Mac & cheeze may be the most comforting of comfort foods. I loved the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese as a child, and have enjoyed many of the boxed non-dairy mac and cheeze options that have come out recently. (Currently the Daiya version is my fave, but there are some I’ve yet to try).
There are a few approaches to making your own non-dairy mac & cheeze. Some options rely heavily on the cheesey flavor (and yellow color) of nutritional yeast. And while I’ve grown to like those recipes, “nooch” can be an acquired taste.
There’s also the nut cheese version. A creamy cheeze can be made from cashews and a bit of turmeric, and make for a deliciously cheesey sauce. But for many, the nut flavor (and fat) can be overwhelming.
Others buy pre-made non-dairy cheeses and incorporate them into a mac & cheeze recipe. Heidi Ho makes a delicious one, and I’ve seen people making mac & cheeze from Miyoko’s cheeses. Because they’re such standout cheeses on their own, this feels a bit sacrilegious to me, but the results are nonetheless tasty.
Another version of vegan mac & cheeze involves root vegetables. When cooked, blended and spiced, root veggies like potatoes and carrots blended into a thick sauce can somewhat approximate dairy. That’s the approach I took for this recipe.
This cheeze sauce calls for sweet potatoes, which makes the flavor a bit, uh…sweet. But I’ve added several savory ingredients like mustard, miso and nutritional yeast to help balance it out.
The most time-consuming part of the recipe involves cooking the sweet potatoes, which depending on the method, really won’t take long at all. I baked these, but if you use a microwave, that’s much faster. Steaming on the stovetop can also work well. Alternatively, plain canned sweet potato should be fine.
I minimized the gluten in this recipe with gluten-free flour and pasta. I used a chickpea flour from Bob’s Red Mill and a chickpea pasta from a company called Banza. Both worked great.
- 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 cups cooked)
- 1 lb dried pasta shells
- ⅓ c non-dairy spread (I use Earth Balance)
- ⅓ c flour
- 2 c unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 t Dijon mustard
- 2 t white miso
- ½ t cayenne
- 1 t nutmeg
- ½ t salt
- 2 T nutritional yeast
- 2 c baby spinach, chopped
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Poke a few holes with a fork into sweet potatoes and wrap them in foil. Bake until cooked through, about 1 hour. When sweet potatoes are cooked and slightly cool, scoop out the flesh and discard the skins. Set flesh aside.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
- In a medium pot, melt non-dairy spread. Stir in flour and cook, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes until mixture thickens. Stir in half the non-dairy milk and continue stirring another 2 minutes or so as mixture continues to thicken. Stir in sweet potatoes. Add in remaining milk, garlic, mustard, miso, cayenne, nutmeg, nutritional yeast and salt. Continue cooking another few minutes until a thick sauce consistency is reached.
- Transfer sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Place cooked pasta into the sauce pot. Over low heat, pour blended sauce over pasta and stir well. Stir in baby spinach and cook about 2 minutes until pasta is warm and spinach is wilted.
- Serve with freshly ground pepper to taste.