Mac And Cheese (stove top and instant pot)

bowl of vegan macaroni and cheese

♫ Listening to: Panic Attacks by Elohim Feat. Yoshi Flower ♫

Have you been looking for a mac and cheese easy recipe?

This recipe for vegan macaroni and cheese has easy-to-follow instructions for making it either on the stove or using an instant pot. If you were a child who loved boxed mac and cheese, this homemade stove top and instant pot mac n cheese is a healthier version that takes less than a half hour, making it a great weeknight dinner idea.

One of the best things about this comfort food recipe is that it’s a super creamy mac and cheese with no milk! Instead of mac and cheese with a milk substitute, it uses the creaminess from the starches that are naturally in the pasta water we typically toss out. And if you’ve been looking for a healthier mac and cheese without butter, this recipe is perfect, because the vegan cheese has some oils in it, and therefore no butter is needed.

The quickest mac and cheese is stove top and takes only 23 minutes, but that’s 23 minutes that you do have to be in the kitchen watching and stirring it. If you prefer a hands off recipe that takes slightly more time, scroll down to the instant pot recipe. And if you like that baked version of mac n cheese that is served on holidays, simply dish this into a casserole dish, top with additional vegan cheese, and stick in the oven on broil for a few minutes. If your oven doesn’t have a broil option, just turn the heat up as high as it will go.

This recipe makes 4 large servings of vegan macaroni and cheese.

Mac and Cheese Recipe (Stovetop)

Vegan Stovetop Mac and Cheese Ingredients

  • 1 pound (16oz/450g) pasta (I’ve used shells and elbows)
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • pepper (optional--I just grind until my hand gets tired…whatever amount that is)
  • 7-8 ounces vegan shredded cheddar cheese (I use violife epic mature cheddar because it’s my favorite)

Vegan Stovetop Mac and Cheese Directions

total time: 23 minutes

Dollhouse Shortcut

To save time grating cheese, you can use a container of kite hill queso in place of the cheese.

Measure 6 cups of water into a large pot.

Put the pot on the stove on high heat.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot, except for the cheese: 1 pound pasta and optional spices: 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, and pepper.

The above steps usually take me about five minutes.

Cover the pot with the lid.

Reduce the heat to medium low as soon as it starts to boil. Mine usually takes about five minutes to start boiling after I cover it.

Set your timer to 10 minutes if you’re using elbow pasta. If you’re looking for a recipe for shells and cheese, set your timer for 13 minutes and use pasta shells.

Stir the pasta every minute to keep it from boiling over. This is the only downside to making mac and cheese on the stove (versus in an instant pot)

Taste one of the pieces of pasta when the timer goes off to see if it’s done. If it’s not done, cook it for another minute and taste it again.

Stir in 7-8 ounces shredded vegan cheddar cheese (I use violife epic mature cheddar because it’s my favorite).

Mac and Cheese Recipe (Instant Pot)

Vegan Mac and Cheese Ingredients for the Instant Pot

  • 1 pound (16oz/450g) pasta (I’ve used shells and elbows)
  • 4 ¼ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  • pepper (optional--I just grind until my hand gets tired…whatever amount that is)
  • 7-8 ounces vegan shredded cheddar cheese (I use violife epic mature cheddar because it’s my favorite)

Vegan Mac and Cheese Directions for the Instant Pot

total time: 36 minutes

Add all of the ingredients (except for the cheese) to the instant pot liner: 4 ¼ cups of water, 1 pound pasta, 1 teaspoon garlic powder (this is optional), ½ teaspoon black pepper (optional), and 1 teaspoon pink sea salt (optional).

Stir the ingredients.

Those 2 steps usually take me 5 minutes.

Lock the instant pot lid, and turn the valve to the closed position. On mine, it’s called sealing, but I just push it to the back, and I know it’s sealed.

Press the pressure cook button and make sure it’s on high (low is also an option on mine). Increase or reduce the time based on the shape of your pasta. If you’re cooking macaroni noodles (also called elbows), set the time to 2 minutes. If you’re cooking shells, set the time to 5 minutes. For other pasta shapes, here’s a trick I learned from other people’s blogs. Just take the shortest cooking time on the package of pasta (for my elbow pasta, the cooking time says 5-7 minutes), divide by 2, and then round down to the nearest whole number.

This usually takes 25 minutes from when I started cooking it until it’s ready for the next step, but I have the largest instant pot so it might take less time for you.

Release the pressure manually once the cooking time ends, and it starts counting up for the minutes it’s been done. Releasing the pressure manually just means to move the valve from sealing to venting, or from the back position to the front position. BE CAREFUL when you do this. I usually hold a towel or use an oven mitt to protect my hand from the steam. I also set my instant pot under my kitchen hood and turn on the hood before I release the pressure. My old coworker taught me that trick to save your cabinets from getting warped. Releasing the pressure usually takes my instant pot 3 minutes.

Stir the pasta.

Add in the grated vegan cheese, and stir until it’s all melted. If it’s still too liquidy, place the lid back on but just set it on, rather than locking it into position. Leave it for five minutes or so and the mac and cheese will thicken.

a scoop of the creamy mac and cheese after the vegan cheese melts into it

Serve and top with your favorite vegan toppings (I like adding vegan ham or vegan bacon and even sometimes peas and edible flowers).

bowl of vegan mac n cheese with edible flowers on top

bite of vegan mac and cheese

Substitutions and Tips

Veggies

Sometimes, I add a pound of frozen broccoli to the ingredients when I first start to cook the meal. You can do this with spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, peas, or whatever other veggies you like in your mac and cheese.

Garlic

You can replace the optional teaspoon of garlic powder in this recipe with 1 tablespoon of finely chopped or minced fresh garlic.

Milk

If you have plant-based milk you’re trying to use up before it goes bad, you can replace any amount of the water in this recipe with vegan milk. Just make sure it’s not flavored or sweetened.

Other Mac and Cheese Recipes

This mac and cheese recipe is the easiest and quickest recipe I have created for mac and cheese that dirties the fewest dishes. If you’re not in a hurry and don’t mind washing dishes, you can try this other mac n cheese recipe.

What to do with Leftovers

If you have leftover mac n cheese and are looking for a new way to use it up, I recommend this recipe.

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* I use mostly organic ingredients when I cook, but I realize that not everyone has the disposable income to purchase all organic ingredients. Therefore, I only specify organic on the ingredients that really matter - when buying the organic version is the only way to ensure that the item is vegan.

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