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perfect vegan mac & cheese

perfect vegan mac & cheese_hot for food

I think I finally did it! I made the perfect vegan mac & cheese that even your omnivorous, cheese loving friends and family will become obsessed with. In fact, I wouldn’t even tell them this is vegan. Plus, you can easily make it gluten-free by using brown rice pasta and gluten-free bread crumbs.

You’ll barely miss the boxed stuff you ate when you were a kid once you take a bite of this. Feel free to use it as a base recipe for some crazy creations as well! You could throw in some veggies to up the nutrients and colors in the dish. Or if you’re committed to a gluttonous feast, I highly recommend the add-ins found in my vegan pizza mac & cheese

perfect vegan mac & cheese_hot for food

perfect vegan mac & cheese_hot for food

perfect vegan mac & cheese_hot for food

perfect vegan mac & cheese_hot for food
4.48 from 17 votes
Print Recipe

perfect vegan mac & cheese

I think I finally did it! I made the perfect vegan mac & cheese that even your omnivorous, cheese loving friends and family will become obsessed with.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword bread crumbs, mac and cheese, pasta, vegan mac and cheese
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 38 minutes
Total Time 58 minutes
Servings 6
Author Lauren Toyota



  • 3 C elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

cheese sauce

  • 3/4 C raw cashews, soaked for 20 minutes in hot water
  • 1 1/2 C almond milk
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 1/4 C nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp arrowroot flour (can substitute tapioca flour)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1 C vegan cheddar style shreds (optional)


  • 1/4 C bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp vegan parmesan (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

  2. In a large pot, bring pasta water to a boil with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain, but do not rinse the noodles. 

  3. Meanwhile, make your sauce. Place all the sauce ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend until very smooth.

  4. Pour the cooked macaroni into a 9" x 9" baking dish. Add all the sauce and vegan cheddar style shreds (if using) and stir to coat all the noodles. It will seem a bit liquidy, but the arrowroot flour will thicken everything in the oven.

  5. Cover the dish with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes.

  6. Mix the bread crumbs with the dried herbs and vegan parmesan in a bowl and set aside.

  7. When the mac and cheese has baked for 20 minutes, remove it from the oven. Uncover it and add the bread crumb mixture evenly on top and bake uncovered for another 10 minutes or until the inside is bubbling and the top is golden brown.

  8. Bake time may vary based on your oven. I used to do this in an old oven that got very hot, so I had to reduce the bake time and add the bread crumbs immediately upon the first bake to prevent over baking. Watch that it doesn't get too crispy around the edges before you've added the topping.

Recipe Notes

You can easily make it gluten free by using brown rice pasta and gluten free bread crumbs. You could stir in chopped kale, broccoli florets, sundried tomatoes, or vegan ground beef to the mac and cheese when you are adding the sauce into the cooked noodles!


  • Jesse 4 years ago

    This looks amazing! You recommend using a high power blender – would a food processor work? Thanks!

    • Yishian Yao 4 years ago

      I know you posted this a few months ago but in case you were still wondering, I just made this tonight and it didn’t go so well with my food processor. If you have a really nice one with good blades it probably work out but mine isn’t super good so sauce was quite gritty and I had to use my dinky little ninja blender thing to smooth it out more, and it probably could still be more smooth.

      For things like the cheese sauces and smooth sauces in general I think a high powered blender would be a good investment. I think i’ll probably get one soon!

    • Sigga 3 years ago

      I’ve made a similar sauce to this in my not so powerful very old blender. Soaking the cashews over night is critical and giving it time to blend. It worked out just fine 🙂

  • M A Bell 4 years ago

    This stuff is killer. Hot for food has become the first place I search when I’m looking for a cheese sauce.

    • Lauren Toyota 4 years ago

      AWESOME! Thank you SO much <3

  • Anne M. Piotrowski 4 years ago

    Truly the best mac and cheese! Any reason these wouldn’t work as mac and cheese bites made in a muffin tin?

  • Julia Bremer 4 years ago

    I tried this today and it worked out great! This cheese sauce is amazing!!!! I added brokkoli and sauteed onion and garlic and it was perfect.

    • Lauren Toyota 4 years ago

      awesome! glad you liked it 😀

  • Callie 4 years ago

    Hey guys! I’ve made this (delicious) Mac & Cheese a few times now, and it never disappoints people! However, tomorrow I’ll be in a time crunch and I’m wondering if I could prep it about 5 hours before I pop it in the oven. Would it be too soggy or should I just not cook the noodles as much beforehand? This might be a silly question I just don’t want to ruin the whole dish before I serve it to a bunch of hard headed omnivores!

