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Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

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Can you guess my favorite food?

So creamy and cheesy, this recipe might be the healthiest macaroni and cheese in the world. I've made it three times already... it is awesome!

Macaroni and cheese.

Okay maybe it’s my second favorite, after chocolate. But seriously, if you served me vegan macaroni and cheese every night for dinner, you’d never hear me complain. Not once. It is my #1 comfort food of choice, and many of my childhood holiday dinners went something like this:

  • Christmas Eve: Family eats lobster. Katie eats macaroni and cheese.
  • New Year’s Day: Family eats pork. Katie eats macaroni and cheese.
  • Easter: Family eats pink ham.

Katie eats…

macaroni casserole


It was probably the single most difficult food to give up when I went vegan, and as a former cheese-lover with very high standards, I’ve tried some pretty lousy vegan macaroni and cheese substitutes over the years.

Such as the mock-n-cheese from The Squeeze Food Truck.

However, I’ve also tried some really good vegan mac and cheese recipes! For example, Soul Vegetarian Café in Washington DC makes a vegan macaroni and cheese so authentic you will swear you’re eating the real thing.

vegan macaroni and cheese

When my friend Dreena sent me a copy of her new cookbook, Let Them Eat Vegan, the healthy macaroni and cheese recipe, entitled “Mac Oh Geez,” was first to catch my eye, and even though it sounded complicated, I knew I’d have to try it.

It was well worth the effort! I’m not going to say this vegan macaroni and cheese recipe tastes exactly like real mac and cheese, but it’s just as good in its own right—creamy, cheesy, and comforting. I’ve now made the vegan mac and cheese three times and was even brave enough to serve it for Thanksgiving. (Remember this picture of my Thanksgiving dinner?)

No tofu, no cheese substitutes!

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  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups dry cut pasta (ex: macaroni, penne) (about 10 oz)
  • 3/4 cup raw cashews (see “nutrition facts” link below for a nut-free version)
  • 1/2 cup raw brazil nuts
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 medium clove garlic
  • 2 tsp arrowroot powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp (rounded) dry mustard
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups milk of choice (preferably: unsweetened almond or soymilk)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • For breadcrumb topping:
  • 3/4 to 1 1/4 cups dry whole-grain breadcrumbs (See “nutritional info” link below, for gluten-free option)
  • 1/2 to 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Couple pinches sea salt


Vegan Macaroni and Cheese Recipe: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Throw pasta into a deep pot of boiling salted water. While pasta is cooking, blend all sauce ingredients (ingredients 2-11) in a blender or in a deep bowl with an immersion blender. Once pasta is almost tender, fully drain (don’t rinse). Mix noodles with sauce, and immediately pour into a lightly oiled 8 x 12” baking dish. (It will look like there is a lot of runny sauce – it will thicken up, trust the pasta!) Mix breadcrumb toppings in a small bowl, then sprinkle over top of casserole. Cover with foil and bake for 17-18 minutes. Then, remove foil cover and bake another 5-7 minutes or until topping is golden brown and crisped. Don’t overbake or sauce will get too thick. Remove from oven and place vegan macaroni and cheese casserole on a hot plate (rather than on top of oven, since residual heat from oven will continue to thicken the sauce). Serve! For troubleshooting, substitutions, and nutrition information, see the following link:

*View Vegan Mac and Cheese Nutrition Facts*

healthy mac and cheese

Did you have any favorite childhood comfort foods?

Without a doubt, my grandmother’s macaroni and cheese casserole was my favorite thing to eat when I was younger. But I also loved mashed sweet potatoes, hot chocolate, and basically any kind of spaghetti or pasta. Still do!

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Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 
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  1. Kimberly Andresen-reed says:

    I’ll be making it this week, I have everything except dry mustard, so I’ll pick some up this week. I’ve tried a couple different kinds of vegan mac and cheese and haven’t found a favorite yet, with cashews and Brazil nuts though, how could you go wrong?

  2. Christina says:

    Yumm. Can’t wait to try this! I have some roasted butternut squash I might blend in with the sauce also, and maybe I’ll mix in some roasted broccoli for a broccoli/mac ‘n cheese. My stomach is growling just thinking about it. And of course all the Swiss markets are closed on Sundays…alas, tomorrow…

  3. Angela says:

    Hi Katie!
    Great recipe and great idea–sound delish!!
    I was hoping you’d try something with using butternut squash puree as the basis of the cheesiness. Have you tried this out before or looked into it? It might also be a good substitute for the calorie conscious.I’ve tried versions of it before that I didn’t like as much…I thought if there’s anyone who could master the recipe, though, it’d be you!

