Smoky, creamy, and rich – you’re gonna want to load up your plates with this smoky vegan mac and cheese.
The trick to this cream, plant-based recipe? Cashews. In fact, Cashews make for the perfect vegan cheese base with its smokiness, nuttiness, and rich flavors.
With a good solid cashew foundation, you can whip up just about any kind of cheese-based dish with a little bit of this-and-that in just minutes. For this recipe, I utilized what was in my pantry.
Check out our 30-minute dinner ideas if you need something fast and delicious.
Mac & Cheese Key Ingredients
All of the ingredients listed in the recipe all work together to bring a creamy, umami, flavor-packed mac and cheese. Even though this mac and cheese recipe is made without milk, butter, or cheese – it’s still creamy and incredibly delicious.
Nutritional Yeast helps bring forth an umami punch to the macaroni and cheese. It also brings on a “cheesy” or nutty flavor to the dish. Its flavor is intense, so no need to add more than what’s listed.
Raw cashews are boiled for about 10 minutes and then blended into a creamy white sauce. On its own, it’s quite bland with smoky notes, but the added ingredients add color and flavor.
Tomato paste will add both color and depth to the mac and cheese recipe. When we think of traditional mac and cheese, we think of savory, a dash of tang, and sharpness – tomato paste will help bring that forward.
Smoked paprika will support the smoky bite from the raw cashews. If you’re into smoked flavors, this will be a must-have ingredient.
More Vegan Cheese Sauce Recipes:
What Kind Of Pasta Should I Use?
Elbow pasta is known for its appearance in mac and cheese recipes – and for good reason. Elbow pasta is great for thick-sauced dishes like macaroni and cheese.
Other pasta types you can consider for mac and cheese include bowtie, shells, rotini, and cavatappi. Choose what you have or prefer.
I love using elbow pasta, but I’ll switch that out depending on what I currently have in my pantry.
- Use raw and unsalted cashew. This is a MUST. Toasted, seasoned cashews won’t get the right flavor and texture for the cheese sauce.
- Save the water you used from boiling the cashews.
- Lastly, if you don’t set aside enough water from the cashew, just add regular water. If you want your cheese sauce thinner, just add more water and adjust salt for taste.
- If you want it extra creamy and less healthy, add vegan butter. My vegan butter of choice is Melt.
What To Serve With Mac & Cheese
Or, double up on the kid-friendly dishes and serve the mac and cheese with a side of vegetable “fried” rice.
Kitchen Tools I Use And Love
One kitchen tool I really want to highlight here is the silicone spatula set. It’s one of my standard, everyday kitchen tool that makes flipping and stirring seamless.
It is also gentle on non-stick cookware and useful for scrapping sauces, batter, or liquids from a bowl.
For more kid-friendly recipes, check out 19 Kid-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes.
Smoky Vegan Mac and Cheese
- 4 cups water for boiling
- 1 cup cashews raw, unsalted
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspooon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1.5 cups reserved cashew water
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter (optional)
- 2 cups macaroni pasta uncooked
- Set a pot of water and over high heat. Once at a boil, add cashews and salt and boil for 10 minutes. Next, drain cashews from the water and keep leftover cashew water.
- In a blender, add cashews, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, tomato paste, garlic powder, fresh lemon juice, salt, dijon mustard, and 1.5 cups of the leftover cashew water. If you want the sauce to be creamier and buttery, add vegan butter (optional). Blend until smooth.
- Prepare the pasta according to the package’s instructions. Stir together cheese sauce to the pasta. Add additional salt to taste.
Did you try out this Smoky Mac and Cheese Recipe?