Vegan Carrot Mac and Cheese
4.75 from 20 votes

This vegan carrot mac and cheese is the ultimate quick, easy, and nutritious comfort food. The creamy sauce is made with cashews and bright orange carrots, which make it both delicious and nutrient-dense. Mix it with your favorite pasta and top it with a vegan “parmesan” made with walnuts and nutritional yeast!

An overhead image of a white, rimmed plate, which has been topped with a helping of creamy vegan carrot mac and cheese.

Oh, how I love mac and cheese.

I’m not the only person, I know, who has a whole treasure chest full of fond childhood memories that involve this quintessential comfort food.

I loved the stuff in the iconic blue box. I loved homemade mac and cheese. I loved bake mac and cheese. Whenever there was a chance to eat mac and cheese, I was a happy camper.

As a vegan, I’ve created a whole new array of mac and cheese recipes to cherish. I’ve tried all sorts of different bases: non-dairy milk, silken tofu, various nuts.

I’ve also added a number of different vegetables to my vegan mac recipes, since I love adding veggies to pasta. This includes a butternut squash mac (in Food52 Vegan), a red pepper mac, and mac and cheese with peas.

This carrot mac and cheese may just be my favorite stovetop mac yet. There are a lot of vegan mac recipes that feature either butternut squash or pumpkin. I thought it would be cool to add carrot to a recipe instead.

I love both the subtle sweetness and the nutrition that carrots give to this recipe. Best of all, their bright orange color is naturally reminiscent of the famous blue box stuff!

How to make carrot mac and cheese

This is a stovetop mac and cheese, which means that it’s easy to prepare. In fact, this is one of my favorite, low-stress comfort food meals.

Soak your cashews

This recipe does not use the all-purpose cashew cream that I use in so many of my pasta recipes. But it does put a similar concept to work.

You’ll blend soaked cashews into a creamy sauce that includes carrots, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, and lemon juice. This is what gives the carrot mac its flavor and character.

Before you blend the cashews, they’ll need to be soaked in water. This softens them. The cashews will need at least two hours of soaking time (or 1 hour if you use boiling water). You can also soak them in the fridge overnight.

Cook your carrots

The carrots in the carrot mac and cheese sauce need to be cooked before you do anything else. You can steam them or microwave them. I usually pop them into the microwave.

You’ll need two heaping cups of peeled, sliced carrots. That’s about 9-10 ounces.

An overhead image of the container of a blender. It's filled with carrots, cashews, and various seasonings.

Blend your sauce

The sauce for the carrot mac and cheese is pretty simple. It includes:

  • Carrots
  • Cashews
  • Water
  • Sea salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper

That’s it!

If there’s some seasoning that you absolutely love adding to vegan mac recipes—paprika, herbs, truffle oil, you name it—feel free to give the sauce your own flourishes.

An overhead image of a clear, square container, which is filled with a bright orange sauce.

Boil your pasta

Next, you’ll need to boil pasta for the carrot mac. Check the box of pasta to find out how much time it needs and plan accordingly.

I love adding a green vegetable to this mac and cheese recipe. Since I make it most often in fall and winter, tend to add quartered or halved Brussels sprouts. However, I also love to add cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, peas, or zucchini in the summertime.

I recommend adding your vegetable 2-4 minutes before the pasta is finished boiling. The veggies will cook with the pasta itself, all in one pot, and then you can strain the ingredients together.

An overhead image of a small, white plate with a ground, nutty topping.

Make your parmesan (if you haven’t yet)

This recipe tastes so much better with a salty, umami-rich vegan “parmesan” topping. You have a few options for it.

First, you can use the walnut herb parmesan included in the recipe. Second, you can use my cashew parmesan or my hempesan—both are favorites of mine.

Finally, you can use a store-bought vegan parmesan cheese.

If you make a homemade version, then you can use the time while the pasta water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking to do it! You can also make the parmesan up to two weeks in advance and store it.

