Vegan Caramelized Onion Mac ‘n’ Cheese

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Caramelized onion and pasta in a pan for making vegan Caramelized Onion Mac n Cheese

The minute I discovered you can make queso without cashews, I was convinced cashew-less mac ‘n’ cheese had to happen. Eggplant cheese sauce seriously knows no bounds.

Before and after shot showing how to caramelize onions
Eggplant for making vegan Mac n Cheese sauce

Origins of Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Mac ‘n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food! But where did this glorious dish come from?

It’s believed that the earliest written recipe for a dish resembling mac ‘n’ cheese comes from a 13th century cookbook from southern Italy. The dish (named de lasanis) was made with squares of fermented lasagne dough layered with spices and cheese.

But maybe that’s not what you picture when you hear mac ‘n’ cheese? The dish has been modified in many ways over time!

It’s thought that mac ‘n’ cheese was first introduced in the US when Thomas Jefferson brought back a pasta machine from his travels in Italy. Or perhaps that it originated from a popular New England church dish called macaroni pudding. Then in 1937, Kraft released their boxed mac ‘n’ cheese and it quickly gained popularity because of its affordability.

Our plant-based version has all the comfort but without the dairy!

Vegan Mac ‘n’ Cheese

I’ve made vegan mac ‘n’ cheese before using a cashew-based sauce and it really was amazing! But the issue with cashews is that they make recipes so heavy with their high fat and calorie content. Not that I’m a calorie counter, but I’m all for lightening up recipes when I can.

Eggplant sauce to the rescue.

Using a wooden spoon to stir a batch of Vegan Eggplant Cheese Sauce

This eggplant sauce is so simple to make – just a 10-minute roast before peeling the skin and adding it to the blender. It’s infused with nutritional yeast, garlic powder and sea salt for that ultimate cheesy, savory flavor.  I could’ve eaten that sauce all by itself, but the noodles were calling…

Macaroni shells for making creamy healthy vegan Caramelized Onion Mac n Cheese
Pan of Vegan Caramelized Onion Mac N Cheese

The thing that sends this mac ‘n’ cheese over the top is the caramelized onions and the crispy breadcrumbs!

While the sauce and noodles meld perfectly together, the addition of caramel-y, browned onions and crispy bread crumbs on top sends the flavor profile through the roof! I could’ve eaten this whole pan by myself – no lie.

Pan of our vegan Caramelized Onion Mac n Cheese

You’re going to love this dish. It’s

Super saucy
Slightly crisp on top
& Totally share-worthy

Make this for vegan and non-vegan friends alike and watch their jaws drop after the first bite. It’s just that good!

Pan and bowls filled with creamy, cheesy vegan Caramelized Onion Mac n Cheese
Bowls of Vegan Caramelized Onion Mac n Cheese with breadcrumbs

If you make this recipe, take a picture and tag it #minimalistbaker on Instagram! I love seeing what you lovelies cook up. Cheers!

Bowls of Caramelized Onion Mac n Cheese with sides of breadcrumbs and extra caramelized onions
Grabbing a fork full of Caramelized Onion Mac n Cheese for a delicious vegan dinner
Pan of Vegan Caramelized Onion Mac n Cheese made with panko breadcrumbs

Vegan Caramelized Onion Mac ‘n’ Cheese

10-ingredient creamy mac ‘n’ cheese made with a simple eggplant-based cheese sauce! Caramelized onions and toasted breadcrumbs send this dish over the top.
Author Minimalist Baker
Using a wooden spoon to stir a pot of Vegan Caramelized Onion Mac 'n' Cheese
4.60 from 62 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Course Entrée
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly Sauce only
Does it keep? Best when fresh



  • 1 small-medium eggplant (1 eggplant yields ~16 1/3-inch slices)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ medium yellow onions (sliced in 1/4 inch rings or wedges // 1 ½ onions yield ~4 cups sliced)
  • 10 ounces macaroni noodles (GF for gluten-free eaters)
  • 3-4 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 ¾ cups unsweetened plain almond milk
  • 1-2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Sea Salt


  • 1/4 cup panko or regular bread crumbs (GF for gluten-free eaters make sure your brand is vegan)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil (or sub vegan butter)


  • Slice eggplant in slightly less than 1/2-inch rounds (but not quite 1/4 inch – ruler for reference) and sprinkle both sides with sea salt. Place in a colander in the sink for 20 minutes to drain moisture and draw out any bitter taste.
  • In the meantime, heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil and the onions. Cook 10-12 minutes – stirring every few minutes. Turn down the heat if browning too quickly. Once caramelized, place in a bowl for later.
  • Preheat oven to high broil and place an oven rack on the very top rack.
  • Start pasta water by bringing a large saucepan 3/4 full of water with 1 Tbsp salt to a boil.
  • Rinse eggplant and dry thoroughly. Arrange on a baking sheet in a single layer and drizzle both sides with olive oil. Broil on high for 3-4 minutes on EACH side until the eggplant is browned (be careful not to burn, just seriously roasted).
  • Remove eggplant from oven and wrap in foil to steam for 5 minutes. Then peel off skin and add to a blender with almond milk, nutritional yeast, cornstarch and garlic powder. Start with a pinch of salt and add more as you need (we added ~1/8-1/4 tsp).
  • Blend until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt, nutritional yeast or garlic powder if desired.
  • Once pasta water is boiling, add noodles. Cook according to package instructions, then drain and cover with a towel to keep warm.
  • Pour the eggplant sauce into the same saucepan you used to brown the onions and bring to medium heat. Cook to thicken for about 5 minutes. Once bubbling, lower heat to low/simmer and stir occasionally until noodles are ready.
  • If topping dish with breadcrumbs, heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat and add olive oil or vegan butter. Than add breadcrumbs and stir. Cook for about 5 minutes until light brown and toasted. Set aside.
  • Add drained noodles to the eggplant sauce in the large saucepan, along with half of the caramelized onions and stir to coat. NOTE: If your saucepan is NOT oven safe, transfer the mixture to an oven-safe dish at this time.) Smooth the top with your spatula or spoon and top with remaining caramelized onions and the toasted panko bread crumbs.
  • OPTIONAL: Preheat oven to high broil once more and move an oven rack to the 2nd level from the top. Once hot, place macaroni under the broiler to toast for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown on top. BE CAREFUL not to burn as it can go fast. Don’t walk away.
  • Remove from oven using an oven mitt and serve immediately. Leftovers don’t tend to reheat well with this dish as the noodles absorb the sauce. Best when fresh.


