This vegan mac and cheese is SO velvety, made without cashews and hides a fair amount of healthy vegetables. Makes for a low-in-fat creamy pasta recipe that's very easy and quick to make, which is perfect for busy weeknight dinners! Also oil-free, gluten-free and kid-friendly.
This pasta recipe is such a great way to sneak in more veggies into your diet, including your kids (and partners 😉), they won't realize this vegan mac and cheese sauce is made with potatoes and carrots!
And you won't believe how creamy the sauce is, even if made without using cashews. The result is a beautifully yellow cheesy sauce that's shockingly similar to a classic velveeta cheese sauce, but made completely dairy-free and without added oil or processed fat. The silky consistency is simply mind-blowing!
This sauce is made only using whole foods and is a must-try as it is quite filling, so flavorful, ridiculously easy and will make your belly feel good. Thanks to the blended starchy potatoes, the sauce is ultra gooey and might even remind you of melted cheese!
I usually flavor this sauce very simply, using only garlic, nutritional yeast, salt and lemon juice. But what's great about this recipe is that you can easily flavor the sauce in so many different ways by adding more spices such as chili powder or a spicy sauce.
Keep this recipe in mind for next time you need something quick, easy and healthy to feed your family. It is a hidden vegetable pasta sauce that makes for such a tasty weeknight dinner that everyone will love!
Hope you enjoy! 💛
What's to love about this no cashew vegan cheese sauce
- Use soy milk or oat milk to make this recipe completely nut-free! Great to pack in kid's lunch boxes and suitable for families with nut allergies.
- Quicker than a mac and cheese using cashews as you won't have to plan ahead to soak any nuts.
- It is harder to reach a super smooth texture when blending cashews using a regular blender. So, compared to a cashew-based sauce, this mac and cheese recipe will give you a better result if you don't have a high-speed blender.
- If you are looking for a low calorie recipe that's less rich in fat, then this vegan potato cheese sauce is a must-try!
Ingredients you'll need
- Potatoes: make for the base of the sauce. Use white Yukon potatoes for best texture.
- Carrots: add nutrients and a subtle sweetness, but also provide a nice color to the cheese sauce.
- Nutritional yeast: essential for a subtle cheesy and umami flavor (psst: also adds some more plant-based protein and valuable B12 vitamins!).
- Garlic: for flavor.
- Onion powder: for flavor as well, but can be swapped for other spices if needed.
- Lemon juice: adds a nice tangy flavor that enhance the cheesy flavor provided by the nutritional yeast.
- Plant-based milk: use a nut-free vegan milk if needed, such as soy or oat milk. Be sure to use an unsweetened and unflavored milk!
- Turmeric powder: optional, but will give the cheese sauce a bright yellow color similar to a velveeta cheese.
- Salt: add to taste. There is a large volume of sauce, so be sure to salt enough for best flavor. I usually start with 1 teaspoon and taste to see if it needs more.
- Noodles: in this case, I like the classic elbow macaroni noodles, but any short pasta will work, of course. Use whole wheat noodles to boost your meal with more protein and fiber!
How to make a vegan mac and cheese without cashews
Cook the vegetables and noodles
Boil the noodles in water until al dente. Also, boil the potatoes with the carrots in a second pot until tender fork, about 15-20 minutes. Then, drain well.
Transfer the cooked potatoes and carrots to a blender and add the nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, lemon juice, turmeric powder and salt.
Blend on high until very smooth. You will have to take a few breaks to scrape the walls/bottom as there are often small pieces of vegetables getting stuck on the sides.
Then, taste the sauce. Add more salt and even some more nutritional yeast depending on your taste. See below for flavor booster ideas!
Once the noodles are cooked, return them to the pot and pour the sauce over. Start with less sauce and add more as needed, you might end up with more sauce than you need.
Stir well and gently heat up on the stove on low-medium heat just for a few minutes until warm enough. Then, add green peas (if using) and stir to combine. Serve right away while still warm. Enjoy!
Watch how to make it
- Be sure to blend the sauce long enough for best result, especially if you don't have a high-speed blender. Blending potatoes helps them release their starches, which turns the sauce into a gooey consistency that's perfect for a cheese sauce.
- This recipe makes for a good amount of sauce, so you will have plenty to load up the pasta dish with more veggies if you want!
- Cook the noodles al dente as they will cook a little more once combined with the warm sauce. If there is a lot going on, then put a timer on to avoid overcooking them.
