Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Macaroni and NOT Cheese

What is it about Macaroni & Cheese? I don’t think I have ever met someone that doesn’t like it. Take pasta, add some butter, and melt cheese all over it. Some people make mac and cheese from a box, some bake it, and others college students just make it in the microwave. Whatever way you like it; people lose their flipping mind over some good macaroni and cheese. I will admit that it is one of those one of those non-vegan foods foods that I do miss.

For vegans, I think Macaroni and Cheese is what I would call a Holy Grail food. It is something we are constantly trying to veganize and get as close to the original as we can. I have tried several times and some have been pretty good while others have been an abysmal failure.
Generally the cheese is replaced by Nutritional Yeast, which is a mixture of yeast, sugar, and beet molasses. Nutritional yeast is actually one of my favorite vegan ingredients but it has the worst name ever and I think just instantly turns people off. I want to change the name to something better like “Cheesy Awesomeness Flakes” or “You Can’t Believe It’s Not Cheese (Flakes).” 

Cheesy Awesomeness Flakes
Other vegan "macaroni & cheese" versions will include a soy based cheese (ie: Daiya, Teese) or a cashew cheese (usually made by soaking and blending cashews with a mixture of spices and water or a dairy free milk.)

I think the issue with many different vegan foods is that we like to call it the same thing as the non-vegan version. Sometimes the vegan version is better, but sometimes when it is just okay people (read: non vegans) will say, it’s good but it’s just not the same as the original.

Here is my chubby vegan quest.

Let’s start calling veganized versions by our own names. Instead of Macaroni & Cheese, we should think of a new name, maybe “Pasta Creaminess,” “Cheesy Cashew Macaroni," or just make something up that sounds Italian like "Pasta Benecoola." Let’s take ownership of our awesome vegan recipes and keep people from trying to compare it to the original.

Who is with me?! *commence sign making and chanting*

Here is my latest attempt at “macaroni and NOT cheese” from the Engine 2 Diet Cookbook. The Engine 2 Diet is a vegan based, natural diet book from a hunky firefighter in Texas. Interesting book and definitely on my chubby vegan wish list.

This recipe is called “Macaroni & Not Cheese,” but due to my new quest I will call it “Macaroni with Roasted Red Pepper Cashew Sauce.” On a scale of one to amazing, I would give it a "pretty good." It is a favorite recipe of Bob Harper, trainer on The Biggest Loser, rock star vegan, and all around super hunk. The recipe is after the jump.

What do you think? Give it is a shot and tell me what you think it should be called…

Macaroni & Not Cheese
Source: Engine 2 Diet

1 onion, chopped
1 cup cashews*
½ cup lemon juice
1 1/3 cups water
½ teaspoon sea salt
4-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
16 ounces whole grain elbow pasta, cooked
Food Processor = Best XMAS Gift Ever

Preheat oven to 425°F. Sauté the onion over medium heat in a nonstick skillet for 5 minutes, until translucent. In a food processer, combine onion, cashews, lemon juice, water and salt.

Gradually blend in the roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and onion powder. Thoroughly toss the sauce with the pasta. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.

*Chubby Vegan Note: It does not tell you to soak the cashews in water, but I think it always help blend them better. So put the cashews in a bowl with some water and let it soak for at least an hour, drain them, and then add them into the recipe.


  1. You should do a post on the cost of these meals -- I'd be interested to know how much something like nutritional yeast runs for...and where to even get it. Also, I like Pasta Benecoola for the name -- including "cream" or "cheese" in the title could just lead to disappointing comparisons.
    Your most loyal commenter

  2. Thanks #1 fan... ;)

    Good suggestion and will be sure to add. For me, a HUGE thing of Nutritional Yeast at Whole Foods is about $12-15. You can also buy it in the bulk section by the pound. That will save you some money if you are just trying it out.

    It is also an excellent source of B12, which i did not mention. ;)

  3. At my whole foods its 1.99 a lb. Dirt cheap, and so so good :-) love your site name! Signed, another chubby vegan ;-)


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