Easy, cheesy, homemade and only 5 ingredients! This creamy vegan mac and cheese is sure to hit you right in the comfort food spot.
This classic comfort food favorite can be enjoyed year-round! 90 degrees? It's always time for mac and cheese! This recipe is so easy to make and does not involve any cashews, so there's no breaking the bank trying to replicate a cheese sauce here!
This recipe was inspired by my vegan macaroni salad, after making that recipe, I wanted to switch up and eat something warm and comforting the next day, but also with pasta.
There are very few ingredients for this recipe. However if you need to substitute anything:
Non-dairy milk - I am using full fat, canned coconut milk because it is best for this recipe. You may use another plant-based milk if needed, but I highly recommend the coconut milk. Also make sure that it is unsweetened.
Lemon Juice - Can be swapped for apple cider vinegar.
Nutritional Yeast - This is the cheesy flavor. You can substitute this with regular vegan shredded cheese (my go-to would be Violife, but Daiya and Miyoko's is just as good!). However, to keep this recipe cheap, and accessible to more people, I've just used what was accessible to me.
One unlisted ingredient - Cornstarch slurry (for thickening the liquid after if needed. Sometimes saving some pasta water works, too!)
See recipe card for exact quantities.
Start by boiling the coconut milk and of course cooking your noodles in another pot according to package instructions.
Then add nutrional yeast, salt, and lemon juice.
Mix together well, if you saved some pasta water, use it to thicken the sauce. Otherwise use a cornstarch slurry.
Once thick and creamy, add your pasta and coat all noodles in sauce.
Alternate thickening methods include: a roux from butter and flour, cornstarch slurry, pasta water, or... arrowroot starch/powder (this makes the cheese sauce super thick and stringy like real cheese, so if you have some on hand, do try that!)
Pasta - You can use any pasta you want here. Best to use actual macaroni noodles, but I like penne and that's what I had on hand. For Gluten-free, use a GF pasta!
Add veggies! Change things up with your vegan mac and cheese by adding broccoli and carrots. I tend to just use frozen veggies and place them in with the noodles the last few minutes of cooking.
Bake it! Add your macaroni and cheese to a baking dish, cover in delicious, seasoned breadcrumbs, and bake it until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 15 minutes at 400F or 200 C.
Liquid Smoke! Say whaaaat? Yeah, add some liquid smoke to your cheese sauce... you will thank me later! Honestly, if you've never tried a gouda mac and cheese, this will take you there while keeping it dairy-free!
Your vegan macaroni and cheese can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
I do not recommend freezing this.
Not really. Though, there are a lot of already made vegan cheeses out there that certainly come close and can make your mac and cheese seem like it has real cheese in it. While the flavors may not be the same, vegan mac and cheese is still absolutely delicious in its own right.
There are so many different ways to make vegan mac and cheese and there is really no wrong way to do so. Some use a combination of soaked cashews with seasonings in a blender, or some simply use a plant-based milk and bought vegan shredded cheese. In this recipe, we use coconut milk and nutritional yeast with additional seasoning. It's really up to what you have available to you.
Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese (w/ Penne)
- 1 sauce pot
- 1 Whisk
- 1 Strainer
- Start by cooking your pasta according to package instructions, then strain. Don't forget to save some pasta water to help thicken the sauce! Strain your pasta and set aside.2 cups pasta
- To make the sauce, add the entire can of full fat coconut milk to the same pot you cooked the pasta in, and bring to a high temperature. It does not need to boil.1 can full fat unsweetened coconut milk
- Then add in the nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt and whisk until everything is well dissolved.1 tablespoon lemon juice,1 pinch salt; to taste,4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
- Add cornstarch slurry (and pasta water if you saved any) then let it come back to temp to thicken.1 Tablespoon cornstarch,1 cup pasta water
- Once the sauce is thickened and feels like a sturdy cheese sauce, add in your pasta and coat every noodle.
- Serve along side your meal or by itself!
- If you wish to add veggies to your mac and cheese, I recommend throwing frozen veggies in to your boiling pasta about 3 minutes before it's supposed to be ready. Then strain everything to ready it for the cheese sauce.
- You may use any plant milk available to you. I prefer coconut milk because of the high fat content which also helps thicken the sauce, but any plant-based milk will work! My other go-to's are oat milk and soy milk.
- To make this dish gluten free just use a gluten free pasta. My favorite is Barilla or Banza
- Thickeners can be making a roux with butter and flour, cornstarch slurry, or even arrowroot starch for a stringier/stretchier cheese.
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