Mac and Cheese. Cheeze? Yeast?

Mac and Cheeze and Broccoli

There are innumerable recipes for vegan mac and cheese on the internet. I’ve tried a lot of them. Some of them simply call for “slices of soy cheese” and some vegetable stock to be mixed over pasta. The majority, however, require nutritional yeast, and they usually also require making a roux. The recipe below is from my upcoming cookbook, and it’s one of my favorites. However, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, there are some things about vegan mac and cheeze I want to talk about.

Now, I’m the first to admit “Mac and Yeast” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. That’s why I tend to call it “Mac and Cheeze”. But I’m also the first to admit that these recipes, even the best of them, don’t really taste all that much like mac and cheese. Some get much closer than others, and a lot are downright tasty. But it’s not cheese. Your omnivore or veggie friend/spouse/child may love it as much as or even more than the real stuff (if you’re lucky), but they probably love it on its own merits, not because they really can’t tell the difference.

But you know what? It doesn’t have to taste exactly the same for me to love it.

A lot of people, myself included, are really interested in making vegan food that’s indistinguishable from the “real” thing. It’s a fun challenge, and oftentimes, a challenge where you can really and truly be successful. But there are many instances where you don’t create something identical, but what you do create is actually good. Different, but yummy. While vegan mac and cheese doesn’t taste exactly like non-vegan mac and cheese, it satisfies the same craving. It’s rich and creamy and salty and vaguely cheese-like. It’s a yummy, thick creamy sauce to top noodles with.

I think that sometimes it’s enough to satisfy your cravings with something similar, if you can’t find something identical. After three years of being vegan, I don’t even crave mac and cheese anymore; I crave mac and yeast.

I think expectation is important with food. If it looks like a grape, you expect it to taste like a grape. If I hand you a glass of sparkling wine and tell you it’s gingerale, you might be put off when you take a sip. You might even like wine, but you expected it to be, well, not wine. If I say, “here, try this mac and cheese” and give you mac and yeast, you might be disappointed when you tasted it. If you’ve never tried a mac and yeast recipe before, and you want to try this one, keep in mind that it doesn’t taste like cheese.

It just tastes like yummy. Well, it does to me and the vegans that tested the recipe for me!

Mac and Cheeze
Serves 2-3

1/3 Cup Earth Balance Margarine
1/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
2 1/2 Tbs Low Sodium Tamari or Soy Sauce
1 Tbs Lemon Juice, fresh
1 Tbs Sweet/White/Mellow Miso
1 Tbs Tahini
1 Tbs Tomato Paste (not sauce!)
1 1/4 Cup Soy Milk
1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast
1 Pinch Salt
Black Pepper, to taste

Begin by heating a sauce pan and adding the earth balance. Once melted, add flour and whisk vigorously until a smooth paste forms, called a roux. Be careful not to add flour to a pan that is very hot, or your roux will be lumpy and you’ll need to start over. If you mix in the flour as soon as the margarine is melted and you should avoid any problems.

To this paste, add tamari, lemon, miso, tahini, and tomato paste and whisk until well incorporated. The mixture should still be paste-like. Then slowly pour in the soymilk, whisking constantly, until it is completely incorporated. Add the yeast and mix well. Cook the mixture until it thickens, whisking often. This should take approximately 5 minutes, but it’s flexible. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mac and Cheeze

I like this the most baked. Cook 3 cups of dry, small pasta (like elbows or shells or rotini) and toss with the finished cheezy sauce. Add steamed broccoli (pictured) for a real treat. Top with fresh breadcrumbs and bake at 400º for 25 minutes, or until browned and bubbly.

