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

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 types of cheese 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 or Pin for later!

The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

This easy creamy mac and cheese recipe is 100% vegan, low in fat and really healthy for you! Homemade with everyday ingredients, it's a family-friendly comfort food prepared in less than 30 minutes total. Great for meal prep and kids really love it!

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 for at least 30 minutes (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 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 and add the onion, garlic and carrot. Sautée in some water or vegetable broth until softened, then add the cooked potatoes to warm them up for a few minutes.
  2. 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. Transfer the cooked and drained pasta and broccoli into a large bowl and add all of the tasty cheesy sauce on top.
  2. Mix everything with a spoon to distribute evenly so all of the pasta is coated with some sauce. Enjoy warm!

Notes

  • You can replace the soy milk with any other plant-based milk.
  • Any kind of pasta will work for this recipe.
  • 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.
  • To make the sauce creamier, add more plant-based fats like coconut milk or nuts.
  • If you're allergic to nuts, simply omit them or use seed-based butter instead.
  • If you want this dish to be lower in calories and more weight-loss friendly, you can skip the cashews entirely.
  • You can add some white beans to the sauce, replacing some or even all of the potatoes, to make this meal higher in plant-based protein.
  • If you or your family isn't keen on the broccoli, choose another vegetable or omit entirely.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 3 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 426 Total Fat: 13g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 9g Cholesterol: 0mg Sodium: 987mg Carbohydrates: 65g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 10g Sugar: 6g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 18g
Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated automatically, their accuracy is not guaranteed. Just focus on whole plant-based foods and eat until satiety!
woman in grey vegan shirt with her hands on her hips looking to the left and smiling
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.
dark grey spotted bowl with a variety of vegetables next to small bottle of green smoothie isolated on light background

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58 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!

    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

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