Coconut Milk Mac and Cheese

Coconut Milk Mac and Cheese

Do Vegans Eat Cheese?

My heart broke a little bit when I first heard the news in order to call myself a vegan, my pal cheese and I had to say goodbye. Stubborn in my ambition, I created this coconut milk mac and cheese to symbolize in actuality-all things are possible with vegan!

Long story short-no, vegans don’t eat cheese.  But we are artists- and anything is possible with a little creativity! We build “cheese” from plants. And that is pretty damn cool!


macaroni and cheese on a plate
Coconut Milk Mac and Cheese Recipe
Mac and cheese in black dish
Kids Favorite Food!

The Ultimate Kids Vegan Food

If your kids love macaroni and cheese (and lets be honest, who doesn’t), they will LOVE this. 

All is fair in love and war. Especially when that involves a collective decision on “what’s for dinner.” 

Imagine a set of 2-6 independent taste buds sitting around the communal dining space (aka the kitchen table). One’s a veggie lovin’ fool, one thinks all meat matters, and one eats nothin’ but Honey Nut Cheerios. 

Lets let choosers be choosers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a few tricks to bring to the table as well!  

Hide the absence of cheese and load the plate with fiber and antioxidants in these oodles of noodles combined with vegan goodness! 

A little farce to keep the table happy, the bellies full, and the bodies nourished? I”m not above it!

What is Plant Based Mac and Cheese Made Out of?

There’s many ways to create the perfect cheesy imposter through plants. 

A few ways to make vegan cheese include using ingredients such as: 

  • Soy
  • Almonds
  • Sesame or Sunflower Seeds
  • Tapioca Starch
  • Rice
  • Nutritional Yeast

Depending on the source, the texture and flavor of vegan cheese may vary a bit.  

Many vegan cheese combinations also include ingredients such as: 

Starches allow the cheese alternatives to melt and stretch which makes them ideal for cheesy alternatives. This makes lactose free mac and cheese created with nutritional yeast and cashew a perfect balance!

Fats such as coconut oil give cheese alternatives the consistency people are familiar with. You can find all the ingredients you need to experiment with variations on this plant based shopping list.

Finally, the acidity and lime offers a tangy taste similar to that of our true cheeses!  

macaroni noodles and cashews
Macaroni noodles and Cashews for Cream Sauce

Does Vegan Cheese Taste like Real Cheese?

limes and seasonings
plant based cheese sauce ingredients

I’ll be honest, one of my most difficult obstacles in becoming a full fledged vegan is imagining my abstinence from that yellow block of love teetering on my refrigerator shelf.

Cheese always seemed to promise security of simple snacking and making all mediocre things great. 

I couldn’t imagine a veggie cheese, that while full of hype, couldn’t melt on demand or properly fill a quesadilla. 

Then I began to ask myself the question-does it really need to? 

Veggie cheese isn’t going to be perfect at everything that cheese does.  It’s not an replica-it’s a whole new character!  This plant based mac and cheese is perfect for vegans, as well as those with intolerances!

The answer to the question of whether or not vegan cheese tastes like real cheese is simple- yes and no.  

I can create a damn tasty cheese sauce out of vegan materials and your pallet won’t be able to distinguish the difference. That’s the case with this veggie cheese mac. 

However, if you’re looking for something that will remain firm and mushy simultaneously, we’re going to need to work a bit harder.  I’ve seen it done with highly processed products- but in my opinion the taste is compromised.  

Instead of re-inventing the cheese. I encourage re-inventing the meal! Make it better than the original composer and see how your pallet thanks you. 

Is Vegan Cheese Healthy?

There are a few things you will find in veggie cheese that you WONT find in true cheese.

  • Fiber-regardless of your ingredients list, pretty much all vegan cheeses are fiber rich.  Animal based cheeses will be absent these fine little carbohydrates. 
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (potentially, depending on source of cheese) found in vegan cheeses! Omega 3’s boost brain health and reduce inflammation.
  • B12, an important energy booster and critical for our nervous system. 

Like animal based cheeses, most vegan cheeses are a great source of protein and calcium. 

Cheese Made Nuts
plant based cheeses are often made with nuts
Veggies on cutting board
choose veggies to include in plant based pasta

Can I sneak Veggies into Mac and Cheese?

Here is where things get real! If you’ve got a real veggie hater, the size of the chop on the veggies might matter! 

The good news is, everything is better with cheese. And even if you’ve got a baby Einstein on your hands, they’re probably not going to be able to tell the difference between this cheese like saucy goodness and the real deal!  

That, or it’ll just taste so great they won’t give a hoot. Either way, we’re counting this as a team parental win!

Chopping veggies a little smaller, or even blending into cheese sauce can be an easy win for everyone.  

Some veggies that are popular in Vegan Mac & Cheese are: 

  • Broccoli
  • Mushroom
  • Sweet potato (typically in sauce)
  • Cauliflower

Really any veggies can be used in this dish. As usual, this is just what I found in the back of the fridge! 

Whole Grain Heart-Y balance

I can’t say I’ve eaten a refined grain in… well I’m not even sure how many years.  Unless you want to talk about sourdough bread.  That’s basically an instant addiction when it walks in the door (you KNOW what i’m talking about!) 

