This is one of the best mac and cheese recipes, and it doesn’t even call for cheese! Instead, it uses a simple combination of bright ingredients, creating a rich and creamy dish that is tangy and delicious. Don’t get us wrong, this is not going to fool anyone into thinking they are eating cheese, but it is incredibly flavorful even without the dairy. Plus the cheese sauce is easy to make as everything is mixed in one pan. Gently sautéed garlic is stirred with aromatic spices and bold savory ingredients, making this as irresistible as traditional mac and cheese, yet light, healthy, and satisfying.
Nutritional yeast may have a funny name, but this unique and colorful ingredient has a deliciously nutty and cheesy flavor. Make sure to buy some extra at the store because it is great on popcorn, pasta, or anywhere you would normally sprinkle parmesan cheese. This zesty seasoning is high in protein (and it’s a complete protein!), fiber, vitamins, and minerals, plus it’s cholesterol-free, and nearly fat-free too. It has a tanginess like sharp cheddar cheese, enhanced here with fresh lemon juice, yellow mustard, and turmeric with its earthy flavor and distinct orange color.
The preparation is straightforward: while the pasta is boiling, the cheesy sauce simmers in a small pot, then everything is assembled in a casserole dish and baked until hot and bubbly. And a nice bonus when cooking vegan meals is that cleanup is a breeze. Usually with mac and cheese, the baking pan has to be soaked and scrubbed thoroughly to get it clean, but these ingredients are so light that the dishes practically rinse themselves! (We don’t have a dishwasher so these things are important) Everyone loves mac and cheese, and this creamy, intensely satisfying recipe is a healthy and delicious alternative.
Vegan Mac and Cheese
adapted from Veganomicon
12 ounces dried macaroni pasta
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups nutritional yeast flakes
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
3 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
1 pound extra-firm tofu
Start cooking the pasta
Preheat oven to 325°F. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (we use 4 quarts of water and 4 teaspoons of salt). Cook the macaroni until al dente according to package directions, usually about 10 minutes, then drain and return pasta to the pot to keep warm until ready to use.
Meanwhile, make the cheese sauce
In a medium bowl, whisk together the vegetable broth and flour until no lumps remain, then set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the minced garlic, and sauté gently for about 1 minute until the garlic is sizzling and fragrant. Add the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, black pepper, turmeric, and red pepper flakes, and cook for about 15 seconds. Then add the broth-flour mixture and nutritional yeast, stir to combine, and raise heat to medium-high. Using a whisk to stir constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 2 more minutes, until the mixture bubbles and thickens a bit. Turn off heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and the prepared mustard. Stir well to combine, and adjust seasonings to taste. Keep covered until ready to use.
Assemble and bake the dish
Place the tofu in a 9×13-inch glass baking dish, and use your hands to mash the tofu until it resembles ricotta. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and stir the mixture in the dish to combine. Add 1/2 cup of the cheese sauce to the tofu, and stir until blended. Then add the cooked macaroni and 3 more cups of cheese sauce, and stir well to combine. Spread the pasta mixture in the dish, smoothing it evenly, then pour the remaining cheese sauce over the top. Bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling and slightly browned on top. Let cool for 15 minutes (it will firm up slightly as it cools), serve warm, and enjoy!
— Because the vegetable broth adds a lot of flavor to this recipe, be sure to use a broth that you like. Our favorite are these bouillon cubes, because they are delicious, organic, msg-free, and easy to keep stocked in the pantry.