No, it isn’t classic mac & cheese although it does look like it. This vegan mac & cheese is creamy, rich, and cheesy. Would you be able to tell just by looking at this vegan mac & cheese that it’s dairy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free?
The base for this mac and cheese is made from yellow potatoes and carrots. If you’re a bit skeptical, trust me – this is the best vegan mac and cheese I’ve ever made. Instead of tasting potatoes and carrots, you’ll taste a lovely cheesy tang. This cheese sauce easily fools even a regular dairy consumer into thinking that this is the real thing. Even my husband, who grew up on classic mac & cheese prefers this version.
I’ve tried several other versions – using cashews, pumpkins, squashes, and sweet potatoes – but none of them came even close to this one. This potato-carrot “cheese” is seriously life-changing. I wish I could say that I came up with the idea of using yellow potatoes and carrots as a cheese alternative, but you’ll have to thank Kristi from Veggie on a Penny. I have adapted her recipe just a little bit and it became a staple in our house.
Vegan Cheesy Sauces
I’ve been maintaining a plant-based diet for couple of years now. Do I miss the dairy-based creamy cheese sauces? No, but only thanks to some awesome vegan ingredients that mimic the taste of rich creamy sauces really well.
1. Plant-Based Milk
Plant-based milk is an easy substitute for regular dairy-based milk. Almond milk and cashew milk are my favorite non-dairy alternatives for savory dishes. Coconut milk and rice milk are excellent in desserts. However, you can use any plant-based milk you want. Just make sure you don’t use the sweetened kind for a savory dish (I may or may not have done that).
2. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is an inactive form of yeast that provides cheesy flavor sans dairy. While nutritional yeast doesn’t taste exactly like cheese, it has the same umami flavor. You can find nutritional yeast in pretty much any health food store, the “healthy section” of a regular grocery store, or order it online. It has been a pantry staple of mine for years and I recommend you check it out if you haven’t yet.
3. Cashews or Root Vegetables
Cashews are probably the most poplar base for vegan cheese and creamy sauces. They are neutral in flavor, very creamy in consistency, and also soft and easy to blend. Put all of this together and you have an excellent base for plant-based creams and cheeses. The only reason I didn’t use cashews for this recipe is that they are quite heavy and high in calories. And since most people eat mac and cheese for dinner, I wanted to create a vegetable-based sauce.
As far as the root vegetables go, yellow potatoes with carrots are the way to go. While sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and squashes are delicious as well, their sweet flavor simply overpowers the cheesy savory flavor of nutritional yeast.
4. Olive Oil
Many dairy sauces use animal fat to enhance flavor and consistency. Olive oil is a great alternative. You don’t need much to create a thick, creamy texture that resembles dairy sauces.
I honestly think that you could serve this vegan mac and cheese to a non-vegan and they would love it. My husband wasn’t even able to tell that it wasn’t true mac and cheese. It’s so creamy, flavorful, and satisfying. Who knew that potatoes and carrots could make such a wonderful combination.