Whole grains are good for you heart, keep cholesterol in check, and promote healthy digestion.  

If you’re in question about wether or not something is a whole grain, check for whole wheat or whole grain as the first ingredients.  Look for 3 grams of fiber or more!

Refined grains are typically those that haven been stripped of the bran and germ.  They don’t offer as many nutrients and fiber as our whole wheat products. 

However, if you’ve got picky eaters I’d encourage just tossing in whatever pasta promises instant admiration and calling it your plan. 

In parenting, love can be a battlefield and we need pick and we should pick our battles well. 

These Vegan cheesy noodles are already so plump full of nutrients.  Whole grain or white grain, we can pat ourselves on the back for the night for a job well done.

pasta variety for plant based mac and cheese
Coconuts and milk
coconuts used to make plant based dairy

Can I Substitute Coconut Milk for Milk In Mac and Cheese?

Coconut milk gives this dish is creamy and savory consistency.  For anyone with taste buds, when you put it in macaroni and cheese with the right additional ingredients its an instant win!

However, coconut milk, has a very distinct flavor. This Mac and cheese will be slightly sweeter than other sauces which gives it a legit heavenly taste! 

For me- I like to combine this with spice! I will sometimes add jalapeño or sriracha to create the absolute perfect balance! 

Coconut milk is rich fiber and many vitamins and minerals. It can promote heart health and reduce inflammation. It can also be beneficial in immune function. 

I just have to brag a bit here.  My daughter is 14 and hates any type of coconut as well as any type of nut.  Since this has both cashews and coconut, and she gobbled it up, I’m feeling like a real jester right now! My 4 nieces and nephews also approved. 

Alternatives Ways to Create This Plant Based Mac and Cheese

If I didn’t have tiny taste buds in the house, here are a few things I might alter in this meal. 

  • More root veggies.  Carrots and squash offer an excellent source of sweetness. 
  • Chop the veggies a bit larger.
  • Roasted red pepper or sriracha added to the dish. 
  • adding truffle oil, if I’m feeling adventurous.
  • adding garlic for an added kick of zest.

This mac and cheese has a tint of “tropical” or “sweet” flavor due to the coconut milk.  This is quite tasty, but if you want to tone it down, a little spice can help. 

Crushed Garlic on dark background
toss in garlic for added flavor in plant based mac and cheese
Coconut milk vegan Mac
Coconut Milk Vegan Mac

How Long Does Vegan Mac and Cheese Last in the Fridge

Vegan Mac and cheese will last about 3-4 days in the fridge. 

As previously mentioned, coconut oil does tend to solidify under cooler temperatures. 

As the temperature cools down, you will notice a bit thicker sauce.  This will change the consistency if this is used as leftovers. 

This really isn’t a problem as one can quickly add a bit of water or additional coconut milk to bring this plant based mac back to its original consistency. 

Create a Baked Vegan Mac & Cheese

I LOVE mac and cheese.  This meal is a bit versatile.  You can make it “saucier” or more like traditional Mac and cheese based on how much time the sauce stays on the heat.

I’ve learned nutritional yeast acts as a natural thickening agent, and heat really manipulates the way it’s going to act! This is true for coconut milk as well.  Thus if you want to bake this vegan Mac and cheese, just expect it to have a bit thicker consistency. 

Here are the steps to making this a baked vegan Mac and Cheese:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. 
  • Grease a 9 X 11 baking dish
  • Blend 2-3 slices of toasted bread with 1/4 cup vegan butter. 
  • Add bread crumbs to vegan Mac and cheese. 
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes until bread crumbs are golden brown. 


Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese
Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese
Nutritional yeast
Create Mac and Cheese with Nooch Sauce

Create the Perfect Vegan Mac and Cheese

There are literally hundreds of ways to create a delectable vegan mac and cheese!  

Another one of my favorites is just adding some standard nooch sauce without the coconut milk to noodles.  

What is your favorite way to vary up this comfort food vegan style? 

macaroni and cheese on a plate
Print Recipe
5 from 2 votes

Coconut Milk Mac and Cheese

This scrumptious comfort food is made entirely from from plants!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: lactose free mac and cheese, vegan mac and cheese
Servings: 8
Cost: $7.50


  • Skillet
  • medium sized pan


Plant Based Cheese Sauce

  • 1 cup cashews soaked
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast small flakes
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lime juice fresh squeezed
  • ¼ cup mustard dijon or ground
  • ¼ cup earth balance vegan butter spread
  • 4 cups pasta noodles
  • 1 can coconut milk


  • Combine all sauce ingredients. Blend on high 1-2 minutes in a high powered blender.
  • Cook noodles for 10 minutes
  • Add cashew coconut milk mac and cheese sauce to noodles.



The sauce will thicken as it is heated or sits.  
Vary this recipe by adding spices, garlic, or additional veggies.  You can also vary size of added veggies to change texture. 
You can also influence consistency by changing amount of vegetable broth added. 

Shena Jaramillo. Registered Dietitian

Hi I'm Shena. I'm an eating disorders dietitian in Washington state. I hold bachelors degrees nutrition & dietetics, cultural anthropology & psychology. I believe in honoring your hunger, having your cake whenever you want it, and that critically analyzing diet culture can change the world!

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