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This cheesy, creamy Vegan White Cheddar Mac Bake is what dinner dreams are made of! Delicious, rich, satisfying and great for picky eaters, this is awesome mac and cheese bake is actually a healthy meal in disguise.
Hey Internet, who loves mac and cheese as much as I do? I’m obsessed with it. I ate so much of it this week when testing it for you and I’m still not sick of it. :D
I’m really obsessed with vegan cheese sauce (maybe because I’m also obsessed with pasta!) but the one thing I haven’t been able to figure out for the last 2 years of being vegan & plant based is how in the heck do I make white cheddar?
I discovered white cheddar mac n’ cheese when I was younger and became obsessed with it. Remember Annie’s White Cheddar Mac N’ Cheese with shells? That was my favorite.
I attempted quite a few times with cashews and seasonings but never could nail that delicate flavor. The cashews were too sweet and heavy, so I struggled to make a sauce like I remembered.
Until now of course. When I finally nailed it, I thought, this white cheddar mac n’ cheese is amazing, but how can we make it better? By adding mushroom bacon and baking it of course!
This bake is cheesy, smoky, decadent, and packed with umami flavor. It’s kind of like a macaroni casserole. Did you know it’s actually good for you?
Use a whole wheat or bean based pasta (like chickpea pasta--we like Banza in our house) first, and then add everything else--mushrooms, tofu. It's all pretty dang healthy!
But it’s SO GOOD that no one will know it’s actually healthy, and you may not have leftovers because it’s just that delicious. We didn’t have leftovers and we’re only a two person household (not counting the dog, but she didn’t get any of this, much to her chagrin). Oops.
Anyway, let’s get our cheesy deliciousness on!
What You’ll Need
Obviously you’ll need some pasta. Any kind will work!
I start most of my creamy sauces with a base of tofu, but for this sauce I mixed both tofu and coconut milk for a unique flavor base that really helped inform the rest of the flavor profile. I promise you won’t taste the coconut--it just adds a little plant based fat that enables this cheese sauce to be SUPER rich and delicious.
If you don’t want to use coconut milk -- or tofu -- check the substitutions section below.
I gave it some cheesiness with some of this unfortified nutritional yeast that I buy so much of I should invest in their stock (if they had one). Fortified nutritional yeast will work but your sauce will be more yellow
Lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, miso paste, and a dash of salt together make an amazing white cheddar flavor. If you are watching your sodium, you can decrease the salt level, but add in a little more of everything else if you do.
If you’d like to make the mushroom bacon, which I highly recommend, you can easily do so while the pasta is cooking.
You’ll need about a pound of mushrooms--white, crimini, or portobello will all work. For the marinade you’ll need soy sauce (or tamari if gluten-free), maple syrup, and liquid smoke (or smoked paprika).
What Substitutions Can I Make?
I used firm tofu for this recipe, but other varieties will work. If you go with a firmer tofu, you may need to add a little more liquid. Similarly, if you go with a softer tofu, add less liquid. If you use silken tofu, you probably don’t need to add any liquid (if you want a fat in there, go with solid coconut cream, cashews, or seeds).
To replace the tofu completely, you could use white beans, soaked cashews, or soaked sunflower seeds.
I couldn’t taste the coconut at all in this recipe, probably because the miso and spices are much more flavorful. However, you’re welcome to replace this with nuts or seeds.
If you’d like a lower fat option, just replace it with any unsweetened non-dairy milk. Use a little less, until you get the consistency you like. Note that some plant milks like almond are a little thin, so be cautious.
If you’d like to omit nutritional yeast completely, increase the seasoning and miso paste a bit. Though if you’re doing this because you didn’t like nutritional yeast, I’d still recommend trying it.
If you happened to try nutritional yeast just sprinkled on something, that’s a stronger flavor that some people don’t like. I prefer to mix it into sauces so that other flavors can work together with it, making it a great overall cheese flavor.
I recommend using white or yellow mild miso paste for this recipe. It adds a delicious cheesy flavor that helped me develop the white cheddar sauce.
If you can’t have soy and you’re already replacing the tofu, try using chickpea miso paste instead.
How to Make the Vegan Mac and Cheese
First, start your water boiling. Make sure to follow the instructions on the package of pasta you are using. We boiled our pasta in salted water until it was ALMOST done, then we drained the liquid and returned it to the pot.
You can make the sauce while your pasta is cooking. Simply add all the cheese ingredients to your blender and combine until smooth and creamy.
TIP: If you’d like to make your cheese extra gooey, add a quarter cup of tapioca starch or flour (same thing) to the blending liquid, and cook it stove-top like I do in my vegan mozzarella recipe. Then just mix it in--this is optional.
Making the Mushroom Bacon
If you’d like to make the mushroom bacon, you can do that now too. Slice your mushrooms and mix the marinade in a small bowl.
Toss them in the marinade a few times, and then add the mushrooms and marinade to a preheated nonstick skillet over medium high heat.
Now cook them down for 10-15 minutes. Any time the liquid completely evaporates, deglaze the pan with 2-3 tablespoons of water and stir.
The mushrooms should shrink to less than half their size and get very brown and delicious. Look at how gorgeous those are--like earthy candy.
You could totally stop right here and enjoy as is. Mix the pasta with the sauce, add the mushroom bacon if using, and serve it up!
Baking the Vegan Mac and Cheese
But baking it--oh my goodness, please try this because it’s just delicious.
Pack the mixture into a deep baking dish and sprinkle the top with bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, or a mixture of panko and nutritional yeast like I did. I used 3 tablespoons of panko with 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
Bake the mac at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (or 205 degrees Celsius) for 15-20 minutes or until the top has started to brown. Dig in and enjoy!
Leftovers--if you have any--should last up to 5 days in an airtight container, stored in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that most pasta is best the first night or two.
Other Awesome Vegan Pasta Dishes
We love pasta in our house, and we’d love to share some of our other recipes with you. Here are a few fan favorites to try:
- Vegan Ranch Pasta Salad
- Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes
- Chickpea Florentine One Pot Pasta
- Pasta Puttanesca (One Pot)
- Vegan Mac and Cheese (Instant Pot, but stovetop instructions provided)
- Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad
- Avocado Pesto Pasta
- Creamy Mushroom Pasta (One Pot)
As always, I hope you love this recipe--I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too.
This Vegan White Cheddar Bacon Mac is:
- And perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or last-minute potluck!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!