This spicy vegan mac and cheese recipe takes the kid-friendly classic and jazzes it up for the more adventurous eaters. If you like mac and cheese, but need a little more excitement in your meal, this is the dish for you!
Creamy, cheesy, and packed with all your favorite Southwest flavors. This is where mac and cheese and tacos meet!
❤️ Why you'll love this recipe
- It's easy to make in less than 20 minutes.
- This dish is dairy-free, nut-free, and easily made gluten-free so everyone can enjoy it.
- It's versatile and can be made with whatever you have on hand and you can change it up every time.
- This is more nutritious than simple mac and cheese since it is packed with veggies and protein.
🧾 Ingredients and substitutions
Basic vegan mac and cheese ingredients
- Pasta – Macaroni, small shell pasta, or any small pasta shape works great. Use gluten-free pasta if you need to.
- Plant-Based Milk – Any PLAIN flavored plant milk like soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk, will work great in this recipe. For an extra rich and creamy mac and cheese, you can also use 1 1/2 cups of canned coconut milk or cashew heavy cream plus 1/2 cup water in place of the 2 cups of milk.
- Nutritional Yeast – Aka nooch. This is a yellow powder found in most health food stores. It has a cheesy umami flavor and without it, your vegan mac and cheese just won’t be cheesy tasting. You can learn more about nutritional yeast here.
- Tapioca Starch – Aka tapioca flour. This is essential for a creamy, stretchy texture that won’t get gloppy once it cools off. You can sub it with corn starch or potato starch, but nothing else gives your cheese sauce the same great texture as tapioca starch.
- Corn Starch – This helps to thicken up your sauce and make it the right consistency. (You can swap potato starch for this equally if you prefer).
- Salt – for flavor.
➕ Add-ins for spicy vegan mac and cheese
- Salsa - to add flavor and acidity. Use mild, medium, or hot depending on your preference.
- Beans - to add protein and texture. I usually use black beans, but you can use any type.
- Cilantro - or cilantro lime sauce for a southwest flavor. (optional)
- Cumin - for a southwest flavor. (optional)
- Garlic Powder - for flavor. (optional)
- Chipotle Pepper Flakes - for spiciness and flavor. (optional)
- Taco Toppings - you can throw in anything that you like on tacos. Vegan taco meat, tempeh taco meat, spicy Soyrizo, corn, diced tomatoes, avocado, or olives are also delicious tossed into this mac and cheese.
🥄 How to make spicy vegan mac & cheese
Step 1 - Boil pasta of choice according to package directions.
Step 2 - Put all the cheese sauce ingredients in a saucepan (plant-based milk, nutritional yeast, tapioca starch, corn starch, garlic powder, salt) and stir with a whisk.
Step 3 -Turn on the heat to medium-low and frequently stir until the cheese sauce boils, then stir constantly for about 30 more seconds and turn off the heat.
Step 4 -Add a can of salsa, a can of beans that have been drained and rinsed, cumin, spices (like cumin and/or taco seasoning and pepper flakes), and any other additions that you want, and give it all a stir.
Step 5 -Add the drained and rinsed pasta to the vegan cheese sauce and stir well.
Step 6 - Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
🌟 Variations of spicy mac & cheese
Sriracha - about 1 - 2 tbsp will give you a spicy kick!
Taco or Fajita Seasoning - about 1-2 tsp will add a ton of flavor. (Reduce the salt if there is salt in your seasoning mix).
Cayenne - just a dash or two will spice things up!
Chipotle Pepper Flakes - about 1 tsp will give your mac and cheese heat along with a delicious smoky flavor.
Jalapenos - dice up 1-2 fresh jalapenos and add them to the mac and cheese for extra flavor. (Be careful some peppers are hotter than others.)
Green Chili - add diced green chili for a New Mexican-style mac and cheese.
Mac and cheese will never be boring again, but if you just want a simple mac and cheese check out my classic vegan mac and cheese made without nuts! You can also make the cheese sauce super rich and creamy with my coconut milk mac & cheese recipe.
Make a high-protein vegan mac and cheese with my tofu mac or a vitamin-packed version with my veggie cheese sauce or pumpkin mac & cheese recipe.
You can also keep it super simple with my vegan mac & cheese for one. You can also top any of these variations with breadcrumbs and bake them as I do with my baked vegan mac & cheese.
🍝 More vegan pasta dishes
- Vegan Alfredo Sauce with Coconut Milk
- Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta
- Simple Vegan Tomato Pasta
- Easy Vegan Stroganoff
- Vegan Baked Ziti
- Vegan Broccoli Alfredo
📌 Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for new vegan recipes!
📋 Spicy vegan mac & cheese recipe
Spicy Southwest Vegan Mac and Cheese
Basic vegan mac and cheese ingredients
- 16 oz pasta
- 2 cups plant-based milk Plain flavored (You can sub one 13.5 oz can coconut milk plus 1/2 cup water if you want).
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
- 1 tablespoon corn starch or potato starch
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
Add-ins for spicy vegan mac and cheese
- 1 1/2 cups salsa or a full 12 oz jar
- 1 1/2 cups beans or 1 can that has been drained and rinsed. (Any type will work.)
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon chipotle pepper flakes or taco seasoning
- 1/4 cup cilantro chopped
- Boil 16 oz of pasta of choice according to package directions.
- Put all the cheese sauce ingredients to a saucepan (2 cups Plant-based milk, 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp tapioca starch, 1 tbsp corn starch, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt) and stir with a whisk.
- Turn on heat to medium-low and stir frequently until the cheese sauce boils, then stir constantly for about 30 more seconds and turn off the heat.
- Add a 12 oz can of salsa, a can of beans that have been drained and rinsed, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp pepper flakes or taco seasoning, and any other additions that you want, and give it all a stir.
- Add the drained and rinsed pasta to the vegan cheese sauce and stir well.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
- Vegan taco meat
- Spicy soyrizo
- Diced tomatoes
- Black olives
- Diced red onion
- Lime juice
- Sriracha - about 1 - 2 tbsp will give you a spicy kick!
- Taco or Fajita Seasoning - about 1-2 tsp will add a ton of flavor. (Reduce the salt if there is salt in your seasoning mix).
- Cayenne - just a dash or two will spice things up!
- Chipotle Pepper Flakes - about 1 tsp will give your mac and cheese heat along with a delicious smoky flavor.
- Jalapenos - dice up 1-2 fresh jalapenos and add them to the mac and cheese for extra flavor. (Be careful some peppers are hotter than others.)
- Green Chili - add diced green chili for a New Mexican-style mac and cheese.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Click the stars above or leave a comment! I'd love to hear from you!
I had my doubts about this recipe, but I had all the ingredients, so I thought I’d give it it a try. It’s delicious! I did use a heavy with the red pepper flakes, but that’s what I always do. Thank you for sharing this.
You're welcome, Melissa. I'm glad that you gave it a try and liked it! 🙂
I made this last night and it was amazing! Easy to make and a hit with my husband and kids. A new family staple. Thanks for recipe!
I'm so happy that you liked it, Megan! 🙂