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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Thinking Outside the Box
Vegan Mac & Cheese is a celebration of America's favorite comfort food, made healthy and delicious with innovative plant-based ingredients.
Macaroni and cheese has long been one of America's go-to comfort food meals. Warm, creamy, and delicious, it's one of the first grown-up foods enjoyed by young children. Whether our moms simply opened a box of dried noodles and a packet of orange powder, or made it from scratch with a béchamel sauce and four kinds of cheese, the end result was always flavorful, satisfying, and sustaining.
Most of us never outgrow that childhood fondness for mac and cheese, and happily pass the tradition of this inexpensive, homey meal to our kids and grandkids. Mac and cheese has a fancy side, too, often showing up on restaurant menus all dressed up with chunks of lobster meat or a dusting of white truffle.
As much as it is loved, classic macaroni and cheese has been off-limits to vegans and those who avoid dairy products due to allergies or other health issues — until now.
As many vegans can now attest, you don't need dairy cheese to make a sumptuous mac and cheese. In fact, you don't need cheese at all. Just ask the more than 3,000 people who attend the annual Vegan Mac 'n Cheese Smackdown in Baltimore, where as many as thirty chefs and caterers compete for the title of best vegan mac 'n' cheese. And that's what this book is about — the gentrifying, reclaiming, and veganizing of macaroni and cheese — or more accurately, a book of recipes for mac un cheese.
Whether you prefer your mac and cheese saucy or firm, stovetop or baked, you'll find lots to love in this book. The opening chapter provides my eight basic mac and cheese recipes, followed by chapters featuring vegetables such as Spinach-Artichoke Mac and Cheese (page 70), Arugula Pesto Mac Uncheese (page 78), and Buffalo Cauliflower Mac (page 75). The book also includes a chapter inspired by global flavors, such as Mac and Thai (page 46) and Creamy Curry Mac (page 59). There are enough recipes in this book to enjoy a different comforting mac and cheese every week of the year. When you factor in the numerous add-ins and topping ideas, this book opens the door to hundreds of possible recipe variations. What I found most fun in writing the book was sharing my special favorites.
A chapter titled "Meaty Macs" contains hearty casseroles such as Chili Mac (page 96), Brat & Kraut Mac & Cheese (page 110), and Philly Cheesesteak Mac (page 102) and features ingredients such as seitan, tofu, and tempeh. There are also many recipes that are completely soy free, gluten free, and nut free.
The final chapter includes some fun recipes using leftover mac and cheese, such as Mac Uncheese Balls (page 126), Mac Uncheese Quesadillas (page 133), and even Mac 'n' Pizza (page 131).
These mouthwatering recipes will appeal to vegans and omnivores alike, and they'll have kids of all ages saying, "Mac uncheese? Yes, please!"
THE MAC AND CHEESE STORY
Traditional macaroni and cheese has been hugely popular for decades, in no small part due to the commercial mixes and dairy-based cheeses and sauces that made them easy to make. Vegans don't eat dairy products so, for that reason, vegans abstained from that comforting mouthful of traditional mac and cheese. However, thanks to a handful of innovators over the past twenty years, truly satisfying dairy-free mac-and-cheese dishes have achieved an almost cult-like following among vegans. Vegan restaurants across the country now offer mac-and-cheese choices on their menus, and vegan mac-and-cheese festivals and contests pop up in cities across the country.
Before we dig into the recipes, let's take a look at how this comfort food favorite came to be, and the ingenious ways by which it is now being enjoyed in such excellent vegan versions. While some texts relate that macaroni and cheese had its beginnings in colonial America at a New England church supper, the dish actually has a much older history.
MACARONI AND CHEESE
Macaroni took a long journey before it partnered with cheese. Early Chinese texts reference noodle eating in 3000 BCE. In the first century, Etruscan noodles, called lagane, were made from the same durum wheat used today to make pasta, however, instead of boiling the noodles, they were baked. During the seventh through ninth centuries, pasta came to the Mediterranean region during the Arab conquests of Sicily. In 1271, Marco Polo brought pasta from China but, by then, pasta was already known in Italy. Which brings us to the question: How did macaroni and cheese become a thing? The chart on the next two pages provides a timeline.
VEGAN CHEESE: ORIGINS
If you Google "vegan mac and cheese," you will be inundated with countless recipes by food bloggers eager to share their version of the ultimate comfort food. And, while there's no official record of the first vegan mac and cheese, some credit surely goes to vegan dairy-alternative trailblazers such as Jo Stepaniak, author of the 1994 groundbreaking book, The Uncheese Cookbook, which contains her recipe for Macaroni and Cheez. Since that time, many general vegan cookbooks contain iterations of the dish.
