Vegan Mac & Cheese
Every time someone asks me what the hardest part about being vegan is (and believe me, people ask me this at least twice a week), I always say not eating CHEESE! Meat? Don’t want it. Eggs? Gross. Butter? Whatever. Milk? Makes me sick anyway. Ice cream? Already make it vegan. But CHEESE? Cheese is really hard to get away from. All of my favorite snacks used to be cheese related. Doritos, crackers and cheese, Cheez-its, Goldfish, Cheetos, Combos, pizza rolls, the list NEVER ENDS.
But I think of alllllllll of the cheesy goodness that exists in our world today, my favorite would have to be macaroni and cheese. And I know that at least 85% of you reading this are with me. It’s literally the best meal ever created. I bet at least half of the last meals that people pick are mac and cheese. It will definitely be mine. But finding a vegan cheese alternative has definitely not been easy to say the least. There are a few decent shreds, but they’re definitely not the same flavor or consistency.
I’ve tried a few different boxed vegan macaroni and cheese options and they’ve all been pretty fantastic to be honest. But I wanted to figure out how to make vegan macaroni and cheese from scratch. Mostly because in addition to being vegan, I’m slowly trying to start eating a little bit “cleaner” in general now. I am so proud of the progress I have made as a vegan and the contribution that I know I have made over the past three years toward the environment and animal welfare. But now I want to continue that while also turning the focus more towards myself and my health. And I’m sure you could have guessed that boxed macaroni and cheese has just as many unpronounceable ingredients as the non-vegan packaged mac and cheese :)
As fate would have it, just around the same time that I was thinking about this mac and cheese desire, my sister-in-law bought me a vegan cookbook for Christmas. And low and behold, one of the first recipes in there that caught my eye was a vegan mac and cheese. This cookbook was by Chloe Coscarelli and boy does she have some INCREDIBLE vegan recipes. And they are sooo so so so easy. I would highly recommend this book, any of her other books, or just scouring the internet for recipes by her! Once I found this recipe, I very quickly tried it and was NOT a let down whatsoever.
This recipe is really satisfying if you’re looking for something similar to the traditional taste of mac and cheese. My husband, who would east skirt steak with a side of duck every single day if he could, absolutely loves this recipe. Don’t tell him I said this, but he basically devours 5/8 portions as soon as it comes out of the oven. And I don’t blame him!
The cheesiness in this recipe comes from an ingredient called nutritional yeast. Listen, I know. I was super creeped out by the idea of eating something called “nutritional yeast” when I first heard it too. But I did a little Googling and discovered that nutritional yeast is the type of yeast that is used the make the bread and beer we eat and drink every day! There are basically several different species of yeast, and the same species is used for all of these yeast types. However, the process of growing and manufacturing the yeast is very different. If you’re interested in learning more about how nutritional yeast differs from the yeast used to make bread and beer, I found this website very helpful and easy to follow.
One last thing before jumping to the goods - when I first discovered nutritional yeast as a vegan substitute for cheese flavor, I immediately read a ton of articles online about different ways to use. One of the most compelling suggestions I read was to sprinkle it on popcorn to make CHEESY POPCORN! Obviously I needed to do that. Needed. So I went to my kitchen, microwaved some popcorn, and dumped a bunch of nutritional yeast on top of it. It looks sort of like a cheese powder (see pics below) so I was positive it was going to be amazing. I took a huge handful and shoved it into my mouth (the only way to east popcorn).
It was…. not amazing. It was just a mouthful of yeast-y powder. I do not condone dumping a pound of nutritional yeast on your popcorn. No matter what the internet tells you. (someone please help me figure out this nutritional yeast on popcorn thing)
I do, however, HIGHLY condone this delicious recipe by Chloe Coscarelli :)
Vegan Macaroni & Cheese
1 Lb. Noodles of your choice (I like to use medium shells)
1/4 Cup vegan butter (I use the soy free Earth Balance with olive oil)
1/3 Cup flour (I use whole wheat)
3 Cups non-dairy milk (I use cashew milk)
1/3 Cup nutritional yeast (I use Anthony’s nutritional yeast flakes)
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 Teaspoons sea salt
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
2 Sauce pans
Wooden spoon or other stirring spoon
9” x 13” Baking dish or cast iron skillet
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In one of your sauce pans, bring lightly salted water to a boil
Once boiling, dump your noods in!
Cook your noodles according to the package (about 7-10 minutes) and drain; set aside
While noodles are cooking, melt your butter in the other saucepan over medium heat
Once the butter has melted, add the flour and whisk for about 3-5 minutes
Add non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt and garlic powder to the butter mixture
Bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently
Reduce sauce to low and add maple syrup and lemon juice
Stir for another 1-2 minutes and then remove from heat
Combine your cooked noodles and your creamy delicious golden sauce into your baking dish or cast iron skillet; get that sauce EVERYWHERE
Bake uncovered for 30 minutes - enjoy!