The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

The Best Vegan Mac and Cheese

Daiya shreds? Nah. Tofu? Nope. That “hack” where you boil potatoes, carrots and onions and blend them into a “cheese” sauce? No sweetie, those are vegetables. Cashews? Not this time, actually.

This is another recipe I’ve been working on and perfecting for almost seven years straight. Having lived in the South for three years, I’ve tried my share of vegan mac and cheese recipes. I’m going to put aside any humility I have and be straight with you: this is the best one, and omnivores and vegans alike beg me to make it all the time.

mac cheese

  • 1lb pasta, regular or gluten-free (for gluten-free, I recommend Rozoni or Banza)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs, regular or gluten-free

Cheese Sauce:

  • 1.5 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (almond and soy work best here)
  • 1.5 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup sweet potato, chopped
  • 1 cup canola/refined coconut/grapeseed/vegetable oil*
  • 1/3 cup tamari/soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, optional**
  • 1 Tbsp mellow white miso, optional (Or, if you have it, 1-2 Tbsp of juice from a jar of kimchi or saurkraut. Trust me on this.)

Directions:

  1. Cook the sweet potato until it’s soft and mash-able by boiling or microwaving in water.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F.  Boil about 5 cups of water in a big pot and cook pasta to an al dente texture (not fully soft) according to package directions.
  3. Add all of the sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth (or use an immersion blender.) Once pasta is cooked, drain and dump it into a 9×13 pan. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix evenly. Top with breadcrumbs.
  4. Bake until the top looks golden and crispy, about 25 minutes.

 

*If you hate the fact that there’s oil in this, I apologize. Mac and cheese has never been known for its health-giving properties. You can try subbing out the oil with cashew cream for a less-processed fat source, you just might need to add a little extra water to the sauce to thin it out.

**If you don’t have smoked paprika, don’t worry about it, but it gives the mac and cheese an incredible bit of smoky depth.

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Sauteed Cabbage Noodles

Sauteed Cabbage Noodles

Hi folks,

I know I’ve been AWOL. But I’m about to make it up to you with my biggest culinary discovery in years, hear me out on this:

A couple Passovers ago, I was trying to be a good Jew and keep strictly kosher. According to Ashkenazi culture, that means no chametz (leavened grain-based products) OR kitniyot (beans, lentils, corn, rice, many seeds etc.) As a vegan whose body can’t get down with gluten very well, that left me with virtually nothing to eat. I was hungry and broke, so one evening I cut up a cabbage, sauteed it with salt, olive oil and a little vinegar and threw marinara sauce on it. I figured it would be sad and gross.

But I realized something: cooked cabbage makes for some pretty great vegan/paleo/gluten-free/Kosher for Passover/no-spiralizer-required/super-easy noodles. No joke. I still went back to eating kitniyot after a day or two, but the cabbage noodles were a game-changer.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the zucchini noodle (“zoodle”) craze. Aside from being a pain to spiralize, one main issue is that you can’t really cook zoodles without having them fall apart into mush. With cabbage noodles, you can cook them as long as you want and serve them with piping-hot sauces and they’ll still hold together perfectly. Plus, the flavor of cabbage noodles beats the flavor of zucchini noodles every time.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cut up a small/medium green cabbage into long, thin strips (roughly the width of linguine)
  2. Heat up a large pot on medium-high with a little olive oil
  3. Throw in the cabbage with a teaspoon or so of salt, stir thoroughly, and let it cook for about 10 minutes (stirring occasionally)
  4. Add a splash of vinegar (white wine vinegar, red wine vinegar and balsamic all work well)
  5. Serve with your sauce of choice (puttanesca, bolognese, pesto, cashew alfredo OR pad thai sauce.) My favorite is a lentil-walnut bolognese (shown in the picture), and I’ll put the recipe for that below

Cooking the cabbage thoroughly with olive oil and salt gets rid of its sharpness and bitterness and gives it a warm, smooth flavor. The vinegar gives the flavor a boost and breaks the cabbage down further to aid with digestion. The texture remains al dente after being cooked rather than getting mushy, which is really nice (especially in comparison to all the mushy gluten-free noodles out there.) They’re even just as good re-heated.

Try it and tell me what you think. Regular pasta is great, but cabbage noodles have become a delicious regular addition to my dinner table.

cabbage noodles 2

Lentil-Walnut Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 jar tomato-basil pasta sauce (make your own if you’re feeling ambitious)
  • 1 cup green or brown lentils (or you can use 3 cups leftover cooked lentils)
  • 1 bouillon cube or 2 tsp Better than Bouillon
  • 1.5 cup walnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight
  • 1.5 tsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp tamari, soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (the Kroger generic brand is vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Note: If you don’t have one or a couple of the seasoning ingredients, it’s not the end of the world. Just season the filling with what you have until it’s nice and savory and you’re happy with it.

  1. In a small, covered pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil with the lentils and bouillon. Lower heat to medium and cook, covered, until lentils are soft but not mushy (about 20 minutes.) Remove lentils from pot and allow to cool
  2. Drain and thoroughly rinse the walnuts, then pulse in a food processor until broken into small crumbles. Add the cooled lentils and pulse until crumbly as well
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the lentils, walnuts and all seasoning ingredients. Taste and adjust to your liking, then mix in the tomato sauce

 

Paleo Version: 

Use just walnuts and no lentils, and/or add soaked sunflower seeds/soaked pumpkin seeds. Use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce

Nut-Free Version:

Substitute soaked sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds for the walnuts

Budget Version:

Use just lentils and no walnuts

Lemon-Tahini Dressing (Raw Vegan)

Lemon-Tahini Dressing (Raw Vegan)

Lemon-tahini dressing is nothing new under the plant-based sun- it’s been something of a vegan food cliche for years. It’s my all-time favorite salad dressing, but I really don’t like a lot of recipes for it that are on the internet. You have to get a very specific balance of flavors here, and I’m obnoxiously picky about it.