Many years ago, commercial vegan cheese products became available, but sometimes the results were not very appealing. In the last several years, all that has changed with numerous plant-based cheese companies popping up all over, offering cheesy goodness to rival any dairy-based cheese. There are hard and soft cheeses.
There are cheeses that spread, shred, slice, and melt. The following lists some of the most popular cheeses by company brand name.
Daiya: Often credited with the first truly meltable dairy-free shreds in a variety of flavors, this popular company also offers dairy-free cheese in slices, blocks, and spreads, as well as its own Cheezy Mac.
Field Roast: This company is the maker of the popular Vegan Chao Slices — a vegan coconut cheese alternative — perfect for grilled uncheese sandwiches.
Follow Your Heart: The company makes nondairy cheeses under the name Vegan Gourmet that include mozzarella, cheddar, nacho, Monterey Jack, garden herb, American, and provolone.
Kite Hill: Its artisanal nondairy cheese offerings include the creamy Soft Fresh Original, Soft Fresh Truffle Dill & Chive, and an aged soft ripened cheese with a delicate white rind. It also makes fresh ricotta and cultured cream cheese–style spreads.
Miyoko's Kitchen: This home of a variety of artisanal cheeses was developed by vegan cookbook author Miyoko Schinner. From delicate and creamy to pungent and hard, flavors include aged Sharp Farmhouse English, Black Ash, and Winter Truffle.
Tofutti: In addition to its popular Better Than Sour Cream and Better Than Cream Cheese, Tofutti also makes a plant-based ricotta and American and mozzarella slices.
Treeline Cheese: Its artisanal aged nut cheeses are firm, tangy, and creamy. Flavors include chipotle-serrano pepper, herb-garlic, and green peppercorn.
MAC AND CHEESE ON RESTAURANT MENUS
Vegan mac and cheese dishes are easy to find on the menus of vegan (and some nonvegan) restaurants throughout the world, such as the ones listed here (as of this writing).
Belmont Vegetarian, Worcester, Massachusetts
It serves an extra-saucy vegan mac and cheese made with a blend of plant milks and vegan cheddar.
by CHLOE, London, United Kingdom (also has U.S. locations)
Its popular vegan mac 'n' cheese is made with a sweet potato–cashew cheese sauce, shiitake bacon, and almond parmesan.
City Cakes & Café, Salt Lake City, Utah
Made with spiral noodles and roasted red peppers, cashews give the creamy sauce its rich flavor.
Cornbread Cafe, Eugene, Oregon
The creamy, cashew-based sauce for its mac and cheese is similar to a rich béchamel.
Detroit Vegan Soul, Detroit, Michigan
Its Soul Platter consists of vegan mac 'n' cheese, smoked collards, glazed yams, black-eyed peas, and corn bread.
Donna Jean, San Diego, California
This plant-based restaurant offers Cast Iron Mac & Trees, featuring smoked vegan cheddar, tomatoes, and chives.
Great Sage, Clarksville, Maryland
Its Adult Mac is a good reason to make a culinary pilgrimage to this small town in Maryland.
Grey Cells Green, Melbourne, Australia
Its vegan mac and cheese is macaroni smothered in a velvety cashew cheese sauce.
LOV, Montreal, Canada
This restaurant serves a kale mac'n'cheese made with casarecce pasta, squash, and sweet potato sauce with almond parmesan.
Modern Love, Brooklyn, New York
Its Mac & Shews is made with a creamy red pepper–cashew cheese and served with crusted tofu, blackened cauliflower, sautéed kale, and spiced pecans.
Plum Bistro, Seattle, Washington
In addition to a classic version, Plum Bistro also features a spicy Cajun mac and cheese — both are crispy on top and creamy inside.
The Loaded Bowl, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The menu features the Down Home Bowl, a variation on its popular Cashew Mac + Cheese, which is served with vegan barbecue.
Veganerie, Bangkok, Thailand
Its Vegan Mac & Cheese is made with chewy macaroni, a creamy cheesy sauce, nut parmesan, and crispy soy bacon.
MAKING MAC UNCHEESE AT HOME
There are a few key components to making a delicious mac uncheese. Foremost is the cheesy sauce — and the one component that separates a plant-based mac and cheese from a traditional dairy-based version. Once you decide on the type of sauce you want, pick a pasta shape (elbow macaroni is traditional). From there, decide on a topping (I like Toasted Panko Crumbs, page 25), and any add-ins you might like. Following is a discussion on each component.
It's the creamy cheesy sauce that makes macaroni and cheese such a popular dish, and there are a number of ways to achieve it without using dairy products.
