Crockpot vegan mac and cheese is luxuriously rich, creamy, and so easy! It starts with dry elbow macaroni (no need to boil first). Then simply blend the vegan cheese sauce and combine everything in the slow cooker. It's a versatile, easy Crockpot recipe and the perfect vegan mac and cheese for parties, holidays, and lazy days at home! Easily made gluten-free and/or nut-free.
Why You'll Love It
In my world there's no such thing as too many vegan mac and cheese recipes.
From different flavors and ingredients to various cooking methods - like stovetop, baked, Instant Pot, or slow cooker - when a craving for cheesy macaroni hits, it's good to be prepared!
And today's recipe is great because you can make it as rich as you like, or keep it on the healthier side.
Also, prep is delightfully simple! It basically breaks down to 3 steps:
- Blend the vegan cheese sauce.
- Combine with dry pasta in the slow cooker.
- Slow cook on low for about an hour-and-a-half, stirring occasionally.
Voila! As an option, you can add shredded vegan cheese near the end of cooking for extra flavor and decadence. The slow cooker melts it like a boss.
There are no veggies to chop, nothing to saute, and no need to boil the pasta first!
- pasta - I find small shapes like a classic elbow macaroni work best here since we're cooking the mac and cheese on low in the slow cooker. But other shapes are fine, too. As long as you'll be around to check for doneness, you'll find the recipe is pretty forgiving.
- garlic - fresh garlic does wonders for the overall flavor of the sauce. If you're not a huge fan of garlic, just use 1 small clove. If you ARE, you may even want to bump it up to 3 medium/large cloves. Two cloves is enough to give it a wonderfully savory flavor without actually being garlicky.
- raw cashews - adds body and creaminess to the sauce; if you avoid cashews, substitute raw sunflower seeds.
- vegan butter - if you avoid oil or simply want to keep the total fat low, it's fine to omit the butter. Otherwise, the amount is flexible - anywhere from 1 to 4 tablespoons is good. You can also vary this depending on how much cheese you plan to add.
- lemon juice - adds tartness and acidity for cheesy flavor.
- rice vinegar - also contributes acidity and tang.
- vegan cheese - I used Daiya cutting board shreds, and it worked really well and tasted amazing! Sub homemade vegan mozz, if desired, or skip the cheese and adjust salt to taste.
- nutmeg - a classic addition to many dairy-based cheese sauces, ground nutmeg is optional but I like to include it.
- tapioca starch - if you're using cashews AND adding vegan cheese, you can skip this ingredient since cashews and cheese contain plenty of starch to thicken the sauce. If using seeds and avoiding oil/butter/cheese, the added starch helps thicken the mac and cheese. sauce
See recipe card below for quantities and full recipe.
How to Make Crockpot Mac and Cheese
First, plug in the slow cooker and let it preheat for a few minutes. Next, blend the sauce using just 1 ½ cups of the water. Once it's smooth, add the remaining 2 cups water and blend to combine.
Put the dry macaroni in the slow cooker, and pour the sauce over top.
Stir very well, cover with the lid, and cook on low for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the cheese, if using. Cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the pasta is tender.
Tip! Slow cookers brands can vary in temperature. So you may find that you need to adjust the cook time or even switch to "high" for a few minutes. I'm using a Crockpot, which I've read tends to be hotter than some brands.
The good news is that slow cooker mac and cheese is a very forgiving recipe! Just check on it a few times, making adjustments as needed, and it will turn out great.
- cashews/seeds - if you don't have a high-speed blender and/or just don't want to use whole nuts or seeds, I feel confident that a plain, unsweetened milk like soy or cashew could be substituted (also reduce the water by a comparable amount).
Use your best judgment here, and try not to change too many ingredients at once. For example, if you are including butter and/or store-bought cheese, it will be easier to get by without the nuts.
- pasta - any small pasta with a short cook time (around 5 to 6 minutes as indicated on the package) shouldn't require any major changes to the cook time. But you can certainly sub a different pasta if needed, such as gluten-free or larger shapes, and extend the cook time.
- cheese - if you like the idea of adding extra cheesiness but don't want to use store-bought shreds, try my homemade vegan mozzarella.
How to Store
Vegan mac and cheese reheats well. To store the leftovers, let it cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in a microwave.
Freezing not recommended.
Slow cookers can vary across brands, so don't be afraid to adjust the temp or cook time based on how the mac and cheese looks during cooking.
Finally, this is a fairly forgiving recipe, open to adjustments in flavors, seasonings, etc. Milk, water, salt, cheese, and/or butter can all be added at the end to achieve your desired consistency and flavor.
You Might Like
I hope you enjoy this versatile vegan crockpot mac and cheese! If you try the recipe be sure to leave a star rating and comment below to let us know!
Vegan Crockpot Mac and Cheese
For the cheese sauce:
- 3 ½ cups water, divided
- ½ cup raw cashews or ⅓ cup raw sunflower seeds - see Notes for other options
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 to 3 tablespoons vegan butter, optional
- 1 tablespoon plain rice vinegar
- 2 small cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 teaspoons tapioca starch, optional - omit if using cashews & cheese
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine mineral or sea salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder, optional
- dash of ground nutmeg
- 16 ounces dry elbow macaroni
- ¾ to 1 ½ cups shredded vegan mozzarella - I used Daiya
- up to ¾ cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk - as needed for consistency
- If not using a high-speed blender, soak the cashews (or seeds) overnight OR in hot water for 2 hours. Drain before using. See Note 1.
- Plug in the slow cooker and let it preheat on low while you prepare the cheese sauce.
- In a blender combine 1 ½ cups of water with the cashews/seeds and the remaining sauce ingredients (nutritional yeast - nutmeg). Blend on high speed until smooth. Add the remaining 2 cups water and blend to incorporate.
- Dump the dry pasta into the slow cooker, and pour the sauce over top. Stir well. Cover with the lid, and cook on low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. After 1 hour, add the shredded cheese, if using, and stir very well. If not including cheese, simply check for doneness, taste and adjust the seasonings/liquid if needed. Cover and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the pasta is tender and the cheese is melted.
- The sauce will thicken as the pasta continues to soak up liquid. Add a splash or two of non-dairy milk as needed for creaminess. Serve hot.
Estimated Nutrition (per serving)
Nutrition information is an estimate and will vary depending on the exact amounts and specific products and ingredients used. We calculate this information using the online calculator cronometer.com.