Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

No-Moo Mac: A Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese Recipe

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Updated on April 29, 2024

Reviewed by Nouran Ashraf

Embarking on a journey to create the ultimate comfort food often leads us to a beloved classic: mac and cheese. But what if you could enjoy this timeless dish with a twist that’s not only delicious but also caters to a dairy-free lifestyle?

Our dairy-free mac and cheese recipe reimagines this comfort food staple by blending ingenious ingredients that replicate the rich, velvety texture and deep flavours of traditional cheese. 

Whether you’re a long-time vegan or just dipping your toes into dairy-free cuisine, this recipe is designed to delight your palate and bring a wholesome twist to your table. Let’s dive into the world of dairy-free deliciousness and discover how to whip up this comforting, guilt-free treat.

So, shall we roll up our sleeves and get cracking in the kitchen?

What is Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese?

Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese is a tasty meal that anyone can enjoy. It is macaroni pasta in a rich, creamy sauce. But there’s no cheese or milk from animals in it! This dish uses plant-based foods instead.

Some of these are almond milk, vegan butter and nutritional yeast. People call it ‘vegan macaroni and cheese‘, too.

Don’t worry about taste, though! Despite having no dairy, this dish boasts an indulgent cheesy flavour thanks to its clever mix of ingredients. Plus, if you’re short on time, you’ll love how quick it takes to whip up – under 30 minutes for a delicious bowl of Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese! You can also make twists on the recipe, like adding vegan bacon bits for extra yumminess without animal products.

Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Benefits of Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Dairy-free mac and cheese offers several benefits, particularly for those with dietary restrictions or health concerns.

It’s important to note that while dairy-free mac and cheese has these potential benefits, the nutritional value can vary widely depending on the specific ingredients used. Some dairy-free alternatives might be high in processed ingredients or added sugars, so checking the nutritional information is always a good idea.

Suitable for lactose-intolerant individuals

Lactose intolerant? You can still enjoy a bowl of cheesy goodness. Dairy-free mac and cheese is perfect for those who can’t take dairy. It has no lactose, the sugar in milk that causes belly pain and other problems in some people.

This dish swaps regular milk with dairy-free ones like almond or oat milk. Plus, there’s vegan butter instead of the usual one from cows.

This creamy meal tastes as great as the classic type! It even feels smooth on your tongue, like when eating real cheese. Using simple ingredients, it lets you savour a yummy food without worrying about your tummy later.

Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Healthier option with less saturated fat

Dairy-free mac and cheese is a good pick if you want to eat less saturated fat. Traditional mac and cheese often has lots of this type of fat. Saturated fat can be bad for your heart health.

Going dairy-free can help you reduce how much you eat in one meal. 

This dish uses stuff like butternut squash or nut-based sauces instead of real cheese. It still tastes great but has far less saturated fat than the usual kind! You also get added health perks from the veggies used in this dish, making it even better for your body.


Use plant-based ingredients that are good for you. The cheese sauce gets its creamy texture from cashews, potatoes, and carrots.

For that cheesy taste without the dairy, add nutritional yeast. Sometimes, even throw in some vegan cheese! It gives a familiar flavour to those who miss traditional cheese flavours. There are many ways to enjoy this dish if you’re on a plant-based diet or have food allergies! This recipe can be changed based on what foods work best for you.

Ingredients for Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Creating dairy-free mac and cheese involves using alternative ingredients to replicate traditional cheese’s creamy, rich texture and flavour.

Remember, the specific ingredients can vary based on the recipe and personal preferences. Some recipes might include additional spices, herbs, or even different types of vegan cheeses available in the market.

Are you curious to find out more about how these ingredients come together? Keep reading!

Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese


  • Type: Choose shapes like elbows, shells, or penne. Whole wheat, gluten-free, or grain-free kinds of pasta can be used depending on dietary needs.
  • Purpose: Serves as the base of the dish, providing texture and substance.

Dairy-Free Milk Alternative:

  • Options: Unsweetened almond, soy, oat, or cashew milk are good choices.
  • Purpose: Acts as a creamy base for the sauce without adding dairy.

Nutritional Yeast:

  • Description: Yellow flakes or powder, rich in B vitamins and often fortified with B12.
  • Purpose: Imparts a cheesy, umami flavour crucial for mimicking the taste of cheese.


  • Preparation: Raw cashews, soaked in water for several hours or boiled for quick softening.
  • Purpose: When blended, they create a smooth, creamy texture that thickens the sauce.

Vegetables (for Color and Nutrition):

  • Common Choices: Carrots, potatoes, or butternut squash.
  • Preparation: Cooked until soft and then blended.
  • Purpose: Adds natural colour, nutrients, and creaminess to the sauce.

