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This is the BEST Dairy Free Mac and Cheese EVER! No potatoes, carrots, cashews, or nutritional yeast! This vegan mac and cheese is the REAL DEAL; creamy, super satisfying, and can be served baked or stovetop!
I have tested and tested and retested this dairy free mac and cheese and FINALLY came up with one I loved! It’s the BEST vegan mac and cheese I’ve had so far and I’m sure you will feel the same way once you try it!
What is Dairy Free Mac and Cheese made of?
Vegan Dairy Free Mac and Cheese can be made in numerous ways:
- Healthy Plant-Based Version: A lot of recipes call for potatoes, carrots, cashew, and/or nutritional yeast combination. I’ve used this method to create my vegan nacho cheese recipe.
- Simple “Roux” Version: Making a roux is the simplest way to make a vegan mac and cheese. This calls for flour, plant-based milk, nutritional yeast, and seasonings. The nutritional yeast and various seasonings are what make it the sauce tastes “cheesy.”
- Vegan Cheese Version: This the route I went! For me when it comes to a good realistic dairy-free mac and cheese, there is no other way! In this recipe, I used vegan cheese, vegan cream cheese, and silken tofu to bind the cheese sauce to the pasta (like an egg would do in a traditional Southern Mac and Cheese).
What is the Best Vegan Cheese to use for this?
Through my experimentation here are my recommendations (none of these are sponsored):
- Follow Your Heart Cheddar Shreds: This is what I mainly used. It’s my NUMBER ONE RECOMMENDATION. Follow Your Heart melts the BEST and is perfect for a vegan mac and cheese recipe. To me, it tastes the closest to real cheddar when melted in a cheese sauce.
- Violife Cheddar Shreds: Violife has a great taste as well. I used one bag in my cheese sauce for this recipe (as you will see in the instructions below). I wouldn’t recommend topping my dairy-free mac and cheese with it as it gets kinda hard when baked and melted on top. (It might work better if covered when baked though I didn’t try it that way).
- Daiya Cheddar Shreds Cutting Board Version: Daiya is an acquired taste. Some people HATE it and others LOVE it! I haven’t tried this new version, but I heard the cutting board version is 100x better than the old version. I’ve seen others use this in recipes and it looks like it melts pretty well like this vegan mac and cheese recipe here.
How do I Serve this Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese?
- Stovetop or Baked: This completed recipe is baked as that is how I like my mac and cheese but it is just as good served as a stovetop mac and cheese recipe!
- On my Vegan Thanksgiving table: People won’t believe it’s vegan if you bring this to your holiday table! Serve with some Vegan Lentil Loaf, Baked Candied Sweet Potatoes, vegan cornbread dressing, Healthy Cranberry Sauce, and Almond Green Beans!
- Vegan Sunday or Easter Dinner! You can do a Vegan Southern Soul Food or Easter dinner serving this with some Fried Oyster Mushrooms, vegan mashed potatoes, collard greens, and Vegan Cornbread Recipe!
How to Make Dairy Free Mac and Cheese?
*Please read detailed and printable recipe card below for full ingredients and instructions
Season Pasta & Start Roux
- Season your warm cooked, drain elbow pasta with butter, salt, and garlic powder. Mix butter and seasonings fully coat your pasta (Photos 1 & 2)
- Start your roux by melting some vegan butter in a large pot. Then mix in your flour whisking together until fully combined. (Photos 3 & 4)
Make Cheese Sauce
- While whisking, add both coconut milk and almond milk to your roux. Simmer until it thickens. (Photos 1 & 2)
- Once sauce slightly thickens, add silken tofu, vegan cream cheese, seasonings, and vegan cheddar shreds. Mix until cheese is fully melted and the sauce turns orange. (Photos 3 & 4)
Add Seasoned Macaroni Pasta & Bake
- Add pasta to cheese sauce and mix in well. You can serve this as is as a stovetop version OR proceed with the next steps to bake. (Photos 1 & 2)
- Add mac and cheese to a greased 9 x 13-inch pan and topped with vegan cheddar cheese. Bake until cheese has melted on top and allow to cool before serving. (Photos 3 & 4)
Substitution, Cook, & Storage Tips:
- For a nutritional boost, ¼ cup of pumpkin or butternut squash to your cheese sauce! If you want to, toss in some broccoli with your mac and cheese!
- You can substitute the unsweetened full-fat canned coconut milk with an equal amount of plant-based milk of your choice or vegan half and half (super pricey). You might lose some richness as canned coconut milk is high in saturated fat like cheese making this recipe creamy.
