The Washington Post

Vegan Chili Mac

Vegan Chili Mac 14.000

Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post

Apr 20, 2016

This recipe, an entry in the 2016 Vegan Mac ’n’ Cheese Smackdown in Baltimore, relies on a super-gooey cheese sauce that satisfies those who like both nachos and macaroni and cheese. It’s mixed with chili, which helps the sauce spread out to be a little less stretchy.

Full-fat coconut milk will work here, but because it is a little more oily and has a more pronounced coconut flavor than low-fat coconut milk, the latter is preferable.

Make Ahead: The raw cashews need to be soaked for 8 hours, or boiled for 10 minutes.

Where to Buy: Nutritional yeast is used to enhance the flavor and boost the nutrition in vegetarian and vegan dishes. It tastes a little cheesy and is available at health food stores and at Whole Foods Markets.


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 14 servings; makes 14 cups

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup warm tap water
  • 1 cup warmed low-fat coconut milk (see headnote)
  • 1/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (see headnote)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white or brown miso paste
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 pound dried macaroni , just-cooked or reheated (8 cups)
  • 3 cups of your favorite vegan chili, warmed


Soften the cashews either by covering them in water in a bowl and soaking them for 8 hours (at room temperature) or by cooking them in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain.

Transfer the cashews to a blender, along with the warm tap water, warm coconut milk, tapioca starch, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, miso, maple syrup, onion and garlic powders, the teaspoon of kosher salt and the ground turmeric. Puree for several minutes on high speed, until smooth.

Pour that blended mixture into a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it thickens into a sauce. Note: The sauce goes from thickened to a gooey mass of cheese rather quickly, so remove from the heat promptly.

Combine the sauce with the hot macaroni until evenly coated, then mix in the chili until well incorporated. Taste and add salt, as needed.

Serve right away.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from a recipe by District resident Erin Longbottom.

Tested by Kristen Hartke.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving (without chili): 180

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 4g 6%

Saturated Fat: 1g 5%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 200mg 8%

Total Carbohydrates: 31g 10%

Dietary Fiber: 2g 8%

Sugar: 2g

Protein: 6g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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