Mac & cheese is often made out to be the end-all, be-all of veganism. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read a blog post raving about the new “best vegan mac & cheese ever like omg.” If you need proof just google “best vegan mac and cheese”; 343, 000 results should be enough to take up your afternoon. Most of these recipes invariably spell the word “cheese” in sickeningly cutesy ways and replace the dairy cheese with lots of nooch and EB and/or vegan cheese. I often wonder why we can’t call these recipes what they really are: mac & nooch. It’s as if we’re worried that if we can’t reproduce a perfect vegan replica of the dairy-laden stuff, the world as we know it will end.
While true that it’s possible to veganize virtually anything nowadays, even I can recognize that the results usually taste substantially different than the original dish at hand. And that’s not a bad thing! For me, there needs to be an attitude shift. Don’t look at the almond milk as replacing cow’s milk, but instead as a unique, delicious alternative to dairy milk. It’s a subtle change, but it’s an important one. Vegan food is delicious in its own right and has no need to be compared to animal foods. Why not just call vegan food by its true origins sans comparisons and leave it at that?
Now that I’ve rambled long enough, I want to share some mac & cheese that I recently made on a whim. And, to my surprise, it wasn’t half bad. I don’t want to fool anyone into thinking that it tastes like the Kraft orange cheese powder stuff of their childhood, but it definitely had me coming back for seconds.
The New Farm recipe has received quite a bit of attention on the vegan interwebz so I figured it was a good place to start in terms of my mac & cheese odyssey. I tweaked an already-tweaked version to my liking (I think I’m literally incapable of NOT fiddling with recipes), and it still turned out quite tasty. In fact, I ate so much that I paid for it later with a bad stomach ache. Ahh, what I do all in the name of food blogging- such sacrifices.
If you’re curious, here are my changes:
I didn’t bake it because 1) I didn’t want to turn on the oven and heat up the house, 2) I didn’t feel like waiting an extra 20 minutes (plus time to heat up my temperamental oven) for my dinner, and 3) I wanted to watch my new Blu-Ray disc of WALL-E post haste! Not to mention that I’m not used to eating baked mac & cheese so why start now? I also only used 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, but I might omit it next time–really unnecessary. I also lessened the amount of oil a bit because… well… this is no health recipe. It’s already got a full 1/2 cup of EB for chrissake. If you’re watching your fat intake, I’ve heard you can cut down on the margarine and oil and it still tastes good. If you try, do tell! Or, maybe mix in some steamed veggies to add some much-needed nutrients to the dish. Broccoli would be my first choice, but any veggie would work.
You should know that this recipes makes a TON. I didn’t even make the full 3 1/2 cups of macaroni and I still had mac & cheese up to my ears. Plus, I was left with a ton of extra sauce that is now hanging out in my fridge. You might be better making this halved version if you, like me, you are cooking for one. I don’t really mind having extra food–it’s just as good as leftovers–but I didn’t make it thinking I would be eating mac & cheese for the rest of the week!
And if you don’t like nooch (nutritional yeast), you may want to cut down the 1 cup of nooch to 3/4 cup or less. I love the stuff and even I thought it was a bit of a nooch overload. The abundance of nooch makes it really salty, which is, incidentally, the #1 complaint with this recipe. Also, as leftovers the sauce disintegrated a bit so it became a bit more “nooch grainy.” I didn’t really mind, but the sauce wasn’t as creamy as fresh out of the pan.
Final Word: This is something I would make again when I’m in the mood for something junky. All of the ingredients are usually in my pantry so it’s a good “there’s nothing to eat” dinner. I don’t honestly crave mac & cheese very often, but this is a nice switch from my usual boring marinara & veggie pasta. I don’t know if I’m a mac & nooch convert quite yet, but I wouldn’t turn it down if you offered.