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The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese (Instant Pot)

5 from 2 votes

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Would it be presumptuous to say this is the best vegan mac and cheese? I don’t think so. I have tried all the commercial brands. They are…okay. Usually loaded with oil and come with a bit of a chemical aftertaste. This mac and cheese is whole-food plant-based. The cheese sauce is made in the Instant Pot and is literally made of vegetables, cashews, and seasonings. Depending on the type of pasta you choose to use, you could have a vegan mac and cheese that is actually good for you! It is processed-oil free (but not fat-free because of the cashews.) Continue reading below for directions for making this dish on the stovetop.vegan mac and cheese

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Comfort Food!

This Vegan Mac and Cheese is plant-based comfort food at its finest! For other vegan”comfort food” recipes, try my:

This recipe was inspired by my Vegan Chili Cheese Sauce. I returned home one Sunday, after a weekend away, and found that my daughter had tweaked the Chili Cheese Sauce recipe a little to make a vegan mac and cheese sauce. Of course! Why didn’t I think about that before? And it was perfect…almost. I tweaked a little further and came up with a delicious, creamy, cheesy, sauce that works great with small shaped pasta…like mac and cheese! Only this one is plant-based! Entirely!

What You Will Need:

Vegetables and cashews for vegan cheese sauceThese are all the ingredients you will be cooking in the Instant Pot. So good for you right?!?

Ingredients for vegan cheese sauce

And these are the ingredients you’ll be adding to your high-speed blender along with the cooked vegetables. Nothing unhealthy here!

Tips and Tricks for Making the Mac and Cheese Sauce in the Instant Pot:

  • You start with making your cheese sauce BUT if you are a skilled enough cook, you can also be boiling your water and cooking your pasta at the same time. Use any small shape pasta you like. For this recipe, I chose a medium shell pasta. There are so many varieties, made of so many different ingredients. Just read your label to make sure it complies with your standards. You will be cooking 12 ounces of pasta.

THE CHEESE SAUCE

  • This “cheese” sauce is developed for the Instant Pot (affiliate link). I promise I ‘ll have a stove-top version soon. Start by “rough-cutting the vegetables. You don’t need to peel and you don’t need to chop perfectly because you will be blending in a high-speed blender (affiliate link) after they cook.
chunks of carrots, potatoes, peppers for vegan cheese sauce
Cut vegetables into chunks. They will be blended so no need to be perfect.
  • Some recipes for this type of cheese sauce call for weighing your vegetables. I haven’t found that is necessary. This recipe calls for three gold potatoes. This will be approximately four cups. If you are using extra small potatoes, just make sure you measure and have a generous four cups.
four cups of potatoes
Three largish gold potatoes will yield about 4 cups. No need to peel.
  • There is no need to soak the raw cashews (affiliate link) because the pressure cooker does a great job of softening the cashews for you. If, however,  you are using roasted cashews, do soak for a couple of hours and drain and rinse well.
  • Add all vegetables, including the garlic to the Instant Pot. You do not need to chop your garlic either.
  • I use chopped garlic I buy in bulk though, and so I estimate 1 teaspoon per clove.
  • Add the water and close your lid, making sure the vent is also closed. Using manual, set for 5 minutes on high; it will take a little while to come to pressure. You will know it’s at pressure when the minutes start counting down
Instant Pot set to 5 minutes
On manual mode, set the Instant Pot for 5 minutes high pressure. Do a quick release when done.
  • When the timer goes off, do a quick release. I usually use a long spatula or spoon to open the vent…because hot steam! Let the vegetables cool for a few minutes because they will be hot! You can fiddle with your pasta or the seasonings in the meantime.

THE SEASONINGS

  • While the vegetables are cooking in the Instant Pot, go ahead and get the seasonings together. I portion them out into a small bowl, if I have time, in order to make the finishing/blending process go quicker. The seasonings we use are what really give this a cheesy tangy flavor.
  • The number one ingredient you should have in your vegan kitchen is nutritional yeast. This is different from brewer’s or baker’s yeast and you absolutely cannot substitute either of those. Here are some various nutritional yeasts I’ve used (affiliate links). Sometimes you have to experiment to see which flavor works best for you. Trader Joe’s also has a good one.