Mix and warm through

Finally, you’ll return your strained pasta and vegetables to their cooking pot. Pour in all of the carrot mac and cheese sauce, and mix everything over low heat until it’s warmed through.

Top each portion of pasta with your vegan parmesan and serve. Alternatively, you can store the pasta for up to five days in an airtight container in the fridge.

What sort of pasta should I use?

You can really use any pasta in the recipe. I tend to prefer using a small shape (like elbows or shells) or a medium pasta shape (like radiatori, orecchiette, fusilli, or cavatappi).

The pasta can be regular pasta, a gluten-free pasta that you like, whole wheat pasta, or bean pasta for a little extra protein. I like the red lentil pasta from Tolerant Foods, and Barilla Protein+ (a wheat and legume blend) is also really good.

Can I substitute the cashew cream?

If you have an allergy to cashews, never fear! You’ve got options.

In place of the 1/3 cup cashews, you can use pine nuts instead. Macadamia nuts are also a good replacement.

If you’re allergic to all tree nuts, you can try raw, shelled sunflower seeds in the sauce.

And if you have allergies to tree nuts and seeds, try using 1/3 cup of a tofu cream cheese (like Tofutti) in place of the cashews.

An overhead image of a pinch bowl, which is holding raw walnuts and herbs.

Why I love this walnut herb parmesan

While cashew parmesan cheese is my number one, I really love the walnut herb parmesan in this recipe.

First of all, walnuts are an especially nutrient-dense type of nut. They have Omega-3 fatty acids, phytonutrients that might aid in disease prevention and in tamping down inflammation, healthful fats to keep you full, and fiber.

Nutritional yeast, meanwhile, adds protein to this recipe, while herbs add plenty of flavor (without any additional salt or fat).

Feel free to substitute the walnut parm if you need to or have another preferred option. But if you make it, I think that you’ll find that it’s an easy way to boost the nutrition of pasta meals.

Meal prep & storage

The sauce for the carrot mac and cheese can be prepared and frozen for up to six weeks. It can also be stored for a couple days before you mix it with your pasta and veggies.

Pasta itself can be batch cooked, which is something I wish I’d figured out sooner. Pre-cooked, drained, and stored pasta will keep for up to four days in an airtight container in the fridge.

So, you have the option of preparing both the sauce and the pasta ahead of time and mixing when ready. Freshly prepared carrot mac and cheese will keep for up to five days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Finally, the walnut herb parmesan should be stored in the fridge, too. It’ll be good for up to two weeks in there.

An overhead image of a vegan dish of carrot mac and cheese. It rests in a white plate on a white surface.

Can I freeze carrot mac and cheese?

Absolutely! The mac and cheese can be frozen for up to six weeks.

More easy pasta dinners

There’s really nothing I love more than a simple, comforting pasta dish for dinner. Here are a few of my other favorites:

An overhead image of a white, rimmed plate, which has been topped with a helping of creamy vegan carrot mac and cheese.
4.75 from 20 votes

Vegan Carrot Mac and Cheese

Author – Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Soaking time for cashews 2 hours
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

For the mac:

  • 2 cups peeled and sliced carrots (about 10 oz/280 g)
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained of soak water (1.5 oz/42 g)
  • 3/4 cup water (plus an additional 1-3 tablespoons, as needed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 small clove garlic (substitute 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces pasta of choice
  • 12 ounces trimmed Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered depending on size (substitute broccoli or cauliflower florets, cut green beans, peas, or another vegetable of choice)
  • Walnut parmesan, below, or cashew parmesan cheese

For the walnut parmesan:

  • 1/2 cup raw walnut halves or pieces
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Instructions

