Vegan Mac and Cheese Taco Bake with Walnut Taco Meat and Vegan Cashew Queso combines two family favorites into one epic vegan casserole that comes together quickly! Make it tonight.
Vegan Taco Mac and Cheese Bake! Yes, we’re combining two family favorites, pasta and tacos, into one epic weeknight dinner casserole! This easy vegan taco mac and cheese bake is sure to please any picky eater. Made with seasoned walnut taco meat, tomatoes and vegan queso made from cashews all tossed with elbow pasta.
Taco Mac Casserole is a very popular box recipe that you might have loved before going vegan. Trust me when I say it’s way better homemade and plant-based! So much more flavorful than anything that comes from a box!
I love serving this sprinkled with some crushed tortilla chips, some pickled jalapeños and tomatoes. This is an amazing vegan casserole dish for Taco Tuesday, Cinco de Mayo, or for whenever you are feeding a crowd. Easy to make with simple ingredients and the flavors are out of this world.
What’s not to love about two of your favorite classic dinners – Tacos and Macaroni and Cheese – mixed together to make a satisfying, hearty meal!
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Vegan Taco Mac and Cheese Bake
For the Walnut Chickpea Taco Meat:
- ½ cup (58.5 g) raw walnuts
- ¾ cup (123 g) cooked chickpeas
- 3 tbsp sundried tomato packed in olive oil or 1 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- 2 tsp chili powder blend I use chipotle powder chili blend, which a lot more flavor of the chipotle chili
- ½ jalapeno
- 1 pickled jalapeno
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp oregano
For the Cashew Queso:
- ¾ cup of raw cashews soaked in hot water for at least 15 minutes
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- ¼ tsp cumin
- ½ tsp chili powder blend
- 1 small garlic clove
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp Chipotle pepper flakes or chipotle pepper powder
- 1/2 tsp Miso
- ½ cup (120 ml) water
For the Mac Bake:
- 2 cups (120 g) elbows or mac or other pasta
- ½ cup chopped tomatoes or fresh salsa
- 2 cups (475 ml) water
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 - 2 tbsp Pickled Jalapeno
- 2 tbsp tortilla chips crushed, optional
To make the walnut chickpea taco meat:
- Add the walnuts to a food processor, and process until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until the mixture is homogeneously combined and there are no whole chickpeas remaining, but it still has texture.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and taste and adjust flavor. If the mixture is too dry add in a tsp or so of oil, or lime juice, and mix in.
To make the Cashew Queso:
- Drain the cashews, and add to a blender along with half a cup of water and the rest of the ingredients until really really smooth and set aside.
- Grease a baking dish, about 8 by 10 inch baking dish, or similar size, really well. Add your pasta , and spread all over.
- Scoop the walnut taco meat mixture using a cookie scoop or spoon, and place it on top of the elbows.
- And some tomato or salsa, you can also add in the pickled Jalapenos if you like.
- Drizzle your cashew queso and sprinkle some salt all over. Then pour 2 cups of water. all of the mixture should be evenly covered.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.
- Remove the dish. You can check at 40 minutes if the top is set, and that the pasta is cooked from the edge and remove it or continue to bake another five minutes.
- Sprinkle the top with some crushed tortilla chips, sliced up pickled jalapenos, and serve. You can also drizzle some thinned out vegan sour cream or reserve 1-2 tbsp queso and use that to garnish
- If you don't have miso paste, add more nutritional yeast
- the vegan taco meat is made from walnuts and chickpeas – blitzed in the food processor
- sun-dried tomatoes add some umami to the taco meat
- smoked paprika, cumin, garlic onion, and chili powder spice up your plant-based taco meat.
- the Mexican queso cheese sauce is made from soaked cashews
- nutritional yeast and miso paste add cheesiness and umami to the cheese sauce
- chili powder and pepper flakes for spiciness
- I use elbow pasta here – the obvious choice for all mac and cheese bakes.
- crushed tortilla chips, jalapenos and tomatoes are my favorite toppings.
