I have received so many countless requests for a vegan “macaroni and cheese” recipe that I simply could not deprive you all any longer. This is typical comfort food at its best, without the icky stuff. Mac N Peas is a popular quick dinner option with my son. It takes minimal effort, ingredients that I literally always have in my kitchen and very little time. I will admit that this recipe is geared towards children. If you want to give it a more sophisticated flavor, there are a few little things you can easily do to give it a bit more kick (scroll down past the recipe for some extra tricks!).
Now, how do you make something plant based taste like cheese? Truthfully, you don’t. It isn’t ever going to be the same. But this sauce is pretty darn close.
There is a wonderful food product called Nutritional Yeast that many vegetarians and vegans alike use on the regular. Wonderfully, it is a complete protein and an excellent source of the B complex vitamins. Unfortunately, yeast cannot produce B12 so unless you purchase a B12 fortified version, it is not a sufficient source. A 2 tablespoon serving comes fully loaded with 9 grams of protein, and only contains 60 calories. It is very easily digested and absorbed, unlike animal protein or even soy.
Nutritional yeast comes in the form of small dry flakes, similar looking to dried tea leaves, but golden yellow in colour. It has a naturally cheesy and creamy flavor which makes it a perfect substitute for cheese in sauces, on pasta, in salads and in savory baking.
This is without a doubt one of my top 5 vegan kitchen essentials.
I have made a “macaroni and cheese” dish with only nutritional yeast and spices, but I never quite achieved the consistency I was after. This sauce uses one other cheese alternative by a fantastic company called Daiya. They make cheese substitutes free of the top 8 allergens (casein, whey, lactose, soy, gluten, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts (excluding coconut). I love this company because they have a great product, but also because they are truly committed to kind living. Their name comes from the Sanskrit word Dayaa, which means “loving, kindness and compassion”. The founders are long time vegans and seemingly wonderful human beings, operating their company on the values of which their name represents.
Ok ok, I'll stop before I get all cheesy (yup, I said it)!
Mac N Peas
2 cups of dry macaroni noodles (Gogo Quinoa is an excellent brand to try)
1 cup of Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
1 tbsp. of coconut oil 4 cloves of freshly minced garlic
1 tsp. of mustard powder ½ tsp. of pepper
2 tbsp. of nutritional yeast (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
½ cup of milk substitute (almond, rice, coconut, etc.)
½ cup of frozen peas
hemp hearts (Manitoba Harvest is an excellent brand, and Canadian!)
In a large pot bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Salt the water if you so desire. Add the 2 cups of dry macaroni noodles into the water. Cook for 13-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the noodles and set aside. The directions for these noodles are based on the GoGo Quinoa brand of macaroni. Make sure to follow the cooking directions on whichever noodles you decide to use.
While the macaroni is cooking, melt 1 tbsp. of coconut oil in a medium pot over medium low heat. Next, add the pureed garlic and Daiya “cheese”. Once the Daiya begins melting, you can slowly begin adding your milk alternative, stirring often. I only add a small amount at a time in order to create a lovely creamy texture. If you pour the entire half cup of milk alternative into the “cheese”, it will not come together as nicely. Add the mustard powder, pepper and nutritional yeast. The yeast will quickly thicken up the sauce, so you will want to add more milk substitute at this point. Allow the sauce to simmer on low, keeping an eye and stirring often. The sauce is done when it is the consistency you desire. I keep it on the thicker side; this gives the Mac N Peas a rich, velvety feel and taste.
In a small pot, boil enough water to cover a ½ cup of frozen peas. Peas only take 3-4 minutes to cook, and over cooking these delicate little things is a shame. So be mindful that you don’t leave them on longer than necessary.
Combine the macaroni noodles into the sauce, and fold in the cooked peas.
Plate the Mac N Peas however you like and finish with a sprinkle of hemp hearts for an a nice crunch.
* Add chili flakes or hot sauce for a more adventurous pallet.