There’s something invariably nostalgic about spooning into a tray of homemade mac and cheese, the steam slowly escaping and the cheese effortlessly clinging to the elbow noodles. But for many people, digging into macaroni and cheese no longer proves a simple feat: Perhaps they’re lactose intolerant, or have moved to a plant-based diet, or simply are looking to cut back on cheese.
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Vegan Mac and Cheese: More than 50 Delicious Plant-Based Recipes for the Ultimate Comfort Food, $12.59 on Amazon
But despite what diet (or lifestyle) you might be on, it’s definitely still possible to enjoy the warm, comforting classic. Robin Robertson’s cookbook is geared toward this iconic dish, aptly named “Vegan Mac & Cheese.” The chef, cooking teacher, and writer has long dabbled in the vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based sphere, so she knows a thing or two about transforming those dairy-packed dishes into delicious vegan versions.
Robin’s cookbook is filled with 50 recipes, all riffs on the classic mac and cheese. You’ll find recipes for pasta packed with a creamy spinach-artichoke dip, a play on shepherd’s pie where meat is swapped for lentils, and even crispy fried mac and cheese balls.
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But for those who are looking to simply veganify the classic dish, start at Robin’s recipe for Mom’s Baked Mac Uncheese. The cooking process remains the same, albeit with a few key changes. Dairy butter and milk are replaced with vegan butter and your preferred unsweetened non-dairy milk, and the sauce is swapped with nutritional yeast (a cheesy-like powder). To finish it off, Robin employs a trick her mother taught her: Crush Ritz crackers with paprika and vegan butter—a DIY breadcrumb—and scatter it atop the pasta to bake. It’s savory, salty, and sweet, and just as comforting as the original.
Excerpted from Vegan Mac & Cheese by Robin Robertson (Harvard Common Press). Copyright © 2019.
Mom’s Baked Mac UnCheese Recipe
My mother used to make a delicious baked macaroni and cheese topped with (accidentally vegan) Ritz cracker crumbs and paprika. The sauce began with a roux to make a rich béchamel and was baked to perfection.
Note: The texture of this baked casserole is meant to be firm, not saucy. The optional shredded vegan cheese makes the sauce richer, but it’s delicious without it.
Mom’s Baked Mac UnCheese
- 16 ounces (454 g) elbow macaroni
- Olive oil or vegan butter, for preparing the baking dish
- 4 tablespoons (56 g) vegan butter
- 1/4 cup (31 g) all-purpose flour
- 5 cups (1.2 L) plain unsweetened nondairy milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup (20 g) nutritional yeast, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup (112 g) shredded vegan cheese (optional)
- 1 cup (72 g) finely crushed Ritz crackers
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) melted vegan butter
- To make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup (240 ml) of pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9 × 13-inch (23 × 33 cm) baking dish with olive oil or vegan butter. Set aside.
- To make the sauce: In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.
- Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Add the salt. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until thick, about 5 minutes.
- Add the nutritional yeast, mustard, onion powder, and pepper and whisk until smooth. Cook for 5 minutes until thick. Reduce the heat to low. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as needed. If the sauce is too thick, add as much of the 1 cup (240 ml) of reserved cooking water, as desired.
- Add the cooked macaroni to the sauce and stir to combine.
- In a small bowl, stir together the cracker crumbs, paprika, and melted butter to combine.
- To finish: Transfer the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish, top with the cracker crumb mixture, and bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and golden on top.
Header image courtesy of Vegan Mac & Cheese.