This vegan baked mac and cheese is perfect for a comforting weeknight dinner! Made with a dairy-free ‘cheese’ sauce, topped with gluten-free breadcrumbs, flavorful and creamy, this meal requires just simple ingredients and a few easy steps.

Vegan baked mac and cheese

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 creamy pasta deliciousness 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. In general, a pasta dinner as good as this is my go-to dish for any Friday night comfort dinner. But it’s perfect for pretty much any day or any occasion, and if you give it a go you will see why I say that!

So if you’re searching for last-minute dinner inspiration, this vegan baked mac and cheese is a perfect option. You need hardly any time, simple ingredients, and the result is phenomenal.

Bowl of vegan mac and cheese with fresh herbs

Vegan baked mac and cheese

So, a little bit about this recipe. 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.

Dairy-free mac and cheese with breadcrumbs and fresh herbs on a plate

The main ingredient for the dairy-free cheese sauce is cashews, which are a staple in vegan cooking in general. Cashews are neutral in flavour and can be blended to make amazing sauces, dressings and dips. This is a great example! Beyond that, you need just simple ingredients to make amazing flavor and a great texture, too.

Right before baking, I added breadcrumbs and grated vegan cheese. These are optional, but 100% recommended! The end result is amazingly comforting and with an amazing texture. Pasta dreams come true!

Ingredients you’ll need

Ingredients for baked vegan mac and cheese
  • Olive oil to cook the vegetables.
  • Carrots, onion and garlic. These are cooked in olive oil and added to the sauce.
  • Cashews. Soak these for 3-4 hours, or simmer for 15 minutes to soften.
  • Plant based milk. Use any unsweetened plant based milk variety of your choice.
  • Mustard. Ensure vegan.
  • Paprika.
  • Nutritional yeast. This is an amazing ingredient for adding a cheesy flavor to the sauce!
  • Tomato paste.
  • Apple cider vinegar.
  • Cumin.
  • Breadcrumbs. You can either make your own breadcrumbs, or use store-brought.
  • Vegan cheese. This is optional, but very much recommended! Choose a variety that melts well.

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.

Cook the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add the carrots, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until softened.

Make the sauce. Add the vegetables to a blender or food processor, together with the cashews, plant based milk, mustard, paprika, salt, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, and cumin. Blend until smooth.

Combine with the pasta. Drain the pasta (but don’t rinse) and mix together in a large mixing bowl together with the sauce.

Bake the mac and cheese. Transfer the mac and cheese to a rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and vegan cheese, then bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Bake the mac and cheese. Transfer the mac and cheese to a rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and vegan cheese, then bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Cashew alternatives

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.

Vegan baked mac and cheese on a plate with fresh herbs

Cashews is one option. They are amazing for using in sauces and here, they create the amazing creamy texture. If you can’t eat cashews, however, you can replace them with a can of coconut milk – don’t worry, it won’t taste like coconut.

How do I store baked vegan mac and cheese?

You can store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days in the fridge. To freeze, store either in freezer-friendly containers or in freezer bags for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw fully in the fridge, then reheat in the microwave or on the stove, adding a splash of plant based milk.

Cheesy vegan pasta with breadcrumbs

If you want to make this dish ahead of time, I would recommend making the sauce, cooking the macaroni and storing them in separate containers. When ready to make, simply mix together, transfer to a baking dish, add the toppings, and bake as instructed.

Stovetop instructions

This vegan mac and cheese can easily be made on the stove, which is a great option if you are in a rush. Simply transfer the sauce and the cooked pasta to a large pan and stir for a few minutes over a medium heat. You can also add extra vegan cheese, or leafy greens like kale or spinach.

Cheesy vegan pasta in a bowl with fresh herbs and breadcrumbs

What’s to love about this mac and cheese recipe?

It’s …

  • Very creamy and indulgent.
  • Perfect for a comforting weeknight dinner.
  • Made with simple and accessible ingredients.
  • Freezer-friendly and great for meal prep.
  • Easy and beginner-friendly.
  • A great way to impress non-vegans!
Closeup of dairy-free mac and cheese in a baking dish

Tips and tricks for success

  • The nutritional yeast here works really well to add a cheesy flavour and so I would not recommend leaving it out.
  • Ensure that the mustard is vegan, as some have sneaky non-vegan ingredients.
  • Soak the cashews really well and be patient when blending to ensure the smoothest texture.
  • To make this baked vegan mac and cheese gluten-free, use gluten-free pasta.
  • You can use any pasta of your choice. Make sure it’s slightly undercooked before mixing it with the sauce because it will continue cooking in the oven.
  • 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 sriracha, and chilli flakes on top when serving.
Vegan baked mac and cheese on a plate with fresh herbs

Other vegan pasta recipes

Vegan baked mac and cheese

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 together with a star rating.

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Vegan baked mac and cheese
Vegan baked mac and cheese

Get the Recipe: Vegan Baked Mac And Cheese (Gluten-free and Oil-free)

This baked vegan mac and cheese is perfect for a weeknight dinner that's super easy to make! Featuring a creamy, smooth dairy-free sauce and a breadcrumb topping, this is a perfect family-friendly and crowd-pleasing dish.
5 from 5 votes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups pasta, use any pasta of your choice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups cashews, soaked
  • 1 1/2 cups plant based milk
  • 1/2 tbsp mustard, ensure vegan
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup vegan cheese, grated

Equipment

  • Conventional oven
  • Saucepan
  • Frying pan
  • Baking dish

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/350 F.
  • Cook the pasta according to packaging instructions on packaging, but make sure it is slightly al dente/prevent overcooking.
  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium-high heat, then add the carrots, onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until softened.
  • Add the vegetables to a blender or food processor, together with the cashews, plant based milk, mustard, paprika, salt, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, and cumin. Blend until smooth.
  • Drain the pasta (but don't rinse) and mix together with the sauce in a large mixing bowl.
  • Transfer the mac and cheese to a rectangular baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and vegan cheese, then bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Notes

Instructions for making ahead and storing
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days in the fridge. To freeze, store either in freezer-friendly containers or in freezer bags for up to 2 months. Allow to thaw fully in the fridge, then reheat in the microwave or on the stove, adding a splash of plant based milk.
  • To make ahead of time, make the sauce, cook the macaroni and store them in separate containers. When ready to make, simply mix together, transfer to a baking dish, add the toppings, and bake as instructed above. 
Tips for success
  • The nutritional yeast here works really well to add a cheesy flavour and so I would not recommend leaving it out.
  • Ensure that the mustard is vegan.
  • Either soak the cashews for 4 hours, or simmer them in a saucepan for 15 minutes.
  • You can use any pasta of your choice. Make sure it’s slightly undercooked before mixing it with the sauce because it will continue cooking in the oven.
  • You can adjust the type and amount of spices you use depending on your preference.
  • If you prefer spicy mac and cheese, add sriracha, and chilli flakes on top when serving.
Calories: 532kcal, Carbohydrates: 47g, Protein: 17g, Fat: 34g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Sodium: 1429mg, Potassium: 1233mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 15g, Vitamin A: 4176IU, Vitamin C: 19mg, Calcium: 215mg, Iron: 7mg