Vegan mac and cheese can be a prickly subject. I remember veganizing my first mac ‘n cheese and with Follow Your Heart cheese in 2007. The result was pretty close to a cheap boxed macaroni mix, but it congealed quickly and needed a lot of salt and pepper to convince you it was delicious. And nooch mac? Delicious, but it’s an acquired taste. We’ve come a long way since then – with Daiya and Teese in the marketplace, omnivore approved mac ‘n cheese is totally achievable. Still, finding that perfect recipe takes a little work.
Luckily, my friend Carlos has crafted what is hands down one of the best vegan mac ‘n cheese recipes I’ve ever tasted. It’s his show stopper, the piece he trots out to potlucks and dinner parties because people beg him to. Omnivores and vegans alike – I made it for a mixed vegan/omnivore group of bike messengers in Chicago and it got rave reviews from the whole bunch, and these are dudes who know how to eat. Carlos handed off the secret recipe on a recent visit to Philadelphia, and walked me through the process step by step and I’m passing it on to you! Go forth and make a vegan near you supremely happy.
Carlos’s Stupendous Mac ‘n Cheese
1lb of your favorite pasta, cooked
1/2 C plain coconut creamer
2 C non-dairy milk (we like almond but go with your favorite)
1 package Goya brand Sazon (or other similar)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, optional
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp granulated garlic
4 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter substitute
3 tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4-1/3 C water
1/4 C Nutritional yeast
1/2 C French’s Crispy Onions
1/2 C panko bread crumbs
Preheat your oven to 375 and prep a 12″ x 9″ casserole dish or dutch oven with a little oil or margarine.
Put your pasta on to cook as per the package instructions. I like to leave my pasta a little undercooked, because it’s going to cook more when we bake the whole shebang later.
Mix together coconut cream and almond milk in a sauce pot, then add Sazon, salt, cayenne, and garlic. Add Earth Balance and put on med-low until the Earth Balance is melted and the mixture is close to boiling.
In a separate bowl, mix together Ener-G and flour, then add 1/4-1/3 cup of water and mix with a fork until you get an egglike consistency. Add this mixture to the sauce pot and stir until the liquid thickens. Once that happens, add in the Daiya and stir until melted. Last, add your nutritional yeast. Turn the heat down to low and continue to stir at regular intervals.
Once your pasta is done cooking and your cheese sauce is ready, drain your pasta well and pour it into your prepared casserole dish, then pour the cheese sauce over the top and mix evenly. Sprinkle a layer of bread crumbs over the top, followed by a layer of fried onions. For added fun, you can sprinkle some more shredded Daiya under the breadcrumb layer. I’m really fond of shredding Daiya blocks over the top as opposed to using the premade shreds because I think they melt better. I’ve also tried using my own homemade cheese shreds on the top – delicious!
Place the casserole dish in the oven uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and serve hot/try not to eat the whole thing out of the pan before serving. Leftovers can go in the fridge for reheating the next day, but I’m not kidding when I tell you there probably won’t be any.