I’ve spilled so much ink so far (well, pixels) telling you that vegan cheese doesn’t taste like cheese, so I figured I’d close the entry with this: vegan cheese that, to me, tastes like mother forkin’ cheese! It deserves an entire entry devoted to it, so I’ll just leave you with this until part two of my vegan cheese post:

Medium Cheddar Sheese


  1. Laura

    Nice reflections on the controversies surrounding vegan Mac & Cheese. I hit on an improvement for color – since some recipes call for tumeric (or, god forbid, dyes). Saffron threads. They start out red but put them in the sauce first thing and by the time you’re adding sauce to pasta a beautiful bright yellow color has been leached out of them. This yellow blends with the beige of nutritional yeast to approximate something made with real cheddar. And before people jump all over me saying saffron is too expensive, I got a small vial of it at Trader Joe’s for $2.29 and a small vial goes a loooong way. Also perfect because it doesn’t add a contrasting flavor to the dish a la tumeric. Enjoy!

  2. Alexandra

    i’m not sure if i did something wrong but i didn’t like how it came out at all. i just spent 2 hours trying to perfect it (i’m awful at baking) only to be disappointed when i took the first bite. i didn’t have any miso on hand so i left that out completely… could this have caused it? the sauce wasn’t smooth when i took it out of the oven, either.

  3. rachel

    This was super delicious – I followed the recipe exactly, the sauce was beautiful! I did whisk the heck out of it, maybe that helps. I added sesame seeds to the breadcrumbs, and it was heavenly.

    I named this Noochy Noodles – that way no one expects the cheese. And it’s cute.

  4. Ashley Carter

    I tried this last night and it was great. I especially liked it because even when I though I had absolutely no food in my house, I was able to make it out of the staples I always have on hand. I’ve always made the more simple Nut. Yeast Cheese recipe in the New Farm Cookbook, but yours has way more flavor and is probably a lot healthier. Great job.

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  6. Chelsea

    I made this the other day for a party. Amazing. Even my carnivorous brother who scoffs at veganism chowed it down. Well done!

  7. missflyy

    I tried the recipe and it kinda tasted like peanut butter or some type of nut…wierd but it was still edible…i think it was the miso or tahini..go easy on does 2 items and it should be ok:)

    Hey! Yeah, I’d say it was definitely the tahini. Some brands are stronger than others (and the roasted version has a more peanutty flavor than the raw), so using less should be better for you!

  8. Kim

    Out of everything i’ve tried from your blog this is my favorite! I’ve made it several times (always baking it with broccoli or some type of veggie, and sometimes adding sauted tofu). Thanks!

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  10. sara

    for gluten-intolerant folks, brown rice flour works well. i just used it the other day. it almost thickens too well, in fact, so you might need to add extra liquid or use a shorter cooking time.

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  14. cindy

    I just wanted to say to those vegans who were actually thinking of giving up on the idea of mac and cheese, I wish we could inform everyone who is craving mac and cheese to try nutritional yeast. It’s an amazing ingredient. I haven’t tried your recipe or a mac and cheese recipe with lemon juice, soy sauce, miso, tahini, or tomato paste (I have used these ingredients in other things) because my daughter likes a basic mac and cheese similar to deli style or just plain kraft box mac n cheese. And I honestly cannot believe how much better nutritional yeast recipes taste than cows milk cheese (something I was used to my whole life). I use Earth balance margarine too. And I use whatever milk I have on hand, usually rice or soy. And I use the tiniest amount of tumeric. And I used white pepper and salt and white flour to make the cheese sauce creamy. And thats it. And it makes amazing basic creamy mac and cheese, dairy free.

  15. Marimar

    This is the first thing that i tried out from this webpage. I made this recipe three hours ago and there is none left in the fridge. I didnt have eb margarine so i used olive oil and canola oil instead. I also didnt have soymilk so i used hempmilk. I added dried cilantro and dill as well as some sriracha sauce. I also added 1 1/2 cups of frozen veggies (chopped carrots, corn, green beans, and lima beans). It was amazing.
    I had a tiny bit of leftovers after me and my roommies ate and i put it in the fridge. 2 hours later i started craving a little more, so i ate that cold with hot sauce and jalape;o peppers on tortilla chips. yum! could almost replace chicken salad if ate cold!
    Thanks for the amazing recipe! :)

  16. VeggieSarah

    Well, tried out my first VeganYumYum recipe and I’m hooked. I’ve scheduled another of your recipes for tomorrow! At times, the nooks and crannies of the noodles that had more “cheeze” really tasted cheesy. It is so nice to have the comfort food without a dairy belly! Thank you Lolo!

