Finally nailing this vegan mac and cheese sauce recipe changed my life. It's the little things. 🙂
I used to love making homemade regular cheesy mac but hated the way I felt after eating it. Cut to a few years and lessons later, I can still enjoy the ultimate comfort food without the belly upset and mucus inducing results of consuming dairy.
This recipe came out of a series of testing and research on how to create a plant based sauce that was comforting, creamy, smooth but not too heavy and gluey. Thank you raw cashews.
This dish would be perfect with veggies and your favorite protein (tempeh, tofu and chickpeas are a few of mine!) and a slab of my homemade focaccia bread and a sprinkle of some vegan parmesan cheese! I've also used it alongside a red sauce in lasagna or stuffed shells. There's more to the sauce than just mac and cheese!
The Essential Ingredients
Along with some other spices and accoutrements, I gathered a quick list of ingredients I recommend to have on hand if you want to achieve vegan mac and cheese sauce excellence at a moment's notice.
We're looking for a bit of tang, a salty richness and depth, and of course a creamy smooth texture. Here's the crew:
- Raw cashews (I buy mine in bulk online. If you want to go nut-free here, silken tofu is an excellent replacement)
- apple cider vinegar
- dijon mustard
- nutritional yeast (I buy this in bulk too, store in an airtight jar/container.)
- lemon juice (if you have a lemon allergy, substitute lime juice or more apple cider vinegar)
The basic how to of this recipe (you know it's my favorite!) is to throw everything in a blender and blend until smooth. That's about it. Easy peasy.
What if I don't have a magical Vitamix Blender?
My Vitamix was the greatest purchase I've ever made in the history of my healthy at home cooking pursuits. This is true. I'm AMAZED at the power and ability to transform just about anything I throw in there into silky smooth deliciousness. It's magic. However, for YEARS before I got one, I rocked a $3 yard sale 1970's blender I called Lady Kenmore. I loved her.
After a blade broke and the motor burned out, I used an immersion blender and a large stainless steel cup. I used this inexpensive combination to make cashew cream sauces, green smoothies and everything in between. It's great to take with you if you're traveling.
There are also a lot less expensive blenders out there too. Don't fret, you have options!
TOPPINGS AND VARIATIONS
- Are you allergic to onion? I was reading about an Indian spice called Asafoetida that has a very similar flavor as onion and garlic. Check it out!
- Add a few fresh basil leaves or sun-dried tomatoes in the sauce and blend.
- Sauté mushrooms and red pepper with some spices and few splashes of tamari for a topping.
- Stir in some steamed broccoli florets. TIP: add the broccoli florets right to the boiling pasta water in the last THREE MINUTES of cooking, they'll steam and cook to al dente perfection and can be strained in one step with the pasta.
- Crumble tempeh and sauté in avocado oil, tamari + onion powder.
- Roast up some butternut squash and stir in after adding the sauce!
No Cheese ever, what?!
I often hear from curious friends that cheese would be the most difficult thing to eliminate from their diets. I'm not going to disagree with you, but, there's hope! I can honestly say that in my current plant-based lifestyle, I never feel like I'm sacrificing or missing out on anything. Mainly because I take the time to seek out delicious ideas that can be just as satisfying. THERE ARE PLENTY, I promise.
TWO THINGS really made it possible for me, in the event that you, you beautiful reader you, are also curious:
- Learn about the AMAZING alternatives out there. Whether you go full on DIY like me or purchase non-dairy products from great brands like Miyokos or Violife; the plant-based resource world is tremendous online and in stores. Just be sure to stick to products that have QUALITY ingredients you can pronounce and recognize.
- Experiencing how I FELT without dairy, really tuning into those improvements was a huge turning point for me. I noticed my belly flattening, regularity sure is nice, my cough / sinus issues improved, etc. I have PCD and bronchiectasis so avoiding dairy wasn't AS much of a choice for me, it was necessary to breathe better and be able to perform athletically. I committed to the change and the differences are pretty remarkable. So, combined with the other motivations of environmental and humanitarian impact, I'll simply never go back for my health's sake. I like being able to run fast and often without wheezing. 🙂
Soaking raw cashews to prepare for making vegan mac and cheese or other creamy cashew-based goodies is super easy. I have two go-to methods: OVERNIGHT or QUICK.
If you have a high powered blender, soaking isn't absolutely necessary but I always recommend it. The goal is to hydrate and soften the nuts up for the creamiest sauce possible.
- OVERNIGHT: Place 1 cup of raw cashews in a large bowl. Cover with water (at least 2 inches above cashews). Soak overnight.
- QUICK: Place 1 cup of cashews in a large heat-safe bowl. Pour boiling water over the cashews, at least an inch above the cashews. Let soak until the water cools, about 30 minutes tops.
If you have any questions at all please feel free to reach out to me!Print
Creamy and satisfying vegan mac and cheese sauce recipe made with simple whole-food plant-based ingredients.
- 1 cup silken tofu (about half a package)
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight or in hot water for 15-30 minutes, drained
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
- ⅓ cup soy milk
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup hemp seeds (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbs. apple cider vinegar
- 2 tsp. dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. Better than Boullion veggie
- 1 tsp. Salt (you may add more after blending too)
- 1 tsp. Onion Powder
- ½ tsp. of each: Garlic Powder, Pepper, Chili Powder
- ¼ tsp. paprika for a bit of color
- Throw everything in a blender. Blend until smooth, about 20 seconds.
- Taste test. Add a bit of extra soy milk to bring to desired consistency. It shouldn’t be too thick. Add salt & pepper as needed.
- Cook your favorite pasta (or pasta alternative!). We use whatever we have on hand, typically whole wheat elbows or spaghetti. Drain. Stir cheese sauce into warm noodles and serve. Add toppings (veggies + protein) if you’d like!
- We've made this vegan mac and cheese sauce served over spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles as well which are great gluten-free options.
- When reheating the next day, mix in a few splashes of soy milk to help rehydrate and bring back that delicious creamy texture!
Keywords: vegan mac and cheese