- When making the walnut taco meat, make sure to not overmix it. Over-processing will turn the mixture into a pate texture.
- You could add some chopped shiitake mushrooms to the taco meat instead of the sun-dried tomatoes. You might have to add some more salt.
- If you don’t have miso paste, add more nutritional yeast
How to make Vegan Taco Mac and Cheese Bake:
How to make Vegan Walnut Taco Meat:
Add the walnuts to a food processor, and process until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until the mixture is homogeneously combined and there are no whole chickpeas remaining, but it still has texture.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and taste and adjust flavor. If the mixture is too dry add in a tsp or so of oil, or lime juice, and mix in.
How to make Vegan Cashew Queso:
Drain the cashews, and add to a blender along with half a cup of water. Blend with the rest of the ingredients until really really smooth and set aside.
Assemble the Mac Taco Bake
Grease a baking dish, about 8 by 10-inch baking dish, or similar size, really well. Add your pasta, and spread all over.
Scoop the walnut taco meat mixture using a cookie scoop or spoon, and place it on top of the elbows.
And some tomato or salsa, you can also add in the pickled Jalapenos if you like.
Drizzle your cashew queso and sprinkle some salt all over. Then pour in 2 cups of water – it should all be evenly covered.
Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.
Remove the dish. You can check at 40 minutes if the top is set, and that the pasta is cooked from the edge and remove it or continue to bake another five minutes. Sprinkle the top with some crushed tortilla chips, sliced up pickled jalapenos, and serve.
Wow. Just wow. I tried this recipe tonight after trying your other similar mac and cheese bake that uses tempeh taco meat. This one was much quicker and easier to put together, and in my opinion, has a better cheeze sauce. The other one was also good, but this one will be going into my regular rotation. You use the perfect blend of spices and ingredients, and are one of the few bloggers who’s recipes I never have to tweak. They are always perfect as written. Thank you for all of your hard work, and please don’t stop making recipes anytime soon!
Vegan Richa Support
thank you so much!!
Made this tonight: it was delicious and easy! I skipped the miso because we didn’t have any and the flavors were still great. Looking forward to making this again and adding some fresh chopped veggies when I have more time for prep. Thank you!
I’m always hesitant to make a baked pasta recipe because it either does not cook the pasta or is too watery. But this was great! Topped with roasted tomatos
Made this last night and this one’s a keeper! I made a few modifications. I doubled the chickpeas and just used a whole can and added a little extra of the spices. I didnt have miso but used a 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast and added a little lemon juice to the queso. I also used lentil elbow pasta (Tolerant brand) and just ended up using the whole box (about 2 1/2 cups dry) and added a little extra water. Was a little worried about using the lentil pasta but it was cooked perfectly after 40 mins. Overall great dish!!
Vegan Richa Support
sounds great! thanks for sharing
This was delicious! Wondering if it could be frozen before cooking? Or would it be better to cook and then freeze?
Vegan Richa Support
yay!! I suggest freezing before cooking.
Holy cow. You’ve done it again. Thinking about adapting it as a skillet meal but it was a huge hit in my house.
I want to use a gf pasta but I know some gf pastas don’t go well in the oven. Some harden up too much. Any tips?
Hmm I don’t know of a specific brand. Maybe make a small portion to see if baking works out else, use precooked pasta, only the queso and no water , and bake for 15 mins to heat up the queso so it thickens. Mix well then top with tortilla chips etc. You can then broil for a minute if using cheese on top
I used Tinkyada without issue.
Easy & delicious!
Vegan Richa Support
This was so good! Thank you for this wonderful recipe!
Hi Richa, big fan here, love the mac and cheese combo with tacos! What’s the drizzle used in the photos? Can’t find it in the recipe?
You can reserve 1-2 tbsp the queso and use that or thinned out vegan sour cream
Do you know a substitute for cashews?
See see my nutfeee queso recipe in notes
Could you use another kind of nut in place of walnuts? My husband can’t eat them. Anxious to try it, sounds yummy !
Pecans or cashews will be work