*Sauce adapted from my cashew-less vegan queso
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 1 serving Calories: 446 Carbohydrates: 70 g Protein: 11.8 g Fat: 13 g Saturated Fat: 1.8 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 220 mg Fiber: 8 g Sugar: 6 g

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Reader Interactions

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My Rating:

  1. Mandy says

    This was amazing! The sauce is incredible! I loved it so much I will absolutely modify and use it to make other recipes. My entire family ate this Mac and Cheese two nights in a row! Using the eggplant instead of cashews for the sauce is genius! It’s delicious, you only taste the cheesey savory flavor, no trace of eggplant. The texture is creamy but not overly thick or pastey that sometimes happens with nut sauces. I would give it 10 stars if I could! 20 if you consider how healthy it is! Do you make other sauces with eggplant as a base? If not can you please start? I think the possibilities are endless but I’m not great at creating recipes! We need your genius to make it happen! Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, thank you for your kind words and lovely review, Mandy! We have a vegan eggplant queso recipe here and used it to make nachos here.

  2. David Hard says

    Yum. This is delicious. However. I did have issues roasting my eggplant. I guess my broiler element doesn’t get very hot? Cause my eggplant just would not roast under the broiler even after leaving them under the element for 15 minutes. I had to turn on the regular oven and roast normally to get it so the skin peeled off. And even then, the eggplant still wound up being kind of rubbery and not very creamy.

    I realized halfway through that I was basically wanting to cook the eggplant the same way I do it for baba ganoush: cut in half length wise, coated in olive oil and slow roasted on my charcoal grill with some wood chips thrown in for smokiness. The eggplant scoops right of it’s skin and is super creamy when I cook it this way. I now can’t wait for the weekend to try this again! I’m thinking the addition of the smokey flavor will work great in this.
    Oh. Also. I didn’t have unsweetened almond milk on hand, so I just used the pasta water. Turned out great. One less ingredient!

  3. LizzieF says

    Firstly, thank you for this recipe. I know when I choose a Minimalist Baker recipe that I’m not going to be disappointed. The end result of this recipe was super creamy, if a bit neutral. Kind of like eggplant! It gave me pasta casserole vibes, rather than mac & cheese. I found the leftovers to be excellent the next night, especially as I zhuzhed it up with kalamata olives and some capers (the husband & kid got that, plus tuna). It was admittedly a lot of effort for a weeknight dinner, but tasty and adaptable.

  4. Jessica says

    This was so good! Creamy, and delicious. The caramelized onions were my favorite part. I will 100% make again. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

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

  5. Desiree says

    OH MY GOD. This might be my new favorite Mac. I used Banda noodles to cut the carbs & add a bit of protein (yay diabetes). Added a bit more nutritional yeast & garlic powder. Even my Very very picky 2 year old came back for seconds.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Loraine, the “cheese” is made in step 6 from the eggplant, almond milk, nutritional yeast, etc. Hope that helps!

  6. Andrea says

    I just made this recipe last night and it is now my favorite vegan mac and cheese! The caramelized onions are a great touch! I mixed in mushrooms and asparagus and it was perfect!

  7. Jaime Lynne says

    I have been eyeing this recipe for weeks now and finally just sucked it up and bought myself an eggplant today (I had all of the other ingredients on hand).

    Words cannot express how excited I am to make this. Anything with caramelized onions = my best friend.

    Thanks so much, Dana!

    • Jaime Lynne says

      Update: I made this and it is as every bit as amazing as I thought it would be! I’m so happy I tried this out. Perfect as is! Thanks so much for the recipe, Dana. This is a keeper!

  8. Christin says

    I have to say, I was intrigued by this recipe and wasn’t really sure what to expect. Now I am literally freaking out over here because this dish is so amazing, I may never go back to cashew-based sauces!! I am normally not an eggplant fan, but you are right, you can’t even taste it. The sauce itself is creamy and so reminiscent to a creamy cashew cheese sauce but SO much healthier. And the caramelized onions and crunchy breadcrumbs- I’m in love. Thanks for this brilliant recipe!! =)

  9. Angela C says

    We loved this recipe! Even my pickier 8 year old gobbled it up. Best “cheese” sauce I’ve tried so far. I think I will double the onions next time and maybe even add mushrooms per my husband’s request. Thank you for this recipe!

  10. Anna says

    I was just wondering if it is possible to do this without broiling? How else could I cook the eggplant?