Smmmile, It’s Plant-Based!: The 9 Best Vegan Mac and Cheese Brands
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Boxed, frozen, or in a cup, vegan mac and cheese brands ensure there’s something for everyone – here are nine of the best.
I’ve made my share of vegan mac and cheese recipes – whether it’s cashew- and cauliflower-based sauce or a veganised version of a quick mac, you can never really go wrong with this classic.
But sometimes you just want to do things Cliff Booth-style after a hard day of work and are in need of some comfort food, stat. There are tons of brands catering to people looking for quick mac and cheese – whether it’s a boxed mix, a cup noodle-style format, or ready-to-eat.
This has also extended to plant-based versions of the pasta dish, with companies innovating with various ingredients to come up with offerings that surprise and delight in both healthful and indulgent ways. Here are some of the best brands making vegan mac and cheese.
General Mills-owned Annie’s Homegrown has been around for 35 years now, so it’s safe to say it knows what it’s doing. The brand’s vegan Macaroni & Cheddar Flavor is a boxed variety combining dried pasta and a vegan Cheddar seasoning made from rice syrup, cornstarch, pea protein, organic palm oil, annotto and rosemary extracts (among others).
Annie’s promises you can make this in 10 minutes. Boil the macaroni the way you usually do (al dente is the way to go), and meanwhile, boil a third of a cup of plant-based milk alongside the vegan cheese seasoning. Once done, drain and add the pasta to the mix, and voila!
One 6oz box contains 2.5 servings, and being a boxed option, it can stay on the shelf for ages. In addition, Annie’s has a shells and sweet potato-pumpkin flavour, as well as two gluten-free boxed variants: rice pasta and Cheddar, and red lentil spirals and sweet potato-pumpkin. Plus, it has a Deluxe Rich & Creamy shelled pasta and Cheddar flavour, where you just need to mix a pre-made cheese sauce straight into hot cooked pasta.
You can buy Annie’s Vegan Macaroni & Cheddar at Target, Publix and Sprouts for $2.99.
British brand Wicked Kitchen has a host of mac and cheese varieties for people to choose from. Its Spicy Smoky Dreamy Mac is an ode to cup noodles and one of the quickest ways to enjoy a vegan mac and cheese. Soy protein, potato starch, maltodextrin and coconut extract are blended with spices and seasoning to recreate the flavours of a conventional cheesy mac – all you have to do is add boiling water, stir thoroughly, and wait seven minutes.
Wicked Kitchen also offers a mac and cheese cup with potato and beans and a frozen Rockin’ Chili Mac. Plus, it has a full range of boxed varieties in BBQ King, Smoky Picnic and This is Nacho flavours, with rice milk powder playing a key role here. These are also packed with a whopping 17g of protein per serving.
You can buy Wicked Kitchen’s vegan mac and cheeses at multiple retailers across the US, starting from $3.49.
The Gal Gadot-owned brand Goodles offers something different: a good-for-you mac and cheese. Headlined by 12g of protein, 7g of prebiotic fibre, and 21 nutrients extracted from plants, the vegan mac and cheese uses a base of cashew milk, chicory fibre and nutritional yeast to take things up a notch on the flavour scale.
Even the pasta contains chickpea and wheat proteins. A take on a boxed Cheddar mac and cheese, Goodles’ Vegan is Believin’ comes with macaroni and a white Cheddar mix. As with other boxed varieties, cook the pasta until al dente, and drain while you prepare the sauce. Goodles recommends adding a third of a cup of milk alongside 1.5 tablespoons of vegan butter – heat it up and add the Cheddar once done.
You can buy Goodles’ Vegan is Believin’ mac and cheese directly from its website for $56.33 for a 12-pack.
One of the cleanest labels you’ll see on a box of mac and cheese, Upton’s Naturals lives up to its name here. A mainstay at its Liberation Kitchen restaurant in Chicago, the brand’s two mac and cheeses come in a different format than most – they’re pre-cooked and ready to heat.
The Original Ch’eesy Mac contains drum wheat semolina, nutritional yeast, rice bran oil, sea salt, cornstarch, mustard, onion, garlic, paprika, turmeric and sugar, while the bacon version sees the addition of a smoky seitan bacon (with vital wheat gluten, soy sauce, wheat flour and liquid smoke being the additional ingredients).
