It's not everyday that you find a satisfying mac 'n' cheese recipe that's both gluten free and vegan. Until now. I've just downed my second bowl of it, and my husband is sitting across from me licking his lips. “Oh my God, I could eat this every day. You’ve done it again,” he says. I stare at my empty bowl and the empty pan, still warm from the remnants of the dairy-free sauce. I want more.
Mac 'n' cheese was my childhood staple. No matter the main course, mac 'n' cheese was often the accompaniment. It gave me instant comfort, regardless of the weather outside. But unfortunately, cheese is not always our friend (read all about that here). And if you’re lactose intolerant or a strict plant eater, giving up cheese can feel cruel and make many meals, particularly mac 'n' cheese, impossibly dissatisfying. But, no more.
Thanks to this recipe, adapted from YumUniverse, gluten-free mac 'n' cheese can actually taste better than the original. You'll be able to fool anyone with this rich recipe, chock-full of heart-healthy cashews, tahini, coconut oil, and B-vitamin-packed nutritional yeast.
To give it a more seasonal feel, I added tomato, zucchini, and yellow summer squash, but you could swap in whatever seasonal veggies you'd like.
Gluten-Free Vegan Mac 'n' Cheese
16 oz gluten-free macaroni or shells, such as Ancient Harvest Quinoa Gluten-Free Elbow Macaroni
1 cup water
1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp tahini
1 cup cashews, soaked*
1 zucchini, peeled into spaghetti-thin strips
1 large tomato, chopped
1 red pepper, diced and blended with sauce
1 yellow squash, chopped
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
2. Combine water, coconut oil, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, tahini, and soaked cashews in a blender and blend until smooth. In a large skillet, add veggies of your choice, pour sauce on top, and warm over medium heat until heated through.
3. Add noodles to sauce and mix until well coated.
* To soak cashews, cover whole, raw cashews with 2 to 3 cups salted, warm water. Make sure water covers nuts completely. Soak for two hours, drain, and rinse nuts well. Why soak nuts? It helps your body better absorb their nutrients, fats, and minerals.
Rea Frey runs her own food blog, Clean Convenient Cuisine, hosted by Chicago Tribune. She also writes a vegan and relationship column for Cheeky Chicago and is the senior editor of Chic Galleria. As a certified personal trainer and nutrition expert, Rea has helped countless individuals reach their nutrition and fitness goals by simplifying their lifestyles and breaking that "diet" mentality. A regular contributer on WGN radio, she discusses food and relationships and hopes to help bring simple solutions to any lifestyle problem. Her book, The Cheat Sheet: A Clue-by-Clue Guide to Finding Out If He's Unfaithful (Adams Media) will be released this summer.