This simple vegan mac and cheese recipe is the real deal! It’s super creamy, extra cheesy, kid-friendly, and non-vegan approved!
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I think that we can all agree that macaroni and cheese is one of the best foods on the planet, am I right? The creamy cheesy sauce, perfectly cooked noodles, and that comforting feeling it gives you…it just makes you feel so happy when you eat it!
I got my love for macaroni and cheese from my non-vegan dad. I knew that I would have to get him to taste-test and approve my vegan macaroni and cheese recipe before I could share it on the blog. He has tried many of my past vegan macaroni and cheese recipe attempts over the years, even my very first really awful one that I made for Thanksgiving in 2015! I made this latest version for Christmas dinner and he loved it! That’s how I knew that this recipe is truly the best if it can please a non-vegan macaroni and cheese lover!
What is Vegan Mac and Cheese Made Of?
Most vegan mac n cheese recipes are made of blended cashews, butternut squash, or potatoes and carrots. While I do love a vegan mac and cheese butternut squash recipe, I think that using a high-quality vegan cheese to make the cheese sauce tastes the most like real macaroni and cheese. (My dad thinks so too!) If you prefer a WFPB vegetable-based mac, try this recipe instead.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just do what you already know! The process to make mac n cheese is still the same as before you were vegan –> make a roux, add non-dairy milk, add vegan cheese + seasonings, let it melt and then add the noodles. Except, now you just have to use vegan butter, non-dairy milk, and vegan cheese instead of dairy products.
Forget the store-bought vegan mac and cheese box, this homemade vegan mac n cheese hits all the marks, it’s super creamy, extra cheesy, easy to make, and it tastes just like I remember dairy-based mac and cheese tasting like. I just know you’re going to love it as much as we do!
What’s the Secret to Making The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese?
I feel that the secret to making the best vegan mac n cheese recipe is to use the best ingredients you can find. You know how they say not to cook with wine that you wouldn’t enjoy drinking? It’s the same concept. If you don’t like the flavor of a certain brand of vegan cheese, don’t use it to make the cheese sauce. You won’t be able to cover the weird flavor that it adds to the sauce. Trust me, I’ve tried.
I’ve tasted every vegan cheese that I could get my hands on and my favorite brands are Violife, Follow Your Heart, and Chao. I prefer to use the Violife shredded cheddar cheese when I make vegan macaroni and cheese because I love the flavor! You don’t have to use the same cheese that I did but make sure it’s a brand that you’ve tasted before and you really like it.
The same goes for the vegan butter that you use. My favorite vegan butter is the cultured cashew Miyokos butter, it’s so dang delicious. Even my non-vegan mama uses it! If you’d rather not use a store-bought butter then I recommend that you try this homemade vegan butter recipe by my friend Mel, from A Virtual Vegan. It’s so good!
How To Make Vegan Mac and Cheese
Start by melting the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it’s completely melted, add the flour and whisk it into the melted butter to form a roux. Keep stirring for a few minutes until the roux forms. Next, add the plant milk, whisking constantly until it thickens. Add the shredded vegan cheese (or cut up slices), all of the dry seasonings, salt, and pepper to the saucepan. Stir it every few minutes until the cheese has melted completely.
While you’re making the sauce, boil the elbow noodles in a separate pot of salted water. When the noodles are done cooking, drain the water (reserve 1 cup in case you need it later), and pour the melted cheese sauce over the hot noodles. Stir it well and garnish with parsley.
What Type of Plant Milk Should You Use?
Whether you use almond, cashew, coconut, hemp, rice, soy, or oat milk, make sure that it’s unsweetened. You don’t want your cheese sauce to turn out sweet. Yuck.
I prefer to use unsweetened coconut milk in my macaroni recipe because it’s so creamy! I’m not sure if the naturally high fat content has anything to do with the creaminess factor or not but dang it makes the best vegan cheese sauce. My least favorite plant milk to use for this recipe is unsweetened soy milk, it gives the sauce a strange sweetness that I just don’t care for.
Is This Vegan Macaroni and Cheese Gluten-Free?
No, this is not a vegan gluten-free mac and cheese recipe but you can swap out a few ingredients to make it gluten-free. The Miyokos butter and Violife shredded cheese are both gluten-free so all you have to substitute is gluten-free flour for the roux and gluten-free elbow noodles. These are my favorite gluten-free elbow noodles, they taste great (You can also find them at Sprout’s Costco, and Whole Foods) and hold their shape perfectly!
How Do You Reheat Vegan Mac and Cheese?
Whether you reheat the leftover vegan mac in the microwave or on the stovetop, you’ll need to add 2-3 tbsp of unsweetened coconut milk or water to the pasta to help loosen up the sauce as you warm it up.
Can You Freeze Vegan Mac n Cheese?
Yes, you can freeze the leftover mac and cheese for 3-4 months. When you’re ready to reheat it, take it out of the freezer and put it into the fridge overnight to defrost. You will have to add more coconut milk or water to the macaroni to loosen the sauce when you reheat it.
Tips For Making The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
- Only use vegan butter and vegan cheese that you really love the flavor.
- Make sure you use unsweetened plant or nut milk so you don’t end up with a sweet vegan mac and cheese sauce.
- Use elbow noodles or any type of noodle that twists or curves because it will hold the sauce the best.
- Don’t overcook the noodles!
- If you want to imitate the bright yellow color of boxed macaroni and cheese for kids, add 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder to boost the yellow color. It won’t impact the flavor, just the color.
More Vegan Pasta Recipes You’ll Love
If you make this vegan macaroni n cheese recipe, please post a picture of it on Instagram, tag me @Stacey_Homemaker and use the #StaceyHomemaker so I can see your yummy creation!
Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe
- 4 tbsp vegan butter (I used Miyokos cultured vegan butter)
- 4 tbsp flour
- 3 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (from a carton)
- 3 cups vegan cheddar cheese (I used Violife vegan shredded cheddar)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp Himalayan pink sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper (use white pepper if you don't want to see the specks)
- 16 oz elbow noodles
- Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour to the melted butter and whisk it for about 3 minutes to make a roux. Slowly pour in the unsweetened coconut milk while whisking continuously. Let it heat up for a few minutes until the sauce thickens.
- Add the vegan shredded cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper to the saucepan. Keep stirring until all the cheese melts.
- While you're making the cheese sauce, boil the elbow noodles in salted water in a separate pot. When the noodles are done cooking, drain them well but reserve 1 cup of the salted water in case you want to thin out the sauce to your desired consistency. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked noodles and mix it well. Garnish with parsley.
- You don't have to use all cheddar cheese, you can switch it up and use different flavors of vegan cheese if you like.
- If you use vegan sliced cheese or a block, make sure you cut it up so it's easier to melt.
- If you want to make macaroni and cheese with a white sauce, omit the turmeric because it's just added for color.
- If you like a vegan mac and cheese recipe with nutritional yeast, add 2-3 tbsp to the cheese sauce.
- You can make this mac n cheese gluten-free by using GF flour and pasta.
- Reserve 1 cup of the salted pasta water to loosen the cheese sauce to your desired consistency.