This Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese is the ultimate vegan comfort food. This creamy, spicy vegan pasta dish is made healthy by adding lots of cauliflower and spinach - plus it's dairy-free, gluten-free, and totally delicious! Best of all, it's made with just 11 ingredients and will be on the table in only 30 minutes.
Sometimes I feel like I have glitter running through my veins, but then I realize it's just hot sauce. I simply cannot get enough of the stuff. My buffalo obsession has been going on for years.
I've loved buffalo sauce ever since my roommate in college (who, fun fact, was actually from Buffalo) got me throwing hot sauce on everything. It's become a bit of an obsession of mine. No joke, I actually keep a bottle in my purse for emergencies. 😂
I know it's a popular flavor among carnivores and vegans alike, which is I bring my Quinoa Buffalo Balls to parties and make my Vegan Buffalo Chicken Rice Skillet throughout football season. So how could I not have a vegan Buffalo Mac and Cheese in my repertoire? I'm happy to report I've fixed that omission.
Ingredients & Substitutions
As promised, you don't need much to make this delightfully creamy vegan Cauliflower Buffalo Mac & Cheese. Here's what to grab:
- Gluten-Free Pasta - Or feel free to use regular pasta if you don't need gluten-free. Any short shape will work!
- Cauliflower - Feel free to grab frozen cauliflower florets to cut back on prep or save a few bucks. You can also use broccoli if you want.
- Fresh Spinach - Frozen will work, too!
- Raw Cashews - You can also swap in raw macadamia nuts or almonds here. If nuts are off the table, try using raw sunflower seeds instead.
- Vegetable Broth - Homemade or store-bought both work.
- Hot Sauce - Preferably Buffalo hot sauce like Frank's Red Hot, but feel free to use whichever vinegar-based hot sauce you prefer.
- Nutritional Yeast - For that cheesy goodness, sans cheese.
- Dijon Mustard - For a bit of tanginess. You can easily substitute yellow mustard or mustard powder if needed.
- Garlic Powder & Onion Powder - For lots of savory allium flavor without the work.
- Tapioca Flour - To thicken the sauce. Feel free to use cornstarch instead.
How To Make Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
This veggie-filled vegan buffalo mac and cheese comes together in just 30 minutes. Here's how it's done:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Step 2: Cook Pasta & Cauliflower. In a large pot, cook the pasta to package directions and with about 3-5 minutes remaining, add in the chopped cauliflower and cook until pasta and cauliflower is is done to your liking.
Step 3: Make Buffalo Cheese Sauce. While pasta (and cauliflower) cooks, add all the buffalo sauce ingredients to a high-speed blender* and blend until smooth.
Step 4: Assemble. Take a large casserole dish (I used 9x12) and add the spinach. Believe me, me makes less of a struggle to add in the spinach first. When pasta/cauliflower are ready, add them on top of the spinach and then pour in the creamy buffalo sauce and mix everything together.
Step 5: Bake. Put the dish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Step 6: Enjoy!
While Matt and I think this buffalo cauliflower mac is simply the bee's knees, taste is entirely subjective and my goal is to empower each and every one of you to customize EVERY recipe to fit your needs. Here are a few ways to tweak this tasty recipe:
- For those of your that can't handle too much spice you can cut down to ¼ cup of hot sauce and add a few more tablespoons of veggie broth.
- For picky eaters who don't love veggies try adding sweet green peas instead of spinach, or just keep it simple with cauliflower. They won't even know it's in there!
- For added richness and crunch consider adding a crispy gluten-free panko or crumbled cracker topping.
- For added protein consider serving this with my Vegan Chicken Strips for a fun, flavorful, kid-friendly meal!
- Buy frozen cauliflower florets to cut back on prep time. Frozen veggies are just as nutritious (sometimes even more so) than fresh, so you'll still get all the benefits!
- Don't toss the stems. Contrary to what you might think, cauliflower (and broccoli) stems are completely edible. Simply give them a quick peel using a veggie peeler to remove the tough exterior, then chop the stems into bite-sized pieces. They taste great and are good for you, plus eating them helps to reduce food waste and stretch your budget. I call that a win-win-win-win. Beat that.
- Meal Prep for effortless weeknights. Despite being super speedy to make, I know that life can get hectic. Do yourself a favor and make this on your meal-prep day. The assembled (baked or unbaked) casserole will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to a month. If cooking from frozen, allow it to defrost in the fridge overnight (or from the morning of the day you plan on cooking it) first.
Cauliflower Buffalo Mac and Cheese Nutrition
I love adding veggies to pasta dishes to add phyonutrients as well as fiber. The veggies add a heartiness to the dish without having to double the pasta.
Cauliflower is high nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and magnesium. It's a brassica and cruciferous vegetable which contain nutrients with anti-cancer properties like sulforaphane. Cauliflower can be considered a heart protective veggie because the fiber in it can help lower blood cholesterol levels.
The other vegetable I added was spinach which also contains vitamin C and iron as well as beta carotene. Get those greens in!
When I came up with the idea for my Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, I was going to do a straight pasta dish. I usually do that because I always have big salad or side of veggies when I have pasta.
BUT I realized not everyone is eating a salad along with the pasta to get their veggies for the day. That's when I knew I had to create a healthier version with the veggies already in the dish so that everyone could benefit.
I chose to use cauliflower because it's healthy (see below) and it really melds well into the casserole because the cauliflower doesn't have huge overpowering flavor.
Are you eating a piece of pasta or a piece of cauliflower? Who knows, it all tastes like creamy buffalo sauce - yum!
Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to a month.
I love the classic, Frank's Red Hot. You can also opt to use Crystal, Texas Pete's, or any other vinegar-based hot sauce you prefer.
More Creamy Vegan Pasta Recipes
If you love creamy vegan pasta, here are a few more that will be right up your alley!
If you make this recipe and LOVE IT, please give it 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!
Vegan Buffalo Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
- 8 oz gluten free pasta or regular pasta if you don't need gf
- 1 head cauliflower chopped into small bite-sized pieces
- 3 cups fresh spinach
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large pot, cook the pasta to package directions and with about 3-5 minutes remaining, add in the chopped cauliflower and cook until pasta and cauliflower is is done to you liking.
- While pasta (and cauliflower) cooks, add all the buffalo sauce ingredients to a high-speed blender* and blend until smooth.
- Take a large casserole dish (I used 9x12) and add the spinach. Believe me, me makes less of a struggle to add in the spinach first.
- When pasta/cauliflower are ready, add them on top of the spinach and the pour over the creamy buffalo sauce and then mix everything together so the sauce covers the pasta and veggies.
- Put the dish in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
PLEASE NOTE: Nutritional information data is computer generated and only an estimate so it should be used only as a guide.
Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who empowers vegans to feel clear and confident about what is uniquely nourishing to them. Mary Ellen's recipes and nutrition information have been featured on Yahoo News, Parade, VegNews, LIVESTRONG, Dr. Axe, Greatist, LIVEKINDLY, Brit+Co, Well+Good, and more.