Comfort Classics Reinvented: 5 Plant-Based Mac and Cheese Recipes

Say goodbye to grainy, sad substitutes, and “hello” to creamy, melty, cheesy flavor!
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July 1, 2019 Leave your thoughts 2.5 min read

Let’s be real: you’re a normal human being who has needs. It’s OK to have cravings. We all get wistful for the foods we grew up with. That’s right, we’re talking about mac and cheese!

For so many of us, mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Whether our moms and dads shook it out of a blue box with a batch of that strangely satisfying orange cheese powder, or lovingly whipped it from scratch, mac and cheese tastes like a warm hug in a bowl.

Plus, it’s delicious! With velvety melted cheese, soft, bite-sized noodles (elbows or shells — we’re not playing favorites), and a crispy-crunchy cracker topping, what’s not to love?

"Fortunately, vegan mac and cheese has come a long way."

It’s no wonder, then, that mac and cheese has been a Holy Grail for people looking to eat plant-based. And yet, this beloved classic has been notoriously tricky to replicate. Is it really possible to reinvent a dish that is all about the cheese…without the cheese? Some recipes simulate cheesy flavor with ingredients like miso and nutritional yeast, but can’t get that melty texture quite right. Others are creamy thanks to ingredients like coconut milk, but taste bland. Finally, some recipes seem obsessed with perfecting a cheesy orange color — as if dousing turmeric everywhere is supposed to trick us into thinking we’re eating CHEESE?! Just no.

Fortunately, vegan mac and cheese has come a long way. If you’ve been disappointed by grainy, not-very-cheesy recipes in the past, it’s worth giving this classic another chance. We tapped OMD team members for their favorites and scoured some of our favorite food blogs for the ultimate plant-based mac and cheese to serve up.

Here are five of our favorites. Which one is the best? You be the judge!

The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese
Fly Vegan
This recipe uses tofu as a binder, giving the dish a creamy texture and an extra boost of protein. We also love the addition of cajun seasoning for an added kick.

Image: veggieinspired.com

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Veggie Inspired
This version is made entirely from whole-food ingredients and gets its cheerful, cheesy yellow color from butternut squash, making it extra healthy for mac and cheese loving kiddos. It’s also soy-free.

mac and cheese on a fork

Image: minimalistbaker.com

The Best Vegan Gluten-Free Mac and Cheese
Minimalist Baker
This recipe uses arrowroot powder for that melty, stringy cheesy consistency. With gluten-free penne pasta, a sophisticated white cheese sauce, and a crumbly, baked vegan parmesan topping, this is an elevated take on a childhood classic.

vegan mac and cheese

Image: loveandlemons.com

Vegan Mac and Cheese
Love and Lemons
Tomato paste, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, and paprika give this mac and cheese its satisfyingly savory flavor, while coconut milk makes it creamy. While we acknowledge some of you might consider it blasphemy, we like the addition of peas for a pop of sweetness.

butternut-squash-mac-and-cheese

Image: mississippivegan.com

The Best Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
Mississippi Vegan
This recipe is one of very few that makes the case for using actual vegan cheese in mac and cheese. Alternative cheeses have come a long way. If you stick with a high-quality brand (the recipe calls for Follow Your Heart, one of our favorites), you’ll get a satisfying dish that tastes like a classic.

What’s Next?

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About the Author

Ilima Loomis is a freelance writer in Hawaii. Read her work at ilimaloomis.com.

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