Although I think there is more understanding than there used to be that a vegan diet is not just an endless series undressed saladsone of the things many people still worry about when transitioning to food less meat and dairy is that they can’t enjoy their favorite comfort food not anymore.
In my case, I knew I had to find a way to crack the code to make a delicious dairy-free macaroni and cheese.
Related: Slutty Vegan Founder Pinky Cole On Creating A Vegetable Empire In Black Property
When done right, mac and cheese is the pinnacle of comfort food. It’s creamy, cheesy and carbohydrate-rich – a trifecta of deliciousness.
However, without the traditional additions of real cheese and cream, it can be difficult to hit the right notes. That’s why I’ve spent the past few weeks testing different combinations, from pure vegan shreds melted in dairy-free milk to more involved sauces built on coconut milknutritional yeast and a prayer.
This iteration combines all of the best elements from the test versions — good vegan cheddar, dairy-free cream cheese, oat milk, and nutritional yeast — for a velvety, smooth sauce. When mixed with basic elbow macaroni and a toasted Panko topping, the result is a peak comfort food that fits your nutritional needs.
Recipe: The best vegan macaroni and cheese
- 1 pound elbow macaroni (or any short, tube-y pasta); reserve pasta water
- 4 tablespoons vegan butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 teaspoons mustard powder
- 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 2 cups oat milk (see chef’s note)
- 1/2 cup vegan cream cheese
- 12 ounces vegan cheddar, divided
- 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper taste
Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the package, but keep at least 1 cup of pasta water†
Meanwhile, melt the vegan butter in a big pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the flour, mustard powder, turmeric powder and paprika. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until the resulting paste — called a roux — looks slightly toasted. At this point, the flour will not taste like regular “raw” flour.
Add the oat milk to the pan and whisk quite aggressively until there are no more lumps or lumps of flour. Let the mixture simmer gently beating consistently, until the sauce thickens.
To the sauce, add 1/2 cup of vegan cream cheese, the nutritional yeast, and 6 ounces of vegan cheddar. whisk, knock Knock! (Vegan cheddar sometimes gets a bad rap for not melting as effortlessly as its dairy counterpart, but there are many good brands these days. I like the shreds of Field Roast Chao.) Salt and pepper to taste.
It’s time to add the macaroni to the sauce. If it’s a little too thick, use the reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency. Once fully incorporated and creamy, set the pot aside and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
If you made the vegan macaroni and cheese in an ovenproof pan or Dutch oven, let it sit. If not, transfer it to a baking dish. Top with the remaining 6 ounces of shredded cheddar and the breadcrumbs.
Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and serve.
You can swap the oat milk with NotMilk, which is probably the closest analog I’ve found to whole milk. Learn more about how the dairy-free alternative stacks up against the crowd here.
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