  • Bring a pot of water to boil and fit it with a steamer attachment. Steam the carrots till they’re tender, about 8 minutes. Alternately, you can place the carrots in a microwave-safe bowl with 2 tablespoons water and microwave for 4 minutes, or until they’re tender. Set the carrots aside.
  • Bring a larger pot of water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions; 2 minutes before the cooking time is up, add your Brussels sprouts or other vegetable to the pot.
  • While the water boils and/or pasta cooks, transfer the cashews, cooked carrots, 3/4 cup water, salt, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and garlic to a powerful blender or a food processor. Blend till the sauce is very smooth; if it’s very thick or it won’t blend nicely, add an extra 1-3 tablespoons water, or as much as you need to get a thick but smooth and pourable mixture. Add black pepper to taste.
  • To make the parm, transfer all ingredients to a food processor and pulse till you have a fine crumble. (This can be done in advance; the parmesan will keep for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.)
  • When the pasta and veggies are ready, drain them. Return them to the pot and bring it to a low heat. Add the carrot sauce and mix well with the pasta. Warm everything through. Taste the pasta, then add additional salt as needed. Divide the mac onto plates and top with the walnut parm or your vegan parm of choice. Serve.
A dish of vibrant orange colored, carrot mac and cheese is resting on a white surface.

Hope you find as much cozy comfort in this stovetop meal as I do!

xo

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Recipe Rating




    34 Comments
  1. 5 stars
    I was so suspicious of a vegan Mac and cheese. I could make my ultimate comfort food with amazing gluten free pasta but lately have had to admit dairy is not my friend. I was really impressed with this dish. And more importantly so was my husband. We love this

  2. 5 stars
    So good! Made just as written with a splash of truffle oil at the end. Simple and delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    Awesome Work, Your information is Really True and Very useful.

    Thanks For Sharing information!!!!………

  4. 5 stars
    Dish Update- I have made this at my home yesterday it was so delicious and it was a good feast.Love this recipe and can’t wait to make it again. This looks awesome for healthy food.
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful recipe my friend.

  5. 5 stars
    Hooray! Mac and cheese without cashews! So simple and delicious. Thank you. PS In case anyone is wondering, it’s still delicious without the oil.

  6. Hey Gena, must say i love all your recipes but this one is really unique and delicious looking. Will definitely give it a try and make it the way you instructed. Thanks for sharing the recipe with us. Keep up the good work. Cheers!

  7. I’ve been vegetarian for years now but haven’t gone completely vegan, mostly because I can’t go without cheese (and the pre-made vegan cheeses are usually gross or loaded with preservatives). If these recipes work for me I may finally be ready to make the switch! really appreciate these ideas

  8. 5 stars
    This was great–thanks! And it’s so good as leftovers the next day, hot or cold.
    If you are using a food processor for the sauce as well as the parm, it saves time and dishwashing to make the walnut parm first and then the sauce (no need to clean the FP bowl in between since the flavours are so integrated). Also used the same pot for the carrots and then the pasta (will do anything to avoid extra dishes, ha ha!).

    I love your recipes here and am cooking my way through Power Plates right now too–love love love. You helped me realize that it was totally possible (and desirable) to become vegan. Thanks again!

    • LT, I’m SO glad that you’re enjoying Power Plates, and this is a great tip on the order of making the recipe components—thanks to you, I’m going to edit and update the recipe. Thanks!

  9. 5 stars
    Love this recipe and can’t wait to make it again. I used frozen cauliflower instead of Brussels because I thought that would go over better with my 18 months olds. Everyone who tried it thought it was amazing. Rich flavors, super delicious.

    • 5 stars
      This was good, but I thought that your parm stole the show., Soooo good. Thanks Gena.

  10. 4 stars
    I am a pasta lover, mainly creamy alfredo sauce pastas. This different take on pasta looks really delicious. I am going to cook this recipe for sure.

  11. This is just genius! I can easily keep my sodium in check and taste that amazing cheesy flavor! Thanks!

  12. Firstly, I thought it was the tumeric to make the sauce into yellow. But it turned out you used nutritional yeast. I’ve never tried it before so I did search some information and found some benefits. It seems interesting this one.

  13. Oh my gosh! Yum!!! This looks incredible! And I LOVE walnut ‘parm’ – I think out of all the nuts, walnuts work the BEST in a vegan parm!