients for the easy vegan cheese sauce into a high-speed blender jar and blend until smooth.

Assemble the Pasta

  1. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add back to the pot. Pour the cheese sauce over the drained pasta and broccoli.
  2. Mix well with a spoon but don’t overdo it if you want the pasta and broccoli not to get too mushy! Enjoy warm.

Notes

  • Try to soak the cashews for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have a high-speed blender, go for overnight soaking.
  • You can use frozen broccoli instead of fresh!
  • Instead of cashews, you can use blanched almonds. If you don't have a good blender, feel free to add some almond or cashew butter to the potato mixture.
  • You can replace soy milk with any other plant-based milk.
  • If you or your family isn't keen on broccoli, choose another vegetable like kale or peas, or omit entirely.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: ⅓ recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 426Total Fat: 13gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 987mgCarbohydrates: 65gFiber: 10gSugar: 6gProtein: 18g

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Alena sitting in a cafe with a bowl of fresh plant-based food and a glass of coffee in front of her

About Alena Handwritten FontAlena Schowalter is a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with her husband, she founded nutriciously in 2015 and has been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages towards a healthy plant-based diet. She’s received training in the fields of nutrition, music therapy and social work. Alena enjoys discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature and creating new recipes.

64 thoughts on “Healthy Vegan Mac and Cheese (Low-Fat)”

  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!

    Reply
    • 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 .

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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?

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
  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?

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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. ✌?

    Reply
    • 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.

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

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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? :)

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  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. )

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  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 ?

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
  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!

    Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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

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

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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!

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  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.

    Reply
  20. Wow! Made this tonight and my husband had 4 servings. Said he likes it better than regular Mac-n-cheese. I’m a huge Mac-n-cheese afficianodo so I was skeptical. This is an excellent substitute and I’m enjoying not feeling yucky afterwards like I do with the regular version. Thank you!!

    Reply
  21. Thank you so much for the extra notes at the end of the recipe – I have had this recipe open in my browser for weeks waiting to make it and I just never seem to get round to buying cashews…so I am glad I can just leave it out. Going to try your suggestion of white beans instead of potatoes too :) Look forward to finding more simple and delicious vegan friendly recipes :D

    Reply
    • Hi Susan,
      yes you can actually! The consistency might be a bit thicker and the sauce would need some thinning out and adjusting with spices to taste again. When you defrost it, leave it on the counter all day so it can slowly come to room temp. Then slowly heat it in the microwave and stir well.
      Hope this helps! Enjoy our recipe – it definitely needs some updating with more information :)
      Best wishes,
      Alena

      Reply
    • great idea, thanks for sharing! Yes, pretty much every soy sauce is vegan. You need to be careful with Asian sauce, though – they often contain fish, oyster or shrimp as a flavoring.

      Reply
    • Hey Ruth,
      this vegan cheese sauce recipe is super hard to mess up and works with a whole host of different ratios for potatoes, carrots etc. I’d say a medium potato is about 200 grams (7 oz) and a medium carrot about 60 grams (2 oz) but you can play around with the ingredients to adjust everything to your liking :)
      Hope you enjoy this mac and cheese!

      Reply

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