  4. Michelle says:

    This looks so yummy! Will have to make this soon.

  5. Thank you Katie for featuring my Mac Oh Geez! My mom’s mac was my comfort food as a kid… And ice cream (and that holds true today, just now they are all vegan)!

    I’m happy to answer any q’s your readers have, thanks for linking them to my site.

    Also, they may love the opportunity to get in on some holiday prizes, your post is perfect timing. I’m doing a week of reader appreciation prizes on my page, including a gift pack from my FAVE ice cream Coconut Bliss! Follow for fun *freebies*!

    Finally, I have to say Katie… that your photos look MOST like my mom’s own mac n cheese, you brought back a bit of nostalgia with your review. <3

    Plant-powered hugs!

    1. I have saved this recipe up on my tablet since Katie posted it. I didn’t want to forget to make it, despite being out of town and the holiday season getting nutty. I am SO glad I did. Man, oh, man!! This was spectacular! What if I hadn’t doubled the recipe? There would be no leftovers. My youngest teen boy couldn’t have eaten himself under the table (where I lie, moaning with a too-full belly, because apparently, I’m a mac and cheese lover/pig who finally found a vegan version worthy of the name mac and cheese!)

      Being me, I couldn’t leave it alone without some very minor tweaks. I used gluten-free everything – quinoa/corn elbows (3 8-oz. boxes), and breadcrumbs made from Deland’s millet-garlic-basil bread (which was THE icing on the cake, so to speak.). I used Earth Balance buttery sticks instead of olive oil in the crumbs and doubled the amount, because millet bread soaks it up. After blending the excellent cheese sauce, I tasted it and elected to toss in 2T. of nutritional yeast for the doubled batch. It deepened the flavor without overpowering the it like in so many vegan versions.

      My hat is off to you! Incredible recipe! This one is printed and will be made repeatedly!!!!!

  6. Emilie says:

    For the calorie conscious people butternut squash mixed with nutritional yeast or those skinny cow low fat cheese triangles tastes exactly like kraft dinner. If you want it creamier without the cheese I’ve also tried PB2 mixed with nutritional yeast which also works really well. 😀

    1. Eve says:

      I am interested in trying the butternut squash, how much?? and how much nutritional yeast? when would you add it.

  7. Haha, just today I was asking you whether you’d post this recipe soon. I’ll have to give it a try for sure! Fingers crossed my crappy hand-held blender won’t let me down.

    1. Hiya miss polkadot! 🙂 If you use your handblender it will be helpful to soak the nuts first, for about 3-4 hrs, then reduce water by about 1/2 cup.

    2. Kris says:

      Try putting the nuts in a bag and pounding them down first.

  8. Ann says:

    Katie and Dreena, this looks incredible. I hadn’t heard of that book, but with two kids at home and we’re all trying to go vegan, it might be the perfect book for us. I will have to check it out!

  9. This looks interesting. I am not a big cheese person, but I sometimes find the taste of nuts in savory dishes to be off-putting.

  10. You could also add nutritional yeast to make it even more “cheesy”!

  11. This looks great! My husband and daughter love macaroni and cheese. Most recipes, call for nutrtional yeast. I like that this one is a bit different. Can’t wait to try it.

  12. I love Mac n cheese! But my favorite comfort food is definitely my mom’s matzoh ball soup! Love it!

  13. Kate M. says:

    Yumm! I love mac and cheese 🙂
    I was wondering if you (katie) or anyone else, has any go-to meals for vegetarians…I am having a hard time coming up with variety! And while I do love pb&j…I am definitely needing some different lunch and dinner ideas! Thanks 😀

  14. Carolyn says:

    Loving that there’s no nutritional yeast! I’ll be making these when the kiddos are on winter break (my oldest kiddo is allergic to dairy and really, really, really misses cheese).

