This Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli is super creamy and delicious, you won’t even miss the cheese. It’s a hearty, satisfying and healthy take on a classic dish you already know the family loves. Comfort food at it’s finest!
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ bowl of creamy Mac and Cheese? This is a lunch or dinner we can ALL get behind and one that receives absolutely 0 complaints any time I serve it. It’s just so reliably delicious (in every way, shape or form) and one of those meals you can always count on being a homerun with kids and adults alike. It’s hearty enough to be a meal all on it’s own but also good with so many favourite side dishes. This Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli is loaded with a “cheese” sauce made from soaked cashews then topped with flavourful Vegan breadcrumbs and baked to crispy perfection. It truly makes the perfect lunch or dinner any day of the week! And absolutely EVERYONE, Vegan or not, kid or adult, is to love it one in the same!
Ah, yes. Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli. If you know me, you know I don’t discriminate when it comes to the food groups or different styles of cuisines. I love them all! You also know how much I just lovvvve shoving Veggies into just about anything I could get my hands on (Zucchini Turkey Burgers, anyone?!) And I know you know that although I love my meat just as much as anything else (helllloooo Italian Style Cheesy Chicken Skillet or Asian Inspired Beef and Broccoli), I’m always down for a good Vegetarian or Vegan meal, too. I mean, I love whipping up these Air Fryer Chickpea Patties or these Smoky Lentil Nachos just as much as I love serving up these Baked Coconut Crusted Shrimp or this Creamy Prosciutto and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken. They’re ALL wins in my book.
THAT VEGAN MAC AND CHEESE
Speaking of WINS….
So, Vegan Mac and Cheese, huh? I’m SO glad we live in a world where we can use the words ‘Vegan’ and ‘Cheese’ in the same sentence. Or to describe the same dish. And I’m not even Vegan. I can appreciate all the different and creative ways to achieve creamy and cheesiness in a dish absent of those very things. It’s the very reason why I think I love cooking so much. When you discover that something as simple as Soaked Cashews with a little help from the underrated Nutritional Yeast can actually make THE perfect “Cheese” sauce for this Vegan Mac and Cheese, for example, a whole new world begins to open up.
Creativity in the kitchen is like no other. Ironically, I learned this very thing while travelling. I urge you to try that ingredient you’ve never thought to cook with before. Or to stock your spice cabinet with some things you may have never even heard of. This mentality probably has A LOT to do with the huge suitcase I willingly (made my boyfriend) lug all across South America for the whole year we spent travelling there. I kid you not. A WHOLE BIG SUITCASE. JUST.FOR.SPICES. A lot of which were new to me and I discovered along the way. (I practice what I preach, ok!) And of course some must haves and can’t lives withouts.
My point being: reach for that cool sounding spice next time you’re at the Grocery Store. The one that kinda intimidates you or the one you might not have a clue as to do what to do with right away. Trust me. Get it. Welcome it into your spice cabinet or your pantry. And by doing so, I promise, you will open up a whole new world of culinary possibilities.
And who knows. You might even end up making something as good as this Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli while you’re at it 😉
Now, let’s get down to Business…
WHAT MAKES A GOOD MAC AND CHEESE?
I feel like Mac and Cheese is just one of those classic AF dishes like Eggplant Parmesan or French Onion Soup that EVERYBODY just loves. A true classic. A comfort food we can all get behind. A dish that speaks to many hearts, big and small. EVERYONE knows what you mean when you say the words Mac and Cheese. It’s hard to announce “WE’RE HAVING MAC AND CHEESE FOR DINNER!” without getting those ear to ear smiles you look for when you’re the chief dinner maker in the house. Amirite?
I’ll be the first to admit (and I’m also the chief meal planner in the house) even I smile when I find myself jotting the words “MAC & CHEESE” down under any given day. You can have it for lunch. Or dinner. Or an in-between lunch while waiting for dinner, kinda thing. Heck, you can even have it as an appetizer or a side dish to another great meal. It would look pretty great sitting next to these Italian Stuffed Artichokes or even these big ol’ Italian Style Rice Balls (Arancini) if you ask me. And it makes the best work or school lunches. Who doesn’t love when they can just pop some leftovers in a container and boom. Lunch is made. Enough Said.
