(Texas-Style Vegan Baked Mac ‘n Cheese)
Prep time: 20 minutes; Blend/bake time: 20 minutes
WORDS: Johnny Lozano
One more Texas recipe, then I’ll join the rest of the world. I recently had the good fortune of skating with the #toothpickgod himself, Cody McEntire. Unless you’ve lived under a rock for the last decade, you know that Cody (or to some, The Toothpick God, based on his trademark chomping on a toothpick while ripping everything in his path to shreds) has been on a relentless rampage in both the parks and the streets all across the U.S.
Hailing from Belton, Texas (I hereby challenge you to find it on a map), Cody embodies more than just the Texas flag and nollie bigspins. His popularity is hardly surprising to those who saw him destroy the Skatepark of Austin back in the day (the same cohort that watched his Smoke and Mirrors part and then said, “Oh, you didn’t know?”), but if you haven’t followed him from his Think days, then just know that he’s been dropping jaws since long before he was murdering dream tricks like Freddy Krueger.
In honor of one of Texas’s most prolific pros (and a final homage to the Texas flag), this week’s recipe is a non-dairy twist on a comfort food that—while popular all over the U.S.—is unequivocally done just right in Texas: mac ‘n cheese.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Cheese is in the title; how can you make that vegan?” Surprisingly, with a recipe I’ve modified from Vegan Yumminess, vegan cheese doesn’t have to involve 50 ingredients that are spelled with an inordinate amount of Xes and numbers. While there is some Daiya dairy-free cheese as an optional addition, the creamy cheese base of this recipe is nothing more than cashews, potatoes, carrots, nutritional yeast*, and spices.
You heard me.
The benefit of this mix of nuts and veggies for cheese, in addition to being as natural as a cheese substitute can be, is that, unlike other vegan recipes that either have entirely carbs or entirely fats as cheeses, this recipe finds a balance in the middle. In addition, if you’re using a chickpea macaroni (as I did) you’re getting a good mix of protein and fiber, as well.
To dub this “Texas-style,” some heat is necessary and some veggie bacon is suggested. If you haven’t had a mix of jalapeño and poblano peppers, then you’re in for a spicy treat. The blend of peppers, bacon, and toasty breadcrumbs, all swimming in a rich non-dairy cheese make this an indulgent dish worth sinking your spoon (or toothpick) into.
Ready for some Southern comfort?
- 8 oz. dry macaroni (I prefer Banza chickpea macaroni)
- 2 slices wheat bread (for breadcrumb topping)
- 1 cup russet potatoes (peeled and diced)
- ¼ cup carrots (peeled and diced)
- ½ yellow onion (diced)
- 1 large poblano pepper (diced)
- 1-2 jalapeños (diced)
- ½ tbsp. olive oil
- ¾ cup water (from boiling veggies)
- 1/3 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)
- 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- ½ tsp. salt
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp. paprika
- ¼ tsp. ground chipotle (optional)
- 1 package Sweet Earth Benevolent Bacon (or other veggie bacon) (optional)
- Daiya Cheddar Cheese Style Shreds (for baking) (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. First, prepare the macaroni: Bring six cups of water to a boil, then add the macaroni and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the macaroni and set aside for later.
- Prepare the mix-ins and fixings. While the macaroni is boiling, dice your poblano and jalapeño. Bring the olive oil to a medium heat on the stove and throw in the peppers for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. While all this is going on, prepare your breadcrumb topping by toasting two slices of bread and then crushing into crumbs (using a food processor helps). Place the breadcrumbs and peppers aside for later.
- Peel and dice your potatoes, carrots and onions. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and boil the veggies for 10 minutes or until they are tender. Once tender, remove the veggies from the pot and place in a blender along with ¾ cup of the water in which the veggies were boiled, the almond milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, garlic, cayenne, paprika and chipotle and blend until creamy.
- While the veggies are boiling, prepare your veggie bacon according to the package. Stovetop directions are best, but if you’re in a rush and the box allows, microwave directions will work, as well. Once cooked, rip the bacon into smaller shreds for mixing in.
- Once you have your macaroni, cheese sauce, bacon, peppers, and breadcrumbs, add the cheese sauce, bacon shreds and peppers to the macaroni and stir until even. Scoop the mixture into a casserole dish or smaller oven-safe ramekins and then top with additional (optional) Daiya cheddar cheese shreds and breadcrumbs.
Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until the cheese shreds are melting slightly and the breadcrumbs are lightly toasted. Take them out, chow down and go do some nollie bigspins!
*I’m well-aware that this ingredient—colloquially referred to as “nooch”—sounds less than appetizing. Just know that nutritional yeast provides a great cheesy flavor for lots of vegan dishes and is a superb source of protein and B vitamins. For more info on this spice, check out one of my older articles here.