There’s nothing better than a bowl of creamy mac and cheese for dinner. This recipe is great for both kids and adults alike.
This dairy-free mac and cheese recipe is made with pantry-friendly ingredients including cashews, nutritional yeast, spices, fresh lemon juice, and dijon mustard. No fake or mock cheese here - we’re working these flavors with real ingredients.
Why You’ll Love This Dairy-Free Mac & Cheese
- No mock cheeses are used here! That means we’ll save the grocery ingredient hunt for another time. Plenty of the ingredients used here are easy-to-find and pantry-friendly.
- We’re using CASHEWS! This will be our creamy base.
- Ready in just 20 minutes - making this recipe the perfect busy weekday recipe.
Ingredients & Substitutions
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.
- Cashews: This is a must! Cashews will serve as our “cheese” or creamy base. It’s also important to grab RAW, unsalted cashews. Roasted cashews will bring bitterness to the dish and the texture will be off.
- Nutritional Yeast: If you’re vegan or veg, you’re probably familiar with nutritional yeast. This ingredient will help bring a bit of umami and “cheesiness” to this dish.
- Smoked Paprika: Since we’re going for a smoky-type dish, we’re going to need smoked paprika.
- Tomato Paste: To add color and a depth of flavor, we’re going with tomato paste. It will also bring a dash of tang and sharpness.
- Garlic Powder: If you’re not into garlic powder or garlic in general, you could leave this ingredient out. Alternatively, you can add more garlic powder if you’re really into it.
- Lemon Juice: For a pinch of sourness, lemon juice will be the perfect addition!
- Dijon Mustard: Dijon mustard will also add another layer of bold flavor to our dairy-free mac and cheese.
- Vegan Butter: Go for any vegan butter of choice! I like to go with something creamy and soft, like Melt Organic or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.
- Macaroni Pasta: You’ll want to use elbow, ziti, penne, rigatoni, or any other tube-shaped pasta.
What To Eat With Mac & Cheese
This vegan mac and cheese recipe is heavy on the carbs and the fat, so adding protein might be a great idea.
But if you want to pile on the carbs - because why not? Go for homemade applesauce, cornbread, and toasted garlic bread.
What Kind Of Pasta Should Be Used
Elbow pasta is known for its appearance in mac and cheese recipes – and for good reason. Elbow pasta or any tube-type 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.
What Can Be Added to Mac & Cheese
This recipe is great on its own, but you can definitely enhance this dish with some addition! My favorite is with mushroom bacon. It’s incredibly delicious and brings just the right amount of umami and texture to the dish. Mushroom bacon does take some effort to make, so if you want to keep things easy, you can go with tempeh bacon, instead.
Other mac and cheese additions to consider:
- Roasted broccoli
- Green onions
- Vegan parmesan
- Bread crumbs
How To Store
This recipe is best served right away. Like traditional mac and cheese, this recipe can dry up quickly.
However, it may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days in an airtight, sealed container.
To reheat, transfer the mac and cheese to a pot. Warm over low heat and stir in a little bit of water or non-dairy milk to loosen up the sauce. Heat until warm all the way through.
- If you want your cheese sauce thinner, just add more water and adjust the salt for taste.
- If you want it extra creamy and less healthy, add vegan butter. My vegan butter of choice is Melt.
- If the sauce is too thin, give it a couple of minutes. It should thicken out.
- To make this recipe gluten-free, go for gluten-free pasta.
Tried out this Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese recipe?
10-Ingredient Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
- 4 cups water for boiling
- 1 cup cashews raw, unsalted
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons 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 elbow pasta
- 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?