Tapioca Starch/Flour:

  • Alternative: Cornstarch or arrowroot powder can also be used.
  • Purpose: Helps thicken the sauce and provides a stretchy, cheese-like consistency.

Lemon Juice or Apple Cider Vinegar:

  • Amount: A small amount is usually sufficient.
  • Purpose: Adds acidity and a slight tang to mimic the sharpness of cheese.

Garlic and Onion Powder:

  • Variations: Fresh garlic or onion can be used and sautéed before blending.
  • Purpose: Enhances the savoury depth of the sauce.

Mustard or Mustard Powder:

  • Amount: A small quantity for a subtle tang and complexity.
  • Purpose: Adds depth and a slight tanginess.

Salt and Pepper:

  • Adjust to taste.
  • Purpose: Basic seasonings to enhance the overall flavour.
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese


  • Amount: A pinch is enough, mainly for colour.
  • Purpose: Provides a natural yellow hue, similar to cheese.

Olive Oil or Vegan Butter:

  • Use For sautéing ingredients or adding richness to the sauce.
  • Alternative: Coconut oil or any neutral-tasting oil.

Breadcrumbs (Optional for Topping):

  • Type: Panko or regular, with gluten-free options available.
  • Preparation: Can be toasted with a bit of oil and spices for extra flavour.
  • Purpose: Adds a crunchy texture when sprinkled on top before baking.
  • Vegan cheese, which melts perfectly on top of the dish. It adds a creamy and cheesy taste without any dairy.

How to Make Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Making dairy-free mac and cheese involves a few key steps to ensure you get that creamy, cheesy flavour and texture without any actual dairy. Here’s a detailed guide:



  • Pasta: 16 oz (about 450 grams) of your preferred shape.
  • Dairy-Free Milk: 2 cups unsweetened almond, soy, or oat milk.
  • Nutritional Yeast: 1/2 cup for a cheesy flavour.
  • Raw Cashews: 1 cup, soaked in water for a few hours or boiled for 10 minutes.
  • Carrots and Potatoes: 1/2 cup each, chopped (for colour and creaminess).
  • Tapioca Starch/Flour: 2 tablespoons for thickness.
  • Lemon Juice: 1 tablespoon.
  • Garlic Powder: 1 teaspoon.
  • Onion Powder: 1 teaspoon.
  • Mustard or Mustard Powder: 1/2 teaspoon.
  • Salt and Pepper: To taste.
  • Turmeric: A pinch for colour.
  • Olive Oil or Vegan Butter: 2 tablespoons.
  • Breadcrumbs: Optional for topping.


Preparing the Pasta

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente.
  • Drain and set aside.

Making the Sauce

Soften the Cashews:

  • Soak raw cashews in water for a few hours or boil for 10 minutes until soft.
  • Drain and rinse.

Cook the Vegetables:

  • Boil carrots and potatoes until they are soft.
  • Drain and set aside.

Blend the Sauce:

  • In a blender, combine the softened cashews, cooked carrots and potatoes, dairy-free milk, nutritional yeast, tapioca starch, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard, salt, pepper, and turmeric.
  • Blend until the mixture is completely smooth. You might need to scrape down the sides of the blender a few times.

Combining and Baking

Combine Pasta and Sauce:

  • In the pot used for the pasta, heat olive oil or vegan butter over medium heat.
  • Add the blended sauce and cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, stirring to coat the pasta evenly.

Bake (Optional):

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Transfer the mac and cheese to a baking dish.
  • Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top if using.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy.


Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
  • Serve hot. You can garnish with fresh herbs or a sprinkle of paprika for extra flavour.


  • Adjust Consistency: If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more dairy-free milk. If it is too thin, cook a bit longer to reduce it.
  • Flavour Variations: Feel free to add other spices or ingredients like smoked paprika, chilli flakes, or even a bit of vegan cheese for different flavour profiles.
  • Nut-Free Option: If you need a nut-free version, consider using sunflower seeds or a commercial nut-free vegan cheese substitute.

Enjoy your creamy and satisfying dairy-free mac and cheese, a comfort food classic made suitable for various dietary needs!

10 Tips for the Best Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Creating the best dairy-free mac and cheese can be a delightful culinary adventure. Here are detailed tips to enhance your dairy-free mac and cheese, ensuring it’s as delicious and satisfying as the traditional version:

Choose the Right Pasta

  • Type: Select a pasta shape that holds sauce well, like elbows, shells, or penne.
  • Cooking: Cook the pasta al dente (slightly undercooked) as it will continue to cook in the sauce or when baked.
  • Gluten-Free Options: If using gluten-free pasta, avoid overcooking it, as it can become mushy.

