I’ve been holding onto this for a while now, but I’ve been getting a lot requests for the recipe lately, so it’s time to share! Most of my clients are dairy-free (I’ve actually been avoiding dairy as well in order to cut back on inflammatory joint pain), which means comfort food that they can enjoy within their dietary restrictions is a very important part of my repertoire. Vegan mac is definitely a “go-to”.
This mac satisfies all kinds of cravings, with a super savory sauce and crunchy topping, but it’s very nutritious. Instead of cheese, butter and flour, the sauce is made of cashews, nutritional yeast and spices (turmeric!!). Thus, instead of empty carbs and loads of saturated fat, you get protein, fiber, anti-inflammatory anthocyanins and healthy fats!
Bring this to your next football party or serve it to vegetarians at your Thanksgiving dinner with a side of cranberry sauce ;).
Do not skip the cauliflower! Cauliflower is not a randomly added vegetable. It has a deep umami flavor that makes the mac more “cheesy”.
Since the sauce is nut based, you’ll need to thin it out quite a bit with pasta water, as it will thicken over time. If you accidentally throw out the pasta water, don’t worry, you can use regular water or broth to thin.
Best Ever Vegan Mac:
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small/medium head cauliflower
12 ounces pasta (brown rice pasta is best for gluten-free, as it’s thicker than quinoa or corn based ones)
1 cup pasta cooking water
½ cup parsley, finely chopped (can make extra for garnish)
salt and pepper, to taste
For the vegan “cheese” sauce:
1½ cups raw cashews, preferably soaked 2-3 hours and strained
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon sweet paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon or yellow mustard
panko or crumbled potato chips
turmeric and paprika, for garnish
Heat oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
Blend all of the ingredients for the “cheese” sauce in a blender until smooth, about a minute.
Sweat shallot and garlic in a large pan. Add cauliflower with ½ cup water, season with salt and pepper, cover and cook until just tender.
Cook pasta in salted water until it’s about a minute undercooked. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water and strain.
Mix the pasta, cauliflower, parsley and “cheese” sauce. Place in oiled 9×9 baking dish. Place in oven and bake until crispy, about 20 minutes:
Remove from oven and, if using panko, top with panko and spray/drizzle with oil. Place under broiler for 2 minutes, until browned.
If using crumbled potato chips, skip the panko/broiler step and just sprinkle the top with chip crumbs just before serving. Dash the top with turmeric, paprika and parsley to garnish.