Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

The weather in Connecticut is currently in the 70’s, but it got cold for a few days last week and really felt like fall. I never miss an opportunity to layer and typically spend the months of October-December trying to strike that delicate balance of looking homeless but also put together. All the more important this year since I am actually without permanent residence.
I spent time at my sister’s house earlier this week going on homemade tractor rides, hiking through the woods, and making Halloween crafts. So cold weather or no cold weather, fall is officially here and this vegan macaroni and cheese is the perfect dish to welcome the season.

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese by Paint + Tofu

Let’s talk about cheese!
There’s really no perfect replacement for dairy cheese. There’s vegan cheeses that I absolutely love, but unlike some of the vegan ice cream, meat, and yogurt substitutes, there’s nothing that tastes exactly like cheese. It tastes awesome, but it tastes like some other food that is awesome.
So when I’m making something for non-vegans, I like to use natural ingredients when I can, and not strive for an exact replica of the cheese they’re used to eating. Sometimes I’ll even call it something else so people can enjoy the meal as the unique vegan dish that it is.

This recipe relies heavily on nutritional yeast, which is not at all the same as regular yeast. Do not try to substitute it! If you ignore my advice, you will have a mess on your hands. And I won’t even feel bad for you, because I tried warning you.

You can find nutritional yeast at most health food stores in the bulk bin aisle. It’s lower in calories than real cheese (about 60 calories per 2 tablespoons) and the fortified versions are a great source of vitamin B12 and iron. It gives food a cheese-like taste and can be used to make creamy sauces.

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese by Paint + Tofu


Recipe  adapted from Love and Lemons. Serves 6-8 people.

    • 3 shallots, finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup vegan butter
    • 1/4 cup flour
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • juice of 1 lemon
    • 2 cups coconut milk
    • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast
    • 3 tablespoons dijon mustard
    • 1 8 oz can tomato paste
    • 2 teaspoons turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (to taste), plus a little more on top
    • 12 oz elbow pasta
    •  1-2 cups pasta water
    • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (optional)
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • salt & pepper

For breadcrumb topping:

    • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Sauté onions and garlic with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes over medium heat, or until shallots are translucent.
    • Whisk in flour to thicken and cook on medium-low heat for a few more minutes.
    • Stir in lemon, coconut milk, tomato paste, dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, turmeric and paprika. Season with salt and pepper. Let cook for 15 minutes.
    • In the meantime, cook elbow macaroni according to directions on the box. When you drain the macaroni, save your pasta water!
    • When pasta is cooked, mix with sauce and peas, adding pasta water until the consistency is as thick or thin as you prefer.
    • Optional – I added about 1.5 cups of tomato sauce to give the dish more flavor. You can serve the dish at this point, or add breadcrumb topping and bake.
    • To bake with breadcrumb topping, transfer to a baking dish, and add an additional 1/2 – 1 cup of pasta water to prevent from drying in the oven.
    • Add breadcrumbs and pine nuts to top of dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle paprika and salt.
    • Bake for 8-10 minutes on 450 degrees.


Vegan Macaroni and Cheese by Paint + Tofu
Let’s continue talking about cheese!
If you own a cow and it’s living a normal cow-life, and you are milking it according to its needs and want to use that milk to make cheese, I can’t really fault you.  I don’t want any of your cheese, but I don’t have a huge ethical dilemma with what you’re doing.
But unless you have a pet cow that nobody knows about, your cheese comes from the same type of factory farms that meat comes from. The animals are confined to small spaces, killed when they’re no longer producing adequate amounts of milk, and treated as machines rather than animals for their entire lives.
I became vegetarian when I was 9 and didn’t go vegan until I was 19, because I just didn’t know. I assumed cheese production didn’t hurt animals, and I think that’s the general assumption of most people. But I was wrong, and while I wouldn’t tell you what to do, I’d encourage you to learn how cheese is made and see how you feel about it. Here’s a good place to start!



  1. David says

    This sounds/looks delicious. And while you can’t really call it “macaroni and nutritional yeast,” I like getting the idea across that it’s essentially a completely different dish, not an attempt to mimic a non-vegan classic.

  2. Claire says

    Creamy pasta sauces are one thing that I need to make more often…. (hello to all you non-vegetable-loving boyfriends out there! ;)) – one question: where does the nutrinional yeast go? it’s on the ingredients list and then not mentioned in the recipe. i’d guess it goes into the sauce in step 3, but i better ask what you’d say : )

  3. says

    this mac and cheese looks so creamy and delicious! i actually made the love and lemon’s recipe, but this one looks even better!

    so you’re back in connecticut? have you decided where you want to live yet?

    • kori says

      Thank you!

      I’m back in CT for a few more days…then moving to NYC! Certainly you will end up there for a visit or some kind of blogging conference and we can meet up!

  4. Andreas says

    Like everything else I have tried from this site, the macaronis turned out great! Had no peas so I threw in slices of tuscan cale instead. I used a little less mustard and also balanced with a bit of sugar (tomatoes often need that)

    Thanks for the recipe!

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