This creamy vegan baked mac and cheese is 100% nut-free, dairy-free and packed with veggies. It’s the vegan comfort food dinner recipe you’ve been searching for.
Why Make Nut-Free Mac and Cheese?
Mac and cheese has always been a favorite in our family dinner rotation. Now that we’re navigating food allergies and preferences, we’ve had to update our classic mac and cheese recipe. We have family members and friends who can’t eat gluten, others who are lactose intolerant or choose to eat dairy-free, and still more with tree nut or peanut allergies.
We like to feed them all, and everyone loves a warm and comforting bowl of mac and cheese. These days we’re going after dairy-free, gluten-free and now, nut-free macaroni and cheese. With this recipe, we’re able to feed the whole family with one comforting dish!
And because this plant-based recipe covers all of our food allergy bases, it’s our new go-to dinner when we’re searching for a comforting dish to bring everyone together.
Most vegan mac and cheese recipes rely on a nut-based sauce. Usually soaked cashews lend creaminess to the cheese sauce. Or the recipe relies on almond milk or coconut milk for silkiness.
Don’t get us wrong, if we’re not feeding someone with a nut allergy, we also love a cashew-based cheese sauce. Especially in our creamy vegan roasted red pepper pasta. Today’s mac and cheese recipe, however, is totally nut-free and just as creamy.
The secret? Tons of veggies, spices and a few extra flavor-boosters. All blended into one delicous cheesy sauce.
How to make Creamy Vegan Cheese Sauce without Nuts
To skip both nuts and dairy in this recipe for homemade cheese sauce, we brought in extra vegetables. Roasted cauliflower, potatoes, butternut squash, and onion create the flavor and luscious texture in our vegan cheese sauce.
The first step in this recipe is to roast up all your chopped veggies.
- Cauliflower provides the creamy based to our whipped cheese sauce. You won’t taste much cauli flavor in the finished product, but you’ll be glad it’s in there for the texture!
- Yellow potatoes give heartiness. We like yellow potatoes over white because they’re a little sweeter. Also, they help amp up the cheesy color of our vegan cheese sauce.
- Butternut squash is where most of the bright color in this dairy-free cheese sauce comes from. It also gives a nice sweetness when roasted.
- Onion packs tons of flavor into our sauce. Roasted along with the other veggies, you’ll get caramelization that adds more natural sweetness to this sauce.
After everything is roasted, it’s time to blend up the nut free cheese sauce.
How to Flavor Nut-Free Vegan Cheese Sauce
Here’s how to flavor this creamy sauce:
- Nutritional Yeast. This secret ingredient brings a ton of cheesy flavor. It’s the key to most cheese-flavored vegan sauces. Without any dairy or tree nuts, you’ll get tons umami from just 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast. We also like to sprinkle extra *nooch* (as they call it) on top of each serving.
- Smoked paprika. Paprika is an underrated spice, in my book. It’s so fragrant and bright. Plus, it infuses any sauce with delicious savory and sweet notes. And if you’re looking for smoky flavor without a grill, smoked paprika can be your secret weapon.
- Turmeric. This warming spice does double-duty in this nut free mac and cheese. First, it offers delicious warming flavor. And secondly, turmeric colors this mac and cheese quite nicely. It has a strong and lasting pigment, so try to avoid splashing it all over your countertop!
- Agave offers the hint of sweetness this sauce needs. To avoid added refined sugars, we use liquid agave. It also has lovely subtle sweetness. Because it’s liquid, agave is easier to blend up too. You won’t be left with a grainy sauce from cane sugar.
This vegan cheese sauce comes together in just a few minutes of blending. It becomes gooey, silky, orange and so flavorful thanks to all the vegetables and spices.
If you’re like me, you might find yourself making this nut free vegan baked mac and cheese every week. And you may also want to stock up on these staple ingredients. There’s a solution to keeping your pantry stocked with vegan staples at a fraction of grocery store prices.
