February 7, 2012

Sunflower Mac

by IsaChandra

Serves 4
Time: 30 minutes (not including sunflower seed soaking time)

Sunny Mac

The most important people in my life are my recipe testers. Luckily, my sister and mom are included in their numbers, so all of my bases are covered.

Recipe testers are why my cookbooks work. Before a recipe gets to you, it has already been tested by a bunch of people, all over the world. They all have different levels of experience, from beginner cooks to lifelong kitchophiles. Some live in rural areas and harvest their own kale, while others lug huge bushels home from the farmer’s market on the subway. And there’s a happy medium in between.

But not only do testers test my recipes, they also give me inspiration. I can ask if there’s anything I’m missing, anything they’re craving, or just any ingredients they need to use up. It’s a great way to get ideas!

And over the years, I’ve learned many of their quirks, likes, loves and allergies. One of my most favoritest testers who has been there with me from the very beginning is Jess Sconed. I can’t say enough about her amazingness! I mean, not just as a recipe tester but as a friend and as a person. She is always creating something, always making the vegan community a better, more awesome, and more fun place. She started Vegan Iron Chef and is one of the organizers of Vida Vegan Con. She has like 20 blogs, but you might know her from Get Sconed, where she’s been blogging for ever. This recipe, created in her honor, is totally fitting because she’s a lot like a sunflower. One with dyed black pigtails and purple nail polish, but a sunflower all the same! Just a glowing ray of tofu light.

I know how she feels about raw onions and cilantro (not too good), and so I often come up with recipes keeping that in mind. And recently Jess has developed a tree nut allergy! I can’t imagine a worse fate right now, what with the cashew craze and my out of control almond butter lust. Knowing how much she loves vegan macs, I wanted to experiment with a sauce that I knew Jess would love, using ingredients that would be good for her, too. And so I pulled out the sunflower seeds.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Was this going to taste very 70s health-foody? I mean, it’s sunflower seeds. Our grandparents put them on their oatmeal. Would they even blend well? Cashews slurp up water and get tender and ready to puree. Sunflower kernels seem so hard and unwelcoming. I had my doubts, to be sure.

But all those doubt washed away as I poured the perfectly creamy sauce over the little macaronis in a positively cheddary orange waterfall. Sunflower seeds have a mellow nutty quality that fit right into a cheezy sauce. The backdrop of garlic and onion, with a hint of vegetable sweetness from carrots, and the rich toastiness from the sunflowers had me at the first creamy forkful. Bottom line: I really dug it! And from now on, I’ll have a canister of sunflower seeds standing proudly beside the cashews in my cupboard. Thanks for the inspiration, Jess!

I love to serve my mac with some steamed kale, so here was my plate.

Sunny Mac

The mac is under there somewhere! Steamed broccoli would be a good choice, as well. PS If you’d like to see all the testing that Jess did for Veganomicon, you can check out her post here.

8 oz macaroni pasta (I used whole wheat, use brown rice pasta to make it gluten-free)

1 cup unroasted sunflower seed kernels, soaked (see directions)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons organic cornstarch
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice                                                              
Sweet paprika for sprinkling                                                        

Place sunflower seeds in a bowl and submerge in water. Let soak for about 2 hours and up to overnight. Drain well.

Boil a pot of salted water for your pasta.

Preheat a sauce pot over medium heat. Saute carrots and onions in oil with a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent and carrots are slightly softened. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds or so, then remove from heat.

Place the carrots and onions in a blender or food processor. Add vegetable broth, corn starch, nutritional yeast, tomato paste and sunflower seeds. Blend until very smooth. This could take up to 5 minutes depending on the power of your machine, so give your blender  motor a break every minute or so and test the sauce for smoothness. It should be very smooth, with only a slight graininess.

If your water is boiling, prepare the pasta according to package directions.

In the meantime, transfer the sauce back to the sauce pot. Turn the heat up to medium and let cook, stirring very often, until thickened. This should take about 15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and taste for salt and seasoning.

The pasta should be done while the sauce is thickening, so drain and place back in the pot you cooked it in. Set aside.

When sauce is thick, pour most of it over the pasta, reserving some to pour over individual servings. Mix it up, and serve with extra sauce and paprika for sprinkling.

  • February 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm: Jael

    My husband makes white sauce from sunflower seeds. Looking forward to trying this!

  • February 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm: phee

    Awww its the cashews cheaper cousin.

  • February 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm: Mary

    This looks really interesting! I love sunflower seeds and they are pretty good for you too.

  • February 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm: Gabrielle

    This is adorable! I will absolutely make this in honour of Jess. Thanks, Isa!

  • February 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm: Tamie Spears

    I would LOVE to be a recipe tester! I am constantly trying new things and reading recipes is a passion of mine.

  • February 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm: Susan

    This sounds goo-ood!

  • February 7, 2012 at 7:16 pm: Jen

    AWWW. that is the sweetest recipe dedication! And for such a wonderful person! I love her blogs!

    You really go above and beyond with your substitutions!

  • February 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm: Katie

    Woh, I cannot tell you how happy I am that you posted this. I am allergic to nothing, NOTHING except…you guessed it…cashews. Ugh. It’s a vegan-food-loving nightmare. I’m always wanting to try some delicious cheese sauce at a raw restaurant and feeling totally sorry for myself. I was so excited to get Cafe Gratitude’s book of desserts and then realized almost everything was made with cashews. Grrr. So I can’t wait to try this out!

