This delightfully creamy vegan baked mac and cheese is perfect for a comforting weeknight dinner! Made with a dairy-free ‘cheese’ sauce, topped with gluten-free breadcrumbs and baked to perfection, this easy meal also does not require cashews or a blender. Oil-free.
Oh, mac and cheese. The stuff that my dreams are made of. I’m not joking – I often fall asleep by switching off my existential worries and thinking about m&c instead. 10/10 would recommend.
Seriously though, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to share a baked mac and cheese recipe. I have variations of this dish on an almost weekly basis, so finally – here we are. Also, I think finishing the first term of my second year at Oxford was yet another brilliant excuse to whip up a portion of this cheesy goodness. In general, a pasta dinner as good as this is my go-to dish for any Friday night comfort dinner.
So if you’re searching for last-minute dinner inspiration, this vegan baked mac and cheese is it. Alternatively, save for later and make it whenever you get the chance!
Vegan baked mac and cheese
So, when developing this mac and cheese recipe, I wanted to strike a balance between indulgence and health. A lot of vegan mac and cheese recipes use a lot of vegan butter or oil. There’s nothing wrong with that, but not ideal if you want something a little bit lighter.
On the other hand, a lot of vegetable-based mac and cheeses taste overwhelmingly of vegetables. Once again, I like creative sauces like that. But if you’re cooking for fussy eaters, they may be harder to please – in particular if they find out you snuck butternut squash into their pasta dinner!
This recipe really strikes the jackpot. If you’re wondering what it tastes like, think chewy, tender noodles enveloped in a thick and rich sauce that melts in your mouth, plus just a light coat of optional vegan cheese (or gluten-free breadcrumbs )on top for a little bit of extra texture. The sauce has a savoury flavour that’s also very cheesy. Trust me, it tastes even better than it sounds/looks ;).
Cashew-free ‘cheese’ sauce
Let’s talk about cheese for a second. It’s one of those fears they’ll miss intensely if they go vegan. Granted, I’ve never been a huge cheese fanatic so gave it up with little struggle. But the good news for everyone who is? There are countless ways to replace cheese in your diet.
You can, of course, go down the fake cheese route. Vegan cheeses aren’t all that great, but I’ve tried a few that are phenomenal. The main issue is that not only are they expensive, but they’re also not the healthiest thing out there. The other popular option is homemade vegan cheese, often made using nuts such as cashews.
Now, I like the latter version and how versatile cashews are for creating both hard vegan cheeses and cheese sauces. Yet I wanted to make the cheese sauce for this recipe accessible to people that don’t have a powerful blender. Creating a smooth texture often necessitates one, but you can totally still make a phenomenal vegan cheese sauce without on.
So, here we’re making a vegan cheese sauce based on plant based milk and nutritional yeast which combine to create that wonderful savoury flavour which intensifies even more after the baking process.
What coconut milk should I use?
When I make this, I usually use full-fat coconut milk that comes in a can. However, it also works with reduced fat coconut milk, so feel free to use that for a lower fat version. Just keep in mind it won’t be as rich.
Can I replace the coconut milk?
For sure. I know that not everyone likes the flavour of coconut; you may also want to make this recipe nut-free. As you will see, the recipe calls for both coconut milk from a tin and plant based milk from a carton. Thus simply replace the coconut milk with the same amount of the other milk you’re using. I’ve found that oat milk achieves the best result.
How do I store baked vegan mac and cheese?
You can store this in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container. It’s great for making ahead of time – you can either make the sauce by itself, or make the sauce and the pasta, combine, and store until you are ready to bake. This dish is also freezer-friendly.
What’s to love about this mac and cheese recipe?
It is …
- Very creamy and indulgent.
- Perfect for a comforting weeknight dinner.
- Made with healthy ingredients.
- Easy and beginner-friendly.
- Family-friendly, too!
How to make the best dairy-free baked mac and cheese
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 F.
Cook the pasta. Follow instructions on packaging, but make sure it is slightly al dente/prevent overcooking.
Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Add the onion to a non-stick frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until softened. Then, pour in the coconut milk and oat milk together with the nutritional yeast, mustard, tamari, cumin, turmeric and paprika. Stir for 4-5 minutes to heat up and combine.
Combine with the pasta. Drain the pasta (but don’t rinse) and add to the frying pan together with the gluten-free flour and kale. Stir for around 2-3 minutes, until the sauce thickens and the kale wilts.
Bake the mac and cheese. Transfer the mac and cheese to a rectangular baking dish. Top with optional vegan cheese and/or gluten-free breadcrumbs and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and crispy on top.
Tips and tricks
- The nutritional yeast here works really well to add a cheesy flavour and so I would not recommend leaving it out.
- Ensure that your mustard is vegan and gluten-free, as some brands have sneaky ingredients!
- You can adjust the type and amount of spices you use depending on your preference. Also, if you prefer it spicy, I would recommend adding chilli flakes on top when serving.
Other vegan pasta recipes
- For a lighter meal, try my butternut squash mac and cheese with tofu. Bonus points for added protein!
- My creamy tofu pasta is another healthy, yet indulgent meal.
- If you’re looking for something meal prep friendly, try my easy vegetable and mushroom pasta.
- My fail-proof fettuccine Alfredo is yet another crowd-pleasing dinner.
- If baking pasta is your thing, my pasta bake with tofu may be the dish for you.
Let me know in the comments: what’s your favourite type of vegan cheese? If you give this vegan baked mac and cheese recipe a go, be sure to tag me on Instagram (@earthofmariaa) so I can see your creations, and leave your feedback in the comments below.
Vegan Baked Mac And Cheese (Gluten-free and Oil-free)
- Conventional oven
- Frying pan
- Baking dish
- 2 cups gluten-free macaroni
- 1/2 large red onion chopped
- 1/2 can coconut milk
- 1/2 cup oat milk
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp mustard ensure vegan and gluten-free
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 cups kale de-stemmed and chopped
- 3 tbsp vegan cheese optional
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 F.
- Cook the pasta. Follow instructions on packaging, but make sure it is slightly al dente/prevent overcooking.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. Add the onion to a non-stick frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Then, pour in the coconut milk and oat milk together with the nutritional yeast, mustard, tamari, cumin, turmeric and paprika. Stir for 4-5 minutes to heat up and combine.
- Combine with the pasta. Drain the pasta (but don't rinse) and add to the frying pan together with the gluten-free flour and kale. Stir for around 2-3 minutes, until the sauce thickens and the kale wilts.
- Bake the mac and cheese. Transfer the mac and cheese to a rectangular baking dish. Top with optional vegan cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and crispy on top.