    • Lauren Toyota 4 years ago

      Hey! definitely don’t add the sauce to the half cooked noodles 5 hours before. You can make the sauce and leave it in the fridge for a day or so and then boil noodles just before you bake it! IT will get too soggy if you assemble it too early

  • Maira 3 years ago

    happinesssss <3

  • melissa 3 years ago


  • Sarah LJ 3 years ago

    can i use almond or quinoa flour instead? thanks!

  • Kate 3 years ago

    For a bit of a sharper cheese taste I do a few mods to this lovely recipe:
    1) About 2-3 tbsp more nutritional yeast
    2) Only 1 tbsp tomato paste
    3) 2 tbsp miso paste
    4) Another tbsp or so lemon juice
    5) Add 1 tsp (or more) paprika

    And if you’re lazy like me you can also fully cook the pasta, drain, and return it to the pot along with the sauce and just mix it there like you would with KD. Not quite as sophisticated, but still yummy if you don’t feel like waiting on the oven!!

    • Lauren Toyota 3 years ago

      we totally encourage people to adjust to their tastes! This seems great. Thanks for sharing and being clever enough to adapt it and make it even easier!! Sometimes we skip the baking too… its just a preeferene thing

  • Christy 3 years ago

    Go veggie has casein in it 🙁

  • Kathy 3 years ago

    Just tried for the first time and I love it! Thanks for all the work and research you put into your recipes, it is greatly appreciated.

  • katie 3 years ago

    this was so so good! by far the best vegan Mac and cheese recipe I’ve tried. My dad even tried it and said it was amazing too!

    • Lauren Toyota 3 years ago

      omg yaaay!

  • Julie 3 years ago

    This is absolutely delicious. We’ve made it a few times already. Thank you for sharing!!!

  • Janna 3 years ago

    I’m going to make this for thanksgiving (at my omnivorous family’s house), but sub the herbs in the breadcrumbs with fried sage! I’m also going to make it gluten free for my gluten-intolerant aunt. I can’t wait to try it!

  • Ditte 3 years ago

    Has anyone, successfully, used cornstarch instead of arrowroot powder?

    • Danielle Jeaurond 3 years ago

      You can use the two interchangeably. I do all the time! 🙂

  • Molly 3 years ago

    I made this a few hours ago for Thanksgiving with my omnivorous family and I can stop taking bites out of it! It is SO good!! I am 14 and have been vegan for about 7 months and crave mac and cheese all the time, this recipe is the only I have found and loved. Thank you so much for a wonderful recipe!

    • Lauren Toyota 3 years ago

      AWESOME! We love converting people 😀

  • Mie 3 years ago

    Is it possible to do this pasta-bake, but with the nachos cheese sauce instead of the sauce with cashews? Nuts are sooooo expensive here in Denmark, which is why I as a student, try to avoid recipes with too many nuts. Keep up the good work! Love your recipes. 😀 And happy new year!

    • Lauren Toyota 3 years ago

      oh YES! we do it all the time and so do the followers. Check out our mac & cheese skillet recipe… basically that

      • MIe 3 years ago

        Thank you so much! I’ve watched the video already – didn’t know if it would creme up as much as the cashews. Will definitely test it on my very anti-vegan boyfriend. Bet he will love it!

  • Kori 3 years ago

    would tofu (maybe half a block) work instead of cashews? just looking for something a little more affordable

    • Sigga 3 years ago

      Maybe potatoes and carrots? Look at their nacho cheese sauce recepie!

  • Kelsey 3 years ago

    This was delicious – I added about 2 tablespoons of pumpkin puree and a dash of paprika into the sauce as well and it was delicious. Got the idea for the pumpkin from the broccoli and cheese stuff shells and I was not disappointed. Before I mixed the sauce with the macaroni, I added a bit of melted vegan butter (earth balance) into the noodles as well and then mixed it all together. Yum!

  • Brody 3 years ago

    oh mama this is so good and SO EASY, just bung it all in a blender! I was kinda worried my blender wouldn’t cope with the cashews, but it took em like a champ! I served mine with with rice paper bacon and charred brussel sprouts and it was INSAAAAAANE xox

  • Robi 3 years ago

    Is there a replacement for the Miso paste? I’ve used Tahini before but wanted to know if there is a better substitute.

  • Melissa 3 years ago

    Damn, this was so good.