  • February 7, 2012 at 7:35 pm: Janie

    This sounds fabulous! Nice to learn about alternatives to nuts for people who can’t eat them. Looks really good on the kale too!

  • February 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm: katy

    hahaha, I was so excited at first to make this for my friend with nut allergies, then I noticed it has tomatoes and I am allergic to tomatoes. Allergies, man! (that’s ok though, we still have plenty of things we can both eat.)

  • February 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm: Bethany

    This is such a sweet post! Seriously. It’s so nice to see people appreciating each other. Isa, you rock and your cookbooks are the reason I love being vegan. I want to thank YOU! And thank you, Jess, for testing Isa’s recipes so people like me can have happy vegan tummies! :)

  • February 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm: EmperorTomatoKetchup

    Hooray for creamy cashew-free mac & cheese! My husband’s allergic to nuts too, so I’m sure he’ll appreciate this.

  • February 7, 2012 at 8:38 pm: Samalamb

    This is perfect! My mom is allergic to cashews and I have been craving mac ‘n’ cheeze here at college! So making this when I get home! :)

  • February 7, 2012 at 9:00 pm: Love

    I love you.

  • February 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm: Joleanna

    YAY! I’m allergic to cashews :( so this is awesome! thank you so much for experimenting and sharing!

  • February 7, 2012 at 9:25 pm: Kale Crusaders

    We were looking for a new mac & cheese recipe to try next week–thank you! It is always nice to make delicious vegan food as inclusive as possible to those with allergies!

  • February 7, 2012 at 9:45 pm: Robyn Mary

    This looks SO GOOD!!!!! Thank you SO MUCH for your dedication to creating healthful and delicious vegan food. <3 We love you, Isa!

  • February 7, 2012 at 10:55 pm: Maggie

    I always use sunflower seeds, in my mixes, nut butters, salads, as a snack.
    I love that you add it to your pantry!!!
    I want to be a recipe tester!!!!! :D For real!

  • February 7, 2012 at 11:56 pm: Andrea- Butterflyist

    Is this a good recipecto make for when non-vegans come to supper, or is the kind you save for appreciative vegans?! I’m cooking dinner for my mum-nearly-in-law on Thursday & need something simple but tasry :)

  • February 8, 2012 at 1:52 am: Lora

    What a fantastic Mac-n-Cheese version. I love the idea of sunflower seeds.

  • February 8, 2012 at 2:50 am: Laura

    Wow, it’s like you read my thoughts once again, Isa! One of my best friends is allergic to nuts and I’ve been wishing and hoping for a “cheesey” vegan dish we could actually share, without having to resort to an Earth-Balance-sauce. I love you more each and every day :-P

  • February 8, 2012 at 4:14 am: Amy

    If you are ever looking for new recipe testers, I would be incredibly honored to serve you in that capacity!!! This looks amazing; I never would have thought to use sunflower seeds. Katy, I would try subbing mustard for the tomato paste, or maybe just omit it. don’t let it stop you – forge ahead!!! :)

  • February 8, 2012 at 7:11 am: Laura

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I also have a severe nut allergy and am always discouraged by all the cashew recipes out there that I can’t try. I can’t wait to get this cooking for dinner tomorrow night! Thank you thank you thank you!

  • February 8, 2012 at 10:19 am: Mihl

    Your mac and cheese sounds very delicious! I love sunflower seed based sauces. I started experimenting with them a while ago, because cashews are so expensive over here. In Germany sunflower seeds are used in many vegan spreads and I also find them as versatile as cashews.

  • February 8, 2012 at 11:27 am: JL goes Vegan

    What a fabulous recipe! Comfort food all wrapped up in good for you makes me happy! Love that you serve it with kale!

  • February 8, 2012 at 12:56 pm: Michelle

    Thank you! My daughter is allergic to cashews. Your recipes are the best! You are the best!!!

  • February 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm: maita

    It’s a vegan cheesey sauce students can afford! <3
    Which makes me wonder… Peanuts are the cheapest nut-like thing in lots of places, so could one do the soak-and-blend with peanuts as well? How about soy beans??

    • February 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm: IsaChandra

      Peanuts have such a strong flavor, you’d really just have peanut sauce. Soy beans are pretty different, have you tried the edamame pesto from my blog?

  • February 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm: Daniel

    My (non-vegan) fiancee is allergic to tree nuts, so I’m always on the lookout for things I can cook without killing her. This is going to be awesome, especially when I add some of the Italian sausage from the recipe a few days ago. One question: if i wanted to make the whole thing into a baked casserole, what would you recommend for a crust?

    • February 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm: IsaChandra

      I don’t think a mac & cheese casserole needs a crust.

  • February 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm: Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit

    Yum, I love that you used sunflower seeds in this. It’s about the only seed/nut that I can handle without getting weird reactions. I’m with you on the recipe taste testers. Like you mentioned, it’s good to have a couple of them. Sometimes I’ll make something that my boyfriend absolutely hates, but my neighbors love, and I do too… good to have all bases covered!

  • February 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm: lou

    awesome! now the mighty isa has tried the sunflower seed “cashew creme” i am much more positive about applying it to other cashewy based vegan delights. Big loves for this, it means a lot to us treenut aphobes

  • February 8, 2012 at 4:23 pm: Ashley

    Yesssss something I can finally eat!! I too have the cashew curse. :(

  • February 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm: julia wheeler

    i can’t wait to try this with brown rice pasta!

  • February 8, 2012 at 4:34 pm: amanda

    soaking the sunflower seeds to make this for dinner tonight!