Crack open the two packs inside the box, and heat directly on a pan for three to five minutes (or until warm). You could also cook it for a further five to seven minutes (or until golden brown) for a more caramelised flavour. It’s a perfect weeknight dinner for two.
You can buy Upton’s Natural’s mac and cheeses online via FakeMeats.com or Amazon, at various retailers nationwide, or at Liberation Kitchen in Chicago, starting from $5.99.
Vegan cheese giant Daiya has recently overhauled its entire product line, switching from a chickpea protein base to fermented oat cream. This has also extended to its mac and cheese line, which is in the process of being replaced and replenished with the new formulations.
So far, the mac and cheeses that have been revamped are the classic Cheddar, White Cheddar, Alfredo and Four Cheese and Herbs variants. They both contain rice flour pasta to keep the product gluten-free, with filtered water, coconut oil, safflower oil, oat flour and tapioca starch combined with seasonings and gums for a rounded flavour.
To make these pastas, boil the macaroni until al dente, drain and return to the pot (saving some of the starchy water), and fold in the Daiya cheese sauce until fully mixed and warmed.
You can find Daiya’s new vegan macaroni and cheese at various retailers across the US, starting from $4.17.
With a three-strong lineup of boxed vegan mac and cheese, Pastabilities’ products cater to both kids and adults. Its younger-demographic-skewed products swap the macaroni for playful Ruffled and Sea Creature shapes. They contain fortified wheat flour pasta and a vegan Cheddar seasoning made from ingredients including maltodextrin, cornstarch, organic palm oil, rice syrup and pea protein.
Meanwhile, for the adults, there’s a Protein Pasta & Vegan Cheese variety, which makes use of a wheat flour pasta enriched with chickpea and pea proteins, soy protein concentrate and wheat protein isolate, alongside vitamins and minerals. The sauce remains the same as the other pastas, but the bulked-up pasta means it packs 22g of protein per serving, alongside 6g of dietary fibre.
The brand recommends a base of a third of a cup of almond milk and 2.5 tbsp of vegan butter, with the cheese mix added a little at a time as it heats. Add cooked pasta to this pot and you’re golden.
You can buy Pastabilities’ vegan mac and cheeses directly from its website, or at various retailers across the US, from $6.99.
Field Roast’s cult-favourite vegan cheese Chao is the star of its frozen Mac ‘n Chao offering. The ready-to-heat dish contains enriched flour pasta, Chao’s Original flavour slices with fermented tofu and olive extract, plus nutritional yeast, modified cornstarch, spices and hot sauce.
It’s a microwave meal reminiscent of Kevin McCallister in Home Alone – remove the overwrap and cover the dish, then microwave on high for four minutes, before stirring and heating for a further minute to two. It’s irresistibly quick and equally delicious.
Kraft Heinz Not Company
It had to be here. The brand synonymous with mac and cheese has finally introduced a dairy-free mac and cheese, which has begun rolling out in the US now (a version of this has been available in Australia since 2021). Born out of a partnership with Chilean food tech startup NotCo, the Kraft NotMac&Cheese comes in two flavours: Original and White Cheddar.
The plant-based version of the iconic boxed mac and cheese contains a base of faba bean protein isolate and coconut oil powder, with a surprising ingredient in dried pineapple too. Do I really need to tell you how to make this?
You can find Kraft Heinz Not Company’s NotMac&Cheese at various retailers across the US for $3.99.
A “chef-driven” brand, Howl was taken over by Penguin Natural Foods in 2023, which promised to release a new and updated version of its vegan mac and cheese line.
While still described as ‘coming soon’, the two gluten-free pastas come in Sharp Cheddar and Spicy Chipotle flavours with a cashew milk base. It’s also a clean-label box of mac and cheese, with the pasta containing white and brown rice flours, and the seasonings include nutritional yeast, cashews, salt, onion, garlic, lactic acid, yeast extract and annatto seed (the latter also has chipotle chillies).
Howl recommends starting with boiling pasta for 10-12 minutes, before draining and returning to the pan. Here, you stir in one-third cup of plant-based milk, 2 tbsp vegan butter and the seasoning packet for one minute, or until the sauce is creamy.
Howl’s vegan mac and cheese products are coming soon.