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The Ultimate Vegan Mac + Cheese
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5 from 10 votes

The Ultimate Vegan Mac + Cheese

This gooey, 'cheesy' southern-style vegan mac and cheese has the right amount of flavor and creaminess for the ultimate comfort food dinner.
Course Side Dish
Keyword cashews, classic, creamy, dairy-free, dinner, easy, food, gluten-free, healthy, herbs, homemade, indulge, lunch, mac + cheese, nut-free, plant-based, recipe, savory, skillet, southern, summer, vegan
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 oz.) pacakge organic shells or elbow pasta
  • 1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

VEGAN CREAM CHEESE:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked + drained (See Notes!)
  • 3/4 cup filtered water
  • 1 Tbsp Grapeseed oil (You can also use Olive oil)
  • 1 Tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

MAC + CHEESE SAUCE:

  • 1 3/4 cups Almond milk (You can use your favorite plant-based milk)
  • 2 Tbsps vegan butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsps arrowroot starch
  • 1 tsp juice of a lemon
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • Pinch of cajun seasoning, store-bought or homemade

Instructions

TO MAKE THE VEGAN CREAM CHEESE:

  • Add all ingredients into a high-powdered blender (cashews first) and blend until sauce becomes creamy. NOTE: If needed, add a bit more water (1 Tbsp at a time), until desired consistency is met. Set aside.

BOIL THE PASTA:

  • Cook pasta according to packaging. NOTE: shells or elbow pasta doesn’t take a long time to cook, usually 10-12 minutes. NOTE: I always add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to the boiling water to prevent pasta from sticking together.

COOK THE MAC + CHEESE SAUCE:

  • In a medium deep saucepan, heat butter on medium-high heat and add garlic and sauté for a minute or so. Next, add arrowroot, nutritional yeast, ground mustard, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cajun seasoning, and whisk until combined and looks like little "bits".
  • Slowly add Almond milk, whisking frequently. Once mixture becomes thick, add the vegan cream cheese, whisking frequently again. Add the lemon juice and continue to whisk sauce until combined, smooth, and creamy.
  • Add in the drained pasta and toss in sauce until well coated. Serve immediately and enjoy! NOTE: For added crunch, you can top with breadcrumbs if desired.
  • Bon Appetit!

Notes

  • STORAGE: Any leftovers can be kept in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3-4 days.
  • CAJUN SEASONINGS: Any leftover cajun seasoning mix can be stored in an airtight jar for later use or used as garnish.
  • SOAKED CASHEWS: To best soak cashews, add 1 cup of cashews to a bowl or measuring cup and cover with cold water, sealing the top with plastic wrap and leaving it out (at room temp.) overnight. When ready to use, drain and rinse. If not able to soak overnight, simply cover cashews with boiling water and let sit for 30 minutes, drain, + rinse.
  • OIL: Instead of grapeseed oil, you can substitute with extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.
  • NUT-FREE OPTION: If you're allergic to nuts or just don't want to add them to your mac and cheese, that's totally fine. Simple omit the "vegan cream cheese" ingredients and substitute with 4-5 cups of a high-quality dairy-free cheese shreds. Continue with the steps for cooking the sauce over the stovetop and add in the cheese shreds, whisking until everything becomes nice and creamy.
  • GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: To make this recipe gluten-free, use gluten-free shells or elbow pasta, flour (arrowroot if GF-friendly), and gluten-free breadcrumbs (if using). Or make your own with gluten-free bread. Everything in this dish is already dairy-free and vegan.