In a pinch, use a shredded vegan cheese product to melt into your macaroni and, voilà, you have mac uncheese. However, I prefer to make my own cheesy sauce for a number of reasons:
1. It's healthier. Whole food plant-based sauces are better for you than processed vegan cheese products.
2. It's cheaper. Vegan cheese products can be costly — it's much less expensive to make your own.
3. It tastes better. The recipes for the various cheesy sauces in this book were specially developed to complement each particular recipe. They can also be adjusted according to your personal taste.
4. You decide what goes in them. If you are allergic to a particular ingredient, such as soy or cashews, it is possible to make a cheesy sauce without using these ingredients.
The cheesy sauces in this book are made using a variety of ingredients. The most common bases are made with the following blended with other ingredients, such as nutritional yeast, plant milk, vegetable broth, miso paste, lemon juice, and mustard.
1. Roux: Plant milk thickened with a roux made with vegan butter and flour. Always use a plain unsweetened plant milk — I typically use almond or soy milk.
2. Cashew cream: Soaked and drained cashews. Recipes are included for Cashew Cream (page 109), and Cheddary Sauce (page 103), which are called for in some recipes.
3. Tofu: Puréed tofu.
4. Vegetables: Puréed cooked vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squash.
If nutritional yeast is new to you, you may be wondering why this ingredient is included in so many recipes in this cookbook. The simple answer is that nutritional yeast provides a decidedly cheesy flavor, making it a natural choice and not-so-secret ingredient for making vegan cheese sauces taste cheesy.
Nutritional yeast is sold in most natural food stores and larger supermarkets. It is also available online. There are two types of nutritional yeast — unfortified and fortified. Always buy fortified nutritional yeast as it is an easy (and delicious) way to get vitamin B12 into a vegan diet.
Naturally low in sodium and calories, nutritional yeast is also fat free, sugar free, gluten free, and vegan. It is a complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids that humans must get from food. Just 1 tablespoon (3.75 g) contains 2 grams of protein and is especially rich in thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamins B6 and B12. To preserve all the B vitamins, store nutritional yeast in a tightly sealed container to keep it protected from light and moisture.
All yeasts are not created equal. Check labels carefully — you want "nutritional yeast" — not "active dry yeast" or "brewer's yeast." (Active dry yeast is used to leaven bread and is still alive. Brewer's yeast is used to brew beer and tastes very bitter.)
QUICK CASHEW TIP
Instead of soaking cashews in advance, you can boil them for about 15 minutes and then drain well and they'll be softened enough to puree into a smooth sauce in a high-powered blender.
If you don't have a high-powered blender, you can use a regular blender or food processor, but the results won't be as smooth.
The cheesy sauces in these mac and cheese recipes can be enjoyed beyond their intended uses. You can skip the macaroni and toss the sauce with sliced potatoes for a dreamy scalloped potato dish, or pour it over baked potatoes, steamed veggies, or rice. The sauce also makes a great addition to nachos and can also be used as a dip for veggies, soft pretzels, and more.
Most recipes in this book do not call for commercial vegan cheese products, but you can use them if you like. For example, make your cheese sauce even richer by stirring in some shredded vegan cheese, or blend some vegan butter or vegan cream cheese into virtually any recipe, if you're in the mood for extra decadence.
Here's a simple guide using elbow macaroni as an average or baseline (other types of pasta will measure more or less, depending on size and shape):
1 (16-ounce, or 454 g) box elbow macaroni = 4 cups dry pasta = 8 cups (1.1 kg) cooked pasta
At least 4 cups (weight varies) of sauce is needed for 8 cups (1.1 kg) cooked pasta.
A 9 × 13-inch (23 × 33 cm) or (preferably) a 10 × 14-inch (25 × 35 cm) baking dish is best for 8 cups (1.1 kg) cooked pasta + 4 to 6 cups (weight varies) sauce.
If your mac uncheese features add-ins, you will need a 10 × 14-inch (25 × 35 cm) or other 4-quart (3.8 L) baking dish. Otherwise, divide the mac uncheese into two 8- or 9-inch (20 or 23 cm) 2-quart (1.9 L) baking dishes.
If your cooked pasta yield is more than 8 cups (1.1 kg) or if you have a lot of add-ins or prefer a saucier dish, simply scoop out 1 or 2 cups (140 to 280 g) of the cooked pasta to make more room in the baking dish.
Although elbow macaroni is typically used (the ridged kind being preferable because it holds the sauce), there are a number of other pasta varieties that fill the bill nicely. Virtually any small pasta shape can be used interchangeably in any of the recipes. You can even use long noodles, if that is your preference.