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  19. Nancy

    I didn’t make it through all 68 (thus far) entries, but Steph wondered about a gluten free alternative to the flour for the roux. I haven’t made this recipe yet (just found it), but I use Mochiko rice flour as a gluten free alt. for thickening other sauces….

  20. Kathleen

    Thank you! I love nutritional yeast, and am always looking for the perfect macaroni and yeast recipe, and I think this is it! (I’ve tried five or six others from various cookbooks/websites). I like how creamy and rich the sauce is, and how the flavors of all the ingredients work together. Some of the other recipes I’ve tried make a very thin, watery sauce, or try to disguise the taste of the yeast with tons of garlic powder. Also, your directions are very clear and uncomplicated – I am a novice cook. This stuff is amazing, and I will definitely make it again :)

  21. Karen

    This is the BEST recipe ever for comfort food mac ‘n cheez. We added more lemon juice and more tahini. We also used rice milk instead of soy and subbed organic ketchup for the tomato paste and it turned out wonderfully. Thanks for bringing us one step closer to the vegan way!

  22. Shannon Mahoney

    I loved this recipe. Bronwyn is right, you do have to go into it not expecting that it will taste like the real thing. My boyfriend absolutely hated it, but I mean c’mon… one of his favourite foods are KFC macaroni and cheese with gravy on top, EWWW! I made a few changes while I was making it though. I did add the broccoli, mmm, but I didnt use the miso because I hate it. I also think for next time I might add chopped tomato. I also ate mine with ketchup like Karen.

  23. Cheryl

    This recipe is to die for!!! I made it tripled as we love to freeze extras. I served with some red hot….yummy!!! I also love Skinny Bitch in the Kitch mac and cheeze. but that is so different from this recipe. It’s nice to have two to use. This one was great because I had all the ingrediants in the house.

    Also Follow your Heart vegan cheese is great for recipes. I love Dr. Cow cashew nut cheese for cheese and crackers. I am huge fan of nutrional yeast on popcorn.

  24. Lucy

    I have been dying to try this recipe for quite sometime. I am not vegan, and macaroni and cheese is my most favorite food in the world. I am vegetarian, however, and very interested in the vegan lifestyle. I made this on Saturday and though I hadn’t expected it to taste like mac n’ cheese, I was delightfully surprised at the flavor and can’t wait to make it again. It was SO GOOD. I didn’t have broccoli though, so next time! :-) Thanks for the awesome vegan recipe, this is sure to be a regular in my meal rotations!

  25. popcorn recipe

    you can actually substitute cheese for yeast many times, in cheese popcorn recipes as well. its nice, gives it a funky cheesy taste without the cheese :-) bit weird at first, its an acquired taste :-)

  26. reilly

    This is an awesome recipe! I didn’t have a few of the ingredients (soy sauce, tahini, and miso) but it still came out delicious.. Soy milk, too, but I fixed that by blending some silken tofu and adding water. Yummy!

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  28. shaz

    oh my!!!!! it was AWSOME!!!!!! my carnivore hubby, who is always weary of stuff like this said it was great!!! he said it was a touchdown!! we had to cut out all dairy, egg and peanuts because of serious allergies in our infant. and have been missing cheese. we are planning on putting this sauce on next to every thing!!!!

  29. Jen

    I had to post to thank you. My husband has Crohn’s and has not eaten cheese in many years. We have yet to find a commerical vegan cheese that is a true substitute. This recipe is truly like “the real thing”. As I was eating the mas and cheeze, I was in awe of how you experimented and suceeded with creating such a deliciuos meal. THANK YOU!!!

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  31. Marissa

    Call me cocky, but I think my mac and cheese and my alfredo (especially) taste virtually identical. They’re not healthy, and they’re not free of many vegan alternatives, so if you don’t have a vegan product supplier like Whole Foods, this one may be difficult.