There are a few KEY components that make up a good Mac and Cheese that’ll probably be the same key components listed by anyone who’s ever tasted this delightful dish in any way, shape or form. Things that simply make a classic Mac and Cheese. Components a good old Mac and Cheese simply MUST have and cannot do without. You know, things we can *all* agree belong in a good Mac and Cheese.
- The MACaroni – Duuuuuuh. How can a good Mac and Cheese exist without Macaroni?! It’s the classic of the classic way of doing Mac and Cheese. But, as stated below, if you don’t have any of the classic stuff on hand, using another type of pasta (preferably something short and stubby such as Rigatoni) is not the end of the world!
- The Cheese – Another duuuuuuuh. There ain’t no Mac and Cheese without cheese! And don’t be fooled by this Vegan version. We may not be using any actual cheese or even any vegan versions of cheese here. But, that’s what the Cashews and Nutritional Yeast are for, trust me.
- The Breadcrumb Topping – Almost (and I use that word veeerrryy lightly) always makes an appearance on any good Mac and Cheese. How else are you going to get that added crunchy texture we all know and love? Or bake it to crispy perfection? Pairing perfectly with all the other components, a breadcrumb topping (of some sort) is a mandatory part of a good old Mac and Cheese in my books. Therefore, just do yourself a favour, and don’t skip it!
Once you have these three key components, actually putting the Mac and Cheese together is super quick and easy. Which is why it makes the most perfect weeknight dinner. Or an amazing afternoon lunch for the kids. It’s a dish we can all love for many reasons. One of them being that you can absolutely tackle these three key components in advance. At your own pace, on your own time. Store them. And then, when you’re ready to be the Ninja human we already know you are and put dinner on the table in 20 minutes, mix ’em all up, assemble the dang thang and sit back and bask in your own Superpowers while you let the oven do the rest of the work. FYI, said Superpowers are best enjoyed with a glass of wine in hand. And so might this Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli. Just sayin’.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE THIS VEGAN MAC AND CHEESE BAKED WITH BROCCOLI
- Elbow Macaroni: A classic Mac and Cheese ain’t a classic Mac and Cheese without this ingredient! I mean, after all, it’s where the first part of the dish gets its name from. If you don’t have any on hand, you can always get creative and use a different kind of pasta. Penne or fusilli make great options.
- Broccoli: Call me Queen Shoving Veggies into things but who doesn’t love an extra serving of greens every now and then? Especially when it’s in something as unexpected as Mac and Cheese. You know that classic Broccoli and Cheese combo? Well, it works wonders here, too. It adds crunch, flavour, texture and NUTRITION to the dish!
- Cashews: Work wonders in Vegan cooking, IMHO. Adds texture and creaminess to this dish and helps achieve that cheesy, velvety sauce one looks for in a good Mac and Cheese.
- Nutritional Yeast: Often used in Vegan/Vegetarian cooking to achieve that cheesy/nutty look and taste. It’s one of the most important ingredients in this Vegan Mac and Cheese!
- Coconut Milk: Adds flavour, creaminess and richness to the sauce. Full Fat and Unsweetened works best in this recipe.
- Breadcrumbs: For added crispy-ness or crunch to the top layer of this dish. It’s what makes the Vegan Mac and Cheese niiiiice and golden brown on top and gives it that added texture. I use Panko in this recipe as I like its light crunch and ability to be customized with different spices. However, you can use your favourite brand of breadcrumbs instead, if you prefer.
- Butter: To keep this Mac and Cheese completely Vegan, we use Vegan Butter here both in the breadcrumb topping and to grease the dish before adding the pasta to bake. However, any butter or ghee will work well here.
- Garlic: Cause no dish, especially one that includes garlic, can exist without a little bit of garlic! Fresh minced garlic is best in this recipe. But, if all you have on hand is garlic powder, use 1/4 tsp instead of the 1 fresh clove.
- Onion: Adds texture and flavour to the dish. White onion is best in this recipe.
- Lemon Juice: Adds a bit of tang and acidity to the sauce. Balances out the flavours of the rest of the ingredients.
