I have a dirty little secret. Sometimes I just want to chow down on a bowl of mac and cheese. You know, the kind with the powdered cheese. Or the packet of oozy cheese like substance you just stir in. Thank goodness lactose is my kryptonite, or God help me, I’d probably have tell tale cheese remnants on my face, bearing the guilty look of my dog Luca, who just so happened to have licked the side of my carrot cake as I write this.
Oh well. If I could eat the real ooey-gooey-cheesy version, I wouldn’t have even thought to try the vegan mac and cheese at City O City, one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in Denver. It’s creamy with just a hint of coconut, and satisfies the 5 year old itch inside of me that just wants her mac and cheese now! I just had to recreate the recipe at home!
After much experimentation, my version completely satisfies my cravings for the real thing. It’s coconut and cashew based, with all sorts of tricks I’ve picked up in my efforts to make what is not cheese taste so cheesy, the mouth doesn’t even worry about technicalities. Forget about those processed vegan cheese products you buy hoping they will fill the void. This mac is made from all whole food ingredients and good fats, and you can pour it over any type of pasta that suits your needs—I like using whole grain shells or macaroni.
This recipe has been field tested by skeptical parties and unknowing partakers who have been tricked into noshing before knowing it’s shh—vegan!
We all have dirty little secrets. Mine just happen to involve cheese!
Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/4 cups raw cashews
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon white miso paste
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, from about 1/2 a small lemon
- 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 pound whole grain or gluten free pasta (shells or macaroni will do the trick)
Set a large saucepan of water to boil, generously salt the water, and follow the cooking instructions for the pasta. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a small nonstick pan. Sauté the garlic for 1-2 minutes until soft and just barely golden.
Place the cashews and nutritional yeast in the bowl of a blender or food processor. Blend until the cashews are a sandy texture. Add the sautéed garlic, coconut milk, miso paste, lemon juice, dijon mustard, tomato paste and turmeric. Blend until very smooth. Warm the sauce over medium low heat in a small saucepan. Stir in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Return the drained pasta to the large saucepan. Pour in the warmed sauce. Toss and stir until well coated. Heat over medium low heat if needed.