Creamy Vegan Carrot Mac with Walnut Herb "Parmesan" | The Full Helping

This creamy vegan carrot mac with walnut parmesan is what happens when you’ve got a strong hankering for comfort food, but a fraction of the time it would usually take to whip up a bubbly, baked, mac n’ cheese masterpiece. It’s quick and untraditional, but for me, so many of the key components are here: those sweet, nostalgic pasta elbows, cheesy flavor, a super creamy sauce, and a crispy, salty, savory sprinkle on top.

I’ve played around with lots of different, speedy vegan mac n’ cheese formulas: this one is a go-to, and in the summer this red pepper version is my favorite. I’ve had a feeling that last weekend’s chilly snap might be the last hurrah of winter 2018 (it’s supposed to be in the 70s on Saturday!) so I’ve been enjoying a few of my favorite roots and cooler weather veggies. I used Brussels sprouts as a mix-in here; you could us broccoli florets, zucchini or summer squash, chopped kale, or pretty much any vegetable you’d like instead. The veggies get added to the pasta as it cooks, making the recipe especially streamlined.

Creamy Vegan Carrot Mac with Walnut Herb "Parmesan" | The Full Helping

The star, as with any mac n’ cheese dish, is of course the sauce. I’ve been wanting to try carrots as a base for ages (there’s a more elaborate butternut mac in Food52 Vegan that I love, and I suspected that carrots might add a similar, subtle sweetness), and I’m so glad I finally did it. I love this sauce, and I’ll probably make batches of it to use as an all-purpose cheese sauce; I’m pretty excited to pour it over a baked potato in the very near future.

Creamy Vegan Carrot Mac with Walnut Herb "Parmesan" | The Full Helping

The sauce can be made ahead of time, if you want the dish to be as easy as boiling pasta. For a little crispiness on top, I whipped up a simple walnut herb “parmesan.” Once again, I was excited to have a new and different version of something I’ve made many times before: you can create vegan parm with pretty much any nut + nutritional yeast + sauce, but this was my first time using walnuts. I was happy to have such a nutrient-dense nut as a base, and the flavor is great—dried herbs add a lot to this otherwise simple meal.

Creamy Vegan Carrot Mac with Walnut Herb "Parmesan" | The Full Helping

4.71 from 17 votes

Creamy Vegan Carrot Mac with Walnut Herb "Parmesan"

Author - Gena Hamshaw
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yields: 4 servings


For the mac:

  • 2 cups roughly chopped or sliced carrot
  • 1/3 cup 1.5 ounces raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained of soak water
  • 3/4 cup + 1-3 tablespoons as needed water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 small clove garlic or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces pasta of choice I like a small shape, like shells or elbows, for this dish
  • 12 ounces halved or quartered depending on the size, trimmed Brussels sprouts, or another chopped vegetable of choice
  • Walnut "parmesan" below, or a vegan parmesan of choice, for topping

For the walnut parm:

  • 1/2 cup raw walnut halves or pieces
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme


  • 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. Add the sauce and mix well; taste, then add additional salt as needed. Divide the mac onto plates and top with the walnut parm or your vegan parm of choice. Serve.


The carrot sauce can be prepared up to four days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Creamy Vegan Carrot Mac with Walnut Herb "Parmesan" | The Full Helping

With an intense final stretch of the semester directly in front of me, I couldn’t be happier to have these leftovers in the fridge, waiting to feed me for the next couple nights. I’m sure I’ll be ecstatic to eat something more springy by Saturday, but today, comfort and coziness is the name of the game. Happy Tuesday—I’m beaming cozy thoughts to you all.


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Recipe Rating

  1. 5 stars
    Awesome Work, Your information is Really True and Very useful.

    Thanks For Sharing information!!!!………

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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!