My husband’s grandma used to say . . . actually, she still does, “the cheaper the meal, the better it tastes”. Mac & cheese was a staple in my husband’s house while growing up. That’s not surprising since mac & cheese is also one of the most popular (if not the most popular) comfort foods known to man – or at least any North American.
Like other dishes referred to as comfort food, mac & cheese soothes more than our taste buds. It reaches much deeper into our psyche, all the way back to our childhoods. And there’s a subtle science to why we seek it out. New research has suggested that certain foods resonate with us not just because we enjoyed them in our childhood, but because of the feelings towards the people – often our parents or grandparents – who prepared the food for us. In other words, our love for certain foods is an extension of our feelings towards certain people.
Perhaps because of his childhood, my husband (Tanner) has been requesting mac & cheese for quite some time (ever since we got married, actually). So, here’s my vegan spin on this dish – it’s creamy, rich, and cheesy. The base for this vegan 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 Tanner, 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.
Tips for Making Vegan Mac & Cheese
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.
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 & cheese for dinner, I wanted a vegetable-based sauce.
Yellow potatoes and 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. In case you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s 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.
The final essential ingredient is 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.
This vegan mac & cheese is one of the simplest comfort foods you can make. All you need to do is cook the root vegetables, put them into a blender together with the other ingredients for the cheese sauce and blend.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Blender (Vitamix 5200) | 2. Cookware Set (Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 3. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 4. Cutting Board (24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple) | 5. Measuring Cup (1 Cup, Pyrex, Glass) | 6. Measuring Cups(Set of 6, Stainless Steel) | 7. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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Vegan Mac & Cheese
- 10 oz macaroni pasta*
- 2 cups yellow potatoes, diced
- 1 cup carrots, diced
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup water, preferably from the pot of boiled veggies
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. onion powder
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- Cook macaroni al dente according to package instructions. Drain the cooking water and set the pasta aside.
- Boil the potatoes and carrots for about 15 minutes, until soft. Don't discard the cooking water - you can use it for the sauce.
- Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the sauce over the cooked macaroni and mix it well. Serve immediately.
- Store leftover mac & cheese covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat on a stovetop, adding extra broth if it's too dry.
*I used quinoa macaroni pasta. This recipe has been adapted from Veggie on a Penny.