How to Make Plant-Based Mac and Cheese

Parents need to pivot at any moment, and that means anything in the pantry could be on the menu. This high protein plant-based version of my mac and cheese recipe is also vegan. Whether you are eating plant-based or not, this twist on traditional family favorite will have your kids eating clean without dairy, dyes or stabilizers. A win-win for all! 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Elbow or Fusille Bucati pasta, cooked to box directions 
  • 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil for cooked macaroni to prevent sticking
  • 1 can (15 oz.) organic Cannellini beans
  • 3-4 Tbsp. Cashew milk, or your favorite substitute
  • 1/2-1 cup Daiya brand vegan cheese shreds, white or yellow cheese substitute flavors. Add additional cup if baking the optional casserole recipe
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher or pink Himalayan salt 
  • 1/8 tsp. Garlic powder, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. Miyoko’s creamery European style cultured vegan butter or good quality olive oil 
  • Pinch of ground Turmeric
  • Pinch of ground Nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground Cayenne pepper (optional) 

Directions

Cook and drain the pasta. Toss in a few tablespoons of olive oil or Miyokos butter to prevent the pasta from sticking. Set aside. You’ll thank me later.

Drain and rinse the beans, reserving liquid. Add the beans to the bowl of your food processor or standing blender with the remaining ingredients, except the cheese, butter and seasonings. 

Blend on high to liquefy. Add additional cashew milk, or reserved liquid from the beans if your family prefers a thinner sauce.

Transfer to a medium, high-sided pot and continue to warm on medium-low heat. Add the cheese and butter, occasionally stirring, until cheese shreds are melted. 

Add the cooked pasta, stir to cover with sauce. Add seasonings and adjust to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley, or fresh basil leaves for additional sweetness. Serve warm.

Variations: 

Can’t find vegan cheese? Substitute with 1/4 cup nutritional yeast. If using nutritional yeast, add 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar.

No Beans? No Problem. Substitute with additional vegan cheese. I love cashew cheese because it provides the lovely nutty notes we love in mac and cheese. 

Instant Pot Version: Place blended mixture in your instant pot and heat on manual for 5 minutes, season when done.

Try not to substitute cannellinis due to their level of creaminess, but if you need to, Great White Northern beans would be a close match.

Bake it! Place your completed mac and cheese a 9 x 13 heatproof baking dish and top with additional cheese, seasoned bread crumbs or Panko and bake 350 degrees until cheese is melted and breadcrumbs are toasty brown. 

Add cooked green peas and tell the kids the recipe is, “Mac and Sneeze”! Trust me, they’ll love it!

Chef Gigi has more than 35 years of professional experience and is recognized as an expert in culinary education. She specializes in children and families to help increase nutritional awareness and take some of the stress out of being a busy, aware parent. She is the award-winning author of Food Fight for Parents of Picky Eaters and her Food Talk Radio streams worldwide and is available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.   


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This article originally published in Chicago Parent’s April 2020 print issue. Read the rest of the issue here.

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