Mac n’ cheese. It’s pretty much the quintessential quick-and-easy food memory from childhood—am I right? I learned to make mac n’ cheese by myself from a pretty young age. That was great, because I liked it a certain way—a little runny, well-cooked, but not mushy, and with plenty of black pepper on top. Oh, and I had to have the packaged mac n’ cheese.
I know some people like using real cheese or slices of processed cheese, but those weren’t for me. Other than the type and variety of cheese to use, there’s also a bit of contention when it comes to pasta shape—I mean, it’s called “mac n’ cheese” so, it should be obvious that one should use macaroni, right? But, Kraft brand Macaroni and Cheese Spirals?? Oh my god! I loved that stuff! The texture was awesome and I felt like the shape of the pasta cooked up really well. Some people use shells or other kinds of pasta, too. To each their own. . .
Do you have a favourite type of pasta to use for mac n’ cheese?
Do you stick to classic macaroni?
I’ve had mac n’ cheese several times since becoming vegan almost 15 years ago. I’m not a total newbie to the change in flavour. I’ve had it made with cashew cheese, as well as nutritional yeast, and also fake cheese (like Daiya brand vegan cheese). I really like the flavour of cashew cheese, but haven’t attempted any recipes with it yet.
I searched for good recipes online for quite a while to find one that matched the consistency and weird fake-powdered-cheese flavour I’ve been used to from my childhood mac n’ cheese-eating days. Total fail.
Here’s where my failure comes in:
I didn’t think about the flavours I most like before attempting to recreate the flavour experience: onions tend to add sweetness to things like this. In pasta sauce, onions cut down on the bitterness. In mac n’ cheese? Onions make mac n’ cheese sweet and just weird-tasting. Is it just me? Do you like sweet/weird-tasting stuff? I’m all for experimenting with new flavours, but there are certain ingredients I know I just don’t like. I find the texture of Tempeh kind of strange, for instance. And beans? They’re almost always a “No” or “No!!!! Get them away from me!!”
I made a full batch before testing it out in a smaller quantity first. I hate wasting food, but I also hate eating food that is by definition “gross.” This is quite a dilemma when I made a full recipe of vegan mac n’ cheese using ingredients that sounded like they’d be good. Obviously, they weren’t good. At least in combination.
I got hung up on trying the “fancy” recipes before finding a classic one that I liked. It’s not enough to have a cheesy flavour for mac n’ cheese (apparently). Some vegan foodies like to go all out with their super fancified creations. I wanted to be cool (and fancy), too—so I tried a few different “fancy” ingredients, which really just ended up taking away from the essence of the mac n’ cheese.
With all my experimenting, I think I finally got it right. The final concoction does not taste like the packaged stuff (if that’s what you’re wanting to go for), but it does taste like an elevated cafe-quality mac n’ cheese that you or your friendly neighbourhood vegan will enjoy.
So, I present you with this Vegan Mac N’ Cheese recipe, which actually turned out pretty well. Try it out and let me know what you think:
- 8oz pasta of your choice
- 1 ¼ cup unsweetened soy or almond milk
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ to ½ cup nutritional yeast flakes (use ¼ cup first and if you want it more later.)
- 2 heaped tablespoons white flour (I think all-purpose (whole wheat) would also work well in this. Probably.)
- ¼ heaped teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ heaped teaspoon chilli powder (or more, if you like spicy food)
- 1 pinch salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (fresh is best.)
- Cook pasta according to the package instructions. Drain it and set it aside.
- Combine flour and oil in sauce pan on medium heat. Stir with a whisk, adding in soy milk a bit at a time as you stir. As you’re stirring, turn the heat down to low until the mixture is all. . .mixed.
- Remove the mixture from heat and add these ingredients to it: nutritional yeast, salt, garlic powder, and chilli powder. Taste it. Do you want more nutritional yeast? Add it now!
- That’s mostly it—add this creamy mixture to your cooked pasta and stir it all together!
- Top with fresh pepper, if you’d like. Serve hot.
I knew I wanted to try making this classic comfort food, but I didn’t consider my favourite things when it came to ingredients. In the end, I did end up with some pretty yummy mac n’ cheese, though I’m still on the lookout for the “perfect” recipe!