  • February 8, 2012 at 5:01 pm: millie

    Here’s to Jess Sconed! <3

  • February 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm: Tracy

    Sunflower cheeze sauce, go figure! Perfect for kids and everyone. Thanks.

  • February 8, 2012 at 7:50 pm: Lily

    This looks so good! Got ingredients to make it but accidentally got roasted sunflower seeds. Would they be okay to use? Would anything in the recepie change besides omitting salt?

    • February 8, 2012 at 9:24 pm: IsaChandra

      I think they’ll be fine! Maybe a little more toasty tasting…

  • February 8, 2012 at 8:27 pm: Kat

    I made it immediately after I got home yesterday (and soaked the seeds, duh). Delicious! Next time I will let them soak overnight so they are very soft. I also couldn’t resist adding some curry powder for even more yellowness. Thank you, Isa, for appreciating the humble sunflower seeds! They are also great in pesto :)

  • February 9, 2012 at 2:14 am: Carla

    yum! this also makes the recipe more affordable, sunflower seeds being way cheaper than cashews, and they are rather creamy.

    I’ve been meaning to share that I recently did the vinagrette for the Everyday Chickpea Quinoa Salad from Appetite for Reducation with sunflower seeds instead of cashews and it was awesome! I ran out of cashews but I so craved this salad. I figured sunflower seeds are creamy, why not try? well, it was yum, not quite as thick, next time I think I would put in a few more seeds, but otherwise quite good. You should try it sometime!

  • February 9, 2012 at 3:08 am: Northwest Herbivore

    I made this tonight, and found I wanted to do some tweaking because the raw-bean taste of the sunflower seeds was a little overpowering. I added one more tablespoon of tomato paste (a kind with no salt added), tripled the nutritional yeast, and used smoked salt instead of regular. I found those things helped, and also noticed that serving the sauce with the pasta and kale (rather than tasting it right out of the pot) made the flavor seem more on target. Next time I might try lightly roasting the sunflower seeds. I really like the idea of using them instead of cashews, so this is something I’ll keep playing with. Thanks for the recipe!

  • February 9, 2012 at 4:42 pm: Sukee

    Amazing. I just made this, but didn’t have tomato paste so I subbed salsa to taste. Now it’s a fantastic nacho cheese sauce…

    Thanks for your brilliance!

  • February 9, 2012 at 10:35 pm: panda cookie

    I heart jess scone.

  • February 11, 2012 at 5:48 am: Elizabeth

    I’ll have to try this. My daughter loves mac and cheese, but I hadn’t found a great vegan recipe for one yet. Can’t wait!

  • February 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm: Olivia B.

    I’m making this today! My 2 year old boy will love this – Mac and cheese is his favorite and I’ve been searching for a worthy vegan version. I love you Isa! You always save the day! :)

    Quick question – do you think the sauce would freeze well? Like if I made a batch and portioned it out in freezer bags to pop out for individual meals?

  • February 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm: Julie

    Thank you so much! My husband and kids are all severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts – so the cashew craze is such a downer, there are so many recipes I can’t make. FINALLY I can make a ma-cheese recipe for them!!! Thank you so much!

  • February 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm: Grainy Maggots

    Bag of sunflower seeds, I know what I’m going to do with you now and it’s not just dump you on top of my oats! Thanks Isa xx

  • February 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm: christi

    Just made it and poured over fresh spinach, tomatoes and red peppers. Tasty!!! Next dish is NACHOS!! mmmm. Thanks lovely Isa

  • February 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm: Grainy_Maggots

    Jut made this…holy Jesus it’s good

  • February 12, 2012 at 5:42 am: Martha

    This sounds fantastic! I’ll have to add raw sunflower seeds to this weeks grocery list!

  • February 13, 2012 at 12:09 am: Tina

    Just made this! Awesome flavor, easy recipe. Made a ton of sauce – could have used more pasta. I’d like it to be a tiny bit less grainy, though. I’ll have to work on that. Thank you for the fab recipes!

    • February 13, 2012 at 1:59 am: IsaChandra

      Just blend longer! It’s hard to gauge sometimes if you blended enough, but better safe than sorry. Happy you liked it!

  • February 13, 2012 at 12:48 am: Mel

    I really wish I liked nutritional yeast, but no matter how much I try to love it, I always find it mediocre at best. Every recipe for vegan mac-and-cheese looks yummy to me, except if there was no nutritional yeast. I’ve tried sneaking down the amount of it as much as I can, but anything more than a tablespoon still tastes nooch-y. Any recommendations for nooch-haters?? :-)

    Thanks for all the awesome recipes!

    • February 13, 2012 at 1:58 am: IsaChandra

      I make the mac & shews recipe (on this blog) all the time without the nutritional yeast. I prefer it that way! This one needed it for the body.

  • February 13, 2012 at 10:30 am: Andrea

    Made this last night and it was fabulous. Even my non vegan husband had seconds.
    I did have heaps of sauce left over and not sure if it will freeze ok. I am going to try it but just wondering if I am wasting my time.
    Thanks for all of your recipes- they are the bomb!!!

    • February 13, 2012 at 7:27 pm: IsaChandra

      I think freezing would be fine! I use so many veggies in mine that I didn’t have any sauce leftover to freeze.

