Vegan Baked Mac and Cheese
Creamy vegan baked mac and cheese. Yes, you read that right. This pasta dish checks all the boxes of the classic comfort food but without any dairy. This mac and cheese is made with real food ingredients (no processed vegan cheese), full of protein, and insanely delicious!
The best part of this mac and cheese is the crispy crumb topping made with Simple Mills Fine Ground Sea Salt Almond Flour Crackers. The crumb turns golden brown after a short time baking in the oven and adds a subtle "buttery" flavor to the butter-less dish. The cracker crumble also adds a nice contrast of texture to the soft noodles and creamy cheese sauce. While you could forgo baking the mac and cheese and serve directly after mixing the pasta with the sauce, the extra step of baking in the oven and crunchy cracker crumbs really take this dish to the next level.
I partnered with Simple Mills to bring you this vegan baked mac and cheese and another holiday recipe (stay tuned!) because I absolutely love this company, their mission, and all of their products. Simple Mills' mission is to create food that is simple, healthy, and delicious. All of which I stand by 100%!
Simple Mills products are made with real food ingredients and nothing artificial, ever. Their products support their mission 100% by focusing on protein, vitamins and minerals while cutting back on sugar, grains and gluten. They are able to achieve this by using ingredients like almond flour, arrowroot flour, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and coconut sugar. If you want to learn more about their amazing ingredients and why they choose to use it in their products over on their ingredient page.
For this baked mac and cheese I choose to use the Simple Mills Fine Ground Sea Salt Almond Flour Crackers as the breadcrumb topping in this recipe, but if you wanted to amp up the flavor a bit the Cracker Black Pepper, Farmhouse Cheddar Rosemary Sea Salt would all taste incredible!
NOURISHED BY NUTRITION FACTS:
Nutritional Yeast - the secret behind giving this dish its "cheese" flavor, plus its nutrition powerhouse. This is an ingredient I could write an entire blog post about, but I'll keep it short today. Nutritional yeast is a complete plant-based protein, a good source of fiber and B vitamins - especially B6, B12 and folate. Just 1/4 cup has 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber! Plus, most nutritional yeast on the market today is fortified which helps ensure you're getting even more nutrients in such a small amount.
Protein – for 1/12 of this dish there is 16g of protein! That's pretty amazing for a small portion of pasta. The protein in this mac and cheese comes from the chickpea pasta (I love Banza!), the nutritional yeast, and soy milk. I found this pasta incredibly filling and I was able to stay full thanks to the protein and fiber. Protein is key for satiety and slowing down digestion, helping balance out the quick energy from carbohydrates.
Healthy fat - the almond flour crackers and cashews provide the majority of the fat in this dish, although it's not much by any means. This dish has considerably less fat than most traditional and vegan mac and cheeses but without compromising the creaminess and flavor. The healthy fat in this dish help aid in the absorption of vitamin A (a fat-soluble vitamin) found in the carrots and also help with satiety. Since the dish is lighter, it doesn't leave you feeling heavy after eating, which is a bonus!
Carbs - this pasta dish is lower in carbohydrates, thanks to the chickpea pasta and almond flour cracker crumble. The sauce made from white russet potatoes and carrots provides quick and complex carbohydrates but also that lush and creamy mouthfeel from the starch. Leaving the potato skin on adds to the fiber content and boost up the nutrition profile since potato skins are an amazing source of potassium, magnesium, and iron.
This recipe may seem a little lengthy but it is 100% worth it. The nice thing is you can multitask most of the steps - you can have the pasta and potatoes/carrots boiling while making the almond cracker crumble. You can also cut back on the time significantly by not baking the mac and cheese and serving it straight from the stovetop. Just sprinkle with some of the cracker crumble and you'll still have that nice crunchy texture contrast.
You can substitute sweet potatoes, pumpkin or other squash for the white potatoes/starch component of the sauce but from a flavor perspective, the sauce will take on a sweeter taste and lose some of the savory "cheese" flavor.
In place of the soaked cashews, you can substitute two tablespoons of raw cashew butter, tahini or oil of choice.
You can use any plant-based milk for this recipe (except, I don’t recommend coconut milk) but soy milk will give the dish a boost of protein.
This recipe makes a lot. You can easily halve the recipe or only use 8 oz box of pasta and save 1/2 the sauce for other purposes like nachos, veggie dip, or drizzle for grains or other bowl meals.
Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese
Creamy vegan mac and cheese made with real food ingredients (no processed cheeses) and topped with Simple Mills cracker crumble.
16 oz chickpea pasta shells (or pasta of choice)
1 cup diced russet potatoes (1 medium, 6 oz)
1 cup diced golden or orange carrots (2 medium, 6 oz)
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 cup plant-based milk
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons dijion mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 box Simple Mills Fine Ground Sea Salt Almond Flour Crackers
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons spray oil of choice
In a large pot bring at least 8 cups of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook to al dente or according to the package instructions. You want the pasta to be slightly undercooked by about 1-2 minutes if you are baking the mac and cheese. Drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.
In the meantime, place the vegetable stock, potatoes and carrots into a medium pot and bring to a boil. Let simmer until tender and can be pierced with a fork. About 10-12 minutes.
Add the remaining sauce ingredients (everything but the crackers and garlic powder) to a blender. Add the warm potatoes, carrots and broth. With a slightly vented lid and holding the top with a dish towel, blend all the ingredients together. Start slowly then blend on high for about 2 minutes.
Add the pasta to a casserole or baking dish (roughly 7x11). Pour the sauce on to the pasta and gently combine.
For the cracker crumble, add the crackers and garlic powder to a food processor or dry ingredients container for a blender, and process into fine crumb (if not using spray oil, add 2 teaspoons of oil). Top pasta with the cracker crumble and spray with oil of choice.
Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until bubbly. After 20 minutes, turn the oven to broil for about 3-4 minutes to make sure the top is golden.
Serve warm or store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 4 days or in the freezer for 1 month. To reheat, place back in the oven on low until warmed through or in the microwave.
This post was created in partnership with Simple Mills. All thoughts and opinions, as always, are my own. Thank you so much for supporting the sponsors that keep Nourished by Nutrition going!