This vegan mac and cheese recipe from scratch is the absolute best rendition of the classic comfort food but also good for you. It's so creamy, cheesy and flavorful served with a crispy golden brown panko bread crumb topping for the perfect bite everyone is sure to love.
If not using a Vitamix or other powerful blender, make sure to soak the cashews in hot water for a couple of hours.
2.5 cups raw cashew pieces
Preheat a heavy bottom skillet over medium heat with a good drizzle of olive oil. Add the chopped onion, a pinch of salt and saute until softened and you start seeing some color. Stir in the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds or so, just until the garlic is fragrant taking care not to burn it.
1 medium onion, 4 garlic cloves
Transfer the cooked onion and garlic to the blender together with the cashews (drain if you soaked them), water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion and garlic powders, paprika, mustard and salt. Process on the smoothie setting until completely smooth and creamy. Transfer to a large skillet and bring to a bubble. Simmer for a couple of minutes constantly sitting until the sauce starts to thicken.
1 medium onion, 4 garlic cloves, 2.5 cups raw cashew pieces, 2.75 cups water, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, 1/2 lemon, 1 Tbsp onion powder, 3/4 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 3/4 tsp smoked paprika, 1.5 tsp sea salt
Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a heavy sprinkling of salt and cook the macaroni until al dente, following the instructions on the package. Drain well then add the cooked macaroni to the skillet with the cheese sauce and toss until combined.
3/4 lb macaroni
Crispy Bread Crumb Topping
Preheat a skillet over medium high heat, add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and stir in the fennel seeds. Toast until fragrant then add the panko bread crumbs. Toss to coat well and allow to toast for a few minutes until golden brown to your liking but stirring often. Season with a pinch of sea salt flakes and spoon over the macaroni and cheese before serving. Garish with thinly sliced scallions, onion chives. chili flakes or black pepper.
To make the recipe Plantricious compliant make sure to saute in water or veggie stock instead of oil, omit the panko bread crumb topping and use whole grain macaroni of your choosing.
Make Ahead - The cheese sauce can be prepared a couple of days in advance and brought to a bubble while your pasta is cooking. It's best to boil the macaroni
Storage - Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge up to 5 days or freeze in freezer proof containers for up to 3 months.
Can I make it without nutritional yeast? - technically you can make a cheesy sauce without it but it is an important ingredient in this recipe. It adds tons of flavor and vitamins but if you must omit it I suggest adding 1 tablespoon of white miso instead and a cooked carrot or boiled potato.
Make it Smoky - The recipe calls for a symbolic amount of smoked paprika, just enough to add a little depth of flavor. If a smokier flavor is desired you can double and even triple the paprika or better yet add in about a teaspoon of liquid smoke.
The Topping - I prefer to make my crispy topping in a skillet on the stove top but you could choose to place everything in a 9x13 inch casserole, top with the breadcrumbs and bake for 20 minutes or so until golden brown and crispy.