Easy macaroni and cheese recipe made with coconut milk and elbow pasta cooked in a rich, dairy-free sauce. This vegan-friendly take on an American classic is cheesy, sweet, and creamy.
Coconut milk macaroni and cheese is a vegan-friendly take on the classic all-American dish that swaps in a dairy-free sauce while still keeping everything you love about the comfort food classic.
This vegan mac and cheese recipe uses a clever combination of vegan butter, all-purpose flour, and coconut milk to create a plant-based sauce that oozes sweet and tangy flavors. The end result is a bowl of cheesy and saucy plant-based pasta that’s as close to the real thing as you can get.
From the best ingredients to making the best vegan cheese sauce, discover how to make coconut milk mac and cheese from scratch today.
- Use full-fat coconut milk and avoid using sweetened varieties. The flavor will overpower the rest of the dish and ruin the dairy-free cheese sauce.
- Use vegan butter that will melt and withstand high heat without burning. For our roux and bechamel sauce, we need to cook the butter for a prolonged period on the stovetop. Look for vegan butter that features coconut oil and avoid olive oil.
What Is Nutritional Yeast?
Nutritional yeast is a type of yeast specifically used to enhance food flavor with its cheesy and nutty flavor. For this reason, many people on vegan and dairy-free diets use it to help replicate the flavor of cheese in sauces.
Nutrition yeast is available in the form of yellow flakes and granules, and is most typically sold as fortified yeast in the spice section in health or large food stores.
If you are unable to get any, the best nutritional yeast substitutes are soy sauce or cashew powder. For this recipe, try either ¼ cup of low sodium soy sauce or ⅓ cup cashew powder.
Coconut milk mac and cheese is a great meal prep idea as the leftovers store well. Put the mac and cheese in an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to four days.
You can reheat this macaroni and cheese on a stovetop or in the microwave. Heat for a few minutes until warmed through. You may need to add some more unsweetened coconut milk as the sauce tends to clump up when it is in storage.
You can freeze this dish in an airtight container for up to three months. A better option may be to make a big batch of the cheese sauce and freeze that to prevent the noodles from getting soggy.
Coconut Milk Mac & Cheese
- 4 cups elbow macaroni
- kosher salt to taste
Vegan Cheese Sauce
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1 tsp hot sauce
- ¼ cup vegan butter
- ¼ cup mustard
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tsp paprika
- vegan cheese shredded (optional)
- In a saucepan, heat vegan butter over medium heat until melted
- Add the flour and whisk to combine and form a thick paste. Continue to cook until the flour browns and smells toasted, about 3 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and whisk until combined
- Bring mixture to a boil and leave to simmer until thickened, 5-7 minutes
- Add nutritional yeast, vinegar, hot sauce, mustard, onion powder, and garlic powder. Combine well until sauce is thick and consistency is similar to melted cheese.
- In a separate pan, bring water to a boil. Add elbow macaroni and salt according to package instructions. Cook to al dente.
- Drain macaroni and return to pot. Stir in vegan cheese sauce.
- Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
- Transfer macaroni pasta and sauce to baking or casserole dish. Sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs, paprika, and shredded vegan cheese (optional).
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and crispy
- Remove from oven and serve immediately