The veteran striker struck twice from the penalty spot after opening rampant Vale's account with a firm header.
Chris Birchall curled in a third and the Football League's leading scorer Tom Pope swelled his tally to 32 for the season with the fifth, before substitute Ben Williamson scored twice late on as fifth-placed Burton were sent packing in front of a 10,978 crowd at Vale Park.
The Brewers were wilting as early as the 12th minute when Hughes polished off a Daniel Jones' cross.
Then when he was impeded by Zander Diamond, the frontman sent Stuart Tomlinson the wrong way from 12 yards, before Birchall struck with a stunning effort from the edge of the box.
Hughes completed his hat-trick with a second penalty five minutes after half-time, awarded for a trip on Birchall by Alex MacDonald.
Vale added to the rout with Pope rounding Tomlinson to slide in a fifth soon after.
And while Albion substitute Matt Paterson reduced the arrears with a long-range effort, Williamson latched on to Pope's flick-on and drove past Tomlinson before heading in Chris Shuker's free-kick to bring up the seventh in the final minute.