Ever since my conversion to vegetarian-then-vegan status five months ago, there is one ingredient I miss more than any other: cheese. Gooey, melty, savory cheese. So I did what any other sensible vegan does, and I turned to the power of nutritional yeast to make a savory, Spicy Vegan Mac and Cheese recipe that truly hits the spot.
Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of hope going into the project that nutritional yeast would taste or resemble anything remotely close to melted cheese.
But much to my delight, I was dead wrong. What I found instead was a great substitute that satiated my appetite for a dairy-based cheese sauce. This, indeed, is a game changer for this vegan newbie.
Making Vegan Mac and Cheese couldn’t be easier. Literally a handful of ingredients and your favorite seasoning combo yields a creamy cheese sauce in 10 minutes or less.
I used chili powder, garlic powder and a zingy Cajun spice blend to rev up the flavor of this recipe. However, the sky’s the limit when it comes to flavor preferences. A zesty Mexican-style blend, for example, would incorporate garlic, cumin and chili powders.
What was more fun was planning how I would serve the sauce! For me, al dente, gluten-free rotini would be the base. This corkscrew-shaped pasta is a magnet for cheese sauce.
Suit Your Taste
From there, I got creative by adding chopped, sautéed kale and arugula. Next came sautéed mushrooms cooked in a hint of extra-virgin olive oil and garlic. And finally, to add a nutty crunch to the dish, I topped it all with a sprinkling of chopped pecans. A dash of pepper, salt and red chili flakes sealed the deal.
This dish is ideal for anyone who is dairy-sensitive and can be modified dozens of ways. For the non-vegheads in the house, adding tender, shredded chicken or a spicy sausage makes the dish even more hearty.
The next time I prepare this, I’ll go Southwestern style with spinach, black beans, cilantro and cherry tomatoes.
Another great combo on the list is a curry-flavored sauce made with garlic, curry and paprika served with carrots, red bell peppers, onions and sautéed spinach.
Spicy Vegan Mac and Cheese
The only limitation to this dish is your imagination. Enjoy!
- 8 oz. box Pasta of choice cooked to al dente
- 1.5 cups Unsweetened almond milk
- 1/3 cup Nutritional yeast (Bragg)
- 2 tbsp Vegan butter (Earth Balance)
- 2 tbsp flour (Bob's Red Mill gluten-free)
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning blend
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 cup Sautéed, chopped kale
- 1/2 cup Sautéed, chopped arugula
- 1 container sliced mushrooms
- 2 tbsp. chopped pecans
- Red pepper flakes
Cook pasta according to package directions. If you are using a gluten-free pasta, be cautious not to overcook. Drain and set aside.
In a medium sauté pan, begin to cook mushrooms while you are making the sauce. About halfway through, add the greens and sauté lightly until tender-crisp.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter until it’s bubbling lightly. Whisk in flour and stir until it’s blended and begins to thicken.
Reduce heat and gradually add almond milk, whisking continuously until the sauce becomes thick.
Add nutritional yeast and spices and whisk until blended.
Toss warm cheese sauce with pasta and sautéed vegetables. Top with chopped pecans, salt, pepper and red chili flakes. Bon appetite!
To reheat, simply add a splash of almond milk, stir, and warm in the microwave.