- Spices: Adding spices to this dish keeps things properly seasoned and down right flavourful. I used a mixture of smoked paprika, turmeric, dry mustard powder, chilli flakes, salt and pepper but you can feel free to switch things up according to your preference!
I just wanna take a moment and thank the two star ingredients of this dish. This Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli would not be as mouth-watering and delicious as it is (not to mention RICH, FLAVOURFUL, CREAMY, VELVETY AND CHEESY!!!) without Nutritional Yeast (sometimes referred to as “Nooch”) and Cashews. In my opinion, these ingredients are superstars on their own (seriously…they’re MAGIC!) but together? It’s a whole different ball game.
Who would have thunk?
Nutritional Yeast, if you’re not familiar with it, is a super popular ingredient in Vegan and Vegetarian cooking and for a good (great!) reason. It mimics the flavour of cheese and adds a nutty, savoury flavour to any dish. Hence why it’s the perfect ingredient for this Vegan Mac and Cheese. Further, Nutritional Yeast has a load of Health Benefits (i.e. its packed with Vitamin B12, contains powerful antioxidants which reduce the risk of things such as heart disease or cancer and may help lower cholesterol levels – amongst other things). It’s an ingredient that even I, not Vegan or Vegetarian, always have in my pantry and have been using for many years. It’s basically an unactivated version of the same type of yeast you would use to make bread or brew beer (but since it’s not activated, you wouldn’t get the same results).
Next, let’s talk Cashews. These bad boys are UNDERRATED in what they can add to your dishes and cooking. I just love what something as simple as soaking them can do or how much more silky, smooth or creamy a sauce or marinade can become with this secretly powerful ingredient! They’re rich in nutrients and antioxidants and the perfect ingredient to make this Vegan Mac and Cheese creamy and delicious. Soaking cashews and then blending them into sauces for pizza or pasta like we do here is a great and easy way to add more cashews into your diet.
Without Nutritional Yeast and Cashews, this Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli just wouldn’t be the same.
WHAT GOES IN THE FLAVOURFUL VEGAN BREADCRUMB TOPPING?
As stated several times throughout this post, this Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli (arguably ANY Mac and Cheese, at that) is nothing without one of the key components: the Breadcrumb Topping. Adding that delicious crunchy topping and texture that pairs so perfectly well with the pasta, cheese and broccoli is a game changer that takes this dish to the next level. So what goes in it?
This simple topping has only 5 basic ingredients. Breadcrumbs, of course, are the main ingredient. You could use Gluten Free, regular, seasoned, plain…any breadcrumb that floats your boat will work in this recipe.
To that, we add some Nutritional Yeast (I told you this recipe is nothing without it) for some added texture and cheesy flavour. Next, some salt, pepper and smoked paprika (my spice of choice in this recipe) to season and flavour it up a bit. I love the added smokey/bbq flavour that comes from the smoked paprika. And finally, we add a Tablespoon of melted Vegan Butter to the mix. Melting the butter beforehand makes for easy mixing. It also helps in achieving that crumby look and texture were ultimately going for when making this breadcrumb topping. PRO TIP: Using a rubber spatula to fold/mix the butter with the rest of the ingredients helps the mixture become “crumby” and lumpy which is what we want in this recipe.
And that’s it! It’s SO easy and quick to make – there should be no question of adding this delicious Breadcrumb Topping to the top of this Baked Mac and Cheese. You’ll have zero regrets and be super glad you did!
PRO TIPS FOR MAKING THIS VEGAN MAC AND CHEESE BAKED WITH BROCCOLI
- Cut the Broccoli into similar bite-sized pieces to ensure even cooking and avoid over-cooking. You want them to be tender but still firm.
- Melt the Vegan Butter before adding it to the Breadcrumb Mixture. This makes it easier to mix and allows the topping to become more “crumb” like.
- Choose a pasta that is small and stubby in size if you can’t get a hold of the classic Elbow Macaroni. This will keep things familiar and keep cooking times pretty close/similar.
- When the pasta is almost done cooking (approx. 4 minutes left) add the broccoli florets to the same pot – Hooray for less dishes and multi-tasking!
