20-Minute Mac and Cheese (Vegan)

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Fork picking up vegan mac and cheese from a bowl

Ever wanted mac and cheese but like, right now? This is the recipe for you! This easy vegan mac and cheese requires just 20 minutes from start to finish! The cashew sauce is easy to make and out of this world: vibrant golden color, savory and cheesy, and incredibly creamy. This is the perfect dish for when you’re craving homemade comfort food fast. Let us show you how it’s done!

Shell pasta, cashews, lemon, nutritional yeast, salt, garlic, turmeric, pepper, and chili powder

This mac and cheese starts with cooking the noodles. Any type of noodle will work, but shell-shaped is our top choice because the shells hold the sauce like they’re little spoonfuls. Yum! The noodles can be wheat-based, gluten-free, or even legume-based (like Banza) for extra protein and fiber.

When cooking the pasta, make sure to reserve some of the pasta water because it will be used to make the sauce!

Blender with cashews, garlic, nutritional yeast, chili powder, turmeric, salt, and pepper

The 8-ingredient sauce is creamy, cashew-based, and full of flavor from nutritional yeast, lemon juice, garlic, turmeric, chili powder, salt, and pepper. The pasta water thins it out while also contributing flavor.

Shell pasta and creamy cashew cheese sauce

Once blended up, the sauce lathers the noodles for a seriously dreamy, reminiscent-of-childhood bowl of goodness.

Pot of our easy vegan mac and cheese recipe

An optional sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese takes it to the next, next level!

Sprinkling vegan parmesan cheese over a bowl of vegan mac and cheese

We hope you LOVE this vegan mac and cheese! It’s:

Creamy
Cheesy
Quick & easy
Comforting
Balanced
& SO delicious!

Enjoy as an entrée or side anytime you’ve had a rough day or are craving something comforting yet nourishing! It would be especially delicious paired with our 1-Pot BBQ Baked Beans, Vegan Sloppy Joes, Easy Vegan Coleslaw, and/or Creamy Vegan Broccoli Salad (Mayo-Free!).

More Easy, Cheesy Vegan Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Fork in a bowl of gluten-free vegan mac and cheese

20-Minute Mac and Cheese (Vegan)

EASY homemade vegan mac and cheese. Creamy, cheesy, and SO comforting! Ready in 20 minutes with 9 simple whole food ingredients. Gluten-free optional.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Vintage spoon in a pot of easy vegan mac and cheese
4.95 from 20 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 (Servings)
Course Entree
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? 3 Days

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups raw cashews
  • 8 ounces shell pasta (gluten-free as needed // we like Banza GF shells)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (~1/2 lemon as recipe is written)
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 healthy pinch black pepper

FOR SERVING optional

Instructions

  • Place cashews in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 15-20 minutes, until very soft. Drain and rinse the cashews and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt. Add the pasta, stir, and cook according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup (240 ml) of pasta water (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size), then drain and return the noodles to the pot, off of the heat.
  • After soaking, transfer the cashews to a high-speed blender. Add the lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, turmeric, chili powder, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup (120 ml // amount as recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size) reserved pasta water. Blend until smooth. Add more pasta water if necessary to reach your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed, adding nutritional yeast for cheesiness, lemon juice for acidity/brightness, turmeric for more vibrant color, and salt to taste. It should be very flavorful!
  • Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. Add more pasta water as needed to coat the noodles.
  • Serve immediately as is or garnish with vegan parmesan cheese (optional). Leftovers will keep in a sealed container up to 3-4 days. Reheat leftovers in the microwave or on the stovetop over medium-low heat until hot, adding a little plain unsweetened dairy-free milk (almond typically works best) to rehydrate as needed. Not freezer friendly.

