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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
The sauce for the carrot mac and cheese is pretty simple. It includes:
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.
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.
This recipe tastes so much better with a salty, umami-rich vegan “parmesan” topping. You have a few options for it.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Absolutely! The mac and cheese can be frozen for up to six weeks.
There’s really nothing I love more than a simple, comforting pasta dish for dinner. Here are a few of my other favorites:
Hope you find as much cozy comfort in this stovetop meal as I do!