- Use ALL the Cheese Sauce! It may seem like there’s a ton of it and you might be tempted to save some for something like dipping these Crispy Baked Potato Wedges in but believe you me, you can never have too much cheese sauce in this dish!
- Grease your Baking Dish with Vegan Butter before adding the Mac and Cheese to avoid sticking.
- If you find the top of the Mac and Cheese burning or becoming too golden brown when baking in the oven, add a piece of aluminum foil over top.
- Don’t Skip Out on the Breadcrumb Topping! It adds flavour and texture and crispy-ness and golden tones and all of the good things you WANT to have in a Mac and Cheese! So, just.don’t.skip.it.
- Fresh Chopped Parsley and a few dabs of your fav Hot Sauce will take this Vegan Mac and Cheese Baked with Broccoli to the next level. YUM!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
For sure! I love sneaking in extra veggies or greens wherever I can and this dish is a perfect way to do exactly that. Brussels Sprouts or Green Peas would be amazing options. Or if you really want to get creative and hide extra veggies in this Vegan Mac and Cheese, blending Vegetables like Carrots or Cauliflower right into the sauce is a great way to do so.
Soaking the Cashews will provide an incredibly creamy texture to the Cheese Sauce which is ideal for this Vegan Mac and Cheese. An added bonus? Soaking Cashews makes them easier to digest as the process helps remove phytic acid which, in turn, allows our bodies to get more nutrients from the nuts. FORGOT TO SOAK THE CASHEWS? See FAQ #3 directly below or Recipe Note #1 in the recipe card down below.
Fear not! You can use the ‘quick soak’ method by placing the cashews in a bowl then submerging them under boiling water. 15 minutes should do the trick!
Yes, you can use a different milk such as Almond Milk or Soy Milk. However, keep in mind that the sauce may not be as thick and rich. Therefore, I’d recommend starting with less (about 1 cup) and adding more as needed – you still want some thickness to the sauce.
Why yes, yes it can easily be made Gluten Free. Use gluten free pasta and gluten free breadcrumbs instead of their gluten counterparts… Taste won’t be compromised!
Yes! You can make the pasta in advance (pro tip: coat with a dab of butter or oil to prevent sticking or clumping together in the fridge). Similarly, the Broccoli can be made in advance. You can also make the breadcrumb topping in advance. And finally, you can make the cheese sauce in advance. Just store everything in separate airtight containers until ready to use. (The breadcrumb topping doesn’t need to be kept in the fridge however, I would recommend that everything else is).
It keeps beautifully in the fridge for up to 5 days (and makes great left overs for work or school lunches). You can simply reheat it in the oven or microwave when ready to eat. However, this dish is also great cold 😉
For the Mac and Cheese
- 13 oz. Elbow Macaroni
- 1 head Broccoli, cut into florets
- 3/4 cup Cashews, soaked 5-6 hours or overnight*
- 1 small Onion, diced
- 1 Clove Garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup Nutritional Yeast
- 1 can Full Fat Unsweetened Coconut Milk
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 tsp Dry Mustard Powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Pepper
For the Crunchy Breadcrumb Topping
- 1/2 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp Nutritional Yeast
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Pinch of Smoked Paprika
- 1 tbsp Vegan Butter, melted*
- Soak the cashews in a bowl of water for 5-6 hours or overnight. *See below if you don't have time for this step* Drain and add to the body of a food processor.
- Add the diced onion, minced garlic, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, spices and coconut milk. Blend until well combined. (You can add a splash of water here if you feel like the cheese sauce is a little too thick).
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Make the Breadcrumb Topping: In a small bowl, add the Breadcrumbs, Nutritional Yeast, Smoked Paprika, Salt, Pepper and Melted Vegan Butter. Mix until well combined. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to package directions. In the last 4 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli florets. Drain and return to the pot.
- Add the Cheese Sauce and stir until the pasta and broccoli are nicely coated.
- Grease a 9x13 baking dish with some vegan butter.
- Spread the Mac and Cheese out evenly in the dish.
- Top evenly with the Breadcrumb Topping.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 246Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 343mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 6gSugar: 2gProtein: 11g
Nutrition is only an estimate and calculated using Nutritionix.
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