Juli’s Vegan Shells + Cheese

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Did you know that eating less meat supports water conservation? A surprising, but true fact! So, we’ve got the perfect meatless meal for you — guaranteed to make people (and the planet) smile. Today, contributor Juli Novotny shares her secrets for making over the classic comfort food macaroni and cheese by giving it new life as a healthier vegan and gluten-free dish.

Vegan Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is THE comfort food. And, for kids, it’s often a dinnertime staple. However, I wouldn’t call it a health food. There are often synthetic dyes, food colorings, or other unnatural additives in boxed versions. Plus, it’s probably not organic.

But, let’s face it, who wants to say goodbye to mac and cheese forever? So, I challenged myself to create a hearty, comfort food that mimics the texture and flavor of creamy mac and cheese.

If your child is one of those mac and cheese “experts,” like I was as a kid, he or she might have a hard time adjusting to this dairy-free alternative. But it’s worth trying the recipe a few times because saying goodbye to the questionable ingredients in the processed kind is a good thing. On the other hand, vegans or those who enjoy a clean, plant-based diet will probably think this rendition is a slice of Heaven. It really is comforting. I ate two bowls of it myself tonight! (No, I’m not joking.)

If you’re not a fan of vegan cheese, you can make your own raw vegan sauce or substitute real dairy. I know there isn’t much that can replicate the taste of creamy cheese, but this recipe is pretty darn close if you ask me.


Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe

Vegan Shells + Cheese*

*makes 3-4 bowls; use organic ingredients when possible


  • 1/2 cup soaked cashews  + 1 Tbsp. pine nuts (soaked for at least 2 hours)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. organic miso paste
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed daiya or other shredded vegan/vegetarian cheese
  • Gluten-free noodles of your choice (fresh or bagged)
  • 2-3 Tbsp. almond milk


1. In a blender, combine the first 7 ingredients. Blend on high until super smooth and creamy (no chunks). Add the shredded cheese and blend again until smooth.

2. Cook the noodles in a large pot according to package. When ready, strain and bring back to the warm pot. Add a few tablespoons of almond milk or another vegan milk you drink. Then, add the sauce from the blender. Add sauce one spoonful at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

3. Serve warm.

~ Juli Novotny of Pure Mamas


  1. Christie

    Not to be mean, but the very reason. I am not vegan is because of the processed foods vegans are forced to eat. What of the highly processed cheese and additives in almond milk. Like Joan Gussow says, I trust cows more than chemists. Homemade Mac and cheese is easy. No need for the box!

  2. Hi Christie! Thanks for sharing your insight. We also think Juli would agree with you, which is why she provides three different options (a raw sauce, vegan cheese, or regular dairy) in her recipe to accommodate each family’s personal preferences and dietary needs. And, ditto, no need for the box! We’d love for you to share your favorite healthier mac & cheese recipe.

  3. It is very easy to make your own almond milk. You can trust cows all you want but trust your conscience more. No need to steal a baby from her mama to steal her milk. We are the only species that moves from our own mothers milk to another species milk. I’m a vegan and am raising four kids vegan. No one in my house is “forced” to eat processed foods. We eat natural pure foods made from scratch in my home.

  4. We drink Cow’s milk because we are smart enough to know the benefits. We have largest and highest functioning brains of any species.

  5. We have “the” largest… Sorry, typing while breast feeding my little one.

  6. Racha and Christie, I hope you are aware of what goes into a cow on a dairy. If you are buying regular milk at the grocery store, what’s in there might scare you more than the additives in almond milk. Unclean living conditions, unnatural milk cycles, udder infections, and other such issues are what made me go dairy free. If I could find a raw milk supplier from a small organic farm, I might change my mind.

  7. Too bad most vegan recipes call for some kind of nuts. My daughters food allergies have forced her to become vegan but she has peanut and tree nut allergies as well.

  8. Djlukse, do you have a recipe you follow to make your own almond milk? We’d love to know how it works.

  9. My husband is a dairy farmer, and before I met him I was very ignorant and skeptical about animal treatment and production techniques. But I’ve learned, and seen on multiple dairy farms, the care and meticulous means by which the cows are handled with. My husband always says how it’s his job to keep them alive and healthy, and their is a respect for the animal. Mistreatment of the cows does not make milk or money. And the calves are well fed and cared for as well, and continue to get milk even after being weaned from the mother.

    All that being said, there will be mud and poop on a farm. They are animals. By nature they are messy and don’t care where they “go”, that’s where clean bedding and milking parlor come in handy. And as far as medicine and antibiotics go, I would rather get milk from a cow that was treated properly for illness than not.

  10. Actually more studies show the damage milk causes. Dairy products have been shown to be a major contributing factor to the following ailments: allergies, sinus problems, post-nasal drip, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, ear infections, menstrual pain, asthma, brain fog, mucus, Type 1 diabetes, chronic constipation, and anemia (in children).
    – See more at:

  11. Many of us have children with severe nut allergies and even dairy allergies, so we’ve used butternut squash and pumpkin to make mac and “cheese” recipes. The squash when pureed with a broth often creates a very creamy sauce and then you can pour it over the noodles of your choice and bake it in the oven with bread crumbs on top.

  12. Michèle-Josée

    May I ask how she gets her protein? I’m allergic to all dairy products, poultry and pork, therefore I swear by nuts… I’d go nuts without them in fact!

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