  • Liz 2 years ago

    Hey, does this recipe call for white miso or brown miso paste? I have brown miso pasta and wondering if i can use that 🙂

    • Lauren Toyota 2 years ago

      its just a stronger flavour so adjust to taste

  • Brodie 2 years ago

    For anyone wondering, I’ve had this with cashews many a time (and I LOVE it) but I’m back home and my brother has a nut allergy. I’ve tried it with tofu (silken) and it is ever so slightly different, but AMAZING! Might work better for people struggling with their blender to get rid of the grittiness? thanks as ever Lauren <3

  • Mahi 2 years ago

    Hi, has anyone come across the problem of the sauce being too grainy? As if the cashews did not blend into a smooth paste…. I’m wondering if the problem is the way I prepare the sauce or if it’s the blender I’m using.

    • Mackenzie J 2 years ago

      must be the blender – I’ve used both a nutribullet and a vitamix for this sauce and they turn out smooth! Also could be the time you soaked your cashews.

  • daniel 2 years ago

    will the sauce still be good if I omit the olive oil?

  • Laura Lee 2 years ago

    I followed Kate in the comments section on how to make this a sharper tasting version and did a few adds myself. Because of Kates suggestions and Hot for Food of course, my search has finally ended …. This is as close to KD as a person is going get. YUMMY!

    Changed the ingredients amounts to…

    2 Tbsp lemon juice
    1 Tbsp tomato paste
    2 Tbsp miso paste (I used white miso)
    1 Tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch (I added more just to thicken the sauce a little more)
    1/2 cup nutritional yeast
    1 1/2 paprika
    2/3 cup cheddar cheese shreds by Earth Island (Follow Your Heart if bought in the states)

    Cook pasta, drain, and return it to the pot. Add sauce until you reach the desired amount. The pot method is how its done when making KD and my preferred method. I felt there was more sauce than was needed but maybe that’s because I cooked mine in the pot instead of baking it. I plan to pour some of the extra sauce over sweet potatoes and broccoli the following day. I also want to see if this freezes well. Can’t see why not.

    TIP 1: The quickest way to soften cashews is by pour boiling water over them. Wait 15 minutes then drain and pour boiling water over them once more and wait another 15 minutes and drain again. They will then be soft enough for any blender or food processor. I also suggest adding your cashews to your blender/food processor first and blend slowly adding some of almond milk till it forms into a cashew cream texture then add all the rest of the ingredients. I don’t have a high power machine like a vita mix (I’m poor…lol) but my sauce turned out creamy and totally smooth.

    TIP 2: For people struggling with the cost of cashews or who have nut allergy someone in the comment section suggested you can try making this with tofu (silken) its ever so slightly different, still taste GREAT.

    TIP 3: You don’t need to add faux cheese to have this recipe taste good but it does give it a more cheesy taste and definitely a makes it taste more like KD.

  • Kendra Rita 2 years ago

    If you’re looking for this to be oil free (sorry Lauren! Hahaha) replace the oil with pure pumpkin purée. I tried and it was amazing!

    • Erika 4 months ago

      I want to make this oil free, but I hate pumpkin… does adding such a small amount add much of a pumpkin flavor? Hopefully you see this even though your comment was 2 years ago, lol!

  • Regine Q. 6 months ago

    Hi I’m planning on making this dish for my extended family this Easter but I don’t think it’ll be enough servings. Would I just double the ingredients? Any advice would be helpful. I’m also planning on making the sauce the day before and preparing the dish when I arrive to the family gathering.

    • Lauren Toyota 6 months ago

      you can def prepare the sauce in advance. How many people. I guess it depends on serving sizes but this makes about 6 normal side servings.

  • KC 6 months ago

    I only had 6 oz (dry) pasta so I ended up with about a cup of leftover sauce. The next day I mixed the sauce with about 1.5 cups cooked rice, sauteed onion, mushroom, and broccoli and baked it for a bit just to solidify the sauce – so good both times!

  • Vic 5 months ago

    Absolutely AMAZING! Made this the other night with an omni friend and even they were blown away. First recipe I’ve tried of yours (found from Julien Solomita) and I most definitely cannot wait to try more and show my omni friends.

  • Sara 3 months ago

    Made this tonight and it was delish! One question— are you supposed to blend the vegan cheese shreds into the sauce? Or add them once you stir the sauce in with the cooked noodles? Thanks!

  • Ashley 1 month ago

    With Kate and Laura Lee’s suggestions for more lemon juice, more miso, more nutritional yeast, and less tomato paste this recipe is perfect.

    It is also good with the original recipe, but tastes very mild, with only a hint of cheesiness.

  • Carli 4 days ago

    This recipe is amazing! Only thing I would change is to specifically use Chao cheese (original flavor) instead of the cheddar. Ive made it both ways and it seriously makes a difference flavor/texture-wise.

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