- Make sure the milk you do use is unsweetened and not flavored. (DO NOT use coconut milk in a jug in the refrigerated section of your grocery store). Check the ingredients making sure your milk has zero grams of sugar in it.
- If baking, try topping with breadcrumbs instead of extra vegan cheese! Mix ½ cup of bread crumbs with ¼ cup of butter. Sprinkle on top of your dairy-free mac and cheese and bake!
- Silken tofu acts as binder much like an egg would in a traditional Southern Baked Mac and Cheese. You could omit this if you like and substitute with ½ cup of vegan sour cream.
- Be sure to get SOFT Silken Tofu as it melts better with cheese sauce. Lite Firm Silken Tofu will work too but it’s not as smooth and won’t blend all the way together with your cheese sauce.
- Please refer to “What is the Best vegan Cheese to use for this” section to see what type of vegan cheeses to use. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME! Using the right brand is CRUCIAL for this recipe.
- Instead of vegan butter, you can use a tub of dairy-free margarine (it’s the same thing) or refined coconut oil.
- Leftovers. This will keep very well in the fridge for 3-4 days.
- Freezer. In theory yes you can freeze this tho it NEVER lasts this long in my home to be frozen. To freeze, wrap cooled, refrigerated mac and cheese in plastic wrap in individual portions. Add a layer of aluminum foil, and put it in a Ziploc freezer bag. Label and dated and keep for no more than 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in the oven.
Vegan with Curves Star Ingredient:
Gluten-Free Elbow Pasta is the Vegan With Curves star of this dish! (you can use any pasta you choose this is the one I choose to use.) One serving of this pasta has 44 grams of “curvy” carbohydrates and 4 grams of plant-based protein.
To make this more weight loss (waste/weight release friendly) you could:
- This recipe is extremely rich and high in fat. You could make a more plant-based version like this one here!
- Omit the canned coconut milk and substitute for soy or almond milk.
- Omit the vegan cream cheese
- Keep in mind that this is mac and cheese and it’s meant to be indulgent! Eat sparingly.
This dairy-free mac and cheese is the best vegan mac I have ever eaten! Even if you are not vegan, you will want to make this recipe. It is so creamy I dare say it tastes very close to the real thing but I will let you decide that for yourself!
More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:
Dairy Free Mac and Cheese
- 6-8 cups water to boil pasta
- pinch salt
- 12-16 ounce elbow macaroni pasta see notes
- 2 tbsp vegan butter
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup vegan butter (plus 1 teaspoon to grease pan ) see notes
- 6 tbsp chickpea flour (or your choice of flour)
- 1 14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk see notes
- 3 cups almond milk see notes
- 2 bouillon cubes (or 1 tablespoon of seasoned vegetable base)
- ½ cup vegan cream cheese
- 12 oz silken tofu see notes
- 6 cups shredded vegan cheese, divided (3 eight-ounce bags) see notes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder optional
- ¼ tsp liquid smoke ( or ½ teaspoon smoked paprika) optional
- Bring water to a boil over high heat and add a pinch of salt. Once the water is boiling, add in uncooked elbow macaroni pasta, and boil pasta to al dente according to package instructions. Drain your pasta and place in a large mixing bowl.
- OPTIONAL: Here we are going to season the pasta individually while still warm. You can skip this step if you like. I always seasoned my pasta individually before adding any sauce to maximize flavor. To your warm pasta add vegan butter, garlic powder, and ¼ teaspoon salt.
- Mix together coating your pasta with the seasonings evenly. Taste one pasta shell making sure you can taste the seasonings on it. Set aside to begin making your cheese sauce.
- Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Grab a 9x13 baking dish, and lightly greased with vegan butter. Set aside. (Do this only if you plan on baking your mac and cheese and not serving it as a stove top dish).
- In the same pot used to boil your pasta, melt vegan butter completely and then add in chickpea flour. Stir it vigorously with the melted butter. This is how you make a roux.
- Then pour in the canned coconut milk and almond milk. Whisk until smooth. (There should be no lumps). Keep whisking and reduce heat to medium for 7 to 10 minutes until it starts to slightly thicken. Don't worry if it's not super thick. The vegan cheese will help it become thicker.
- Next add in vegetable bouillon cubes, vegan cream cheese, silken tofu, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt, black pepper, turmeric powder (optional), and 4 cup vegan cheddar cheese. Stir on medium heat until vegan cheese melts and seasonings are fully incorporated into the sauce for 5 minutes until sauce thickens.