  • February 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm: tanya

    can’t wait to try this (another cursed with thentree nut allergy that magically appeared out of no where- grr..) i am super excited for happy comfort food :) <3

  • February 13, 2012 at 3:36 pm: Mel

    Oh, now I feel dumb because I guess I assumed the mac & shrews recipe on this blog was the same as the one in V’con. Hah. I’ll have to give it a try…

  • February 13, 2012 at 8:37 pm: Sam (the Quantum Vegan)

    This looks absolutely lovely. :) I haven’t tried a seed-based sauce yet, but this one looks worth the trip to the co-op for a jar of sunflower seeds!

  • February 14, 2012 at 12:50 am: One Vegan Fatty

    just tried this…at first i tasted straight from the blender and thought…ehh, it’s okay. but, THEN, i cooked the sauce for a few minutes and tasted again…hmmm, better. and, THEN, i sauteed my noodles in the sauce and threw in some broccoli and tasted again…WOW! fantastic, Isa! **I did add a little curry and cayenne, but your recipe is a winner, so thank you!!

  • February 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm: Reia

    What an interesting take on mac and cheese. The hardest thing for me to give up in order to become vegan is cheese, but thanks to you and many others out there, there are a lot of great vegan m-n-c recipes that will help me over the hurdle!

  • February 15, 2012 at 11:31 pm: Andrea- Butterflyist

    I made this tonight & am so excited (and surprised!) that I have leftovers for tomorrow! It was such yummy comfort food & definitely will become one of my staples. One thing I discovered though, the sauce spits everywhere when thickening, like a volcano! Don’t know if this was my fault but I say use a big pan :)

  • February 17, 2012 at 3:55 am: DILLON EDWARDS

    I could only find roasted sunflower seeds, how do you think it will affect the mac n cheeze?

    • February 17, 2012 at 4:33 am: IsaChandra

      Eh, give it a shot!

  • February 18, 2012 at 7:19 pm: Nancy B.

    I added a bit of dry mustard and Mrs. Dash. It was very good. It had a lighter feel than cashew cheese, and much easier to digest. I’m going to substitute sunflower seeds for all cashews in sauces. I wonder if Sunbutter would work as well.

  • February 18, 2012 at 9:36 pm: Steph

    Anybody know if it’s safe to eat sunny seeds that have been on the counter soaking for 24 hours? Put ’em up to soak before leaving for work yesterday to be ready for dinner, but then we had a change of plans and I forgot about them till this a.m.

    • February 19, 2012 at 12:32 am: IsaChandra

      They’ll be fine!

  • February 18, 2012 at 9:58 pm: Nancy B.

    Wow. I just added a bunch of Frank’s Hot Sauce (of Buffalo Wing fame) to it – it’s great nacho sauce. Hard to put down.

  • February 19, 2012 at 2:30 am: Robyn Mary

    This recipe is so delicious. I love the diversity of all your different “cheese” sauce recipes. I didn’t expect the sunflower seeds to give it such a light subtle taste! Excellent. Thank you!

  • February 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm: Rachelinveganland

    Ok, so I made this and when I tried the first bite, my heart skipped a beat. Can someone say obsession? This stuff is great!

  • February 20, 2012 at 2:54 am: Frida

    Wow! This was amazing. I made this for three picky young kids and a non-vegan who hates everything – and it was a huge hit.

  • February 20, 2012 at 9:28 pm: Steph

    Thanks for the oversoaked seeds feedback. Nancy B. – I like the hot sauce idea. Here I was with lots of sunny sauce left, not wanting more pasta, and a bag of blue corn chips and nothing to dip them in. Both problems solved.

  • February 21, 2012 at 9:24 pm: Drew B

    Isa, thanks for this, and I miss you! So after my sad break from veganism (I really need to find some support from vegans with omni kids..it’s tough!!) I’m back and have been craving mac like crazy. Looking forward to making this!

  • February 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm: Mary M

    Excellent! I’ve tried other versions that were awful, this one is a keeper. I love that sunflower seeds are much more affordable than cashews. Tip: when she says to “blend until really smooth”, she means it! Otherwise it’s a bit grainy, but still yummy. I can see myself trying some spices (curry?) for a bit of adventure. Also, for the purpose of leftovers, it might be a good idea to cook less pasta, save some of the sauce, and boil new pasta (otherwise you’ll be eating disintegrating pasta leftovers).

  • February 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm: Reana

    I fed this to my 5 kids (ages 6 and under) and they gobbled it up! They used to eat Kraft so I’m thrilled they’ll eat this instead.

  • February 26, 2012 at 12:44 am: Jenine

    Delicious! I added some sautéed smoked tofu for extra om nom nom-ness.

  • February 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm: Stephanie

    Thaks for another great recipe! This is the best vegan mac recipe I’ve made. It tastes super healthy, and didn’t fry my cheapie Walmart blender! I froze this into single serve containers so I’ll have a creamy, delicious lunch for work.

  • February 27, 2012 at 2:52 am: Rheyn

    Heeey! ///I/// put sunflower seeds in my oatmeal, thankyouverymuch!

    …But, no, really, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for another glorious mac option. I regret having already eaten dinner tonight.

  • February 27, 2012 at 8:41 am: melinda lee

    I would like to add this: as a cheat, if you want this NOW and cannot wait to soak the seeds, cover them in boiling water for 15 or so minutes. this does the job perfectly! (;

  • February 28, 2012 at 3:23 am: Carrie

    Aw, this is so freakin’ WONDERFUL! EVeryThiNg i’ve made so far has been super! I am SO happy that I found you! I’ve been a vegetarian, cooking vegan a lot of the time, for something like 22 years. It’s always cool to find a recipe that rocks, here and there, but to find your website = GOLD MINE. Thank you thank you thank you thank you I will pay you back by buying your cookbooks for myself and every veg/vegan i know in the years to come.

