Homemade Vegan Cheddar Sauce Recipe- Tastes Like Boxed Macaroni and Cheese- Gluten Free

You know what's crazy? How much people really love boxed maraconi and cheese. See, the thing is, usually it's entirely a chemical concoction, and the cheese isn't even really cheese, just some orange powder that you mix with milk and pour onto the noodles... But it just tastes soooo good, that long after I switched to a healthier and less processed food lifestyle, I still went and occasionally bought boxed mac and cheese for that yumminess only found in that processed junk...
And I'm not the only one who, for some explicable reason, finds boxed mac and cheese to taste better than the homemade stuff, who just love that powdered cheese taste...

I was in the mood for some macaroni and cheese today, and decided to try making a coconut milk based "cheddar cheese" I'd seen on the internet way back when, only I didn't have all the ingredients at the time. I recently acquired some liquid smoke, and yes, I feel comfortable using it, don't considered it a bad, unhealthy, processed food, knowing how it is made...
So anyhow, back on topic.
I decided to play around with the cheddar cheese recipe, because I didn't want to use agar agar, an expensive ingredient, especially when I didn't need a lump of cheese- I just wanted a cheese sauce to use for mac and cheese...
And when I made the recipe for cheese sauce, and then turned it into mac and cheese... I was so surprised when I tasted it, because the thing it reminded me most of is boxed mac and cheese. You know, the chemically powdery yummy kind? I mean, I'm not promising a replica of that- but this is close enough that that is the first thing that comes to mind when taking a bite of this mac and cheese. And I think it is even cooler that I managed to accomplish that while making mac and cheese that is entirely gluten free and dairy free...

This is the recipe for the Cheddar sauce. Feel free to use it any way you'd use regular cheese, like in lasagna, on pizza, in quesidillas, on veggies like broccili, etc...
To use it to make mac and cheese, simply take half the cheese sauce, mix it with half a cup of coconut milk and 1 pound of cooked gluten free (or regular) pasta- I used Sam's Mill corn pasta- then salt to taste. It's out of this world!
Just a note- if you're trying to make a spreadable sauce, use less potato starch. If making mac and cheese and mixing with coconut milk, use the larger amount.

Homemade Vegan Cheddar Sauce Recipe- Tastes Like Boxed Macaroni and Cheese- Gluten Free

4 cups homemade coconut milk or 2 cans of store bought coconut milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon coconut sugar or regular sugar or honey
1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 pinch turmeric
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2- 3/4 cup potato starch

1. Mix all the ingredients together.

2. Heat up.

3. Mix until thickened.

4. Serve!

See? Easy as pie!

Are you a fan of mac and cheese? Do you prefer the homemade stuff or the taste of boxed mac and cheese?
Do you think you'll try out this recipe?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I prefer the homemade mac'n'cheese, but I will definitely try this... it looks DELICIOUS! Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. My daughter is crazy about boxed mac & cheese and very sad that we don't buy it anymore. I'll have to give this a try to surprise her! :-)

  3. clever recipe, I can't wait to try it,

    I read that the orange color in mac n cheese is a coal tar derivative

  4. This looks great. I have one son who can't eat potato, though. Do you think cornstarch would work instead?

    1. Yes, corn starch or tapioca starch would both work.

  5. Please advise where one can buy liquid smoke. I live in Canada and have never heard of it. Thank you

    1. If you have any of the following, try looking near them in the grocery store: steak sauce, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce. It's another very dark sauce sold in the same kinds of bottles as those sauces. It might also be near barbecue sauce.

      I just googled how to make it, too. Fascinating--I always thought it was just a bunch of chemicals, but it actually involves distilling smoke somehow. If you can't find it, you could probably leave it out or sub something else that reminds you of flavors from the grill.

    2. I like extra cheese added to my boxed macaroni and cheese. I also like macaroni and cheese from restaurants, so I guess I like both kinds. Your picture is making me hungry. However, I don't generally have all these ingredients. I may try altering your recipe beyond recognition (to use ingredients I have on hand) and seeing if that still works for me. I get the idea that nutritional yeast is the key here--I've heard a lot about the surprisingly cheesy flavor of that ingredient.

    3. Yes! I can't tell you how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE nutritional yeast. We use it for faux mozzarella, Parmesan and nacho cheeze. We get ours in the bulk section at our local Whole Foods and it's pretty inexpensive. Try this recipe to top nachos and Mexican dishes. Life changing if you were ever a canned nacho cheese junkie like me.


  6. So.... Made these tonight and I just need to say, thank you! We used to be a total icky boxed mac-n-cheese family. Since we've gone 100% plant based, we've experimented with a few different recipes, but this one's the winner! And I even messed it up and put Worcestershire instead of smoke, and then just added a drop of smoke and it was awesome! (Next time I'll stick to the recipe though). We stir in some peas and I like mine with ketchup (I know, I know) but definitely filled a void in our meal planning. Thank you!

  7. Thanks for this! I've got a dairy allergy child, so even tough I love using real cheese, I love it even more when she can eat my food!

  8. Hey Penny! I made this Thursday night and it was definitely too sweet with the coconut milk and had a coconuty flavor. I added extra nutritional yeast, but it wasn't helpful. Should I only use light coconut milk? (I used one can of light and one can of heavy?) Could I use almond milk and coconut milk instead?


  9. I thought yeast was grown on beer. I have a daughter who is allergic to malt and barley. Can she eat nutritional yeast?

  10. This is so awesome you post such wonderful recipes like this vegan cheese sauce! Thank you so, so much Penny! YOUR BLOG ROCKS MY WORLD! I will definitely be making this and some of the other cheeze recipes you've posted. I've been waiting for just the right time to use this wonderful smoked salt I got from a nice local spice shop, and this is it! I don't think I should use more than a quarter teaspoon though, probably more like an 1/8 teaspoon, its pretty flavorful stuff. Thanks again! :)

  11. I really wanted to like this, tried it and.....no, did not taste good at all. Sorry.

    1. Thank you for your feedback. I'm just wondering- did you ever make anything with nutritional yeast before? I've noticed that with nutritional yeast, some people like stuff, and some people simply do not. Could it be that, or do you think it was something else?

  12. Hi, I'm not sure what I did wrong. I use nutritional yeast all the time...I make vegan cheeses from it fairly frequently and am accustomed to the taste. Maybe I was just expecting something different from the 'boxed mac and cheese' experience. Anyway, not every recipe is for every person! I'm sure you have other really great ones here.

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