(Affiliate Links)

  • Another important ingredient you will use is White Miso Paste (affiliate link). Miso paste is also an important ingredient you will use time and time again in a vegan kitchen. You only use a little at a time but it keeps well in the refrigerator. This is really hard to find in the grocery store. I understand you can find it in Asian markets. I get mine on amazon.com.
    • I have tried this recipe without the while miso paste because I’ve had a few emails asking if it was really necessary. Here is what I discovered…Yeah it works. It tastes like every other homemade vegan mac and cheese out there. So go ahead and make it without the white miso if you are in a hurry and don’t want to find some. BUT and this is a huge BUT – I will tell you, using white miso paste is what really tips this vegan mac and cheese over the edge from ordinary to really really fabulous! It’s worth it!
  • Apple cider vinegar is another must-have for your vegan kitchen. I use the unfiltered kind with the “mother”. You can usually find this brand at the grocery store.
  • You will also use mustard powder (super important), garlic powder, turmeric powder, garlic powder, and chili powder.

BLENDING IT ALL TOGETHER 

  • Carefully (because it will be hot) transfer the vegetables, cashews, and water from the Instant Pot to a high-speed blender. I use a measuring cup to scoop them out and a handy little silicone mitt to lift my pot and pour the last bit of the water into the blender.
Silicone mitts grabbing instant pot
These silicone mitts can grab ahold of the hot Instant Pot
  • Add all other ingredients. Blend at high speed for 3-5 minutes or until everything is creamy and smooth. (You might be tempted to double this recipe but don’t. Even if you have the largest 8qt pressure cooker, which could probably handle the doubling, your blender cannot. You simply can’t blend this one in batches.)  Immediately pour over the pasta and enjoy! I like to top with paprika, chives, and a little sea salt.
  • Depending on the pasta you use, you are going to have extra cheese sauce. Don’t be mad at this but consider it a gift! I put the extra into a little container and keep it in the fridge up to a week. I pour liberally on vegetables and potatoes. It’s healthy so why not? It can also be used for a dip for chips. Yum!
vegan Cheese sauce on potatoes and vegetables.
Enjoy the leftover cheese sauce on potatoes or vegetables. Remember, it isn’t really cheese, and so nothing unhealthy here!

Do you have to make this vegan Mac and Cheese Sauce in the Instant Pot or can it be made on the stovetop?

And the answer is….no, it doesn’t…and yes, it can! I made two different versions side-by-side using the same ingredients. One version, in the Instant Pot and the other version on the stovetop. I prepped all ingredients ahead of time and put them both in their respective pots at the same time. They finished cooking within a few minutes of each other. The results were the same with regard to flavor and texture.

Which did I like better?

Meh…

  • Cooking in the Instant Pot was easier because you can just transfer the cooked ingredients and water to the blender.
  • Cooking in a pan on the stovetop, you have to measure out 1 1/4 cups liquid and drain the rest.
  • I thought I could save washing a pan by cooking on the stovetop and reusing the same pan I cooked the pasta in. That didn’t really happen though because I cooked my pasta along-side my cheese sauce, cooking them at the same time – just like I do when I’m cooking in my Instant Pot.
  • So…whichever you prefer. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t let that stop you from making this vegan Mac and Cheese recipe. You’ll be so glad you did!
  • Directions for cooking on the stovetop:
    • Prepare all vegetables and measure out cashews.
    • Put into a medium/large pot and cover with water.
    • Cover and bring to a boil on high. Turn down the heat slightly a gently boil for about 10 minutes or until all vegetables are fork-soft. Check the potato for the best estimate.
    • Reserve out 1 1/4 cup water. Dump the rest into a colander, draining  the vegetables/cashews of the remaining water.
    • Add the reserved water and drained vegetables/cashews to the blender and proceed with the rest of the (Instant Pot) directions.