  • February 28, 2012 at 4:27 pm: Jade

    This looks great! The last vegan mac I made from Vegan Yum Yum came out too sweet for some reason, and kind of turned me off to the idea of making vegan mac again, but this looks super promising! I’m going to make it for my housemates in a couple of days, but I want to try doing it casserole style. Once the sauce is blended, i’m going to pour it over the cooked macaroni in a baking pan, then top that with some panko or sesame cracker crumbs and italian herbs. I like everyone’s suggestions to use curry powder. Would baking it suffice for the cooking needed in order to let the sauce thicken?

    • February 29, 2012 at 1:54 am: IsaChandra

      Yep, I think that would work well!

  • March 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm: Sam

    Made this today for lunch and it was spot on. I didn’t tweak anything at all. Thank you for another yummy recipe Isa!

  • March 3, 2012 at 8:49 pm: Samantha

    Made this today with my partner for lunch. It was so GOOD! We’ve been trying different mac and cheeze recipes but for some reason I can’t take the amount of nutritional yeast in them. This was surprisingly (no offense Isa) so good even with nutritional yeast in it. Even my skeptic of a foodie mother liked it.

    Thanks Isa your food is simply the best!

  • March 7, 2012 at 3:03 am: Sarah

    This was one of my first vegan recipes attempts and it is so YUMMY!

  • March 8, 2012 at 6:54 pm: Mary

    When I made this a few weeks ago I doubled the sauce and froze half, and am happy to report that it was just as creamy and tasty in a casserole this week! And my toddler loved it. This is my new default mac and cheese. Thank you Isa!

  • March 9, 2012 at 3:36 am: JessicaKC

    My husband and I have been vegan for 7 weeks. He is also allergic to ALL nuts (as well as several other foods). I found your site tonight and saw this and feel so inspired. He loves sunflower seeds (after all, this is all he has ever had for any type of “nut”) and I can’t wait to try this. THANK YOU!!

  • March 21, 2012 at 1:27 am: tiinakd

    I just made this sauce, but need to travel before I will be able to thicken and enjoy it. Out of the blender I thought it was wonderful. i have no choice but to freeze it, so I will give it a go when I’m back in town. I’ll let you know how it goes!

  • March 21, 2012 at 7:09 pm: T.

    Oh, wow. Thank you SO MUCH for this. I also have a tree nut allergy so I can’t have any of the cashew-based cheesiness. It’s great to know that sunflower seeds can do the trick!

  • March 23, 2012 at 4:20 am: Hilary

    Would it maybe taste okay if you made it with roasted sunflower seeds?

    • March 24, 2012 at 9:45 pm: IsaChandra

      Yep i think so!

  • March 24, 2012 at 11:22 pm: eviedee

    I am SUCH a huge fan of Isa and her recipes but I did not care for this one. I’m chalking it up to being a non vegan with no food allergies who is mighty fond of nooch. If that sounds like you try the excellent recipe for mac and trees in Appetite for Reduction!

  • March 25, 2012 at 1:55 am: Meaghan

    I have a ton of roasted sunflower seeds that I need to use up. Could I use roasted sunflower seeds or would it be too strong of a flavor?

  • March 25, 2012 at 1:56 am: Meaghan

    Whups! Someone already asked. Well, looks like I will have to try this now :)

  • March 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm: Erin

    I finally got around to making this today. I tweaked it a bit (more nooch, more tomato paste, some curry powder, hickory smoke salt) and while I probably could have blended the sauce a bit more, it turned out GREAT. I can’t wait to play around with this recipe some more.

  • April 3, 2012 at 7:16 pm: Alex

    I have eaten this every day for the last three days and am mildly concerned I could continue eating it forever until I morph into an actual ball of pulverised sunflower seeds. I’m an officially rubbish cook and this still turned out amazing. Gracias!!

  • April 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm: Slide

    Holy cow, this stuff rocks. Isa, you never cease to amaze me.

    I doubled the recipe because I used a 16 oz. package of pasta. Note to recipe-doublers: there is no need to double it. This makes a lot of sauce. I am happy I did it though, because now I have some in the freezer…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  • April 20, 2012 at 2:04 am: Melissa

    This is a great recipe! I made it for some non vegans (well, i’m not vegan either, i just love the food on this site!) who had no idea it wasn’t cheesey!

    I did substitute cahsews, since I live in Panama and it’s near impossible to find sunflower seeds. The cashews here are amazing though, home grown and roasted and unbelievable!

    If anybody has an idea of a substitute for nutritional yeast? I’ve been surviving without it as there are no “specialty stores” or anywhere where i can find it…any suggestions?

  • April 30, 2012 at 2:12 pm: Katy

    Im not a fan of nutritional yeast:( i want something that tastes like the boxed crap from the store but without all the junk. Does that recipe’ exist??

  • April 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm: Emily

    This sounds great! The only problem I have with some vegan recipes is the nutritional yeast – I am allergic to yeast! Can you recommend a substitute?

  • May 1, 2012 at 11:37 pm: Katie T

    this was my first attempt at vegan mac and “cheese” and it was a resounding success! i forgot to thicken the sauce at the end, and it was still delicious:) Vegan “cheese” no longer scares me, and I am going to have to check out more nut/seed based sauce recipes. Thanks!

