Vegan mac and cheese made with deliciously healthy and nutrient-rich ingredients. It’s creamy, cheesy, light and most importantly kids approved.
We’ve created many plant-based/vegan cheesy sauces such as a cauliflower béchamel that works brilliantly in a lasagne or in a carbonara (Caulibonara), but for this vegan Mac and Cheese sauce we wanted to look to the USA for inspiration rather than Italy as this dish is now as American as a burger or pumpkin pie.
Obviously, without actually using cheese you have to introduce an umami flavour from elsewhere. Umami is the 5th flavour after sweet, salt, sour and bitter and often found in meat and fish. It is this umami that we sense when eating protein that triggers the secretion of saliva etc to help digest the protein more easily. Other than meat, fish or cheese you can find this flavour in tomatoes, sea vegetables and mushrooms amongst others.
The best vegan mac and cheese recipe
In this recipe we use nutritional yeast and yeast extract which you will find gives a subtle cheesy, nutty flavour and the umami hit we need. You’ll often see these ingredients used in plant-based cheeses that are made from cashew nuts. The silky texture that you get from soaked cashews are also added in this recipe too as a good cheese sauce should have smooth silken texture. Just like the development of some other cheese sauces we looked to vegetables that traditionally have given rather good purees such as cauliflower, Jerusalem artichokes and squashes. Since the U.S mac and cheese that we know is orange we have opted to use a butternut squash for sweetness and colour but a pumpkin would also work just as well.
Butternut squash is alkaline and rich in potassium and in fact more so than a banana so feel free to use alternatives if you are looking to monitor your potassium intake.
When blended together these ingredients transform into a wonderful unctuous cheese sauce that if you added a little white wine you could hold an incredible fondue party. To finish off this sauce we add the cancer fighting powerhouse that is turmeric and a pinch of nutmeg and paprika to add flavour and finally a spoonful of miso paste which just adds that little bit more umami that just sets this plant-based (no) cheese sauce from the rest.
The final flourish to this mac and (no) cheese is a nutritious crumb made of pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, linseeds/flax seeds, rice flakes and panko breadcrumbs all milled together. Not only does this elevate the nutrition of the dish but it adds a crisp texture to compliment the pasta and sauce. Now all you have to do is enjoy and add your favourite extras to hopefully your new favourite vegan mac and cheese.
Have you made this recipe?
- 1 cup of cashews
- 2 cups of water to soak the cashews
- 2 whole peeled garlic cloves
- 1 peeled and cubed butternut squash or medium sized pumpkin (minus seeds)
- 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon of miso paste
- 1 ½ teaspoons of yeast extract
- 1 cup of cashew milk
- 1 teaspoon of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- ½ a teaspoon of nutmeg
- A pinch of cayenne pepper.
- 240g of macaroni
- 2 tablespoons of crumb, a mix of milled panko breadcrumbs, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, rice flakes and linseeds/flax seeds
Soak the cashews over night in water or alternatively put in a pan with the garlic on the hob on the very lowest setting for an hour. Drain and discard the liquid.
Put the butternut squash or pumpkin in a pan with the cashews and garlic and cover with water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes until the squash is soft. Drain and discard the liquid.
Transfer the butternut squash and cashews with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Put the macaroni in a pan of salted water and bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the pasta is al-dente.
Drain the pasta and stir in the sauce and transfer to an ovenproof dish.
Top with the crumb (milled panko breadcrumbs, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, rice flakes and linseeds/flax seeds) and bake in a 200c oven for 20 -25 minutes or until the crumb has turned golden brown.