This creamy vegan mac and cheese tastes like childhood but with a plant based twist. And it's got a secret hidden vegetable: pumpkin! Canned pumpkin puree adds a warm orange color along with vitamins and antioxidants. This is an easy weeknight meal to serve a crowd with growling bellies. Or divide it up for a delicious meal prep throughout the week!
Since this easy mac n cheese does not contain any cashew cream, you don't have to take time to soak any cashews. Plus it's made entirely on the stove, so leave that oven off! It may not be the fanciest macaroni and cheese out there, but it's a big warm bowl of vegan comfort food.
Why You Should Make this Recipe
- It's a delicious plant-based version of a comfort food classic.
- The whole meal is ready in about 30 minutes, making it a quick weeknight dinner.
- There's no cashews, which means this recipe is nut free.
- You can add any type of protein to your noodles to make it more filling.
- Macaroni - You can use any pasta shells, but elbow macaroni just have that nostalgic charm.
- Milk - Any unsweetened plant based milk works great in this recipe.
- Pumpkin puree - Use pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin. Do not use pumpkin pie filling, which has added sugar and spices.
- Vegan butter - Melted butter adds another layer of rich flavor.
- All-purpose flour - Mix with the melted butter to make a roux, which helps thicken the mac and cheese.
- Shredded vegan cheddar cheese - Dairy free cheese tends to take longer to melt, but eventually it will melt into the creamy vegan cheese sauce.
- Salt and ground black pepper - Adds the final layers of seasoning.
How to Make Vegan Mac and Cheese
Boil the macaroni: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add your macaroni and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Drain in a colander and leave in the sink.
Warm the milk and pumpkin: While the water is coming to a boil, whisk the milk and canned pumpkin together in a medium saucepan on medium heat.
Once it's bathtub water temperature, pour it into a heat-proof bowl and set aside. Keep the saucepan on the stove for the next step.
Make the roux: To the now empty saucepan, add the butter and melt it on medium heat. While whisking the butter, add the flour. Keep whisking until it forms a thick, golden brown paste after about 3 minutes.
Combine the sauce: Add the milk and pumpkin puree mixture back to the saucepan with the roux. Add the shredded cheese and stir until it's melted and forms a thick sauce. It usually takes dairy free cheese longer to melt, around 10 minutes on medium heat. Season with salt & pepper as needed.
Cover the macaroni with sauce: Pour the cooked macaroni back into the large pot, then pour the sauce over it. Mix well to coat the macaroni with the sauce.
What is a Roux?
A roux is a mixture of equal parts butter and flour that is the base for many sauces in French cuisine. It adds both a thickening factor to any sauce along with rich flavors from the toasted butter & flour. By substituting vegan butter to make a roux, we can create a thick, creamy, delicious sauce without any dairy!
How to Make a Roux
Making a roux (pronounced "roo") can be a bit tricky, so it's important to have all your ingredients measured out and ready to go before you begin.
- First, melt ¼ cup vegan butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Make sure the butter doesn't start to brown before you add your flour, otherwise your flour could burn. Gross.
- Second, while stirring the melted butter with a wooden spoon or whisk, add ¼ cup all-purpose flour. Keep stirring constantly to prevent the flour from burning.
- Finally, after stirring for about 3 to 5 minutes, the roux will look golden, thick, and homogenous. And it will have a lightly toasted aroma.
- The roux is then ready to mix with the rest of the sauce ingredients.
Does vegan mac and cheese taste the same as regular mac and cheese?
This recipe for vegan mac and cheese creates a thick, creamy sauce so it has a really similar texture to regular mac and cheese.
The color is also a similar bright orange, thanks to the pumpkin puree.
But dairy-free cheese does have a different taste from regular cheese. That's why the roux helps add a rich, toasted flavor that dairy-free cheese often lacks.
Can I use broth instead of milk in mac and cheese?
I've personally never tried making homemade mac and cheese with vegetable broth instead of dairy-free milk, but it's possible! It'll add more of a savory flavor than a creamy flavor.
Can I use yogurt instead of milk in mac and cheese?
Yes, you can totally mix yogurt into your mac and cheese to replace the milk. It'll add a thicker texture, along with a slightly tangy taste, similar to cheese. Just be sure not to use a sweetened or fruity yogurt. That could get weird.
Recipe Tips and Variations
- You can add nutritional yeast to the mac and cheese for an extra cheesy flavor.
- To make this recipe gluten free, use gluten free macaroni noodles. And substitute the all purpose flour in the roux with a gluten free flour blend.
- To make spicy mac and cheese, add a little cayenne pepper and paprika or diced jalapenos.
- I usually use unsweetened oat milk in this vegan mac and cheese recipe, but unsweetened soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk all work well.
- Allow leftovers to cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
More Vegan Weeknight Dinner Recipes
- Spicy Peanut Butter Noodles
- Vegan Poke with Watermelon Tuna
- Vegan Poke Bowl with Beets
- Vegan Chili with Beans
- Vegan Peanut Butter Curry
- Zucchini Fritter Tacos
- Aubergine and Chickpea Curry
- Easy Vegan Chickpea Soup
Vegan Mac n Cheese
- 1 pound dry macaroni
- 2½ cups unsweetened dairy free milk (of your choice, I usually use unsweetened oat milk)
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- ¼ cup vegan butter (½ stick)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups shredded dairy free cheddar cheese
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add your macaroni and cook for about 10 to 12 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Drain in a colander and leave in the sink.
- While the water is coming to a boil, whisk the milk and canned pumpkin together in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Once it's bathtub water temperature, pour it into a heat-proof bowl and set aside.
- To the now empty saucepan, add the butter and melt it on medium heat. While whisking the butter, add the flour. Keep whisking until it forms a thick, golden mixture that smells slightly toasted after about 3 to 5 minutes. Now you have a roux!
- Whisk the warm milk and pumpkin puree mixture back into the saucepan with the roux.
- Add the shredded cheese and stir until it's melted and forms a thick sauce. It usually takes dairy free cheese longer to melt, around 10 minutes on medium heat. Season with salt & pepper as needed.
- Pour the cooked macaroni back into the large pot, then pour the sauce over it. Mix well to coat the macaroni with the sauce. Enjoy!