Creamy cauliflower mac and cheese is a lightened up version of everyone’s favourite comfort food side dish! Not only do I replace the noodles with cauliflower florets, I use a homemade plant-based cheese sauce to make this cauliflower mac vegan too.

Fork of cauliflower mac and cheese held over bowl

Mac and cheese is a comfort food classic, but sometimes you want that comfort without all the carbs. Enter: cauliflower mac and cheese. 

This healthier version of the classic dish swaps the traditional elbow noodles for cauliflower florets. No, you won’t be tricked into thinking you’re eating pasta, but the good news is you won’t care—the creamy, dreamy cheese sauce pairs perfectly with the cauliflower!

The vegan cheese sauce is absolutely irresistible, and it’s made with only wholesome, real food ingredients—potatoes provide the color, cashews give it a rich, creamy texture, lemon adds some tang, and nutritional yeast brings the cheesiness.

Two bowls over cauliflower mac and cheese topped with parsley

Why You’ll Love This Cauliflower Mac and Cheese Recipe

Here’s what makes this creamy cauliflower mac and cheese a winner:

  • Vegan. It’s as creamy and cheesy as traditional mac and cheese, but without the dairy.
  • High in fiber. Cauliflower is a great source of fiber and nutrients, making it a much healthier choice than the usual noodles. You’ll save some carbs by choosing cauliflower too!
  • Delicious comfort food goodness. Despite being healthy, this cauliflower mac and cheese has the flavour and texture you love from the original. Rich, creamy, cheesy—it’s all there and it delivers the cozy comfort food feel you want in a mac and cheese recipe.
Overhead view of ingredients for vegan cauliflower mac and cheese with labels

Notes on Ingredients

Scroll down to the recipe card to find the ingredient quantities and recipe instructions.

  • Cauliflower – Avoid purple or green varieties—they taste fine, but they’re not quite as appetizing visually!
  • Golden potatoes
  • Sweet potato – Use an orange variety to get the colour of traditional mac and cheese sauce. You can also use butternut squash, as in my Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese.
  • Raw cashews – It’s important to use raw cashews rather than roasted, as these blend into a creamy consistency.
  • Water
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Fresh lemon juice – Lemon juice mimics the tang of dairy cheese.
  • Olive oil
  • Dijon mustard – Mustard adds some zippy flavour to the cheese sauce.
  • Garlic powder 
  • Onion powder
  • Salt 
  • Panko breadcrumbs – Crunchy panko is a fantastic topping for baked cauliflower mac and cheese! Use gluten-free panko to make this recipe gluten-free.
  • Parsley

Does Nutritional Yeast Really Taste Like Cheese?

Yes, nutritional yeast does taste quite a bit like cheese, as you can see in recipes like Vegan Cheese Sauce and Creamy Vegan Queso. It’s made from deactivated yeast and has a nutty, cheesy flavor that works well in vegan dishes. It also provides important B vitamins for those on plant-based diets.

How to Make Vegan Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Here’s how easy it is to make cauliflower mac and cheese:

Overhead view of cauliflower draining in colander

Cook the cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into florets and cook them in a pot of boiling salted water for about 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain well.

Cook the potatoes. Cook the two varieties of potatoes in a second pot of boiling water for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

Soak the cashews. Place the cashews in a bowl with hot water and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Rinse and drain.

Make the sauce. In a high-speed blender, combine the cooked potatoes, cashews, water, nutritional yeast, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and lemon juice. Blend until smooth, then season to taste.

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Assemble. Pour the vegan cheese sauce over the cauliflower and stir to combine. Pour this mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle the panko on top.

Bake. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake the cauliflower mac and cheese for 10 minutes. Garnish with parsley, then serve.

Overhead view of cauliflower mac and cheese in white baking dish set on wood board

Tips for Success

These hints and pointers will help you make sure your cauliflower mac and cheese turns out perfect!

  • Drain the cauliflower well. If you don’t, the sauce will end up watery instead of rich and creamy.
  • Make sure the ingredients are blended smooth. You don’t want to leave any unblended cashews in the sauce! The goal here is to mimic the creamy, velvety texture of traditional cauliflower mac and cheese.
  • Cool a bit before serving. Let the baking dish sit for 5 to 10 minutes after you pull it out of the oven; this will give the sauce a chance to thicken a bit.

Variations

Switch things up by adding some steamed broccoli to the dish, or top your cauliflower mac and cheese with your favourite vegan bacon bits. (Or try my homemade vegan bacon crumbles!) In addition to the panko, a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan cheese is delicious on top of cauliflower mac and cheese.

Cauliflower mac and cheese in white baking dish set on wood board

Serving Suggestions

Serve vegan cauliflower mac and cheese alongside Lemon Pepper Tofu or Vegan Chicken with a side salad or steamed vegetables. I love serving it with Roasted Garlic Bread too so I can use it to sop up any extra cheese sauce!

How to Store Leftovers

Transfer any leftover mac and cheese to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days and gently reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until it’s warmed through.

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

Yes, you can freeze vegan cauliflower mac and cheese. Transfer it to an airtight freezer-safe container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat according to the instructions above.

Overhead view of cauliflower mac and cheese in baking dish with spoon

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Enjoy friends! If you make this cauliflower mac and cheese, please snap a photo and tag #jessicainthekitchen on Instagram! We’d also love it if you would leave a comment below, and give the recipe a rating! Thanks so much!

Two bowls of cauliflower mac and cheese with baking dish in background
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Cauliflower mac and cheese in white baking dish set on wood board

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Creamy cauliflower mac and cheese is a lightened up version of everyone’s favourite comfort food side dish. Bonus: this version is vegan too!
5 (from 3 ratings)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower, 2 pounds, 900 g
  • 1 cup golden potatoes, chopped (6 ounce, 170g)
  • ½ cup sweet potato, chopped (3 oz, 85 g)
  • ½ cup raw cashews, 3 oz, 75 g
  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 17 grams
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 14 grams
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, 26 grams
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 6 grams
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2.5 grams
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder, 1.6 grams
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt, 7 grams
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, 10 grams
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish

Instructions 

  • Cut the cauliflower into small florets. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a pinch of salt. Cook the cauliflower florets in boiling water for about 10 minutes or until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
  • In a separate pot, bring water to a boil. Add chopped golden potatoes and sweet potatoes. Cook them for about 15 minutes or until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
  • Soak cashew with hot water for at least 30 minutes. Rinse and drain.
  • In a high-speed blender, combine the cooked golden potatoes, sweet potatoes, soaked cashews, water, nutritional yeast, olive oil, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and fresh lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings as needed.
  • Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).
  • Pour the sauce over the cooked cauliflower and mix everything to be evenly coated with the sauce.
  • Transfer the mixture to an 8×8-inch baking dish (or 11×7-inch) and sprinkle the panko breadcrumbs on top.
  • Bake the cauliflower mac and cheese in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

To store: Transfer any leftover mac and cheese to an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days and gently reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until it’s warmed through.
To freeze: Transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat according to the instructions above.
Calories: 293kcal, Carbohydrates: 33g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 9g, Sodium: 983mg, Potassium: 987mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 2445IU, Vitamin C: 84mg, Calcium: 64mg, Iron: 3mg

Disclaimer: Although jessicainthekitchen.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Jessicainthekitchen.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.