This easy, nut-free vegan macaroni and cheese is a hit with kids and adults alike! Made with raw sunflower seeds and select whole-food ingredients that create a super creamy and cheesy sauce. It's also pantry-friendly, oil-free (or add vegan butter for extra richness), and easily made gluten-free.
This Stovetop Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe has received a lot of great feedback lately. It's still my all-time favorite ultimate, decadent macaroni and cheese. It even includes a nut-free option! So you may want to check out that recipe on occasions when you want a richer dish that uses store-bought vegan cheese.
But today's recipe has a few things going for it that the other recipe does not have: this nut-free vegan mac and cheese is:
- significantly lower in fat
- and ridiculously quick and easy to make!
Raw sunflower seeds are the base for our nut-free cheese sauce. I've been using them more often lately in some of my favorite cheesy recipes, like this pimento macaroni salad. They're widely available, affordable, and I've found that soaking them briefly helps soften their naturally nutty flavor.
You may be wondering why there are oats in this mac and cheese. Instead of using a starch like tapioca or potato (or the starch naturally present in cashews) to give our cheesy sauce an extra boost of creaminess, I've included a small amount of rolled oats, similar to this no-cook cheese sauce recipe.
If you'd rather not use oats, a small amount of tapioca or cooked potato works well, too!
The other ingredients like lemon, nutritional yeast, miso, and a very small amount of roasted red pepper all combine to create a tangy, salty, and cheesy flavor.
Step By Step Process
Making this healthy nut-free macaroni is as easy as boiling water and operating a blender. Seriously!
Here's a little more info to get you started. Be sure to scroll down to the recipe for complete instructions.
- First, place sunflower seeds in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soak for about 30 minutes, then drain and rinse.
- Cook pasta according to package directions.
- In a blender combine the drained sunflower seeds with 1 cup of the water and the remaining sauce ingredients. Blend until smooth. I mean really blend it! This helps release the starch in the oats AND makes the sauce ultra creamy, of course. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups water, and blend to combine.
- With the pasta draining in a colander, cook the cheese sauce over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the pasta, and stir to coat.
Voila! You're ready to eat. Isn't that super easy? No veggies to cook in advance, and ready in 25 minutes (not counting soak time).
Flavor Options and Helpful Tips
You can take the flavor of this easy vegan macaroni in so many different directions:
- Cooking for kiddos? Reduce the garlic to 1 clove.
- Love garlic? Include several cloves of roasted or sautéed garlic.
- Make it smoky with a touch of smoked paprika and a few drops of liquid smoke.
- Add roasted and chopped poblano pepper or jalapeños for extra flavor!
- Make it fresh and herb-y by stirring in pesto or zhoug sauce.
- Turn it into a full meal by adding sautéed kale, broccoli, or asparagus, and cubed tofu, beans, or seitan.
As the mac and cheese cools the sauce thickens and the pasta may soak up quite a bit of the sauciness. Simply stir in a few splashes of water or non-dairy milk to make it lusciously creamy again.
I haven't tested this sauce using a standard blender, but achieving a smooth texture shouldn't be too difficult. If you're feeling worried about your particular blender, feel free to soak the seeds a little bit longer. You can also pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to catch any unblended oat or seed bits.
You might also like:
- 40 of the Best Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipes
- Vegan Pimento Cheese
- Easy No-Cook Cheese Sauce
- Low-Fat Vegan Queso
- Vegan Parmesan 3 Ways
- 2-Ingredient Almond Ricotta
I hope you enjoy this nut-free vegan mac and cheese. If you try the recipe I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below to let us know.
Nut-Free Vegan Mac and Cheese
- 16 ounces elbow macaroni or pasta of choice - Sub gluten-free, whole-grain, or bean pasta as desired.
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
- 2 ½ cups water
- 3 tablespoons old fashioned rolled oats - Or sub 1 tablespoon tapioca starch.
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- small piece of roasted red pepper (the type from a jar), about a 1-inch strip of a pepper - Start with less then increase to taste.
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 ½ tablespoons mellow white or chickpea miso
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- pinch of nutmeg
- white pepper, optional, to taste
Option for richer mac and cheese:
- 2 to 3 tablespoons vegan butter, optional - Add directly to the pot in step 5.
- Place raw sunflower seeds in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soak for 30 minutes, then drain and rinse.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. While the water comes to a boil and the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce.
- To make the sauce, in a blender combine sunflower seeds, 1 cup of water, oats, garlic, red pepper, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso, both vinegars, salt, mustard powder, onion powder, and nutmeg. Gradually increase speed, and blend on high for about 1 minute. Stop to scrape down the sides as needed. Blend again until the sauce is completely smooth. Add the remaining 1 ½ cups water, and blend to combine.
- Taste the sauce, and adjust the flavor as desired, possibly adding another small piece of red pepper, more onion powder, nutritional yeast, salt, white pepper, etc. Blend again.
- When the pasta is done, drain in a colander. Pour the cheese sauce into the empty pot, and cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. If opting for richer mac and cheese, add the vegan butter now. Add the pasta to the pot, and stir to coat. The sauce will thicken as it sits. Serve hot.
TipsAs the mac and cheese cools the sauce will thicken and the pasta may soak up quite a bit of the sauciness. Simply stir in a few splashes of water or non-dairy milk to make it lusciously creamy again. I haven't tested this sauce using a standard blender, but achieving a smooth texture shouldn't be too difficult. If you're worried whether your blender is up to the task, feel free to soak the seeds a little bit longer. You can also pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to catch any unblended oat or seed bits.
StorageStore leftover mac and cheese in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop or in a microwave. Freezing not recommended. *Nutrition estimates calculated without optional butter.
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. For the most accurate nutrition information we recommend calculating it yourself to reflect the specific ingredients used in your dish.