Mac and cheese without milk, butter, or cheese? Yep, you read it right. Yet this dairy-free dish is still so rich and creamy. So how did I do it? Well, the secret is in the sauce (pun intended)! I combined cauliflower, onion powder and dry mustard to make a silky smooth purée that is the perfect shade of yellow. Then, to make it tangy and savory like cheese, I used sweet white miso paste and fresh lemon juice, and voilà! You’ve got the ultimate comfort food.
The exact origin of macaroni and cheese is unknown, though it most likely hails from Northern Europe, with the earliest known recorded recipe being scribbled down in 1769. Since the quick-and-easy boxed version that Kraft Foods first introduced in 1937, this comfort food has remained a classic. Try out my dairy-free version and you just might get a new family-favorite meal!
WHY WE LOVE MAC AND CHEESE WITHOUT MILK
- Goes great with veggies. Feel free to add some steamed broccoli or sautéed kale to add some color.
- Allergy-friendly. No milk, no butter, no cheese in this recipe. Yet it turns out creamy and delicious every time. If you know anyone who is allergic to dairy they will love this recipe! If there are gluten allergies as well just use a gluten-free pasta.
- A healthy yet tasty meal. This mac and cheese is unprocessed, wholesome, dairy-free goodness for those of us who still crave some of our childhood favorites but in a healthier version.
- Fast to prepare. Cook the pasta and cauliflower at the same time. Once the cauliflower is done, blend it and then add the other sauce ingredients. Pour it over the cooked pasta and serve. It doesn’t get much easier or faster than this!
Here are the ingredients you'll need for this mac and cheese without milk recipe:
- White miso paste
- Arrowroot flour
- Smoked paprika
- Dry mustard
- Onion powder
- Sea salt
- Pasta: I use classic elbow noodles for the true mac and cheese experience but you can use any small pasta shells you like.
- White miso paste: It has a mild umami taste and adds a mellow, nutty flavor that mimics parmesan cheese, which adds to the cheesy texture and taste.
- Lemon: Fresh lemon juice combined with the sweet white miso paste and salt gives the sauce its “cheesy” flavor.
- Cauliflower: The base of the “cheese” sauce.
- Arrowroot flour: To thicken the sauce.
STEP 1: COOK THE CAULIFLOWER
To cut the cauliflower, remove the large leaves from the base so that the stem is exposed. Next, use a sharp knife to cut around the stem and remove the florets.
Cut any large florets into smaller pieces and then place them into a pot.
Pour water into the pot and add the onion powder, turmeric, and dry mustard. Place the pot on a stove and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and let the cauliflower simmer for 10 minutes or until the florets are fork-tender.
STEP 2: BOIL THE PASTA
Heat up a large pot of water. Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
Once the noodles are done, use a strainer to drain the water and set aside.
STEP 3: MAKE THE SAUCE
Add the cauliflower and its cooking liquid to a blender and blend until it has a smooth consistency.
Return the puréed cauliflower to the pot and add the miso paste, salt, and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
In a small bowl mix the arrowroot flour with a bit of cold water until a thin paste forms. Add it to the pot. Finally, add a shake of the smoked paprika.
Use a whisk to mix the ingredients until everything is incorporated. Warm the sauce on medium-low heat for a couple of minutes while whisking continuously. The sauce should be smooth and thick.
Remove from heat.
STEP 4: COMBINE THE NOODLES AND SAUCE
Using a spatula, pour the cauliflower sauce over the cooked macaroni noodles. Mix with a wooden cooking spoon until everything is evenly coated.
Sprinkle some smoked paprika over the dish and serve immediately.
- Storing leftovers. Vegan mac and cheese is best eaten fresh from the pot. However, you can store the leftovers for up to 4 days in the fridge. Use an airtight container for freshness. You can also freeze a batch for up to 4 months. Let it thaw completely in the fridge before reheating. Warm the food in a pot on the stove and stir in a little warm water or non-dairy milk to add some extra moisture.
- Clean up the cauliflower. If you’ve kept your cauliflower for a little too long and it’s started to develop gray spots, don’t throw it out. Instead, use a vegetable peeler to get rid of the spots and then proceed with the recipe.
- Miso paste substitute. If you can’t eat soy for dietary reasons, you can use nutritional yeast and a bit of dijon mustard instead of white miso paste.
- Make it gluten-free. For gluten-free mac and cheese without milk, use your favorite gluten-free pasta noodle, like this organic brown rice pasta from Jovial.
- Try some toppings. Here are some toppings you can add to your dairy-free mac and cheese to give each bite a fun twist: crushed corn flakes, roasted garlic, dulse flakes, or toasted breadcrumbs.You can also double the sauce portion of the recipes if you like your mac and cheese with lots of sauce.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What can you use instead of milk in mac and cheese?
I used cauliflower and vegetable broth to make this sauce, but you can use butternut squash instead. And in place of vegetable broth you can use chicken broth. Or use any my pumpkin seed milk. Coconut milk might have too strong a flavor for this dish. If you aren’t using homemade dairy-free milk, make sure you buy an unsweetened variety so that the sauce doesn’t turn out sweet.
How do you make mac and cheese without dairy?
Boil the cauliflower and spices until the florets are tender enough to blend. Cook the pasta, then drain and set it aside while you prepare the sauce. Add the cauliflower and other sauce ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth. Put the sauce in a pot and cook for a few minutes on low heat while whisking continuously. Pour the “cheese” sauce over the pasta and mix until the noodles are fully coated. Serve it warm.
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Mac and Cheese Without Milk
- Yield: 2 to 4 servings 1x
Tender macaroni pasta is tossed in a creamy cauliflower “cheese” sauce, creating a remarkably similar taste and texture to the original.
2 cups cauliflower florets
2 cups water or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon onion powder
A couple of pinches of turmeric
½ teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups dry pasta (elbows, spirals, lumache etc.)
1 ½ tbsp. sweet white miso paste
Pinch or two of sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons arrowroot flour, mixed with 1 tbsp. cold water
1. In a medium size pot place the cauliflower florets, the water, onion powder, turmeric and dry mustard. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to simmer on low for 10 minutes, or until fork-tender.
2. Meanwhile, heat a large pot of water to boil the pasta. Once it comes to a boil, add the pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta.
3. Carefully pour the cooked cauliflower mixture into a high speed blender. Puree until smooth. Pour the sauce back into the pot. Add the miso, sea salt, lemon juice, arrowroot flour and a shake of the smoked paprika. Cook for another few minutes on medium low heat. Whisk continuously until nicely thickened.
4. Pour the cauliflower sauce over the pasta and enjoy warm, sprinkled with a little extra smoked paprika.
MORE RECIPES TO TRY!
- You will love this vegan potato soup recipe that is hearty, comforting, and so delicious.
- Everyone adores this vegan cookie dough truffles recipe that makes yummy no-bake treats that taste amazing!
- This vegan enchilada casserole is to die for; you're in for a real treat!
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