Flavor booster ideas and serving suggestions
This basic vegan mac and cheese sauce is a great recipe to personalize to your taste. You can add extra flavoring ingredients to the blender and add a nice kick to your meal. Here are a few ideas:
- Make a taco mac and cheese! To make it, add a generous amount of chili powder to the blender and toss some canned black beans or cooked lentils, diced jalapeño, chopped red pepper and diced tomatoes to the pot with the noodles. Sprinkle with some cilantro at serving and drizzle some hot sauce. Yum!
- Add some chipotle or cajun spices mix. Similar to this cajun creamy pasta recipe, also toss in some roasted red pepper and sweet onion to add a nice crunch.
- For a smoky mac and cheese, add some smoked paprika to the blender and also serve with my smoky pan-fried tofu or BBQ chickpeas for a boost in flavor and plant-based protein. I also love to drizzle BBQ sauce over my bowl if I have some ready-to-go. If you have some vegan bacon bits, add some too!
- Make it spicy! I'll usually add some hot sauce when serving over my bowl so our kids can have a non-spicy version, (I find the classic Frank's red hot cayenne sauce to pair well with mac and cheese recipes), but you can also add cayenne powder or any hot sauce straight to the blender.
- For an herbed mac and cheese, stir in a few spoonfuls of pesto and/or chopped fresh herbs. My vegan walnut pesto would work well with this sauce!
Also, this is a great recipe to add more vegetables to, such as green peas or broccoli. I usually use frozen veggies that I quickly thaw in the microwave and then pat dry. Using frozen veggies will make you skip a step as you won't have to steam them first.
Consider also adding red pepper, steamed leafy greens such as spinach and kale, roasted cauliflower, arugula, asparagus, green beans and so much more.
Serve with a sprinkle of almond parmesan cheese and some chopped fresh parsley.
Keep leftovers in the fridge in an air-tight container for up to 5 days.
I recommend to reheat over the stove if possible, this way you will be able to add more plant-based milk to revive the silky sauce and stir often while it is warming up. You can also reheat using the microwave.
This recipe can also be frozen, which is perfect if you love to meal-prep ahead. I prefer to freeze the sauce alone without the noodles, but the mac and cheese with noodles can also be frozen. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
I highly recommend peeling them to reach a very smooth sauce.
I get this asked often, but no, nutritional yeast is not optional when making a vegan mac and cheese. It really adds amazing cheesy flavor!
The sauce is not a flour-based recipe, which makes it completely gluten-free. Use gluten-free noodles if needed!
More mac and cheese recipes to try
You might also like these vegan cheesy recipes
- Vegan cheese ball
- Vegan feta cheese
- Tofu cream cheese
- Vegan mascarpone cheese
- Almond parmesan cheese
- Cashew ricotta
- Vegan white queso sauce
I hope you like this cashew-free vegan mac and cheese as much as we do! If you try it, please leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let me know how it was. Your feedback is so helpful!
Vegan Mac and Cheese (without Cashews)
- 1 lb elbow macaroni noodles - or other short noodles of your choice, choose gluten-free noodles if needed
- 3 cups white Yukon potatoes (about 3-4) - peeled and roughly diced
- 1 cup carrots (about 2 small) - peeled and roughly diced
- 1 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3-4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ¼ tsp onion powder - or more to taste
- 1 tsp salt - or to taste
- 1 cup plain plant-based milk - unsweetened and unflavored, or enough for desired consistency
- pinch of turmeric powder (I used ¼ teaspoon) - optional, for color
- Cook the elbow macaroni in boiling water until al dente. Then, drain well and transfer the noodles back to the pot. Set aside.
- While the noodles are cooking, make the sauce: bring a second pot of water to boil. Then, add the potatoes and carrots and simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain well.
- To a blender, add the potatoes, carrots, garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, plant-based milk and turmeric (if using). Blend on high until smooth taking a few breaks to scrape the walls/bottom of the blender. Taste and adjust seasoning (add more flavoring ingredients as needed).
- Pour the vegan cheese sauce over the noodles and stir to combine. This is optional, but I like to also add frozen and thawed green peas to the macaroni. Serve warm with fresh herbs and parmesan cheese, if desired. Enjoy!
- Storage: keep leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Can also be frozen (thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating). Reheat on the stove or in the microwave. Add a splash of plant-based milk to revive the sauce and stir well.
- You can add various flavoring ingredients to the sauce such as chili powder, smoked paprika and hot sauce. Also include beans, cooked lentils or top with my smoky tofu for more plant-based protein. Read the blog post for more ideas on how to customize this recipe!