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Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese (No Cashews)

The best vegan mac and cheese recipe made without cashews or nutritional yeast yet has a cheesy, umami flavor. This allergy-friendly pasta recipe is gluten and soy-free and made with easy-to-find, simple ingredients.

I played around with a few different variations of this vegan mac and cheese. But, I couldn’t get the texture right and the flavor was off despite using nutritional yeast and other commonly used ingredients. 

I was about to give it up altogether, but then I decided to try making a roux sauce like you’d make for traditional mac and cheese, but with vegan alternatives.

It’s creamy, it’s cheesy, it’s decadent and rich, which means it’s the ultimate comfort food.

It has no raw cashews, sunflower seeds, nutritional yeast, carrots, tapioca starch, or lemon juice, yet it has a tangy, cheesy flavor. Plus, you don’t need a high-speed blender or any other special equipment to make it.

Ingredient Notes

  • Elbow pasta – or another small shape such as shells for a classic vegan mac. Use your favorite gluten-free pasta if needed – I love Jovial’s brown rice pasta.
  • Vegan butter – adds more depth of flavor and adds to the sauce’s richness.
  • Flour – to thicken up the sauce. Either all-purpose flour or brown rice flour for gluten-free.
  • Non-dairy milk of choice – I used oat milk which keeps this recipe nut-free, but you can also use any neutral-tasting plant milk such as almond milk or cashew milk if you tolerate nuts or even soy milk. Avoid using coconut milk.
  • Vegan shredded cheddar cheese – use any store-bought option, but check to make sure it doesn’t contain nuts if necessary.
  • Onion powder – extra flavor.
  • Garlic powder – to flavor the cheesy sauce. 
  • Mustard powder – adds extra tang and cuts through the richness.
  • Smoked paprika (optional) – adds another layer of flavor.
  • Kosher salt – to taste
  • Freshly cracked black pepper – to taste.

See the recipe card for exact measurements.

How to Make Creamy Vegan Mac And Cheese Without Cashews

Step 1. Cook your pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente according to package instructions and drain.

Step 2. Melt the vegan butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk constantly, for 1 minute.

Step 3. Add half of the plant-based milk and whisk to dissolve the paste into the milk before adding in the remaining milk. Whisk in onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, and smoked paprika (if using).

Step 4. Cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until thickened. Stir in the cheese until melted and remove from the heat.

Step 5. Stir in the cooked pasta and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper as needed.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

Please remember that recipes are just a starting point. 

How can you make this easy vegan mac and cheese using what you already have? Here are some ideas…

  • No mustard powder – sub Dijon mustard.
  • No onion powder or garlic powder? – they’re only in the sauce for a little more flavor but can be left out.
  • Don’t like it as saucy? – use 16 ounces of pasta.

How to Store

Let cool completely then store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Let thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.

More Vegan Pasta Recipes

Vegan Mac and Cheese (No Cashews)

5 from 1 vote
Three bowls of creamy homemade vegan mac and cheese.
The best vegan mac and cheese recipe made without cashews or nutritional yeast yet has a cheesy, umami flavor. This allergy-friendly pasta recipe is gluten and soy-free and made with easy-to-find, simple ingredients.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Serving Size 4

Ingredients
 

  • 12 ounces elbow pasta use gluten free if needed
  • 4 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour or brown rice flour for gluten free
  • 2 ¼ cups plant milk I used oat milk
  • 3 cups shredded vegan cheddar cheese
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder or sub dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika optional
  • kosher salt to taste
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Cook your pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente according to package instructions and drain.
  • Melt the vegan butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Add half of the plant-based milk and whisk to dissolve the paste into the milk before adding in the remaining milk. Whisk in onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, and smoked paprika (if using).
  • Cook, stirring constantly for 5 minutes until thickened. Stir in the cheese until melted and remove from the heat.
  • Stir in the cooked pasta and season to taste with kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper as needed.

Notes

Vegan cheese takes a bit longer to melt, so be patient. It’ll happen.
See the blog post for storage instructions.

Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations

No mustard powder – sub Dijon mustard.
No onion powder or garlic powder? – they’re only in the sauce for a little more flavor but can be left out.
Don’t like it as saucy? – use 16 ounces of pasta.
5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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