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The Best Healthy Dairy Free Mac and Cheese + Mom’s Secret Ingredients!

healthy dairy free mac and cheese

My mom’s mac and cheese was famous growing up.

mac and cheese

We’d beg her to make us for us when we were kids because Mac & Cheese night was always the best night of the week. And birthday, holidays you name it – I always wanted her to make her Mac & Cheese for every special occasion. I would have eaten her Mac & Cheese every night of the week if I could.

healthy dairy free

And who could blame me? Her mac and cheese was the best! I still dream of my mom’s Mac & Cheese to this day and sometimes wish I could teleport her to Europe to make it for me. It’s that good.

ceara s kitchen

Until I made this Healthy Dairy Free Mac and Cheese that is (sorry mom if you are reading this – I’d still love for you to come visit!).

healthy dairy free mac and cheese

I always loved helping my mom in the kitchen – measuring the ingredients, helping her stir and listening carefully to her instructions. It was even better when she’d let me in on family traditions and secret ingredients. And when my mom taught me her number one requested recipe you’d be sure she let me in on all her tips & tricks.

And today, I share with you something super special & close to my heart. My mom’s secret ingredients in her famous Mac & Cheese. And I’m sure she won’t mind – she’s a teacher and they are all about sharing knowledge and stuff πŸ˜‰ Love you, mom!

healthy dairy free mac and cheese

My mom’s now-not-so-secret ingredients in her Mac & Cheese:

Worcestershire Sauce – Gives the Mac & Cheese that irresistible & subtle tangy flava. *Traditional Worcestershire Sauce isn’t vegetarian, so I used Annie’s brand which is.

Mustard – Acts as a background ingredient and adds that extra oomph, bringing out the comforting flavors in the sauce.

Fried Onions – Enough Said. A bit of sweet & savory caramelized onions in any pasta sauce is always a good thing. πŸ˜€

This Healthy Dairy Free Mac and Cheese is super creamy, comforting, warming, luscious, cheesy, saucy, and kinda tastes just like my mama loves to make. πŸ™‚ Thanks, Mom!

healthy dairy free mac and cheese

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The Best Dairy Free Mac & Cheese

  • Author: Ceara
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


This Mac and Cheese is the best. Nobody will guess it is secretly healthy, dairy free & vegan. It’s creamy, comforting, warming, luscious, cheesy, saucy and the perfect comfort food. Don’t be set off by some of the non-traditional ingredients – every ingredient brings the traditional creamy, cheesy taste we all know and love in Mac & Cheese!


  • 500 grams/ 17.6 ounces macaroni*
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 24 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water or 2 tbsp olive/avocado oil (to “fry” garlic & onions)
  • 1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup cashews*
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast OR Parmesan cheese*
  • 3 1/2 cups soya milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree*
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts (optional)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Topping to Bake

  • 1/31/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • Chili Flakes (optional)


  1. Boil and cook 500 grams (17 oz.) macaroni until very al dente. *If you are baking the Mac & Cheese in the oven under-cook the noodles for 1 – 2 minutes*
  2. On medium heat, saute the chopped red onion and garlic in water or 2 tbsp avocado/olive oil in a large pot (I used water).
  3. Once the onions and garlic are browned, add chopped cauliflower with soy milk, cashews and nutritional yeast to the pot. Boil and simmer until the cauliflower is soft.
  4. Remove the cauliflower mixture off the element and blend the mixture with either an immersion (stick) or regular blender.
  5. Once the sauce is creamy and smooth, add pumpkin puree, tahini, pine nuts, vinegar/lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and nutmeg to the creamy mixture. Blend until creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for another 2 minutes on the stove-top.
  6. Add the macaroni and mix until all the noodles are evenly coated with the sauce!
  7. Eat now or..

Bake & Broil

  1. Pre-heat oven to 430F or 220C.
  2. Pour Mac & Cheese into a casserole dish (I used 2 liter/2 quart size). Cover with breadcrumbs and chili flakes.
  3. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid and broil for an extra 5 – 10 minutes to get a nice and crispy top.
  5. Allow to cool slightly, dig in & enjoy!


1) Make sure the macaroni is gluten free for a gluten-free version of this recipe. I used 2 boxes of “Ancient Harvest Quinoa-Corn Blend” (see photo underneath)
2) Nut-free/ lower fat version: Leave out the cashews & pine nuts. The sauce will be less creamy this way but still delicious. I always make it this way for my mom who has a nut allergy and she loves it!
3) Ensure the Parmesan cheese is vegan if necessary (if substituting for nutritional yeast.
4) Substitute pumpkin puree with sweet potato puree or any sweet squash puree
5) The Mac & Cheese will keep well in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a couple days.

  • Prep Time: 25 mins
  • Cook Time: 40 mins
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: American

healthy dairy free mac and cheese

If you do try this Healthy Dairy Free Mac and Cheese or any other recipes of mine, I love hearing about it! Insta or Tweet it to me (@cearaskitchen with hashtag #cearaskitchen) or Facebook it to me via the Ceara’s Kitchen Facebook Page! healthy dairy free mac and cheese 

For more Mac & Cheese Recipes follow the Ceara’s Kitchen Mac & Cheese board on Pinterest! πŸ™‚

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  2. This tastes like pasta covered with purΓ©ed boiled cauliflower. Had to throw the whole thing out. Not sure what happened here. Followed the recipe to a t.

  3. I made this today…I am kind of disappointed. It doesn’t taste “cheesy” at all. Thanks for sharing it, though. I’ll continue in my quest for a really good-to-my-taste-buds mac and cheese recipe.