    1. Carolyn, my hubby doesn’t like the nooch, so that’s one of the reasons I came up with a mac casserole that doesn’t have any – hope you enjoy! 🙂

  15. Feel free to send me some…. 😉

  16. Anonymous says:

    Love this recipe and have made it often! People always ask for the recipe. My favourite variation is to sub tahini for the brazil nuts. Love the cheesy taste of tahini and it is sometimes easier to find than Brazil nuts.

    1. Kelley says:

      Thanks – I was actually going to ask if anything could be subbed for the Brazil nuts. I don’t think my store has them.

      1. Hi Kelly, yes, I did a nut-free version of this recipe (there are some additional notes in the full recipe) – you can find it here: 😀

    2. Anonymous says:

      Just wondering how much Tahini you woulduse to replace the brazil nuts?

    3. Susan Risdal says:

      Tahini sounds fabulous! Now I can make this tonight. I’m making my own pasta (for the first time without wheat) from eggs, spinach, salt and oat flour. It won’t be macaroni — but it will be noodles!

  17. joanna says:

    this is my favorite mac and cheese recipe! i made it about 4-5 years ago when i saw it on dreena’s blog and i’ve made it ever since. it definitely has a different texture than a typical cheese sauce but the nutty flavor is awesome.

  18. laura says:

    I can’t even remember the last time I had mac’n cheese! I must give this a try, I’m surprised there’s no nutritional yeast in it.

    1. Hi Laura, that’s the very reason I created this recipe – to make a mac that didn’t have nooch as the flavor component – b/c a lot of people don’t like it (my hubby included)! :-/ But, if you love it, feel free to add a few tbsps!

  19. Kristen N. says:

    This recipe is so delicious! It’s a shame that it’s too high in calories. 🙁

  20. Dr. Rebekah says:

    I have a serious question…why, as a vegan, would you be trying to recreate non-vegan foods?? It baffles me why one would make a choice to eat nothing related to an animal but still try to make foods that taste like them. Not hating…seriously trying to understand the point of it!! Thanks for obliging….

    1. Crafty Vegan says:

      I can understand why that would baffle some people 🙂 Personally, I don’t eat animal products because I don’t want to contribute to the suffering of animals. But I have nothing against eating tasty food! If I can recreate something that tastes great, but doesn’t cause unnecessary suffering, then I don’t see a problem there 🙂 And I know a lot of people avoid animal products due to allergies, so it would be nice for them to still be able to eat the foods they miss =]

      1. Anonymous says:

        Pretty much what Crafty Vegan said. Many of use are vegan for both ethical and health reasons and many simply for ethical reasons. So if we can ethically eat the foods we used to love, then heck, why not? :). I know I sure appreciate being able to indulge in things like pudding, baked goods, mac n’ cheeze, coconut whipped cream etc knowing that it’s not only much healthier for me, but so much better for the animals. We all win! 😀

    2. Hi Dr. Rebekah, I understand this sentiment, I became vegan almost 20 years ago, before all the vegan replacement foods were on the market. So, I created this recipe as a macaroni comfort food, with no intention to try to make it like a macaroni and cheese recipe – that’s why the base is made with nuts rather than using vegan cheese/creams – to give a very creamy, luscious, rich sauce that is delicious in its own right rather than trying to ‘be’ like a dairy-based dish. Like you, I have never felt the need to make vegan foods like animal-based foods… rather, I feel the need to make vegan dishes that are full of flavor, texture, and deliciousness, while still healthy! 🙂

      1. Also, I must note that I understand when people DO want to ‘veganize’ something, just because it was a cherished food through childhood, part of their cultural traditions, or to transition into eating vegan with ‘familiar’ foods that are cruelty-free!

        1. Susan Risdal says:

          Deena, I agree. I’m not a vegetarian — I am allergic to any part of the cow. Also soy. I quit wheat to lose weight (lost 20 lbs in 2 months).

          Certain foods are “traditional” because generations of people have enjoyed the flavors. They are classics because the flavor appeal will always endure. Mac and Cheese is definitely one of those…probably the one I miss the most, even after 20 years of being off of dairy. Hmmm, the other one is pizza.
          Wonder how this recipe would work as a substitute for cheese on pizza?

          1. It’s a very loose sauce, Susan, so it’s not a good sub for pizza. I do have a ‘cashew cheese’ recipe in LTEV that is great on pizza tho, plus a ‘vegveeta dip’!

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