Pin it now to save for later: vegan mac and cheese in white bowl with pinterest text overlay

Other useful items (affiliate links)

vegan mac and cheese

The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

The sauce for this Mac and Cheese is entirely plant-based.  It is oil-free and made with vegetables, raw cashews, and seasoning. Make it using a pressure cooker and high-speed blender.  It is creamy, rich and cheesy, and healthy too!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: vegan mac and cheese
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
coming to pressure: 10 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 416kcal
Author: Cindy Rainey

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces dry pasta small shape like elbow or shells

Goes in the Instant Pot

  • 1/2 orange bell pepper seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot roughly chopped
  • 3 large gold potatoes roughly chopped, about four cups
  • 1 clove garlic no need to chop
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 1/4 cup water

Goes in the Blender (The Seasonings)

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons white miso paste

Instructions

  • Follow package directions to cook 12 ounces of pasta.  You can do this while you are making your cheese sauce, or you can do after if you prefer.  If you do it before or during, drain and set aside.  This is an oil-free dish; but if you cook your pasta ahead of time, you might need to add a little oil to keep it from sticking. 

Goes in the Instant Pot

  • Rough cut your vegetables.  No need to peel.  Add to the pressure cooker.
  • Add raw cashews and water. 
  • Close the lid, making sure the vent is closed, and set on manual for 5 minutes on high.  Do a quick release when finished cooking.

The Seasonings and High Speed Blender

  • While the vegetables and cashews are cooking, get the seasonings together.  I like to add them all to a small bowl so that I can just dump when I'm done. 
  • After the vegetables/cashews have cooked and have cooled slightly, transfer to high-speeded blender - along with the water they cooked in.
  • Add all seasonings.  
  • Blend on high speed for 3-5 minutes or until creamy and smooth.
  • Pour on top of and mix into cooked pasta.  Season with extra salt and pepper to taste.  I also like to add paprika, chives, Maldon Sea Salt, and Parsley on top.
  • Save any left over cheese in an airtight container in the fridge up to a week.  Use on vegetables, potatoes, or chips.  YUM!

Notes

You MUST disclose to anyone you serve this recipe to that it contains nuts.  Nuts are not normally found in cheese sauce or mac and cheese and so it is important to disclose.
The cheese sauce can also be cooked on a stovetop it you don't yet have an Instant Pot. Follow these directions for cooking the cashews and vegetables. Then add to the blender along with the seasonings and other indredients and proceed with the directions. 
  • Directions for cooking on the stovetop:
    • Prepare all vegetables and measure out cashews.
    • Put into a medium/large pot and cover with water. 
    • Cover and bring to a boil on high. Turn down the heat slightly a gently boil for about 10 minutes or until all vegetables are fork-soft. Check the potato for the best estimate.
    • Reserve out 1 1/4 cup water. Dump the rest into a colander, draining  the vegetables/cashews of the remaining water.
    • Add the reserved water and drained vegetables/cashews to the blender and proceed with the rest of the (Instant Pot) directions.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 416kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 16g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 620mg | Potassium: 742mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 490IU | Vitamin C: 23.3mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 5.4mg

Vegan mac and cheese pin

By on January 21st, 2019

About Cindy Rainey

Veggie Fun Kitchen by Cindy Rainey
Welcome to Veggie Fun Kitchen where you will learn to recreate family favorites the plant-based/vegan way! Let me know if I can help. I'm here for you.

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4 thoughts on “The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese (Instant Pot)”

    • Yes, thank you. And that reminds me that I do need to update this recipe with stovetop directions. Here you go:
      Chop all vegetables and measure out raw cashews.
      Add to a large-sized sauce pan and cover with water.
      Cook on high until boiling and then turn down to medium.
      Cove and continue gently boiling for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork-tender.
      Reserve out 1 1/4 cups cooking water.
      Using a colander drain out the rest of the water from the vegetables/cashews.
      Add the drained vegetables/cashews along with the reserved 1 1/4 cups water to a high-speed blender along with the rest of the seasonings and continue to follow the directions given in the original (Instant Pot) recipe.

      Reply

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