For Food Allergy Awareness Week, I’m focusing on everyone-friendly recipes, like this stovetop dairy-free mac and cheese. It just happens to be vegan, nut-free, soy-free, optionally gluten-free, egg-free, and even mustard-free and sesame-free for my Top 11-free Canadian friends. But it’s still creamy, cheesy, and downright delicious. I’ve spiked it with warm, lightly spicy Southwestern flavor that you can dial up or down!
Stovetop Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese from Scratch in 20 Minutes or Less
Hungry yet? This versatile little Southwestern-style recipe comes together so quickly on the stovetop! It has a wonderful balance of savory, fresh, and lightly spicy flavors that can be adjusted to taste. You can even dress it down to a basic stovetop dairy-free mac and cheese. The latter takes only 15 minutes to make. It’s adapted from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.
Though I label it as “spicy,” this Southwestern-style dairy-free mac and cheese has just a mild to moderate kick that many kids even enjoy. My husband and I aren’t fire breathers – our definition of spicy is probably just touching on medium heat for many.
If you want more Southwestern heat with your stovetop dairy-free mac and cheese, feel free to double the cayenne, or optionally sauté some chopped jalapeno with the bell peppers. Other options include adding diced canned green chiles just before serving, stirring in a little of your favorite salsa, or add a few shakes of chili powder to the spice mix in the sauce.
Optional Add Ins
Feel free to add any of the following ingredients for more flavor and nutrition, depending on your dietary needs.
- 3/4 to 1 pound cooked, diced chicken
- 1/2 pound cooked chorizo (or vegan chorizo)
- 1 can garbanzo beans or black beans
- Diced green chiles (canned)
- Diced jalapeno (cook in with bell pepper, optionally skip cayenne)
- Sliced olives
- Diced tomatoes
- Salsa (tastes great stirred in)
I originally shared this stovetop dairy-free mac and cheese recipe back in 2014, and have updated it with more tips and new photos!
Special Diet Notes: Stovetop Dairy-Free Mac and Cheese
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free (optional), nut-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, and top food allergy-friendly.
- 16 ounces dry macaroni (gluten-free, if needed)
- 3 cups cold unsweetened dairy-free milk beverage, divided (I used So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage)
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons oil, divided (I use grapeseed oil or rice bran oil)
- 4 teaspoons lemon juice
- ¾ cup cooked chopped carrots
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup non-GMO cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus additional to taste
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
- 1 cup diced red bell pepper
- 1 cup diced green pepper
- 2 cups organic corn kernels (defrosted if using frozen)
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Do not rinse.
- While the noodles are cooking, add 1 cup milk alternative, ¼ cup oil, lemon juice, carrot, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika and cayenne to your blender, and blend until smooth. Add the remaining 2 cups milk alternative, and blend until smooth.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bell peppers and sauté 2 minutes. Add corn, sauté 1 minute more. Pour in sauce mixture from blender and whisk as it bubbles until thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Season sauce to taste with additional salt (I often add ¼ to ½ teaspoon more), cayenne, and/or lemon juice, if desired.
- Stir in the cooked pasta until well-coated. Divide between bowls.
Yeeeeees. Im trying to eat more vegan foods and today i was just craving comfort food. This turned out super yummy. Ive used nutritional yeast in some recipes but Never one that was using it as a main flavor. I loose weight eating vegan because 9/10 times i don’t love the food, its easy to not grab seconds. This made me want more.
That’s wonderful, so glad you enjoyed my recipe Beth!
Thank you so much! My 1.5 year old loved this one and she is extremely picky. Sorry, I normally hate when people make a bunch of changes, but I only want to mention that it turned out great DESPITE the changes I made.
I used pumpkin puree instead of carrots, halved the amount of pasta to 8 oz (was perfect amount), halved the veggies, kept the amount of sauce the same, added a little mustard because I ran out of lemon juice, only used paprika (no cayenne), and used flax oil. Whew.
All that to say that it still ended up being the best Mac and “cheese” we’ve tried so far. It was fairly quick and easy too, which is a huge plus for me. Definitely will remake (properly next time). Thanks again!
I appreciate you sharing the changes you made and am so happy the recipe worked out well for your family Liz!
Can I use GF all purpose flour instead of cornstarch?
Hi Carolyn, as noted, I would use another starch. The flours will be different.
Hi can you finish your answer for the nutritional yeast substitute? We can eat nuts! Thank you!
Hi Amy, as Alex mentioned, you can try using miso as a substitute, though I haven’t tested it in this recipe as of yet.
Oops, I thought you said you can’t eat nuts – just read that again. You can get an equally delicious, though not as cheesy, result using ground cashews. It gives it more of a delicious, alfredo-like vibe. Add some miso and lemon juice to taste for more umami-ness 🙂
What oil can I substitute for the grapeseed oil? I’m looking forward to trying this, but do not have the grapeseed oil and it isn’t in the budget for a while. Thank you!
olive, canola, rice bran, etc. – your favorite cooking oil that is either neutral or has a flavor that you would enjoy in this (ie olive)
Since this is something “cheesy”, could I sub pumpkin puree for the oil or a portion of the oil?
You could try it Rebecca, I have know idea how that would work out!
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Sorry if this is a duplicate post — my original comment didn’t show up.
I made this recipe last week. It had a nice texture, but it was a little too bland for me. I would have added more spice (maybe some salsa, per the optional ingredients listed at the end of the recipe) and a big spoonful of miso, I think.
Note to Amanda: Miso can be used as a substitute for nutritional yeast. They both add umami flavor.
Hi Alex, thanks for your feedback! Great suggestion to Amanda on the miso. I’m a little surprised as it was far from bland for us (though this is a “mild” spicy) – perhaps our cayenne had a bigger kick! Definitely add in some salsa if you like more spice, and miso is an excellent cheesy addition. This recipe was created for food allergy awareness week, which is why I opted to not use miso (many of my readers have expressed difficulty in locating soy-free miso, though it does exist!). I wanted it to be a great top allergen-free option. For those who can’t use miso, additional salt and lemon as noted, to taste, add nice flavor and pungency.
I don’t see your prior comment in here, it may have been caught in spam – I apologize for that!
I made that last night! Seriously the best DF mac & cheez I’ve ever had!
So glad you enjoyed it!
Is there a substitute I can use for the Nutritional Yeast? I am allergic to yeast (and nearly everything else you omitted which is wonderful!) and this is ALMOST the perfect recipe to cure my mac & cheese cravings without winding up in the hospital!
There isn’t really a replacement for nutritional yeast Amanda – it is a very unique ingredient. Can you eat nuts?
Where IsTheCheese? Do The SpicesCreateTheCheese Flavor?
The nutritional yeast, lemon, salt and onion create the cheesy flavor! Trust me, it’s good, no fake cheese required!
I’m a huge fan of adding a little spice to everyday foods, and this fits the bill! I also love the idea of adding the bell pepper and corn in for some extra crunch, yum!
Thank you soo much! Being lactose intolerant is so hard! I will definitely try this ASAP!
My nephew would LOVE this! He’s not exclusively dairy-free, but my sister tries to keep dairy low in their household to prevent developing an allergy. Definitely passing this on to her!
Alisa! You can’t do this to me, now I am craving mac n cheese 🙂 Sounds delish! And I too am excited to check out Vine Market!
Alisa, this sounds so delicious! I’m a sucker for mac and cheese. Can’t wait to go check out Vine market!
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Oh my goodness, this spicy mac and cheese looks AMAZING, Alisa! I could eat some right now! 🙂 Thanks so much for linking up to Gluten-Free Wednesdays!