As I’m sure you know, macaroni and cheese is all the rage right now. With entire restaurants dedicated to the creamy, comforting stuff, it’s clear that it’s a childhood favorite that we don’t outgrow. Vegans have long been in the practice of creating amazing versions of animal-ingredient-free varieties. There’s even an entire blog dedicated to it called the Noochy Noodle. But what if you are vegan and also gluten-free? Just because a vegan gets diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity his or her ethical stance about animal products doesn’t change. So, the elimination of gluten gets added to their vegan lifestyle.
The two main components in traditional mac and cheese are dairy and wheat. So, you may wonder how a gluten-free vegan could possibly, of all dishes, manage to eat some. Believe it or not, it’s possible to create a delectable, velvety, savory bowl of noodles that will satisfy even an omnivore. I know of four restaurants in the Bay Area that serve gluten-free vegan mac and cheese: Source, Nature’s Express, Cafe Gratitude (and a raw variety at that!), and Homeroom. However, everyone knows that nothing beats homemade. So, let’s start with some cashews and some rice pasta and take it from there…
Gluten-Free Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
Summary: This makes a cheesy, gooey mac and cheese. I prefer not to bake it so that the nut base doesn’t get too dry or congeal. The base for the cheese sauce was inspired by the Raw Cashew Cheese recipe on Chocolate & Zucchini.
Prep time: After soaking cashews, 15 min Cook time: 10 min Total time: 15 min (some steps are done simultaneously) Yield: 4 2-cup servings
- 1 1/2 cup cashews (soaked for 6 hours or overnight — measure after soaking)
- 1/2 cup vegan milk (I used homemade cashew milk, but any other type would work)
- 1/4 cup roasted red peppers (from a jar works fine)
- 3 tablespoons white wine (find a vegan variety here)*
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Earth Balance (I prefer the soy-free variety, which would also make this a soy-free recipe.)
- 1 large clove of garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- black pepper to taste (but I recommend a lot)
- 1 bag Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Fusilli Pasta (This is the best gluten-free pasta I have found, and it’s only $1.99. It comes in other shapes, but fusilli is the best.)**
*The addition of wine and vinegar helps give the sauce the sharp taste that the fermentation in dairy cheese produces. **If you are not gluten-free, you can totally use regular wheat pasta here as well. Note: If you’re not feeling the macaroni part, you can also just make the sauce and use it for other recipes that call for cheesy concoctions, like a vegan fondue, over veggies, or drizzled on vegan pizza.
- Start cooking the pasta according to directions. I’ve learned that exactly 8 minutes is the ideal time for the Trader Joe’s brand.
- In the meantime put all other ingredients into a blender and gradually increase the speed to the highest possible, and blend until completely smooth. I highly recommend using a good quality (preferably high-speed) blender like a Vitamix to get the creamiest consistency possible. But whatever blender you use, the key it to get it as smooth as possible and without any gritty texture.
- Pour “cheese” mixture into a pot and over medium low heat, gradually heat sauce while constantly stirring with a whisk.
- Drain noodles, rinse for a second, and while still wet combine with cheese sauce.
You can also customize this recipe easily. Add a little cayenne or jalapeños for a kick. Sprinkle with gluten-free bread crumbs or crumbled potato chips. Stir in peas or broccoli florets. Use your imagination! Then grab a bowl, pile in the creamy pasta, and relive your childhood (maybe add some grown-up cartoons for even more authenticity).