Vegan Pasta Cheese Sauce for Mac and Cheese

This vegan pasta cheese sauce makes the fastest mac and cheese that’s not already in a box! Just add some pantry ingredients and spice to cooked pasta, and you have a creamy, dreamy dinner that you’ve made in minutes.

Some days you just need to have a super easy dinner that doesn’t even require you to think. This vegan mac and cheese is the answer to your busy day dinner. 

My other favorite recipes to make when I just don’t have much time are Instant Pot Vegan Black-Eyed Pea Jambalaya, Easy Broccoli with Garlic Sauce Recipe, or Avocado Lemon Basil Pesto.

Is all pasta vegan?

Most dry pasta is vegan, but you should always read the labels to make sure. Most fresh pasta contains eggs unless it clearly states that it is vegan.

If you are avoiding flours, you can always use spiralized veggies in place of pasta. Just lightly saute, then cover in the sauce!

How do you make vegan recipes taste like cheese?

Nutritional yeast is the main way vegan add a cheesy flavor to recipes. There is a variety of aged vegan cheese that you can use as well, but they tend to be expensive.

Who carries vegan cheese?

You can find vegan cheese at all major grocery stores, in addition to Whole Foods, Sprouts, and other health food stores.

Does vegan cheese that tastes like cheese?

Just like everything else, this is pretty subjective. I would say that cultured vegan cheese like the ones from Miyoko’s Creamery is closer to the taste of dairy cheese.

With that said, there are tons of different brands and I’m sure you’ll find some you love.

Raw elbow macaroni in enamel bowl on dark cement table background.

What is vegan pasta cheese sauce made of?

What I like most about this recipe is that the ingredients are so simple and I always have them on hand in my pantry. 

  • nutritional yeast – this gives the sauce a cheesy and umami flavor
  • unsweetened non-dairy milk – makes it creamy
  • olive oil or vegan butter (optional; leave out to make oil-free) – adds an extra creaminess, but can be left out to make oil-free
  • granulated garlic – adds flavor
  • smoked paprika – adds a smoky flavor
  • vegan lactic acid – this adds a lovely sharpness
  • mustard powder – adds a bite like a sharp cheese
  • ground turmeric – creates the perfect yellow cheesy color
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

How do you make vegan pasta cheese sauce?

First, you cook the pasta according to the package directions, be sure to save some pasta cooking water in case you need it to thin the sauce later. Also don’t rinse the pasta so that the natural starches can help the sauce thicken.

Then just toss in the nutritional yeast, non-dairy milk, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, lactic acid if using, mustard powder, and turmeric. Add salt and pepper to taste, then cook over medium heat until the sauce reaches the desired thickness. Thin with the saved pasta water if needed.

What is smoked paprika?

Smoked paprika, pimenton or sometimes called smoked Spanish paprika, is made by smoking and drying peppers over a fire, then grinding. It’s one of my favorite spices and gives food a deep, smoky taste. It can be used in place of liquid smoke.

Smoked paprika in wooden scoop

How do I store vegan cheese sauce?

You can store it in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. The longer it sits, the more liquid you will need to add to loosen it up when you reheat. The pasta will keep absorbing as it sits.

You can make the whole thing ahead of time and just heat it before you serve it if you want to. 

Large flake nutritional yeast in wooden bowl, overflowing in wooden spoon over planks
 

Where can I buy nutritional yeast?

You can buy it in most grocery stores, but it is cheaper to buy it in bulk at your local health food store. I usually buy nutritional yeast on Amazon.

Can nutritional yeast be frozen? 

When sealed and stored in a cold, dry spot in your pantry, nutritional yeast has a shelf life of approximately a year. Or  you can freeze it in sealed bags for up to two years. 

What does nutritional yeast taste like?

Nutritional yeast has a savory taste that is similar to that of cheese, making it a perfect way to add flavor without adding salt, sugar, or fat. It brings a unique umami flavor that mimics both cheese and chicken.

What can I use in place of nutritional yeast?

If you are allergic or sensitive to nutritional yeast you can still make this. Don’t do a one-for-one substitution, but try small amounts of tomato paste or powder, add extra garlic powder or mushroom powder to bring that umami flavors that nutritional yeast brings.

Please note that these substitutions will not be the same cheesy flavor as nutritional yeast, but they will still be delicious. 

A pile of fresh turmeric roots on a wooden table

Is ground turmeric good for you?

Turmeric, especially its most active compound curcumin, has a long list of scientifically proven health benefits. It’s a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that can also help with many issues. Plus, it’s delicious in Instant Pot Turmeric Ginger Tea Concentrate, so you can reduce inflammation and relax from the warming, delicious tea.

Is ground turmeric good for dogs?

Turmeric, on the other hand, is okay for dogs in small doses. If you look at the label of your dog’s food, you might even find it. But the main reason is to improve the kibble’s color, not to have anti-inflammatory benefits.

Vegan and oil-free mac and cheese in 3 single serving ceramic bowls

More vegan cheese recipes to try

3 servings of vegan mac and cheese in bowls

Vegan Pasta Cheese Sauce for Mac and Cheese

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Some nights you need something that doesn’t take much effort to make for a quick dinner. This one has the added bonus of being easy on your wallet too. This mac and cheese is simple to make and uses pantry ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-oz) package gluten-free or regular macaroni

Sauce Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1⁄4 cup  unsweetened nondairy milk
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil or vegan butter (optional; leave out to make oil-free)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon vegan lactic acid, optional can sub apple cider vinegar if you want it a little sharper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook macaroni by package directions, strain over a pot, measuring cup or mixing bowl to catch a little of the pasta water in case you need to thin the sauce out later. You only need to catch 1/2 to 1 cup and the rest of the cooking water can go down the drain. 
  2. Do not rinse the pasta, you want the starch on it to help thicken the sauce later.
  3. Return the drained pasta to the pot and add in the nutritional yeast, nondairy milk, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, lactic acid if using, mustard powder and turmeric. Add salt and pepper to taste.

    Cook over medium heat until the sauce reaches the desired thickness.

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Nutrition Information

Yield 4 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 150Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 10mgSodium 120mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 4gSugar 0gProtein 8g

Nutrition information is provided from nutritionix.com as a close estimate. If you have specific health issues please put the recipe information, including the exact ingredients you use, into the nutritional calculator your Dr. recommends.

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