This savory plant-based mac and cheese is incredibly creamy and you’ll never guess that the dairy-free cheese sauce is made from potatoes, carrots, and cashews! If you’re looking for a recipe that’s made with whole foods and mostly unprocessed ingredients, this is the dish for you! Gluten-free option included.
Macaroni and cheese has always been my favorite comfort food and this whole food plant-based mac and cheese always hits the spot! It’s seriously flavorful, super creamy, and it’s unique because it’s made without any oil, vegan butter, or vegan cheese. I bet you’d never guess that it’s made from plant-based ingredients like carrots, potatoes, and cashews.
Don’t get me wrong, I love vegan dairy substitutes, but this is my go-to recipe when I want comfort food that’s a little bit lighter. This dairy-free sauce is not made in the traditional way of starting with a roux, adding the milk, melting the cheese, etc. Instead it’s made by blending cooked vegetables into a savory sauce that could please even the pickiest eater.
Related Post: If you prefer a sauce that’s made with dairy-free cheddar and butter, try this vegan mac and cheese recipe.
What is Vegan Mac and Cheese Made of?
It’s normally made with the same ingredients that traditional macaroni and cheese is made with, except it uses dairy-free substitutes like vegan butter, plant milk, and vegan cheddar. Since this is a whole food plant-based version, that means that is doesn’t contain any of those highly processed ingredients. Instead, this veggie cheese sauce is made with whole food vegetables.
Step by Step Instructions
In a large pan, saute a diced onion until soft. Add the potatoes, carrots, cashews, and water and bring the mixture to a simmer. Let it cook until the vegetables are tender. While the vegetables are cooking, boil the pasta in a separate pot.
Transfer the cooked vegetables to a large blender cup along with the dried seasonings, lemon juice, dijon mustard, and unsweetened almond milk. Blend it until the sauce is smooth and creamy. Pour the sauce back into the pan and warm it up. Scoop the cooked noodles into the pan and mix it all together.
What Goes With It?
This creamy plant-based mac is the perfect side dish to go with any of the following main courses:
How Long Does It Last In The Refrigerator?
Store the leftover WFPB macaroni and cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
Can I Freeze it?
Yes, you can freeze it. Put the pasta in an airtight, freezer-safe container in the freezer for up to 2-3 months for the best quality.
How to Reheat it
From the Fridge: Reheat the dairy-free macaroni and cheese in a bowl in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or in a pot on the stovetop over medium heat until warm. You may need to add 1-2 tbsp of vegetable broth or water to the pasta if the sauce it too thick.
From the Freezer: Take the container out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost for 24 hours. Then you can reheat the pasta in the microwave or on the stovetop.
You can enjoy the plant-based macaroni and cheese just like this or try any of the following tasty variations:
- Make it Spicy: Add 1-2 chipotle peppers or a 1-2 tbsp of hot sauce to the sauce to add a spicy kick to the pasta.
- Vegan Meat: Stir in chunks of shredded chipotle jackfruit to add more texture to the dish.
- Fresh Greens: Add 3-4 big handfuls of fresh spinach or kale to the pasta after you stir in the sauce and mix it in. Let it cook a few minutes until the fresh greens wilt.
- Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese: Mix panko breadcrumbs with 1/2 tsp garlic powder and then sprinkle it over the pasta (transfer it to a casserole dish). Bake it for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees until lightly browned.
Substitutions & FAQ
- Gluten-Free: To make this recipe gluten-free, you need to use gluten-free noodles. I recommend chickpea noodles, I think they have the best texture and flavor.
- Cashew Substitution: You can make this recipe without cashews if you substitute white beans. You may need to add extra almond milk if the mixture is too thick. I haven’t tried it yet, but I have heard of people using sunflower seeds instead of cashews for a similar texture.
- Almond Milk Substitution: You can substitute any plant-based milk as long as it’s unsweetened and not vanilla-flavored. Vegetable broth can also be used.
- Salt Substitute: Some people who follow a WFPB diet don’t consume salt. If you don’t want to add salt to the sauce, you can substitute 2 tbsp of white miso paste. Add to the blender with the other ingredients when you blend the sauce.
- Do I Need to Soak the Cashews First? No, you don’t need to soak the cashews before cooking with them because they’re boiled for 25 minutes while the rest of the vegetables are cooking.
- Make sure that you use unsweetened almond milk (not vanilla-flavored either) because sweet plant milk won’t work flavor-wise in this savory dairy-free sauce.
- To make the sauce more yellow (like the box mixes) you can add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder to naturally boost the color.
- If your blender doesn’t have a lid with a vent in it (like a Vitamix has) to let the steam escape, it’s important that you wait until the vegetables have cooled before you blend the sauce. If you try to blend hot ingredients in a sealed blender cup (like a Nutribullet) you run the risk of the cup exploding and sauce going everywhere. I’ve done it, it’s not fun to clean up.
- Store the leftover plant-based mac and cheese in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days or you can freeze it for a future meal.
Want More Vegan Cashew Recipes?
Whole Food Plant Based Mac and Cheese
- Large Pan
- Large Pot
- 16 oz elbow noodles (use gluten-free if necessary)
- 3-4 tbsp low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 medium yellow onion sliced
- 2 medium russet potatoes peeled and diced
- 3 medium carrots diced
- 1/2 cup raw cashews
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 - 2 cups unsweetened almond milk (add more if necessary)
- 1/2 tsp himalayan pink sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- In a large pan over medium heat, saute the diced onions until soft. Add potatoes, carrots, cashews, and 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a low simmer and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and let it cook for 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and the water has all been absorbed.
- While the vegetables are cooking, cook the noodles according to package instructions in a large pot of boiling water. When the pasta is done cooking, drain the water.
- Add the cooked vegetables, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk to a large blender cup. Blend on high until the sauce is smooth and creamy. If the sauce is too thick, add an additional 1/2 cup of almond milk.
- Pour the cheese sauce back into the pan and warm it up until it starts to bubble. Add the cooked elbow noodles and stir to coat the pasta with the cheese sauce. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Make sure that you use unsweetened almond milk (not vanilla-flavored either) because sweet plant milk won't work flavor-wise in this savory dairy-free sauce.
- If your blender doesn't have a lid with a vent in it (like a Vitamix has) to let the steam escape, it's important that you wait until the vegetables have cooled before you blend the sauce. If you try to blend hot ingredients in a sealed blender cup (like a Nutribullet) you run the risk of the cup exploding and sauce going everywhere.
- Store the leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for 4-5 days or you can freeze it for a future meal.
*This recipe was originally shared on 4/1/17, but I updated it on 7/30/20.