    1. Saute 2 cloves garlic and a handful of finely diced onion in butter (I use Willow Run).
    2. Just before the garlic burns, or sticks in my case, add roughly 3/8 cup soy milk. I use unsweetened, because sweet mac n cheese is gross.
    3. Now finely chop FOLLOW YOUR HEART mozz for alfredo and cheddar for mac and cheese.
    4. Add some nutritional yeast (1/4 cup), onion powder, fresh pepper, and a tablespoon of either Toffuti sour cream or cream cheese.
    5. Add salt, to taste. I like lots of garlic salt.
    5. If it’s alfredo, add parmesan (1/8 cup)
    6. Stir on low until all the cheese chunks melt.
    7. Stir pasta directly into cheese bowl to get maximum use (it tends to stick to the pan, its cheese after all).

    This is incredible, trust me.

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  33. Anne

    I just tried this and it is super cheesy!!!!! I added smoked tempeh to make it even more yummy :-))))
    I love your blog.

  34. charlotte

    I have been dreaming about making this for weeks and I finally did last night. I think this was better than any mac&cheese I’ve ever had! Thank you so much for all of your beautiful ideas! Your blog is such an inspiration!

  35. barbara

    I tried every version of FYH cheese and found it to be pretty disgusting! Tofutti cheeses come close to tasting better but nothing is close to the real thing so I’ve stopped comparing…time to move on.

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  37. Siobhan

    This recipe looks to me very similar to one I already make. There are key ‘cheesy’ ingredients as well as the yeast and to my mind extremely important . The tahini provides the slightly nutty flavour that cheese has. The lemon provides the sharp tang of a good rich mature cheese and the miso the rounded sweetness. Along with the yeast and salt this is what gives the full and delicious flavour. I have played around with these ingredients and have veganised all of my favourite vegetarian recipes. Yeast by itself only goes part way – while still being very tasty. I have had sauces without the other ingredients that have been completely satisfactory but not that ‘cheesy.’

    I think some times as you say, flavours are replicated and other times they are substitutes. I disagree with only one thing – these flavours are incredibly cheese like and no excuses needed. It can be like the real thing! And in my opinion is. Your food does indeed look totally yum yum. Many thanks for the mouth-watering recipes and photographs to whet the appetite.

  38. tofu atomic

    can you use a plain mellow miso instead of the sweet mellow miso. It’s all I have, and I have a craving for some yumyum.

  39. Ula

    question: can they be made ahead of time? I’m planning a small party of about 15 guests. i wanted toknow if i can make them 2-3 hrs ahead of serving? Maybe bake them 1/2 way & stick them back in? would that work out?

    None of them are vegan or vegetarian lol, but its my party & i’ll serve what i want to!

    PLEASE help!

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  41. Laurakins

    I made this last night from your new cookbook, and I agree with the above comments that of all the vegan M&C’s out there, this is definitely the yummiest. It packed almost too much flavor for me, so next time I would totally thin it out lots of broccoli. It was good with ketchup and Frank’s hot sauce, which is a tradition around here :)

    ****This morning, I ate some cold, and to my delight, it tastes 10x better- forgive me, but almost like chicken salad!!*** I would probably make this again, just to eat it cold the next day!

    Thanks for sharing this recipe- it must have taken a lot of trials to develop!

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  44. Flexi-tarian

    I love this recipe. It’s so good and delicious… that even friends who eat cheese and meat appreciate it. Thank you so much for your awesome recipes… will try Take 2 soon!

  45. cate

    hi, i’m not vegan, but have a vegan friend. she first served me ‘nooch’ sauce with a greek dish saying its “the best cheese sauce ever”. well, no. it’s not. it’s a great vegan sauce. and a great healthy savoury one. so thank you for your detailed explanation of what this is not.

    saying that, we now regulary have ‘savoury sauce’ on veg ect, and my chap in totally non the wiser!!

    oh, and whilst eating a can of macandcheese, it didnt taste right, so i added herbs, soysauce, garlic…. by the time i’d made it taste right… it was this!!! rah! i’ll never buy a can again! x

    oh, and

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  47. Rae

    Love vegan mac and cheese, I make this dish at least twice a week. Makes great leftovers for work the next day too.

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