Video

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with Banza GF chickpea shells and without optional ingredients.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 1 serving Calories: 480 Carbohydrates: 49.5 g Protein: 24.2 g Fat: 25.1 g Saturated Fat: 3.8 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 3.9 g Monounsaturated Fat: 1.6 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 647 mg Potassium: 936 mg Fiber: 7.8 g Sugar: 5.1 g Vitamin A: 100 IU Vitamin C: 3.7 mg Calcium: 67 mg Iron: 7.6 mg

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My Rating:




  1. Michelle says

    I soaked the cashews in hot broth and then blended the broth along with the cashews and other ingredients. Loved it! There was a lot of leftover cheese so I’ll be adding it to more pasta later! Will definitely make again!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Yum! Thanks for the lovely review, Michelle, we’re so glad you enjoyed! xo

  2. Jennifer says

    Don’t hesitate – make this now! :-) I have made this twice now and it is so creamy, flavorful and satisfying. The best part is how quick it is to prepare. I have used both Banza and red lentil rotini and both work well and taste great! I add a bunch of various roasted or steamed veggies for serving. Great recipe – thank you!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! We’re so glad you enjoy it. Thank your for the lovely review, Jennifer! xo

  3. Catherine says

    Have you tried with roasted cashews? I’ve made your cash milk with roasted soaked cashews and it worked just fine.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Catherine, we haven’t tried it, but some readers have reported success with roasted cashews in our vegan queso, so we’d say it’s worth a try! Let us know if you try it out!

  4. MH says

    Holy moly! This is so tasty. I made this for dinner tonight because I wanted something comforting that didn’t make me feel bad afterward. This is that dish and more.

    I blended a handful of spinach into the sauce because I hadn’t gotten enough greens today. It incorporated nicely.

    10/10 recommend and will make again. Thank you for all that you put into making this recipe so wonderful.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, thanks so much for your kind words and lovely review! We’re so glad you enjoyed this one and we love your spinach addition! xoxo

    • aria says

      I made this with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar because I had no lemon juice and it tasted delicious

  5. Lara says

    I have tried several homemade mac and cheese recipes and this one is, by far, the best! The flavor is so delicious and it was very quick and easy to put together. This one will be my go-to from now on. Thank you so much!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Lara. Thanks so much for the lovely review! xo

  6. Anne says

    I loved this and will make it again. It uses a lot of cashews, but the creamy results are worth it. I did need to add about twice the amount of water. I also subbed garlic powder because I don’t love the taste of raw garlic especially in leftovers. Also threw in a handful of kale the last few minutes of cooking time.
    I was not able to get the suggested brand of pasta, mine was 100% chickpeas so it was kind of heavy. I’m sure I would have loved it even MORE with semolina pasta, but the chickpea pasta is so much more nutritious I would use it again. I might try to see if a red lentil pasta is lighter, or maybe even a whole grain whole wheat (I’m not gluten free). This recipe is definitely a keeper, highly recommend it!

  7. Cori says

    Y U M ! I added extra pasta water to my sauce to thin it (I use a non high speed blender). I scooped the cheezy noodles on top of steamed broccoli and gave it a hearty squirt of sriracha – this is HEAVENLY! Came together easily and quickly! Definitely adding this recipe to my regular repertoire – thank you so much!!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woah, sounds like a delicious use of the sauce! Thanks for the lovely review, Cori! xo

  8. Gerry says

    I made this and it was pretty good, for me it needed more oomph so I will keep laying with it. I used roasted garlic and so maybe I need to use more cloves to get more flavor, and I think I may have needed more salt. I try to go light and salt but sometimes that doesn’t always work. Definitely thickens as it sits! Thanks for an easy, creamy recipe.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Gerry! Roasted garlic is more mild, so a little raw garlic and salt should both help!

  9. Cait says

    Testing out a dairy-free diet and missing cheese. It isn’t the same as cheese but it’s gooooood. I made this for my family and everyone loved it, even my toddler. I added in some peas at the end. Sauce was not as smooth as I expected – next time I will try to soak the cashews longer and blend longer as well.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad everyone enjoyed it, Cait! For the cashews not getting creamy, we’re wondering if it could be the type of blender? If it’s not powerful or has a large volume, those could be reasons. If volume is the issue, you can try doubling the sauce. Hope that helps!

  10. Ophelia Wellington says

    this was honestly the best vegan Mac I have ever made! It was so easy! I added fresh oregano and basil for some more flavor and it was excellent! Thank you!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Ophelia. Love your additions! Thanks so much for sharing! xo

  11. Robin Mamott says

    Delicious. Easy quick and doesn’t taste like butternut as many others do. I sliced a hot pepper in at serving. I will definitely make this again. Thanks !

