This vegan baked macaroni and cheese recipe is definitely not health food. The cheese sauce isn't cashew-based. It contains no oats or other substitutions like that. We're talking real, southern-style mac here!
This vegan mac is a family favorite -- one that my kid asks for weekly. And he is a great helper. You can even spy his helping hands in the recipe video that's below the recipe card.
The thing I love about making this recipe with my kid is that it's teaching him basic cooking techniques. The cheese sauce is a béchamel, which means he gets to learn two cooking fundamentals when we make this:
- how to make a roux (the base for béchamel sauce)
- how to make the béchamel itself
It also means that now he knows about two of the French mother sauces. YES!
To make this classic-style vegan baked mac and cheese, you start with a roux, using vegan butter and a little bit of flour. You can use chickpea flour (and gf pasta) to make it gluten-free.
Then, you whisk in unsweetened vegan milk of choice to make a bechamel sauce. It's important that you use unsweetened milk, because sweet macaroni and cheese is not our goal here.
Add some spices, stir in shredded vegan cheese, toss in that cooked macaroni, and you're ready to top with more cheese and bake! If you want, you can top with vegan Italian breadcrumbs before baking, for a crisp, crunchy top.
If you want this to be a one-pot meal, you can boil the macaroni in your Dutch oven, then use the same pot to make your cheese sauce and to bake the casserole.
Doing it all with one pot does takes a bit longer, though. To save time, you can boil that mac in a separate pot while you make the cheese sauce. You do you.
Whichever way you go, you'll feel like a kitchen wizard when you make this crowd-pleasing recipe!
You can easily make this recipe gluten-free! All it takes are two simple changes:
- Use chickpea flour instead of conventional flour to make the roux. Same amount.
- Use gluten-free pasta.
You can make this recipe up to two days ahead of time. Just assemble everything and stick the pan into the fridge.
On the day that you're ready to bake, pull the Dutch oven out of the refrigerator, and let it sit on the counter for about 30 minutes before popping it into a 350° oven to bake.
Remember that how long food keeps starts from when you make it. If you make this a day ahead, that's one day less that leftovers will keep. I'm not trying to dissuade you! Just want to make sure you keep food safety in mind.
Sometimes, you don't have an extra half hour for your vegan mac and cheese to bake. I get it. This is what I do in those cases.
Instead of using half the cheese in the casserole and half on top, add all two cups of cheese to the sauce.
After you fold the pasta into the vegan cheese sauce, you are ready to serve!
How to store and reheat
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. They will keep for three to four days.
Dish up your portion of leftovers in a microwave-safe dish, and reheat them in the microwave on high for one to two minutes.
Vegan baked macaroni and cheese recipe
- 2 cups uncooked macaroni - or your favorite bite-sized pasta, gluten-free is fine
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour - or chickpea flour for gluten-free
- 2 cups unsweetened vegan milk - soy, oat, etc.
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cups shredded vegan cheese - divided
- Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Heat the butter in a Dutch oven on medium-low heat. When it's completely melted, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until you've got a thick paste. This takes about 3 minutes.
- Slowly add the vegan milk, whisking out any lumps as you go. Once all of the milk is in the pan, add the spices, salt, and pepper.
- Bump the heat up to medium, and simmer, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Keep an eye out, because like cow's milk, vegan milk will get a skin on top if you don't stir often enough. You may need to lower the heat once you get to a simmer to keep it slow and steady - you don't want a rolling boil.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and while the milk mixture is still hot, add 1 cup of the shredded vegan cheese, stirring to melt. Add the cooked macaroni, stirring to get a nice, even mix.
- Spread the remaining 1 cup of vegan cheese over the top of the macaroni mixture, and bake for 30 minutes.