This easy vegan macaroni and cheese recipe is the ultimate comfort food. Using pureed silken tofu as a base makes it creamy and deceptively rich-tasting.
Leftovers for lunch! Make this for dinner, then reheat leftovers to pack into the next day’s container lunch — vegan mac and cheese is a good bet to become a favorite of “children of all ages.”
Lots of ways to make vegan mac and cheese: These days, there are so many ways to make dairy-free mac and cheese, with some renditions even skipping the vegan cheese altogether. Instead, vegetables like potatoes and carrots are used, along with cashews other ingredients that add up to a surprisingly cheesy flavor.
This basic recipe uses only 5 ingredients (other than salt). This relies on — wait for it — vegan cheese for its cheesiness (I’ve always liked using Daiya cheddar shreds but am always open to other ideas).
Serve with a green vegetable or two. When vegetables aren’t actually part of mac and cheese, veggie companions are a must — a green vegetable (green beans, broccoli, or brussels sprouts) and a simple salad or slaw.
Classic carrot-raisin salad is a good companion, too. It hardly warrants a formal recipe, but if you need a how-to: Combine about 8 ounces of grated carrots with 1/2 cup or so raisins. Add lemon juice and agave nectar or maple syrup to taste (start with about a tablespoon of each, and add more until the sweet-tart balance is to your liking) and a generous pinch of ground cinnamon.
Add some toppings: Following are a few suggestions for vegetable toppings for the mac and cheese following the recipe box that make it even more luscious. I highly recommend trying some of them!
TOPPINGS FOR VEGAN MACARONI AND CHEESE
Steamed wilted greens and dried tomatoes: Rinse a good-size bunch of chard or kale and chop finely (use stems or not, as you prefer). Or, use whole baby spinach. Simply combine in a medium skillet or saucepan and steam until bright green. Or you can do a sauté with olive oil or garlic for extra flavor. Spinach needs only a minute or two; chard and kale require 5 minutes or so. Serve over macaroni and cheese with sliced sun-dried tomatoes — preferably moist but not oil-packed.
Broccoli and red bell pepper: Broccoli is as good to for topping mac and cheese as it is served on the side. Finely chop a broccoli crown or two. Combine in a medium skillet along with a diced red bell pepper and just enough water to keep everything moist. Steam over medium heat, covered, until the veggies are tender-crisp.
Sautéed onions (with optional garlic): Chop a large onion (along with a few cloves garlic, if you’d like) and sauté in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat until golden brown. You can also add some bell pepper in addition to or instead of the garlic.
Mushroom and fresh herbs: Clean, stem and slice 8 to 12 ounces of cremini or baby bella mushrooms. Or use a combination of these brown mushrooms with a small amount of another variety like shiitake or porcini. Cook in a covered skillet with a water, over medium heat until tender. Stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, basil, or dill, or a combination. Drain well.
Crisp-cooked vegan bacon is a great topping, too. Enough said!
- 1 pound pasta, any short shape (like elbows, cavatappi, or rotini)
- 12.3-ounce package silken tofu
- 2 tablespoons vegan butter
- 1/2 cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk
- 1 1/2 cups cheddar-style nondairy cheese
- Salt to taste
- Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente, then drain.
- While the pasta cooks, puree the tofu until perfectly smooth in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the vegan butter, nondairy milk, and cheese. Slowly bring to a gentle simmer, stirring often, then cook over low heat until the cheese is thoroughly melted. If you have a high-speed blender, you can just throw all of these ingredients in and blend until smooth; no need to cook.
- Combine the cooked pasta and sauce in a serving container (or right back in the pot used for cooking the pasta), and stir together. Season with salt to taste and serve.
- See the various vegetable toppings following this recipe box.
- Macaroni and cheese with a hint of sweet potato or squash: Add 1/2 cup well-cooked, mashed sweet potato or butternut squash to the food processor or blender along with the silken tofu for added nutrition.
- Baked macaroni and cheese with crisp breadcrumbs: Transfer macaroni and cheese (plain or embellished as suggested above) to a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs. Bake at 400º F until the top is golden and crusty, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Photos by Hannah Kaminsky; adapted from Plant Power by Nava Atlas
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