  • May 7, 2012 at 9:31 pm: Claire

    I’m not a vegan (or even a vegetarian) and I love me some mac’n’cheese. However, I don’t really eat it that often because of how unhealthy it is. The thought of eating that much cheese in one sitting is disgusting to me, even as an omnivore. I tried this recipe for the first time, and was blown away. This is my new go-to! You rock, Isa!

    And Emily – I find that mustard powder (used in smaller amounts than NY) can add a cheesy flavor, when combined with roasted red peppers and lemon juice. Hope that helps! Maybe try a few teaspoons and a pepper, and go from there?

  • May 8, 2012 at 11:04 pm: Sharon L

    I discovered this recipe about 6 weeks ago and have made it twice so far. It’s Dee-licious. Thank you for an easy and delicious recipe that does take care of that mac and cheese craving. I’m making the Garlicky Thyme Tempeh now. I can’t wait to see how that turns out.

  • May 28, 2012 at 2:51 pm: JGreutert

    I made this last night & it was really good. The recipe made ALOT!!!! I was able to freeze two containers of the leftover cheezey sauce, I hope it freezes well!! If not, I’ll just half the recipe next time.
    Thanks Isa

  • June 2, 2012 at 12:44 pm: Becca J

    This was amazing! I added in some smoked sea salt and just a dash of Cayenne pepper. Thanks for the recipe.

  • June 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm: Emily

    This had a surprising depth of flavor with a nice sweetness from the carrots and onions. My sauce also bubbled like a volcano when simmering, but I just stirred continuously with a sauce whisk.

    The recipe makes a ton of sauce so I had it the first time with steamed broccoli and the second time with carmelized onions and mushrooms. Rave reviews from my boyfriend both times.

  • June 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm: Joy

    This was lush! A new favourite, oh-so-easy to make and tasty on everything. Thank you!

  • July 3, 2012 at 12:12 am: Kerry

    Is the yeast just for thickening? Really looking forward to trying this. Our grocery store (Wegmans) makes a phenomenal penne corn pasta that I think it will play well with the tomato, carrots and sunflowers.

  • July 11, 2012 at 9:08 pm: melina

    I made this using the food processor and it was grainy. Tasted great though. Would the blender produce a creamier texture?

  • July 16, 2012 at 6:11 pm: Sara

    I followed the recipe exactly and while it was very fun to try, it wasn’t what I was looking for. I am looking for something really flavorful, smooth, creamy, and a vegan version of an old favorite of mine. At least now I know that a nut-based mac is probably not going to work. This is an interesting recipe none the less and I would make it again. The quest for the best vegan mac recipe continues…

  • July 18, 2012 at 9:23 pm: Becca J

    My whole Family LOVED this. Thanks!

  • July 26, 2012 at 5:27 pm: Rebecca

    Yumm, I added extra tomato paste and some of my basil to this recipe and it tastes awesome on homemade pizza! I was started having some allergy problems with soy so I was overjoyed when I found this.

  • August 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm: kk

    This is wonderful… I’ve just discovered my toddler is allergic to cashews and pistachios… but I’m allergic to nutritional yeast, so I’ll have to figure out a way to work that out, but it looks amazing!

    Always looking for cashewless recipes. :D

  • August 13, 2012 at 11:03 pm: Linda Rosenblatt

    wow, thank you, this recipe sounds not only appealing in taste but simple to make. looking forward to putting this together! would love to know how to do a white sauce too from Jael’s comment below.

  • August 16, 2012 at 8:09 pm: Becca

    Just made this with a non vegan friend. We paired it with some tender boiled broccoli. It was good! Tomorrow I’m making garlic mashed turnip and rutabagas so I’m looking forward to topping them with my leftover sunflower “cheese”!

  • August 20, 2012 at 8:42 pm: Nikki

    I made this and it turned out a disgusting brown color…. where did I go wrong? Any ideas?

  • August 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm: Natasha

    I made this with cauliflower tonight. It doesn’t taste cheesy to me at all, but it is a really delicious creamy sauce that I’ll make again. Sunflower seeds are much cheaper than cashews, so I’m going to be using them much more now.

  • September 25, 2012 at 4:11 pm: Valerie

    This may be a stupid question, but are we supposed to use a cup of soaked sunflower seeds or a cup that was measured dry and then soaked. I made this last night and it was super green and seedy tasting. I soaked a cup of orrganic raw seeds then blended the whole lot. It was super tasty but a weird color. Thanks!

    • September 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm: IsaChandra

      Hmm. Were the seeds shelled? I’ve heard that when you bake sunflower seeds they turn stuff green, but this definitely isn’t the case here so I’m honestly not sure!

  • October 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm: Valerie

    My silly ass used pumpkin seeds not sunflower seeds… result=green sauce, still tasted great though…oops!

  • October 10, 2012 at 9:51 pm: Angie

    How many servings does this recipe make?

  • October 25, 2012 at 6:24 am: shiya

    what can be used in place of the yeast???

  • December 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm: bookwormbethie

    awesome, soooooooooo excited to try this recipe as i was recently diagnosed with treenut + peanut allergies. cashews are in so many creamy vegan sauces that i am pysched that this one uses sunflower seeds!

    i bought plain ol’ shelled sunflower seeds. however, i did see salted, roasted sunflower seeds. would those have worked, or not so much due to the extra salt????

  • December 6, 2012 at 3:06 pm: bookwormbethie

    p.s. uh, obviously i can’t read. the directions say unroasted!