- Remove sauce from heat (turn off your stove) and add the cooked & drained elbow macaroni into your cheese pot. Fold the macaroni and cheese sauce until everything is well incorporated. You can serve this as. If you want to bake it proceed to the next step.
- Layer macaroni and cheese in greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish, then top with 2 cups of vegan cheddar cheese.
- Bake in the oven, covered with aluminum foil for 10 minutes your cheese will start to melt on top and the aluminum foil will lock in the moisture. After 10 minutes, uncover your mac and cheese and bake for an additional 15 mins until cheese on top becomes golden brown.
- Once done remove from oven and allow to cool. Your mac and cheese will be bubbly and sizzling. You might see a lot of oil. That is due to the fat content of this dish which makes it super indulgent. It will settle once cool and create this nice cheesy crusted topping.
- Serve with as a Thanksgiving side dish along with Vegan Lentil Loaf, Baked Candied Sweet Potatoes, vegan cornbread dressing, Healthy Cranberry Sauce, and Almond Green Beans! You can also serve this as a Vegan Soul Food dinner with some Fried Oyster Mushrooms, vegan mashed potatoes, collard greens, and Vegan Cornbread Recipe!
- This will keep very well in the fridge for 3-4 days. To freeze, wrap cooled and refrigerated mac and cheese in plastic wrap in individual portions. Add a layer of aluminum foil, and put it in a Ziploc freezer bag keeping for no more than 3 months. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and reheat in the oven.
- PASTA: I use gluten free elbow pasta this brand here. But you can use whatever type of pasta you have on hand or desire. Seasoning the individual past itself is optional and if you choose not to do this, omit those steps and the extra measurement of ingredients.
- VEGAN BUTTER: Instead of vegan butter, you can use a dairy-free margarine (it’s the same thing) or refined coconut oil.
- PLANT BASED MILK: You can substitute the unsweetened full fat canned coconut milk with an equal amount of plant based milk of your choice or vegan half and half (super pricey). You might lose some richness as canned coconut milk is high in saturated fat like cheese this recipe creamy. Make sure the milk you do use is unsweetened and not flavored (DO NOT use the coconut milk in a jug in the refrigerator section of your store). Check the ingredients making sure your milk has zero grams of sugar in it. I use Ripple Original UNSWEETENED (it must say unsweetened) brand.
- SILKEN TOFU: Silken tofu acts as binder much like an egg would in a traditional Southern Baked Mac and Cheese. You could omit this if you like and substitute with ½ cup of vegan sour cream. Be sure to get SOFT Silken Tofu as it melts better with cheese sauce. Lite Firm Silken Tofu will work too but it’s not as smooth and won’t blend all the way together with your cheese sauce.
- VEGAN CHEESE: Please refer to “What is the Best vegan Cheese to use for this” section in blog post to see what type of vegan cheeses to use. For the cheese sauce I used one bag of Violife Shredded Cheddar (because I already had a bag on hand) and one bag of Follow Your Heart Shredded Cheddar which equals 4 cups. Then I topped it with 1 bag of Follow Your Heart Shredded Cheddar Cheese (which equals 2 cups). I have done this and prefer it using the Follow Your Heart cheddar cheese brand and got the same yummy results. To me they have the most authentic taste and melts the best. Use YOUR favorite brand of vegan cheese.
- STOVETOP: If you are not baking your mac and cheese, you will only need 4 cups of vegan cheese vs 6 cups. The last 2 cups are reserved for topping your vegan mac for baking. So buy 2 eight ounce packages of vegan cheese instead of 3.
- ADDITIONS AND SUBSTITUTIONS: For a nutritional boost, ¼ cup of pumpkin or butternut squash to your cheese sauce! If you want to, toss in some broccoli with your mac and cheese! If baking, try topping with breadcrumbs instead of extra vegan cheese! Mix ½ cup of bread crumbs with ¼ cup of butter. Sprinkle on top of your dairy free mac and cheese and bake!
- OPTIONAL: Turmeric powder is totally optional and there only to add a deeper orange color to your mac and cheese. It can be omitted. If you like a smoky flavor to your mac and cheese you can add either the smoked paprika or liquid smoke. This is also optional.
Update Notes: This post was originally published on December 13, 2016, but was republished with new photos, step by step instructions, tips, and a video on November 25, 2019.
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