Is Mac & Cheese one of your all-time comfort foods? I remember as a child eating the boxed Macaroni and Cheese but quickly outgrew it. I started making this dish from scratch many years ago when I wasn’t plant-based and the creamy texture of it always made want more and more.
Now that I’m plant-based and trying to put as many whole foods into my body as I can, I think I have certainly found the creamy texture of macaroni and cheese again, the only difference is, it’s not processed. I have to admit, if you are a big cheese fan, it may take some time to adjust to the taste of non-dairy cheese but a whole food macaroni and cheese dish can be just as tasty if not tastier than a dairy cheese dish. When you think about all the saturated fat and cholesterol found in dairy cheese, you might think twice about switching over to try new tastes that are actually healthier. It goes without saying that I have also tried many vegan versions of cheese and even though they have come a long way in taste, many of them are still processed and I wanted to keep this dish as WHOLE as possible.
First of all, people want to know how you replace the creamy texture if you are not using butter or cream. Cashews! When I first tried a cashew sauce, I thought I was in heaven. Not only is its texture very creamy, but cashews are loaded with nutrients (dairy products are not) and you don’t require a lot of cashews to make a cream sauce if you are worried about the fat content. You can get a cashew sauce by mixing the cashews with water, non-dairy milk, or vegetable broth. The longer you soak your cashews, the creamier the texture will be. I generally soak my cashews for 2-4 hours. Also, if you want a thicker sauce, use less liquid.
So how does the macaroni and cheese get that cheesy colour? You will notice that one of the ingredients in this recipe is nutritional yeast. I don’t use it too often but some of my pasta dishes do contain it. Nutritional yeast is yellow in color and it has a nutty cheesy flavor. It’s an inactive yeast that is a favorite amongst many vegans because of its unique flavor and similarity to cheese when added to foods.
I tried several plant-based macaroni and cheese dishes but none of them really WOWED me. I find that my palate is not always the same as others so it’s important to try different ingredients and play with the quantity of the ingredients you are using to adapt it to your own tastes. After several attempts, I came up with the below whole foods, plant-based Macaroni and Cheese dish.
I also like to make sure that I get some greens with each meal, so I added some steamed broccoli or cauliflower (Art loves cauliflower!) or another version is to sautee some spinach or baby kale and add to the dish afterwards. Sautee it for no longer than 5 minutes so that the nutrient value is not being lost through the heat process.
- 1 pkg of whole grain pasts
- 1 ½ cups of broccoli or cauliflower florets
- 2 medium potatoes chopped (cooked)
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ cup cashews
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup almond or coconut milk (coconut milk is much fatter)
- 3-4 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1-2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp of pepper
- 1/4 cup of whole grain bread crumbs (optional)
- Dash of paprika & cayenne pepper
- Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
- In a pot, combine the potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic with a bit of water and bring to a boil. Once it is softened, remove and let cool.
- Cut broccoli and/or cauliflower and place in a steamer for 5 minutes. If you are using spinach or baby kale, sautee in a pan over medium heat for no longer than 5 minutes. Add some vegetable broth for added taste and to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
- Place the ingredients from the pot (potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic) into a blender along with the water, milk, lemon, nutritional yeast, pepper, cashews, paprika, and cayenne pepper until smooth.
- Combine the ingredients from the blender with the pasta and the broccoli and toss to coat.
- Serve warm
TIP: If you want to add bread crumbs to your dish, once you blend all the ingredients together in the blender, mix with the broccoli (don’t steam the broccoli) and pasta and then sprinkle the bread crumbs on top. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,