  • December 7, 2012 at 7:59 pm: Susan

    This is excellent. I used a teeny bit more lemon juice (by accident) and it was still great…I think it reduced the “powdery” flavor that nooch has (although I love it).

  • December 11, 2012 at 10:01 pm: bookwormbethie

    made this a couple of nights ago, it was great. we added a generous sprinkling of annie’s worchestershire sauce + rooster hot sauce and it was the bomb. i kid you not. back in april i also developed an allergy to all nuts so i am most appreciate of this cheeze that is not cashew based!

  • January 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm: Pam

    The sauce tastes like beer, nuts, and slightly floral (I have no idea where that’s coming from). We’re not making this again.

  • January 16, 2013 at 2:10 am: Alysha

    I just tried this recipe. It’s been in my recipe box for awhile now but I never had all the ingredients conveniently available–and today I did, so I gave it a try. So good!! I added a little extra salt, oregano, and pepper, but I’m in love. I’ve been transitioning to a vegan diet for a few weeks now and this definitely satisfies my craving for cheese. Thanks so much!

  • January 18, 2013 at 12:55 am: RatKat

    This was delicious!!!!! A success even with my very crappy food processor and only just maybe 2hrs of soaking time

  • February 1, 2013 at 7:54 pm: Miranda

    I was thinking of combining one of the mac n shews sauce ideas with this one. I was gonna add the sourkraut from the other recipe to this one. Would that be good, or gross?

  • February 9, 2013 at 12:51 am: Lisa

    Amazing. This dish is SO freakin’ good, my nine-year-old son had three huge bowls and my husband had a few too! I love this sauce, so creamy and rich. Thank you. I don’t know how I would feed my family without you!

  • February 10, 2013 at 8:53 pm: Angela Hancock

    Can you freeze the cheese sauce?

  • March 11, 2013 at 7:16 pm: Neesiepoo

    FYI, I’ve been making this sauce for a while and it freezes beautifully!

  • March 17, 2013 at 12:31 pm: Rebeccakabrin

    Our family had this for dinner last night. I served it as a cheesy sauce over cauliflower and my partner and 3 year old daughter loved it. They requested that I use the left over sauce, it made tons, for a traditional mac and cheese recipe for dinner tonight. The only change I made to the recipe was to add more nutritional yeast (about a 1/4 cup more) near the end of cooking. Delicious!

    • March 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm: IsaChandra

      Cool! Happy you all enjoyed it.

  • March 18, 2013 at 6:00 pm: Lindsay

    Just made this, it doesn’t taste like cheese but is really good. I wouldn’t try telling someone it was mac and cheese way too different a taste, but maybe just say you’re making a pasta dish, and non-vegans should enjoy it. I just think if you got them expecting mac and cheese they would be sorely disappointed.

  • March 18, 2013 at 7:50 pm: Rachel

    This was really good, and adults and kids all loved it at our house. I think I accidentally used roasted sunflower seeds, though. Still good, but not as yellow as in your photos.

  • April 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm: bohemianmatka

    Eating a big bowl of this mac right now as I type :) Its VERY good… I added a tbsp of paprika with my salt and lemon juice during the last 15 min of cooking the sauce. I ended up with alot of extra sauce, so it was enough for a whole 16 oz bag of brown rice pasta. Also a great kid-friendly recipe; my 2 year-old daughter loved it!

  • April 22, 2013 at 10:21 pm: Rachel

    This looks amazing!! I always crave mac and cheese, but most vegan recipes call for cashews, to which I am allergic. Thanks!

  • May 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm: Sammy

    Serves four? HAHAHAHA. You obviously haven’t seen how much of this I can eat.

  • May 29, 2013 at 2:41 am: Ashley

    This was really good! I cooked 8oz of macaroni, like the directions said, and ended up with LOTS of extra sauce…which is good because now I can add it to everything! LOL I found the sauce was a little bit lacking in flavor, but a few seasonings would fix that. The sauce was great otherwise, the color was perfect, and it was nice and thick and creamy and smooth. I did use about 1/4 cup sunflower seeds and the rest cashews, maybe the seeds add more flavor? Anyway it was yumm-o! Thanks for the recipe! :)

  • May 30, 2013 at 12:22 am: KTP

    Sounds delish! I’m going to prepare this for a very picky eater (picture 7 year old taste buds). Would this be any more of “the real thing” if I baked it a bit in the end with a bread crumb topping? Or might that ruin it in any way?

  • June 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm: cocolex7

    This pasta recipe was tasty and my 4-year-old sister liked it however it was nothing like mac and cheese. The colour was orange-pink, not nearly as yellow as on the picture here. The pasta had also an overwhelming taste of onion and carrots. The texture wasn’t cheesy at all, just thick and creamy. It was good, but we will not prepare it again. Still looking for an authentic vegan mac and cheese. We’re gonna try the other one made of cashews.

  • June 28, 2013 at 9:15 am: Justin

    Made this tonight and it was very good! Not as rich as chipotle mac n cheese. I doubled the nooch and added a tsp of miso , along with some dry mustard and turmeric.

    Sprinkled some sesame seeds on the top along with the paprika.

    Overall a good tasty and lighter version. Could have had a bit more depth to it, but overall very good!

  • July 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm: Rebecca

    What can we use if we cannot use Tomato paste?

  • August 5, 2013 at 5:18 pm: saffron

    Made the sauce this weekend, and used it to make a polenta lasagna, layered with this sauce and a homemade tomato/eggplant sauce. Lots of sauce leftover, think I am going to try making a ‘white’ pizza with spinach and garlic with the rest.
    Thank you for these postings!

