Whole Living Daily

Meatless Monday: Velvety Mac 'n' Cheese That Everyone Can Eat

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It's not everyday that you find a satisfying mac 'n' cheese recipe that's both gluten free and vegan. Until now. I've just downed my second bowl of it, and my husband is sitting across from me licking his lips. “Oh my God, I could eat this every day. You’ve done it again,” he says. I stare at my empty bowl and the empty pan, still warm from the remnants of the dairy-free sauce. I want more.

Mac 'n' cheese was my childhood staple. No matter the main course, mac 'n' cheese was often the accompaniment. It gave me instant comfort, regardless of the weather outside. But unfortunately, cheese is not always our friend (read all about that here). And if you’re lactose intolerant or a strict plant eater, giving up cheese can feel cruel and make many meals, particularly mac 'n' cheese, impossibly dissatisfying. But, no more.

Thanks to this recipe, adapted from YumUniverse, gluten-free mac 'n' cheese can actually taste better than the original. You'll be able to fool anyone with this rich recipe, chock-full of heart-healthy cashews, tahini, coconut oil, and B-vitamin-packed nutritional yeast.

To give it a more seasonal feel, I added tomato, zucchini, and yellow summer squash, but you could swap in whatever seasonal veggies you'd like.

1 of 5

1 Choose whichever shape pasta you like.

2 When soaked and blended, cashews lend a rich nuttiness to the sauce.

3 Make the mac 'n cheese heartier with seasonal veggies.

4 Cover the veggies with the sauce and warm until heated through.

5 Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat.

Gluten-Free Vegan Mac 'n' Cheese

16 oz gluten-free macaroni or shells, such as Ancient Harvest Quinoa Gluten-Free Elbow Macaroni
1 cup water
1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp tahini
1 cup cashews, soaked*
1 zucchini, peeled into spaghetti-thin strips
1 large tomato, chopped
1 red pepper, diced and blended with sauce
1 yellow squash, chopped


1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

2. Combine water, coconut oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, tahini, and soaked cashews in a blender and blend until smooth. In a large skillet, add veggies of your choice, pour sauce on top, and warm over medium heat until heated through.

3. Add noodles to sauce and mix until well coated.

* To soak cashews, cover whole, raw cashews with 2 to 3 cups salted, warm water. Make sure water covers nuts completely. Soak for two hours, drain, and rinse nuts well. Why soak nuts? It helps your body better absorb their nutrients, fats, and minerals.

Rea Frey runs her own food blog, Clean Convenient Cuisine, hosted by Chicago Tribune. She also writes a vegan and relationship column for Cheeky Chicago and is the senior editor of Chic Galleria. As a certified personal trainer and nutrition expert, Rea has helped countless individuals reach their nutrition and fitness goals by simplifying their lifestyles and breaking that "diet" mentality. A regular contributer on WGN radio, she discusses food and relationships and hopes to help bring simple solutions to any lifestyle problem. Her book, The Cheat Sheet: A Clue-by-Clue Guide to Finding Out If He's Unfaithful (Adams Media) will be released this summer.

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Comments (16)

  • Love, love, love this! I'm a vegetarian with a gluten sensitivity, who leans vegan. So, this is perfect. I can't wait to try this.

  • I'm so glad! I think you will absolutely love it!! :)

  • So the red pepper gets blended into the sauce but the other vegetables are sautéd with the sauce? Just want to make sure I'm reading it correctly.


  • Hi, Jenny. You can do either, actually! For this particular batch, I didn't blend the red pepper, but if you want the sauce to have a "deeper" appearance, go for it! It's great chopped and thrown in with the other veggies as well. Enjoy!

  • What's the breakdown on
    Carbs Fats Fiber and Proteins

  • Hi, Sylvia. I will have to do some calculations, but the important thing to remember when using a lot of these ingredients is that it's more about the nutrition you're supplying to your body rather than the fat, carbs, and protein breakdown - especially with plant-based eating. We focus way too much on weight in this country and not enough on internal health, don't you think? But, I will tally it up for you! :)

  • I agree re: weight vs health, but for those of us doing the job of our pancreas (I've been living with T1 diabetes 21 yrs), having the carb count on a recipe makes me much more likely to try it. Thanks!

  • This is great - I try to have a few vegetarian days a week and would have more vegan days if I didn't have a soy allergy (I like beans and legumes, and there are some great soy-free protein powders, but everything is a little more challenging when you can't have soy!) I'm excited to try this.

  • My husband has major food allergy issues that we're slowing figuring out... this sounds like a meal he can actually eat! So excited to try it!!

  • My daughter is gluten- and lactose-intolerant but she loves mac 'n' cheese - enough to sometimes eat it anyway in spite of the consequences. I've tried several alternatives but they all tasted awful. This also doesn't look like it's 'sick people' food but something the whole family would eat. It's hard to do family dinner when you can't eat what others can and it's hard to prepare meals that allow other people to eat their favourite foods without leaving one out.

    At least she's older now and responsible for what she eats - I know a mum who has three little ones and three different sets of food allergies/intolerances to cope with. I don't know how anybody manages that especially when kids like to eat other people's food.

  • i think i'll make this minus the macaroni. looks like it'll make a great raw dish!

  • The sauce is great with just veggies or with the noodles too. It is not exactly what I would consider mac n cheese but a good recipe none the less. Easy to make too!

  • What kind (shape) of noodles were used in the original picture of this recipe? Is that a flat pasta?

  • Hi,

    Great recipe--except, my son is also allergic to sesame seeds. Any idea for a substitute for the tahini?

  • Hi, Faye! This is Ancient Harvest elbow macaroni (quinoa pasta) but any shape will do! And Kara, you could actually forgo the tahini, which I've done before when I've been out of it. You might try another seed butter???

  • Ordinarily I don't learn article in weblogs, however want to claim that this kind of write-up really compelled myself to carry out that! Your current crafting taste continues to be pleasantly surprised my family. Thank you, really great post.

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