macaroni pasta baked in white sauce in a gratin dish topped with panko and green onions on top of a checkered kitchen cloth

This vegan Japanese Macaroni Gratin is irresistibly creamy, hearty and pure comfort food! Made with macaroni, mushrooms and onions, baked in a creamy dairy free white sauce and topped with crispy panko. (Gluten free)

macaroni in a white bechemel sauce with mushrooms in a black deep pot

Creamy, crispy flavourful macaroni gratin, another one of my favourite Japanese-western-style (yoshoku) dishes growing up! You’ll spot this dish at many cafes and restaurants in Japan.

What is Gratin: Japanese Style

Gratin is a French cooking technique where a dish is topped with bread crumbs and/or cheese and browned under a broiler. If you search for gratins online, you’ll notice most of the recipes are very heavy in cheese and looks quite similar to a baked mac and cheese.

Japanese Macaroni Gratin does not taste and is not the same as mac and cheese. Mac and cheese uses cheese to coat the pasta whereas in gratin, the pasta is coated in a white sauce (Béchamel sauce) and the cheese is only added on top.

Also, instead of bread crumbs, panko is used and yields a much lighter crispy crust. My favourite part!

ingredients for macaroni gratin in bowls on top of a blue back drop

How to Make Japanese Macaroni Gratin (Vegan Version)

Gratins are super easy to make, and this vegan version is even easier because you don’t have to worry about the roux burning. I’d also like to note, this is a take on my moms gratin recipe with the flavours I remember. Every household has their own version of gratin using similar ingredients with 1-2 additions or a different cooking methods.

The Ingredients

  • Macaroni/Pasta: Despite being called macaroni gratin, any pasta shape can and is used! My mom actually always used Penne since macaroni noodles weren’t as readily available in Japan when I was young. Here, I’m using cavatappi which is a type of macaroni.
  • Onions + Mushrooms: Instead of using chicken or shrimp, we’re using mushrooms! I love meatier mushrooms like oyster mushrooms and shiimeji mushrooms because they release a lot of flavour and give a heartiness to the dish. I do highly recommend using 2 varieties of mushrooms for more texture but you could just stick with one.
  • White Sauce: Typically a bechamel sauce– which is a French sauce made from flour, milk and butter. However, for this recipe we’re making a sauce that tastes similar to bechamel but with comepltly different ingredients such as: cashew butter, nutritional yeast, miso paste, vegetable broth, silken tofu, corn starch, soy milk and white pepper.
  • Cheese: In Japan, they use a cheese specifically for cooking called melting cheese (Torokeru Cheese). Its gooey and melty, made from several different cheeses. It kind of has the same texture as artificial cheese in North America but without the strong ‘processed’ taste. For dairy free, I used a blend of dairy free mozzerela and cheddar.
  • Panko: The panko is a must! It adds a delicious crispiness to the crust.

When my mom made gratin, she would often incorporate some spinach and broccoli as well for extra veggies.

The Method

  1. Pasta: First, cook the pasta until al dente following the instructions on the package.
  2. Sauce: While the pasta is cooking, add all the sauce ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Mushrooms and Onions: Pan fry the onions and mushrooms until caramelized for best flavour. It takes about 8 minutes over medium high heat.
  4. Assembly: Reduce the heat to medium and add the sauce to the pan and stir until slightly thickened. Reducing the heat will prevent the sauce from burning at the bottom. Then add in the pasta and stir continuously until thickened. Transfer the pasta to individual casserole dishes.
  5. Broil: Top with panko and non dairy cheese and broil for 5-7 minutes until the sauce starts to caramelize around the edges. With the vegan cheese I used, it doesn’t ‘caramelize’ but melts. You could also use one large casserole dish and bake it that way at 450 F for 15 minutes.
  6. Serve: Garish with a generous topping of scallions of chives and black pepper.
macaroni gratin in single serving dishes with panko and green onions on top

Creamy. Crispy. Cheesy. All the things comfort should be.

My (very picky) sister said that this version tastes better than my moms (sorry mom 😂), so I can promise you this dish is worth making.

close up of japanese macaroni gratin in creamy bechemel sauce

More Vegan Japanese Recipes to Try!

close up shot of japanese macaroni gratin with a fork in the dish

If you recreate this Japanese Macaroni Gratin recipe let me know how you liked it by leaving a comment and rating below or by tagging me on Instagram @Okonomikitchen, I love seeing all of your tasty recreations!
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macaroni gratin in single serving dishes with panko and green onions on top

Vegan Japanese Macaroni Gratin

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 2 reviews

  • Author: Lisa Kitahara
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


This vegan Japanese Macaroni Gratin is irresistibly creamy, hearty and pure comfort food! Made with macaroni, mushrooms and onions, baked in a creamy dairy free white sauce and topped with crispy panko. (Gluten free)


Units Scale


  • 8 oz gluten free macaroni style pasta (224g)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (180g)
  • 2 cups mushrooms of choice, sliced 1 cm thickness (380g // use 2+ kinds for more texture and flavour)

White Sauce


  • 1/2 cup non dairy vegan cheese (120g)
  • 1/4 cup gluten free panko (30g)
  • scallions or chives for garnish


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and then cook pasta until al dente (follow instructions on package). Drain well, rinse the pasta with cold water and set aside. 
  2. Add sauce ingredients to blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
  3. Over medium high heat, add oil or water and sliced onions and cook for about 3 minutes. Add in the mushrooms and then cook until onions begin to caramelize (if using water, add as needed to pan doesn’t burn). Reduce the heat to medium, add sauce to the pan and gently stir for 1 minute until slightly thickened. Reduce the temperature to medium low and then add in the pasta. Stir for 3-5 minutes until sauce thickens. 
  4. Add everything to a baking dish or divide between 4 individual baking dishes and then top with vegan cheese and panko. Broil 5-7 minutes or until golden brown or bake at 450 for 15 mins. Top with black pepper and scallions or chives. Enjoy!


  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: entree
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: vegan, gluten free, japanese


  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 494g
  • Sugar: 5.6g
  • Sodium: 868mg
  • Fat: 14.2g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.4g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 10g
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 65.8g
  • Fiber: 6.4g
  • Protein: 28.5g
  • Cholesterol: 0


japanese macaroni gratin topped with panko and green onions in a single serving dish

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About Lisa

I'm Lisa, a home cook, recipe developer and founder of Okonomi Kitchen. Here, you'll find a mix of classic and modernized Japanese recipes, and creative, plant-forward meal inspiration using seasonal ingredients. I hope to share more about Japanese cuisine and culture through food and recipes.

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  1. This was so good! The sauce made the mac and cheese so creamy and cheesy, in a way that other recipes we’ve tried so far haven’t. Super filling and protein packed! It makes the mac and cheese sound when you stir it ☺️

  2. I just made this and it is delicious! Thank you!! I had some silken tofu to use up and this was a perfect way to use them up. I doubled the recipe and the sauce filled up the 64oz vitamix. I also added broccoli and red peppers. It has been a while since I used broil setting so I burned the top a bit, so if anyone is making this just watch it after 2-3 min. Tastes so rich but not heavy.. Thank you again for this delicious recipe!

    1. Thank you so much Oz! I’m so glad you enjoyed. I love the addition of the broccoli and red bell peppers and yes, broil is super fast at browning the top but makes it so nice and crispy 🙂