This Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese is delicious, simple to make, and the perfect weeknight meal! Get the creamy and satisfying taste of mac and cheese without the cheese! Bonus: You can make this dish in 28 minutes or less!
👍Why We Love this Recipe
Comfort food! Our dairy-free mac and cheese is creamy, delicious and belly-warming! The ultimate comfort food for the whole family.
Kid-friendly- This dish was a hit with the kids who are true mac and cheese connoisseurs!
Dairy-free and vegan- No dairy, no animal products.
Quick! Like all of our recipes, this vegan mac and cheese can be made in 28 minutes or less.
🤫 The Secret to a Creamy Dairy-Free Sauce
After some trial and error, we found the perfect combination of ingredients to make a creamy, dairy-free mac and cheese sauce. Our three KEY ingredients are nutritional yeast, cashews and potatoes.
Nutritional yeast has a nutty flavor akin to the flavor of parmesan cheese giving our sauce its "cheesy" flavor. Potatoes act as our sauce's thickening agent. And cashews give our sauce its creamy taste and texture due to the cashew nut's high fat content and milk-like flavor.
Notes on Ingredients (full list of ingredients are included in recipe card):
Potatoes- The perfect thickening agent, peeled and cut into small ½" pieces
Cashews- Cashews blend smoothly due to their high fat content and also have a flavor that mimics milk.
Nutritional yeast- Gives the sauce its "cheesy" taste.
Mustard and lemon juice- For added depth and flavor.
Pasta (not pictured)- Small pasta (i.e. shells, macaroni or orecchiette) work great for this dish.
- 2 medium-large pots
- 1 colander/strainer
- 1 Vitamix
Step 1: Make Pasta
First, heat water to boiling, add pasta (we used medium shells) and cook according to product instructions.
Step 2: Steam Potatoes
Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water and potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are soft (~ 10-15 mins). Strain potatoes and set aside.
Step 3: Make "Cheese" Sauce
Puree potatoes and remaining ingredients together in Vitamix or blender. If using fresh lemon juice, check out how to juice a lemon without a juicer for this recipe.
Step 3: Combine Pasta & "Cheese"
Finally, pour your 'cheese' over the pasta and mix together. Creamy yummmm. Boom!
🥄 Kid Steps
- Taste pasta to see if done. Kids love this job!
- Peel and prep potatoes. We love this Opinel peeler for kids. For really little ones, check out these Curious Kids kitchen knives.
- Press the blender button! Let your kid be in charge of adding all the ingredients to the Vitamix/blender and then pureeing.
✔️ Expert Tips & Tricks
- Add salt to boiling pasta water for added flavor.
- Taste your dairy-free "cheese" sauce as it cooks. You may want to add salt/pepper according to taste and preference.
- When reheating leftovers, stir in a little hot water to thin out the sauce. This will help bring back the mac and cheese's creamy texture.
- For added flavor consider adding some of the following seasonings: onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika, curry powder or garlic.
🧂 Variations & Substitutions
Alternative thickening agents. The most common I see is cashews, potatoes, carrots, wheat flour or tapioca flour. As for your liquid, this could be water, soy milk, or coconut milk.
If you need your "cheese sauce" to be nut-free, stick to potatoes/carrots or flour for a thickening base instead of cashews.
If you're gluten-free, use a wheat-free pasta, like Banza chickpea-based pasta. FYI, nutritional yeast is gluten-free.
Alternative pastas: macaroni (obvs!), rotelle (wheels), farfalle (bowtie) or cavatappi (corkscrews).
Optional Toppings: roasted garlic, red pepper flakes, tofu crumbles, jalapeños, steamed veggies (cauliflower, peas, broccoli, asparagus).
🧊 Storing Leftovers
Fridge- Our dairy-free mac and cheese is best eaten fresh off the stove, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
Freezer- Leftovers can also be stored in the freezer in an airtight container for up to three months.
Reheat- Warm up leftovers in the microwave or on the stove. We recommend adding a little warm water or dairy-free milk to thin out the sauce as it heat up.
Nutritional yeast is a yeast grown to be a food product, that is naturally very high in nutrients. Typically you find nutritional yeast in the form of yellow flakes that you can sprinkle on or measure out for food.
In addition to being delicious nutritional yeast is also full of health benefits! Fortified nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B-complex vitamins and protein, has lots of antioxidants, and may help boost immunity and lower cholesterol. Check out CityHomesteads for more about nutritional yeast!
In my opinion, vegan mac and cheese is just as tasty as standard mac and cheese. But, while you can get a vegan 'cheese' to taste pretty darn close to dairy-based cheese, it's just never going to be quite the same. So, I choose to see vegan 'cheese' sauce as a different thing altogether. Delicious and complex!
We love serving our dairy-free and vegan mac and cheese with steamed veggies, especially broccoli or green beans. This dish would also pair nicely with our Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan and Lemon (note: this is not a dairy-free side).
👶 Tips for Picky Eaters
🍅 Let kids pick the pasta! Because of their fun shape, we love shells. Other excellent options are: rotelle (wheels), macaroni (duh), any alphabet or character-shaped pasta, farfalle (bowtie) or cavatappi (corkscrews)
🍅 Mix something in! If you're concerned that your non-vegan kids won't take to the different taste of the 'cheese,' add something into the pasta that they like and that's familiar. For example, peas, baby tomatoes, or maybe even bacon crumbles!
🍅 Kids choose a side. Let kids choose a side of their favor raw fruit for veggies, like cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, baby tomatoes, celery sticks, carrot sticks, grapes, sliced apple or sliced pear.
🧶 Craft for this Recipe
Make DIY Play Food with actual food! Dye uncooked pasta with food coloring, glue it onto a paper plate, and you have instant mac and cheese play food. It's that easy! This craft guarantees a pretend dinner that your kids will play with over and over again.
🍽 Other Dairy-Free Recipes
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🥣 Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
- 2 Medium-large pots
- 1 Colander/stranier
- 1 Vitamix oor blender
- 5 Teaspoon salt (divided)
- 1 Pound medium shell pasta
- 2 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled & cut into small ½" pieces
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 5 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 Tablespoon yellow mustard
- 1 Teaspoon lemon juice
- In a medium-large pot, heat water for pasta. Add 3 teaspoons (or 1 Tablespoon) of the salt to water. Once boiling, add pasta and cook according to package. Strain and put pasta back into the same pot.
- Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water and potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook until potatoes are soft (~ 10-15 mins). Strain potatoes and set aside.
- Carefully add potatoes to the blender/Vitamix container, along with the rest of the ingredients (including the remaining 2 t of salt). Puree altogether.
- Now pour your "cheese" over the pasta and mix together.
- To serve...scoop mac & cheese into bowls or plates. Serve alone or with a side, like a mixed greens salad.
- To make this nut-free...use carrots or flour as a thickening base, instead of cashews. If you're gluten-free, use a wheat-free pasta, like Banza chickpea-based pasta. And, FYI, nutritional yeast is gluten-free.
- Because of their fun shape, we love shells. But other excellent pasta options are: macaroni (obvs!), rotelle (wheels), farfalle (bowtie) or cavatappi (corkscrews).
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. While we are not certified nutritionists, we work with a Wordpress-integrated nutrition API to calculate our recipes' ingredient values.
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