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Robin. We are so glad you enjoyed this recipe! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

  12. Leah Lynch says

    Finally!!! Vegan Mac & Cheese that taste like the real deal. I loved it and followed the recipe to a “T”.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Carlene! You can simply omit the nutritional yeast, or possibly add 1/2 teaspoon of miso paste instead. xo

  13. Kavya says

    Dana this recipe looks amazing. I’m a life long vegetarian and unable to go vegan due to my infatuation for melty cheese. Slowly but steadily, however, you are convincing me, one delicious dairy-less recipe at a time… can’t wait to try this one out!!

    xxxx
    Your favorite fan,
    KJ

  14. Milena says

    Really enjoyed this recipe!

    I found that the sauce needed more pasta, but that’s fine, as I’ll have leftovers.

    I would like to know what is meant by high speed mixer, because I couldn’t get to a creamy consistency, but not a big deal, as it was yummy!

    So easy to make! I added some stir fried veggies with harissa and soy sauce, because I alway have a heap of veg!

    Thank you so much for your never ending inspiration! You’re making me a more adventurous cook and in lockdown this is amazing!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thank you! We love to hear this, Milena! A high speed blender is typically a blender with a more powerful motor than an average blender. We are glad you’re enjoying so many recipes! xo

  15. Chelsea says

    This recipe is amazing! I whipped this up quickly today, and added a pinch of mustard seed and smoked paprika. SO good and so easy!!

  16. Whitney says

    It came out so good! I’m really impressed! I had leftover pasta to use up so I added unsweetened oat milk to thin out the sauc

  17. Kiran says

    This was actually much easier than I thought it would be and very delicious! It was my first time making a vegan cheese sauce and it did not disappoint at all! I did add a bit extra pasta water to help with blending out the sauce. I would definitely make this again!

  18. Virginia Diaz says

    I’ve tried so many vegan Mac n cheese recipes and never have I been thrilled by the results until tonight!!! I had 3 servings and then ate straight out of the pot. Best recipe hands down!!! I will definitely be making this for my guest! Thanks

  19. Kate says

    This is dangerously good. I could have eaten the whole batch myself! It is so delicious and I love the ratio of pasta to sauce. This will definitely be my new go to for mac and cheese.

  20. Rebekah says

    I would really like to make this. My body reacts poorly to cashews though. Is there another nut that will yield a similar result?

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Rebekah! We haven’t tried it so we aren’t sure how it would go, but macadamia nuts are the most similar in texture. Let us know how it goes if you try it! xo

      • Magdalena says

        I’m also wondering if the cashews could be replaced as I try to omit them for ecological and ethical reasons. For vegan “parmesan” I use almonds so maybe I’ll try to use them also in this recipe.

        • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

          Hi Magdalena, we don’t think almonds will get quite as creamy, but might be okay. Let us know if you try it!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Nicole, we don’t have a precise gram or ounce measurement. For this recipe, it’s 1/4 of the full batch. Hope that helps!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      It will change the flavor but you can definitely omit garlic! Perhaps a 1/2 tsp of miso paste for added umami instead? xo

    • sage says

      Yessss ! Yet another total winner ! Adjusted the recipe to serve 2 (as its only me having it) just incase it was another wierd vegan mac and cheese recipe – ITS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. Didnt change a thing! Having left overs for lunch today. This is will be a weekly meal now!

  21. Heather says

    I have a child with a cashew allergy (well, an intolerance), is there any other but that could provide this level of creaminess that isn’t cashews? Because this recipe looks amazing!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Heather! We haven’t tried it with another nut, but macadamia nuts are probably the closest in texture and could be worth a try. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try! xo

  22. Katy Large says

    This may sound crazy, but have you ever subbed cashew butter (the plain, unsweetened, nothing-but-cashews kind) for the soaked and blended cashews in vegan “cheese” recipes? Raw cashews can be tricky to find near me, but I do have plain cashew butter that I think could work.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We haven’t tried that for this recipe so we aren’t sure how it would go, but it does sound like it could work! Let us know how it goes if you try it. xo