Did you notice that every vegan mac and cheese recipe now has vegan butter and vegan cheese in it? Well for us Mac and Cheese purists out there, the vegan cheese just won’t cut it. As a mac and cheese lover and food scientist, I have very high standards for my mac and cheese, so that’s why I created this easy recipe for hatch chili vegan mac and cheese that can satisfy your cravings for the classic comfort food, while providing nutrition and variety with pairings. With just a few ingredients, you’ll have the best vegan cheese sauce that mimics real cheese in no time.
Vegan Mac and Cheese Ingredient Spotlight
Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable that’s a member of the family as broccoli. It’s loaded with nutrition like fiber! Cauliflower a great choice for a lower carb option compared to something like sweet potatoes. Cauliflower is the backbone to the vegan mac and cheese sauce.
Hatch Chilis/Diced Green Chilis
These chilis are extremely popular, and are included in many different types of meals, particularly in the mid-western United States, with Hatch being a very popular brand. There is even a festival dedicated to them! Fire roasted chilis are slightly different from hatch chilis, with a key difference being the region the chilis are grown.
Whether you call them hatch chilis or green chilis, they will be providing an incredible smokey flavor and a mild heat in your vegan mac and cheese. You can learn more about hatch chilis vs diced green chilis in this link .
Dijon Mustard may seem like an odd ingredient to include in this type of recipe, however, the mustard serves a few purposes here. Predominantly, Dijon mustard provides color and flavor to the dish. Second, it provides some emulsification to the dish. With the high fat from the cashews and the additional oil added, the mustard seed itself has emulsification properties to keep the sauce in a desirable texture and consistency without giving an oily appearance.
Miso paste is an ingredient commonly found in asians cuisines. If you have ever had miso soup from a Chinese restaurant, you’ve tried miso. While you may not have ever used miso to cook in your own recipes, it is widely available at your local health food store or asian grocery store.
Miso is a fermented paste made from soy beans. While there are many different types, miso can have a very long shelf life. In this recipe, we use white miso paste, however, over time it does become more brown. This is a naturally occurring process, since the miso is not pasteurized and contains microbes good for the health.
The type of pasta you use in a Mac and cheese is a critical choice in selection for the best vegan mac. A short pasta is critical and one that holds a sauce is the best kind. I highly recommend cavatappi, rotini, elbows, or penne if you’re in a pinch. If you need to use gluten free pasta, this recipe is gluten free, so it shouldn’t be a problem. Just be sure to cook your pasta according to the package directions. Once the vegan cheese sauce is prepared, all you’ll need to do is add your cooked pasta.
About this vegan mac and cheese recipe
While there are many great things about this vegan mac and cheese recipe, my favorite is the fact that this vegan version is made on a stovetop can serve a crowd. Best of all, your own vegan cheese sauce can be made with just a few simple ingredients, many of which you may already have in your pantry or refrigerator.
Non-vegans and Mac and cheese lovers alike will enjoy this recipe because it’s packed with flavor in a creamy sauce. And since this recipe doesn’t use vegan cheese, the turmeric provides the appearance of cheese, so you can fool yourself into believing you’re eating the real thing! I made this recipe for a few friends who all eat meat, and they loved it! Some testimonials include “You made this?!” “This is vegan?!” and my favorite, “Wow, you could have told me that this was regular mac and I would have believed you!”
While this recipe is primarily a stovetop vegan Mac, you can make this a baked version. If you prefer a baked version, you can add the prepared dairy-free Mac to a casserole dish, ensuring you have extra cheesy sauce on the bottom, and add a crispy topping like bread crumbs or crushed crackers. You can bake it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 350F, or until golden brown, and it’ll be ready to serve.
Vegan Mac and Cheese Nutritional Information
In addition to its incredible flavor, this vegan mac and cheese is packed with nutrition. This recipe yields about 6 servings, but you can stretch it if it’s served as a side dish instead of the main course. But with 16g of protein per serving and 5g of fiber, this vegan mac and cheese can be the star of the show any time. It’s packed with healthy fats because of the cashews and olive oil. If you prefer, you can use whole wheat pasta to increase your protein and fiber to this recipe.
By not using processed vegan cheese, we are ensuring we receive optimal nutrition from a classic recipe, while still delivering a luscious sauce and extra flavor.
Food Science Tips: Vegan Mac and Cheese
While it seems easy to make, there is quite a bit of food science incorporated into this vegan mac and cheese recipe.
- Don’t forget to soak your raw cashews! Ideally, you can place your cashews in water and let them sit in a covered bowl on the counter for about 8 hours. You can also let them soak overnight in the refrigerator for 12 hours. If you are in a time crunch, you can boil some water, and let the cashews sit for 5 minutes in the water. Once the cashews have become soft, you can drain the water and begin to use them in your mac and cheese recipe.
- If steaming the cauliflower seems like too much work for you, feel free to use frozen. You can use the steam in a bag version, and drain the liquid. It’s important to drain the liquid because the excess water will alter the texture in the cheese sauce.
- Because the miso paste is quite thick, I highly suggest adding in your thicker pastes like the miso paste and the mustard to the blender. The high speed of the blender will ensure that the mixture becomes uniform.
- Nutritional yeast flakes are used here because it adds a large amount of buttery and cheesy flavors. Nutritional yeast is not a living organism, and is commonly used in vegan cooking for nutritional enhancement and flavor. The combination of nutritional yeast and miso paste give the luscious sauce a delicious umami flavor.
So don’t be shy to prepare this meal for your next family gathering; you may surprise a few with a healthier option to a crowd favorite.
Hatch Chili Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipe
- Preparation Time
- Cooking Time
- 1 cup cashews
- 1 whole onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 head steamed cauliflower
- 2 cans hatch chilis
- 1 box elbows
- Vegetable stock or Water (as needed)
- 1 tbsp Lemon juice
- 1 tsp Mustard
- 1 tsp miso paste
- 1 tsp Chili powder
- 1 tsp Turmeric
- Smoked paprika (optional)
- Parsley for garnish
- Prepare your cauliflower, (boiled, steamed fresh or frozen)
- Soak cashews in bowl (see guidance in food science tips)
- Puree cauliflower and soaked cashews (drained) with miso paste, nutritional yeast, mustard, salt, and lemon juice
- Add vegetable stock or water as needed to create a smooth consistency. Scrape the blender as needed
- Prepare your pasta according to package directions
- Reserve 1 cup pasta water
- Drain pasta
- In a pot, heat olive oil and sautée onions
- Add garlic and diced green chilis
- Add the cheese sauce mixture
- Season with turmeric and chili powder, and stir to combine
- Add remaining pasta water to achieve your desired consistency
- Mix in cooked pasta and thoroughly combine
- Garnish with parsley, salt, and pepper
- Serve hot & Enjoy!
Try our Vegan Mac & Cheese with these other Recipes!
If you are looking to add some dimension or just some protein to this dish, try adding it with roasted mushrooms from my roasted mushroom and feta recipe or bbq jackfruit as seen above. You can also mix it in with cowboy caviar or pico de gallo or black beans We served it with green beans, jack fruit, and a kale salad.
A classic favorite in my family was to put peas in your mac and cheese. If that’s your thing, you can certainly add them into the final step of the vegan mac and cheese steps!
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