While there are many recipes around for this classic comfort food favorite, trying to find a vegan version of Mac and Cheese that tastes like it came from the familiar blue box can be hard. Finding the perfect vegan Mac and Cheese is akin to a quest for the Holy Grail for many vegans. The number of commercially available vegan Mac and Cheese products has jumped dramatically in the past few years, but to us they all have a chemically taste. When I first set out to create a vegan Mac and Cheese, we started with an old fashioned omnivore version and tried swapping in vegan dairy products, but that became a very heavy, oily mess. So, I took a step back thought about how to solve this problem and soon realized I was overthinking it. I tried again using coconut oil in place of vegan butter because it has a more neutral flavor and in place of vegan cheese, I used nutritional yeast. That was all it took.

This is the recipe for our Classic Mac and Cheese. You can stop after mixing the sauce and macaroni together, but I  like to sprinkle ours with a crispy panko topping.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4-6

1 pound elbow macaroni
2 tablespoons refined coconut oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups plain, unsweetened, vegan milk
1 cup nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup panko


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add some salt and the macaroni. Cook until the macaroni is done, about 8 minutes, but check the box for timing. Drain the macaroni and return to the pot.

2. While the macaroni is cooking, prepare the cheese sauce: In a medium pot, melt the coconut oil over medium heat, add flour and mix well to make a roux. Cook the roux for 5 minutes, then whisk in the milk and stir well to keep mixture smooth. Cook for 5 minutes minutes, or until sauce comes to a simmer, whisking continuously to make sure no flour sticks to the bottom of the pot.

3. Whisk in the nutritional yeast, dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. Add additional milk if the sauce is too thick for your taste.

4. Pour the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and mix well to thoroughly coat the macaroni. You can serve it as it, or make a crispy panko topping to sprinkle on it.

5. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the panko and toss to lightly coat in the oil. Cook, stirring constantly until the panko starts to turn golden brown. The panko can go from golden to burned very quickly, so don’t walk away from it. When the panko is golden, remove it from the heat.

6. Ladle the mac and cheese into bowls and top with the crispy panko.