YUMMY VEGAN MAC N CHEESE
Updated: May 19, 2020
Okay - I know what you are thinking. This isn't mac n CHEESE if there isn't any cheese! True true. But legit - this is yummy! I made this a couple weeks ago. And then this past week, my husband asked me to make it again soon - so a sign that it must be delicious.
We aren't vegan in our house, and we do eat quality dairy, at times. My kids will occasionally have pizza made with mozzarella or organic yogurt from grass-fed cows. Etc. But we also try to minimize dairy, when possible, since we know we have some sensitivities to it. I kept seeing people rave about vegan mac n cheese, so I figured it was worth a shot.
I adapted this recipe from WellVegan. I will probably adjust it over time, but here is what I did below:
8 oz. macaroni noodles of choice
1/3 cup butter flavored coconut oil (or earth balance or your oil of choice!)
1 c. red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 c. carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 c. onion, peeled and chopped
1 c. water
1/4 c. raw cashews
2 tsp. sea salt (or enough salt to bring to your taste!)
pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. paprika (optional)
1/8 tsp. cayenne (optional)
In a large pot, cook your macaroni, drain it and set it aside. I used bionaturae brand --gluten free elbows. There are so many yummy gluten free noodle options if you are a gf person or family.
As your noodles are boiling, begin to make your sauce. First, heat your oven to 350.
Place your potatoes, carrots, onion and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cover the veggies. Let simmer for 15 minutes or so.
Add your cooked veggies and cooking water to a blender, as well as the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup oil of choice, mustard, lemon juice and black pepper to the blender along. Blend until smooth and creamy. We didn't add any cayenne or paprika after making the batch, since we wanted it to be non-spicy at first, to make sure it was super kid friendly.
Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and mix until the pasta is evenly coated. Transfer mixture to a 9 x 9 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbling. Optional: sprinkle with breadcrumbs!
Optional: add in the cayenne and paprika to give it some KICK! Highly recommend for adults OR for kids who enjoy the spice. Can even add red chili flakes!
*Notes: I had to add a fair amount of salt to make sure this tasted a little "cheesier". Not a ton, but enough to fit our tastes. :) Another thing -- I had a hard time figuring out what butter/oil to use. Of course you could use actual butter if dairy isn't a problem for your family. I love kerrygold butter from grass fed cows! I might even try that next time. But if you want it VEGAN, then of course that's not an option.
I tried using a coconut oil that is made of organic refined coconut oil, organic vegan buttery flavor and organic annato extract. The butter flavor is made from non-GMO, fermented and gluten-free plants -- including sunflower, coconut and mint. It is a plant based alternative to butter and ghee. In our home, we DO eat some butter, but I wanted to try this out for those that can't! It worked well. If you find an even better option, I'd love to know!
SO: HOW DID IT STAND UP?
Like a champ! My kids acknowledged that it did taste a little "different" but then proceeded to eat their entire bowl of it. That's always a sign that it's tasty. I am not against cheese (we minimize but do eat some), BUT how cool that you can make this dish with cashews + veggies! And still satisfy the entire family. I love being able to nourish my children with a variety of types of meals, and this one reminded me that they don't always need the "exact classics" -- and it's okay to mix it up sometimes. I always love a good excuse for more veggies.
Enjoy, friends! Let me know what you think.