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Vegan Macaroni and Cheese… It Can be Done!

macncheese.jpgNote: This post is the second in a series on eco-friendly comfort foods. What are your favorite comfort foods? Let me know in the comments!

Mac and Cheese, one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, was something I learned to live without when I went vegan. That was until this recipe came into my life, in an issue of VegNews magazine.

I’m not entirely sure what to call it… Mac and Cheez? Mac and “Cheese?” Serve it with Broccoli and call it Mac and Trees? Call it whatever you want; I just call it delicious. Even if you’re not vegan, this sure is more comforting than the bizarre orange powdery stuff that came out of a box when we were kids.

But while my vegan husband and I gobbled it up, I wondered if it would stand up to the omnivore test. So we had some friends over this weekend to test it out. We also made things a little interesting by comparing it to a very different recipe from Veganomicon. Keep reading for the results of our taste-off…

Unfortunately I was only able to get permission to post the VegNews recipe. You’ll have to buy the book to check out the Veganomicon recipe, but I can say that it was based largely on tofu and nutritional yeast. The VegNews recipe, as you’ll see below, was a surprising blend of cashews and veggies.

Both took a while to prepare, so I’ll cut to the chase: how did it taste?

The Omnis: They preferred the texture of the Veganomicon recipe, what with the crumbled tofu. But they thought the VegNews recipe had a better crunchy topping after being baked. They thought both needed some added salt, and though they were too kind to admit it, I don’t think we were fooling anyone with the cheese substitute. But they were still satisfied.

The Vegans: My husband liked the Veganomicon recipe better than I did. I usually try to hide the taste of nutritional yeast, and it was just a little overpowering. We both love the VegNews recipe though — I think because it relies more on veggies than on tofu.

Want to find out for yourself? Give this recipe a shot:

4 quarts water
1 tbsp salt
8 ounces macaroni
4 slices of bread, torn into large pieces
2 tbsps + 1/3 cup margarine
2 tbsps shallots, peeled and chopped
1 cup red or yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup water
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 tsps sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
1/4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp paprika

1. In a large pot, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook until al dente. In a colander, drain pasta, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

2. In a food processor, make breadcrumbs by pulverizing the bread and 2 tbsps margarine to a medium fine texture. Set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a saucepan, add shallots, potatoes, carrots, onion, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

4. In a blender, process the cashews, salt, garlic, 1/3 cup of margarine, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Add softened vegetables and cooking water to the blender and process until perfectly smooth.

5. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta and blended cheese sauce until completely coated. Spread mixture into a 9×12 casserole dish, sprinkle with prepared bread crumbs, and dust with paprika. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese sauce is bubbling and the top has turned golden brown.

This recipe was originally published in the January+February 2008 issue of VegNews Magazine. To subscribe, visit VegNews.com. (Incidentally, the recipe was created by Allison Rivers Samson, the owner of Allison’s Gourmet — a great online bakery!)

13 comments
  1. millie

    awesome! i haven’t tried the veganomicon recipe yet, but i think i’ll try this one out for dinner tonight. thank you and keep the vegan posts a’comin!

  2. Sharon Troy

    I don’t know if this is a national trend, but there have been a number of “soul food” or “comfort food” type restaurants opening up in San Francisco over the last year or so. People just like to eat food that makes them feel good.

  3. Mim

    Dear Sharon,
    This recipe looks delicious. We make one a little bit like it. For us, it’s nutritional yeast that does the cheese-y trick.

    This is off the topic of your blog post, but I’ve been looking for a way to contact the ladies who blog here as I understand some of you live in the Bay Area. Hoping I’m right about that!

    I wanted to ask, are you planning to blog about the aerial spraying of California? It’s set to begin in the Bay Area in August and it will spell the end of organic food in our region of the world. The components of the spray include synthetic chemicals, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, encapsulated in particulate plastic which will lodge in our lungs and the lungs of all animals and stay there forever. Our water and soil are going to be ruined by this and the CCOF has finally taken a strong stance against what is happening.

    As a Californian who has been a vegan for 18 years and a chooser of organics all that time, my whole way of life is being taken away and I am sure this must be scaring the heck out of all of the writers here, judging from your good stance on living.

    Please, consider blogging about this and taking every action you can to stop the spraying.

    You can read more about this by clicking my screen name in this post which will take you to our blog, Veganreader.com. We started it out as a nice blog for sharing what we know about compassionate living, but then the spraying started in Monterey and our world has been upside down since. We have been covering what is going on pretty feverishly.

    The most informative site on the issue is lbamspray.com and their are videos on YouTube, too, where you can listen to the community, to doctors and scientists explain what this criminal activity is doing to the land we love and the people and animals we cherish.

    Please, do what you can. Silence is our enemy.

    Mim

  4. Sharon Troy

    Hi Mim,

    Thanks so much for your comment. As a Bay Area resident, I have been concerned about aerial spraying, but didn’t know nearly as much about it until I read your blog. I will certainly share your information with our other writers and see if someone wants to cover the topic.

    I’d also encourage you to check out our new Forums and bring this topic up there, in our food, health and lifestyle section: http://discuss.greenoptions.com/

  5. DJ Karma

    This recipe beats the one in Veganomicon- hands down! Also, you can substitute other veggies and get great results. I’ve tried it with zucchini instead of carrots, and just poured it over pasta (without mixing with the pasta and baking it with bread crumbs)… wonderful recipe to play with, and also very forgiving if you don’t put in exactly the right measurements!

  6. JM

    Hi Ms. Troy: 2 quick questions: Exactly what ingredients do you use to hide the taste of nutritional yeast? And I don’t eat cashews or other nuts, so should I just leave them out or is there another ingredient to substitute? In advance, thanks for your reply.

  7. Allison Rivers Samson

    Thanks for your delighted comments everyone! I’m so happy to be able to bring Mac ‘n Cheese back into the lives of so many of us, especially without all the processed ingredients. It’s easy to make this gluten-free like I do for my family, by using tinkyada brown rice spaghetti and gf bread for the crumbs. It’s fun to hear how people add their own twists to it too. Enjoy! :)

  8. Allison Rivers Samson

    Hi Sharon, So glad you enjoyed my recipe and did a taste-test with omnis and veg*ns! I love seeing the comments from people putting their own twists on the recipe. For some other ideas, try using the cheese sauce on a variety of things like broccoli, potatoes, and even for grilled cheese.
    Enjoy!

  9. Sue

    I read the ingredients and wondered if it could possibly taste remotely like the real thing. Well, although not an exact match, it was darn good! My boyfriend who is tolerant of the Vegan menus I prepare, and a real mac and cheese fan, had three helpings! This is definitely a keeper. Hooray! I don’t have to give up mac and cheese after all.

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