    1. Hmmm… I wonder what went wrong. I’ve made this recipe countless times and it always comes out cheesy and creamy. PM me and I’d be happy to help to try and see why this recipe didn’t work out for you.

    1. This recipe does not require pre-soaking the cashews because you boil them with the cauliflower which softens them up πŸ™‚ Would love to know your results if you end up trying it!

    1. Thanks so much, Audrey!! A lot of ingredients that actually taste like tradition M + C cheese sauce! I even fooled my non-vegan family with this recipe! They loved it!

    1. Thank you so much, Nori!! And I am in love with quinoa pasta – it’s so delicious and tastes just like the traditional stuff!

  4. I just made this and it as awesome! I used spelt flour macaroni just as a personal preference but it still turned out amazing. I’ve tried other vegan Mac and cheese recipes but I love that this one sneaks in veggies and other healthy additions.

    1. Thanks so much for letting me know, Whitney! I’m so happy that you enjoyed the Mac + Cheese – it’s a favorite around here! I love sneaking in veggies wherever I can! Have a lovely day 

  5. Either we made this wrong or it’s just really bad. We threw the entire thing out. Sorry- it sounded delicious but wasn’t at all

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback, Stacey! I wonder what could have gone wrong! I’ve made this Mac + Cheese many times and have never had a problem with it yet. If you email me at ce***@ce***********.com and let me know what went wrong I’d be happy to help further with trying to find out what exactly went wrong! πŸ™‚

  6. This looks amazing! I want to try it for sure! Also, I wanted to point out, I don’t think you meant to use the word “infamous” to describe your mom’s mac and cheese. That would mean that it was known for being bad, not good.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Stacia! And thanks for pointing out my error! I’ve corrected it! Haha, it turns out I’ve been using “infamous” in a positive sense my entire life!! Thanks for clearing that up πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰

  7. I think I’m convinced to try this mac & cheese, Ceara! It’s so creamy and has a beautiful color! I love how you took your mom’s recipe and made it your own. I haven’t tried quinoa pasta but am intrigued since I want to get more super foods into my diet. Thank you for this delicious recipe, Ceara!!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words, Traci! I love taking “traditional” or family recipes and making them my own! I’d def. recommend the quinoa pasta – it’s great!! πŸ™‚

  8. I love mac and cheese, and I really love hearing your mom’s secrets πŸ™‚ I love adding mustard to my salad dressings (even though I HATE mustard), it just adds that extra oomf, just like you said. I would love to try it in Mac n Cheese! Thanks for the tip!

  9. Oh my goodness! I love everything about this recipe – especially the secret ingredients πŸ™‚ and the pumpkin! Mmm and the quinoa noodles are just an added bonus. Any vegan comfort food recipe is a friend of mine. I’m happy to have found your blog!


    1. Thanks for the kind words, Shannon! Any vegan comfort foods recipe is a friend of mine too!! Happy you came across the blog! πŸ™‚

  10. Ooooh look at that crust! I’m a sucker for crusty tops – and known to always scrape them off before anyone gets to them. I even peel the crusts off cake and leave the rest for whichever unfortunate soul comes across it πŸ˜›
    Love your recipe, we were looking through all your stuff deciding which one we wanted to make this week!

    1. I hear ya – crusty tops are the best πŸ™‚ They are my fave part too! The more crust the better I say πŸ˜‰ And let me know what recipe you two try – hope you love it!

  11. OMG! This mac n cheese looks so creamy and delicious!! I haven’t had mac n cheese in a while and now I am craving it so much! I love all the ingredients you added, especially the pumpkin! It has been so cold here lately and I need something comforting like this to warm me up!

  12. Looks so fantastic Ceara!!! I’m kind of drooling, haha! You know I love your mom already, because that is one of my secret ingredients in my “cheez whiz” sauce….I use a good amount of tahini and it enriches a cheese flavor, without it tasting like tahini. I would never think to add pumpkin….that’s awesome that it doesn’t taste like pumpkin. I’ve seen butternut squash and sweet potato used a lot, so why not pumpkin, lol?! Looks fabulous Ceara!! xx

    1. Oh gosh – you have a vegan Cheez whiz sauce? I have to try!! That sounds honestly delicious πŸ™‚ Tahini does really enrich the “cheese” flavor! Thanks, Brandi!! πŸ™‚

  13. I love mac’n cheese and this healthier version is just perfect! Will definitely try them! Love the addition of mustard and Worchestershire sauce πŸ™‚

  14. HOLY MAMA! This looks beyond incredible. It looks so damn saucy, which I love, because I’m a saucy gal and saucy gals need saucy pasta. It’s a fact. But this sauce is so healthy, you can load it on and not feel guilty, which I am wont to do. Also, looove the Quinoa noodles! They’re my fave. High five for this recipe Ceara! I’m definitely pinning it!

  15. Mmmm I love using purees in my mac and cheese! Love reading about your experience growing up and cooking with your mom, and of course, your mom’s secret ingredients are totally awesome. I love using onions in my mac and cheese, and worcestershire sauce is a genius idea =)

  16. This mac ‘n cheese looks fantastic, Ceara! I love your mom’s “secret” ingredients to this dish. I would’ve never thought to use Worcestershire sauce or mustard. Such a great idea! I love the crunchy topping, too. And I never knew that they made quinoa pasta! I’m definitely buying that this weekend, as I buy that brand of quinoa! Thanks for sharing this, Ceara! Pinned, of course! πŸ™‚

    1. The Worcestershire sauce really is a nice touch, Gayle! And I’m sure you’d love the quinoa pasta – it’s delicious πŸ™‚

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