We regularly order our must-have ingredients from Thrive Market. This way, we always have all of the gluten-free and vegan ingredients we need. The Thrive Market prices are also unbelievable, compared to Whole Foods at least.
Plus, they’re always having great sales and we are all about the free samples! before you head straight to Thrive, grab this link to get free shipping on your first order. (Not sponsored, we just love ordering from Thrive!)
Top Nut Free Vegan Baked Macaroni with Melty Dairy-Free Cheese
Now you’ve cooked your pasta and blended your vegetable-packed cheese sauce. It’s time to top this baked vegan mac and cheese with extra cheesy goodness. We all know the best part about homemade mac and cheese. It’s the crispy, flavorful breadcrumb topping. And when you top breadcrumbs with shredded vegan cheese? Hello pure, crispy flavor on top of this already creamy mac.
We make our breadcrumb topping with gluten free Italian seasoned breadcrumbs. We like this brand. If you can eat gluten, of course, go for regular seasoned breadcrumbs. Either way, they’ll crisp up nicely in the oven and add major crunch to this plant based dinner.
In addition to the breadcrumbs, we top our baked pasta with shredded vegan mozzarella and parmesan. We love the dairy-free shredded mozzarella and parm from Follow Your Heart. They melt like real cheese and are flavor-packed!
After a few minutes in a hot oven with this savory topping, your nut free mac will become the stuff of vegan comfort food dreams. Crispy and creamy at the same time. Salty and savory, with just a hint of natural sweetness from the butternut and onions. Yum.
More nut-free recipes
This vegan and tree nut-free mac n cheese recipe is only the start to a well-rounded allergy-friendly meal. Here are some more delicoius vegan and nut free recipes to serve up along with your mac:
- Our Vegan Mediterranean Chickpea Salad is the refreshing side salad this mac and cheese needs. A crunchy tomatoes and cucumber and a sprinkle of vegan feta will round out your meal.
- Super Crispy Oven-Baked Fries. You already have the oven cranking, why not toss in a few potatoes for these crispy french fries next to your mac?
- Or, if you’re in the mood for an all-orange dinner, pop some Baked Spiced Sweet Potato Fries in.
- These Vegan Crab Cakes can be made appetizer-sized. They’d be a cute and tasty side dish to vegan mac and cheese.
- Sweet & Spicy Asian Cucumber Salad brings the bright tartness that’s missing from our creamy bowl of mac and cheese.
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This creamy vegan mac and cheese is 100% nut-free, dairy-free and packed with veggies.
- 12 oz pasta, gluten free if necessary
- 1½ cups cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1½ cups yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups butternut squash, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, quartered and sliced thinly
- 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- ⅓ cup olive oil, divided
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1¼ tsp sweet or smoked paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ¾ tsp pepper
- ½ tbsp agave
- ¾–1 cup water from pasta for blending
Suggested, for topping:
- Italian bread crumbs, gluten free if necessary
- Shredded vegan mozzarella cheese
- Shredded vegan parmesan
- Cracked salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, combine cauliflower, potatoes, squash, onions, and garlic. Drizzle with half of the olive oil and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Roast until softened, about 30-35 minutes, stirring several times.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in well salted water* according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining and return the cooked pasta to the pot, off of the heat.
- Once veggies are cooked, add them, along with the rest of the ingredients except for the remaining olive oil and the water to a blender. Use only as much pasta water as you need to blend to reach the desired consistency. Blend until smooth and creamy, then slowly add in the remaining olive oil with the motor running.
- Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and stir well to coat and pour into a baking dish.
- Top with bread crumbs, shredded mozzarella, and parm. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and pasta is heated through. To serve, top with freshly chopped parsley and a few cracks of fresh pepper and sea salt.
*Salt the water 1 tsp for every 4 cups.
Keywords: vegan mac and cheese, vegan nut-free mac and cheese, nut-free mac and cheese, mac and cheese, macaroni and cheese