  • September 17, 2013 at 12:07 am: Betsy

    I just made this and it passed the kid test. Great flavor and texture!

  • November 4, 2013 at 6:54 am: andream

    This was great, as are all your recipes! I’m currently restraining myself from eating the whole batch. Sure its not 100% like macaroni and cheese, but i mean…isn’t that the point? This is so delicious and much, much better :)

  • November 23, 2013 at 6:55 pm: Becky

    This is my favourite mac and cheese, period. Thank you.

  • November 28, 2013 at 1:48 am: Jill

    This makes a ton of sauce. After about a week of staring at the container in the fridge I mixed the leftover sauce with a roasted buttercup squash for a whole new sweeter sauce. Mix in some peas, top with toasted pepitas and voila, delish without repeating the same meal

  • December 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm: Caroline

    Hi Isa! I am a HUGE fan, Love the falafuls, etc. I have 3 of your cookbooks including the newest one- which I just tried this recipe last nite. I found it “okay” and my partner who sometimes eats cheese, was not really impressed, I am so sorry to say~ I ended out adding some mustard and ended out liking it that way, although I am going to try it a gain with the left over sauce, making baked mac. but will add mustard to it and maybe throw in some sweet redpepper and sweet onions. My fave pasta one of yours was the fettucini alfreda!!! I am so happy I tried although? I think it may have been the sunflower seeds that didnt appeal. No matter however- because you ROCK! Probably falafuls tonite~~ HUGS DARLING!!!

  • December 15, 2013 at 12:51 am: Anjali

    Just made this – fantastic! Perfect as a comfort food. Added lots of broccoli and kale as well. Seasoned with adobo, tumeric and red pepper flakes.

  • February 27, 2014 at 2:54 pm: Heidi

    Made this last night with and for my daughter who has been nagging me to make mac n cheese for the past week. I used cashews instead of sunflower seeds because that’s all I had on hand. O! M! G! We ate until we were stuffed with delicious, luscious, creamy, vegan mac n cheese. I love you, Isa! <3

  • March 13, 2014 at 3:15 am: Shell

    Just bought Isa Does It, and I really appreciate that you’re having recipes that give me skills I can use all around, as well as making things basic enough so that after making a dish a few times I can include it in my arsenal. This was so creamy, De-lish!

  • March 14, 2014 at 10:59 pm: Amy

    I just made this, and its really delicious! Earthy tasting and ! Thank you for sharing!

  • March 21, 2014 at 8:25 am: Susan

    This is my favorite mac and chez I’ve tried so far.

  • March 25, 2014 at 3:49 pm: Molly

    Just made this, very good! However I have a big pot full of it and a family that is afraid of vegan food hahaha! I was hoping they’d have a change of heart but it’s looking like I will be eating it for the next few days.
    This was one of my first vegan recipes and I must say, I feel much better physically after eating it than after regular mac and cheese… why am I not surprised? :)

  • April 1, 2014 at 7:22 pm: Michelle

    Can I use roasted seeds? I mistakenly purchased two bags of roasted, and I don’t have any other use for them.

  • April 16, 2014 at 6:14 pm: Emma

    Re-heats surprisingly well! I just had some for lunch and it was delish. I had some green beans on-hand so I added them, and they’re also quite nice.

  • April 17, 2014 at 6:20 pm: Lisa

    Isa please help me – my husband hates nutritional yeast and he can spot it in every meal i put it in. Do you know of a good substitute?

  • May 11, 2014 at 10:25 pm: Miranda Smith

    Now this is soy free and dairy free, right?

  • May 13, 2014 at 2:23 am: GV

    Made this today and it came out amazing– a great, creamy comfort dish! I added a dash of cayenne to my sauce because I just lean spicy :-) Love your vegan magic Isa!!

  • June 26, 2014 at 12:16 pm: Rebecca

    I am so glad to see you used sunflowers for soaking… my husband is allergic to cashews.. are there any other nuts/seeds that you found work well for soaking in your recipes that call for cashews? I assume part of the reason they are used is because they are mild flavored and blend up nice and creamy… do you have any other recommendations?

  • July 6, 2014 at 4:27 am: Quentie

    Made this last night – thumbs up from two fussy kids! Easy to make too

  • November 21, 2014 at 1:31 am: starletblue

    Helpful hint: Not sure if someone already mentioned this in the comments above, but mine turned out pretty grainy after buzzing in my food processor for 7 minutes and I was doing batches of it so I was afraid of burning out the motor. I ended up finishing it with my immersion blender and that got it to be silky smooth very quickly. So try that if it isn’t smooth enough for your tastes using a blender or food processor. The whole family loved it. I liked it more the next day and am glad to have found a recipe that uses sunflower seeds which are way cheaper than cashews.

  • January 4, 2015 at 11:40 pm: H

    How many people does this serve?

  • January 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm: Dan

    I’ve made this a few times and it’s always a big hit. After making the sauce this evening I realised I had no pasta, so I mixed it with some leftover millet and added cucumber and cherry tomatoes to make a warm salad. It was really good!

  • October 23, 2015 at 9:19 pm: Kelly

    Could you use tahini, do you think? Instead of soaked sunflower seeds? Just thinking I could make this without going to the store.

  • January 7, 2016 at 2:34 am: bonni

    And, unlike cashews, I can GROW sunflowers. Awesome. Question though: When you use nutritional yeast here, does it matter if you use powder, mini flakes, or regular flakes?