Perfecting the Sauce

  • Creamy Base: Cashews are ideal for a creamy texture, but if you’re nut-free, try using sunflower seeds or a silken tofu base.
  • Nutritional Yeast is Key: It provides a cheesy flavour, so don’t skimp on it. Some brands may have more robust flavours, so adjust to taste.
  • Thickness: Use tapioca starch for a stretchy, cheese-like consistency. Arrowroot or cornstarch are alternatives but offer slightly different textures.
  • Flavor Depth: Add spices like garlic powder, onion powder, and mustard for depth. Fresh garlic and onion sautéed in vegan butter can also enhance the flavour.
  • Acidity: A touch of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar can mimic the tanginess of cheese. Adjust according to your preference.

Balancing the Nutritional Profile

  • Vegetables: Incorporate potatoes, carrots or even butternut squash not only for creaminess but also for added nutrition.
  • Protein Boost: Consider adding peas, spinach, or vegan meat substitutes for additional protein.

Baking Technique

  • Breadcrumbs: A breadcrumb topping adds texture. For gluten-free needs, use gluten-free breadcrumbs.
  • Bake to Perfection: If you choose to bake your mac and cheese, do so until it’s just golden on top to avoid drying it out.
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Seasoning and Spices

  • Adjust to Taste: Don’t be afraid to adjust the salt, pepper, and other seasonings. Everyone’s palate is different.
  • Experiment with Spices: Try smoked paprika, chilli flakes, or a hint of nutmeg for different flavour profiles.

Consistency Adjustments

  • Thinning the Sauce: If your sauce is too thick, add a bit more dairy-free milk or water.
  • Thickening the Sauce: If it’s too thin, cook it a bit longer or add a small amount of extra tapioca starch.

Serving Suggestions

  • Fresh Herbs: Garnish with fresh herbs like parsley or chives for a burst of colour and freshness.
  • Accompaniments: Serve with a side salad or steamed vegetables to round out the meal.

Storing and Reheating

  • Refrigeration: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
  • Reheating: Reheat gently, adding a splash of dairy-free milk if it’s become too thick.

Experimenting with Vegan Cheeses

  • Store-Bought Vegan Cheeses: Experiment with different brands and types of vegan cheeses for added flavour and creaminess.
  • Homemade Vegan Cheese: Try making your vegan cheese sauce using ingredients like agar-agar for a firmer texture.

Mind the Allergens

  • Nut Allergies: Always consider nut allergies. Use alternatives like seeds or certain types of vegan cheese that are nut-free.

By following these tips, you can create a dairy-free mac and cheese that’s not only delicious and comforting but also aligns with your dietary preferences and needs. Enjoy experimenting and finding your perfect combination!

Storing and Reheating Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Following these storage and reheating guidelines, you can enjoy your dairy-free mac and cheese with the best possible taste and texture, even days after making it.

Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese

Refrigerated Mac and Cheese:

  • For best results, reheat in the oven or on the stovetop.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place the mac and cheese in an oven-safe dish, add a splash of dairy-free milk to keep it moist, cover with foil, and heat for about 20 minutes or until hot.
  • Stovetop: Reheat in a pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add a little dairy-free milk or water to keep it from drying out.

Frozen Mac and Cheese:

  • Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
  • Follow the same reheating instructions as above, but you may need to increase the heating time.

Tips for Best Results

  • Avoid Microwave if Possible: While convenient, microwaving can make the pasta mushy and the sauce grainy. If you must use a microwave, do it in short bursts, stirring in between, and add a little liquid to keep it creamy.
  • Add Freshness: Sprinkle some fresh herbs, nutritional yeast, or a dash of spices after reheating to refresh the flavours.
  • Consistency Adjustments: If the sauce thickens too much upon reheating, gently stir in a bit of dairy-free milk or water until you reach the desired consistency.
  • Portion Reheating: Only reheat the amount you plan to eat. Repeatedly reheating and cooling can affect the taste and quality.

Guilt-Free Comfort Meal

In conclusion, our journey through the delightful world of Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese demonstrates that embracing a dairy-free lifestyle does not mean compromising on flavour or comfort. 

It’s a dish that brings people together, offering the warmth and nostalgia of traditional mac and cheese, yet it’s fully accessible to those who avoid dairy. The final product is not just a bowl of pasta; it’s a comforting, nourishing, and satisfying meal that celebrates the joy of inclusive cooking.

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