Here are some of my favorite choices to put the "mac" in mac uncheese:
HOW MUCH PASTA?
Once upon a time, most boxes of pasta weighed 16 ounces (454 g). Then, seemingly overnight, some brands began selling their pasta varieties in 8-, 10-, and 12-ounce (225 g, 280 g, and 340 g) boxes, making the idea of calling for "a box of pasta" unrealistic. Still, it's also unrealistic to cook only a portion of a box of pasta. Why go through all the trouble of boiling and draining pasta more than once? Even if you don't plan to use it all in the same recipe, the leftover pasta can be used to make other dishes another day. I also dislike being fooled by half-empty boxes in my pantry, thinking they contain the full amount. To simplify things, I suggest you cook the entire box of pasta, regardless of weight, and then use as much or as little as needed for your recipe. Chances are, you'll end up using the whole box anyway.
Because most pasta still comes in 16-ounce (454 g) boxes, that is what is used in these recipes. If you prefer to make less, cut the recipe in half or make two smaller casseroles, saving one to serve later in the week.
A crunchy topping can be a textural and flavorful element that makes a mac uncheese extra special. It is an especially good idea to use a topping for baked mac uncheese casseroles because it keeps the pasta beneath it from drying out. Even when you're serving it from the stovetop (more on that later), a sprinkling of toasted crumbs or other topping makes a nice addition — both for visual appeal and added texture.
Here are a number of ways to top your mac:
Herb-seasoned bread crumbs
Toasted Panko Crumbs (page 25)
Chopped pecans, walnuts, or other chopped nuts
Crushed smoked almonds
Roasted hulled pumpkin seeds
Roasted hulled sunflower seeds
Crumbled barbecue potato chips
Crumbled plain potato chips
Crushed corn chips or tortilla chips(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Vegan Mac & Cheese"
Copyright © 2019 Robin Robertson.
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Thinking Outside the Box, 9,
Chapter 1 Basic Vegan Mac & Cheese, 31,
Soy-Good Mac Uncheese, 32,
Free Mac, 33,
Cashew Cheesy Mac, 34,
Mom's Baked Mac Uncheese, 37,
Classy Mac Uncheese, 38,
One-Pot Cheesy Mac, 39,
Easy-Cheesy Pantry Mac, 41,
Better-than-Boxed Mac Uncheese, 42,
Chapter 2 Global Cheesy Macs, 45,
Mac and Thai, 46,
Greek Spinach Orzo Bake, 51,
Blushing Baked Ziti, 54,
Italian Macaroni Pie, 56,
Salsa Mac and Queso, 57,
Creamy Curry Mac, 59,
Noodle Kugel, 60,
Bajan Macaroni Pie, 61,
Berbere-Spiced Mac Uncheese, 62,
Mac and Creole, 65,
Chapter 3 Macand Veggies, 67,
Roasted Butternut Mac Uncheese, 68,
Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Mac, 69,
Spinach-Artichoke Mac and Cheese, 70,
Rutabaga Mac and Greens, 72,
Cheesy Broccoli Mac, 73,
Buffalo Cauliflower Mac, 75,
Arugula Pesto Mac Uncheese, 78,
Asparagus Mac and Hollandaise, 81,
Smoky Mac and Peas with Mushroom Bacon, 82,
Brussels and Bacon Cheesy Mac, 85,
Cheesy Primavera Mac, 88,
Roasted Vegetable Cheesy Mac, 90,
Mac and Giardiniera, 91,
Roasted Garlic Mac and Cheese, 92,
Bill's Artichoke Mac and Chips, 93,
Chapter 4 Meaty Macs, 95,
Chili Mac, 96,
Crabby Mac Uncheese, 99,
BBQ Jack and Mac, 100,
Philly Cheesesteak Mac, 102,
Kid's Stuff Mac 'n' Cheese, 105,
Shepherd's Mac, 106,
Lobster Mushroom Mac Uncheese, 108,
Brat & Kraut Mac & Cheese, 110,
Jerk Tempeh Mac, 113,
Tetrazzini Mac, 115,
Mac and Stroganoff, 116,
Chapter 5 Fun with Mac & Cheese, 119,
Cheesy Mac Mug, 120,
Mac Uncheese Omelet, 122,
Waned Mac Uncheese, 123,
Cheesy Broccoli Mac Soup, 125,
Mac Uncheese Balls, 126,
Cheesy Mac Muffins, 129,
Mac 'n' Pizza, 131,
Mac Uncheese Quesadillas, 133,
Indian Vermicelli Pudding, 134,
Sweet Noodle Kugel, 135,
About the Author, 139,