If there’s one thing that can be hard to come by on a vegan diet, it’s comfort foods, and what better comfort food is there than mac and cheese?
Just because you’ve gone vegan though, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite dish, thanks to some delicious plant-based substitutes.
Can you make vegan mac and cheese? Yes, it is possible to make a creamy and salty-tasting mac and cheese that’s also vegan friendly, thanks to some smart substitutions.
Most vegan mac and cheese recipes feature ingredients like almond milk, nutritional yeast, and breadcrumbs, so you can recreate the crumbly top and creamy bechamel sauce.
There’s never been a better time to be vegan with all of the resources and recipes out there that can turn any dish into a vegan-friendly one.
If you have a hankering for mac and cheese, we’ve got a recipe that can help you beat that craving without any of the guilt.
Why Is Mac and Cheese So Popular?
When it comes to quintessential side dishes, there’s nothing quite like the creaminess of mac and cheese.
This classic dish usually consists of macaroni pasta, a creamy bechamel sauce, crispy breadcrumb top, and loads of cheese mixed throughout, but every family has its own variation on the recipe.
A baked mac and cheese dish is the perfect accompaniment to any meal, whether it’s a backyard barbecue or you’re loading up your plate with just vegetables for a hearty dinner.
Better still, you can treat yourself to a full bowl of mac and cheese for dinner without anything else on the side, for those days when you’re feeling naughty.
Many people find that when they switch to a vegan diet, they start to miss some of these richer, creamier comfort foods, with mac and cheese being one of them.
Rather than beating yourself up for fantasizing about dairy, there are ways to can recreate this creamy taste without using any animal products, so you no longer have to suffer.
A Tasty Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese Recipe
This recipe for a vegan baked mac and cheese is so much like the real deal that you can even fool the non-vegans in your life with its creamy goodness.
It’s the perfect side dish for get-togethers or can be created as a standalone meal, so you can enjoy it just as you would a regular dairy-based mac and cheese.
There are three parts to this recipe, including the cooked pasta, the creamy sauce, and the breadcrumb topping. We’ve separated them to simplify the cooking process so you can see what’s in each part before assembling them.
Macaroni and Sauce
18oz macaroni (elbow preferable)
½ cup vegan butter
1 cup vegetable broth/stock
5 cups full fat coconut milk
1 cup nutritional yeast
3 tsp each of onion powder and garlic powder
6 tbs plain flour
1 ½ tsp each of smoked paprika, ground black pepper, fine sea salt
3 tbs Dijon mustard
1 cup panko breadcrumbs (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2tbs non dairy butter (melted)
Steps to Take
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fill a large pot with salted water and place it on high heat so that it comes to a boil. Once boiling, pour in the macaroni and stir regularly to avoid it sticking to the bottom. While it cooks, move on to making the macaroni sauce.
Place a medium sized pot on low to medium heat, and add vegan butter until melted.
Once melted, add the flour to the pot and use a fork to whisk, until combined completely and lump free.
Pour half a cup of coconut milk into the pot and continue whisking until a paste has been formed. After ensuring there are no lumps, pour the remainder of the coconut milk is followed by the vegetable stock.
Continue whisking as it heats up and when it starts to boil, turn the heat down slightly. When it starts to thicken, you can remove it from the heat, but keep whisking it until cools down a bit and becomes smooth.
Add the nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to the pot and whisk together.
Once the macaroni has been cooked to the point of being one minute away from soft and ready, remove it from the heat and strain the water. Pour the sauce into the large pot along with the cooked pasta and gently stir to coat it.
Add some vegan butter to the base of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and pour the macaroni and sauce into it.
Make the crumb topping by placing the butter into a small bowl and then placing it in the microwave for 30 seconds. If it’s not yet melted, continue microwaving it at 10 second intervals until it is, being careful not to burn it.
Pour the breadcrumbs into the bowl with the melted butter and use your hands to combine them.
Scatter the breadcrumbs over the top of the macaroni and cheese in the tray in an even layer.
Cook the macaroni and cheese uncovered in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs start turning golden brown. Don’t leave it in there for too long or it will evaporate the sauce and make a dry mac and cheese.
Serve immediately to ensure the moistness of the dish remains.
How Healthy Is It?
As tasty as vegan mac and cheese is, it’s not a food that we’d recommend eating every day.
While you won’t find any milk, cheese, or other animal byproducts in it, it’s not the most nutritious thing to eat, so enjoying it in moderation is key.
A single serving of this mac and cheese is almost 700 calories, and that’s if you’re able to show some restraint and divide it up between eight serves.
With this much coconut milk included, it’s high in fat, but you are saving some saturated fat from not using dairy-based milk, creams, and cheeses, so it’s not all bad.
The macaroni is another ingredient you need to be mindful of, as eating too much-refined pasta is not ideal.
While you could switch it up for whole wheat or zucchini pasta, it just wouldn’t hit the right spot that comfort foods do, so we recommend sticking with plain white pasta for this recipe.
Although it’s not the healthiest meal, it is one of the tastiest, and even those who aren’t vegan won’t be able to taste the difference.
If you want to omit certain ingredients or swap them out, it’s possible, but the result won’t be as creamy or cheesy as this one, so tinker with it at your own risk.
Comfort Food That’s Vegan Friendly
If you’ve been dreaming about creamy pasta and mountains of cheese since you turned vegan, you’re only human.
Having a recipe like this vegan mac and cheese can take care of those cravings while ensuring no animals are harmed in the process, so it’s the perfect combination.
There are so many delicious and surprising ways to turn non-vegan recipes and ingredients into those that are plant-based and good for you.
If you’re still learning the basics of vegan cooking and what to know about some other helpful substitutes, check out these FAQs to find out more.
What Are the Best Vegan Butter Substitutes for Baking?
When baking, you can use ingredients like vegan spreads, mashed avocado, applesauce, olive oil, coconut oil, or nut butter in place of dairy butter.
Depending on the recipe you’re making and the consistency and flavor you need it to have, any one of these vegan-friendly substitutes should do when baked at high temperatures.
Is There a Non-Dairy Substitute for Buttermilk?
To create vegan buttermilk, you just add one tablespoon of either lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of plant milk and let it sit for two minutes.
This should result in the same sour taste and milky consistency of buttermilk that’s needed for certain recipes, but without using animal products.
What Can Be Used Instead of Gelatin?
If a recipe calls for gelatin but you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and don’t want to use it, there are some plant-based substitutes you can substitute it for.
The best alternatives are agar agar, vegetable gums, and carrageenan, depending on what is available to you at the supermarket and the final consistency you’re looking for.
Lorraine Pinnix is a passionate nutritionist and loves seeing people living healthy, and fulfilled lives. She believes that food is an essential piece of staying fit and strongly believes in going vegan. PureGrowthOrganic is a passionate work that details her research in helping you go on complete organic diets. She is available for questions, comments, and follow-ups.