If you use a recipe with the right ingredient proportions, this dressing is super creamy but also savory and sharp in all the right ways. It’s great to make salads full-flavored and satisfying without dairy or eggs.

This dressing is based off of tahina sauce, which comes from Arabic culinary traditions. Tahina sauce is a little thinner, has some ingredient differences and can be served warm, and it’s delicious if you need a sauce to cook a hearty entree in (for a good tahina sauce recipe, check out the incredible Gaza Kitchen cookbook by Leila El-Haddad.) This dressing, on the other hand, can’t be served warm (though unfortunately I’ve seen restaurants try), but is better for fresh salads. Like traditional tahina sauce, you can absolutely serve this on falafel.

Yield: roughly 1 cup of dressing

  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste- found most affordably at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (roughly one large lemon)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 5 tsp tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 tsp red wine vinegar or rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp agave or sweetener of choice (but for the love of god not stevia)
  • 1 Tbsp water

1. Blend all ingredients

Note that you may need to add more water after refrigerating this or after letting it sit out, as it tends to thicken.

 

My favorite salad combo to serve this with, besides falafel salad:

  • Mixed greens (plus some arugula if you have it)
  • Raisins
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Kidney beans and/or roasted chickpeas
  • Chopped red onion
  • Sliced carrot
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Sprouts (if you have them)

 

Caramelized Banana Oatmeal with Peanut Butter, Raisins and Cinnamon (Two Steps)

Caramelized Banana Oatmeal with Peanut Butter, Raisins and Cinnamon (Two Steps)

I guarantee that you haven’t made oatmeal this way before. Since you’re cooking the raisins and the bananas thoroughly but barely cooking the oats, you’re bringing out and developing the natural sugars of the fruit without letting the texture of the oats get mushy and gruel-like. The result is non-pasty oatmeal that doesn’t even need any sweetener.

This oatmeal is warming, flavorful and will leave you full and powered up until lunchtime. It has come through for me ever since I was a busy and newly vegan undergrad who needed a filling breakfast but had zero dollars. Now that it’s chilly outside again, this is the comforting breakfast that I come back to more than any other. 

If you ever buy bananas and they get overripe before getting eaten, just peel them and throw them in the freezer so that you can take them out whenever you want to make this.

Yield: 3 medium or 2 large portions

  • 2 over-ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup raisins
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk of choice (I use unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 cups old fashioned (not quick) oats*
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (or almond butter, sunflower butter, etc.)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, optional
  • Optional add-ins/garnishes: chia seeds, hemp hearts, dried coconut, berries, chocolate chips, whatever your heart desires

1. With a potato masher, a fork or your hands, mash the banana up in a small pot. Add the raisins, almond milk, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil on medium-high for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally
2. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in peanut butter thoroughly. Then stir in old fashioned oats, optional vanilla extract and any desired add-ins. Cook for just about 30 more seconds, or for a few minutes longer if you like the oats softer.

 

*you can make this with steel-cut oats and it’s delicious, but it takes much longer to cook and requires extra almond milk and more stirring to keep from burning

Hearty Ghanaian-Inspired Peanut Stew

Hearty Ghanaian-Inspired Peanut Stew

A lot of people have heard me talk about this stew. This was the first dish I made when I went vegan, and it helped me go from “I’m probably not going to stick with this life choice, realistically” to “Wow, maybe I can do this.” I wasn’t a chef yet- I was a music teacher and had no idea what I was doing in terms of vegan food.

Since that first time I made this nearly seven years ago, I’ve served it to all kinds of people. I made it to impress the parents of various boyfriends (shoutout if you’re one of those parents or ex-boyfriends) and I made it in my interview with the chef who ended up giving me the prep cook job that lead to be become a chef myself.  It’s always been a crowd pleaser, including among folks with very limited exposure to international foods (let alone West African foods.) It’s just so hearty and soulful and fresh, and it covers all your major food groups (except the tequila food group and the french fry food group), so it feels really filling and nourishing.

  • 2 large onions, diced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quart vegetable stock (or water + bouillon)
  • 2/3 cup brown rice
  • 1.5 lb sweet potato, peeled and diced (aprox. two medium sweet potatoes or one huge one)
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, washed and torn
  1. Place the rice in a small , covered pot on high heat with one cup of the broth.  Once it’s boiling, reduce to low heat and simmer until the rice is about two thirds of the way done (about 25 minutes)
  2. Sauté your onions in a large pot on medium-high heat until they are deeply golden-brown and caramelized. Once the onions are about a minute from being done, add garlic and saute until just beginning to brown
  3. Add the remaining broth, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and par-cooked rice. Cover and cook on medium heat until the rice is fully cooked and the sweet potatoes are soft. It will take a while- about 20 minutes or longer- but this allows everything to really soak in the flavors.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, soy sauce and peanut butter. Add it into the pot and add the kale in as well. You may need to add a bit more broth/water.
  5. Taste and adjust the levels of lemon juice, peanut butter and soy sauce to your liking
  6. Cook for another 3-5 minutes until the kale is wilted

The Miracle Brownies

The Miracle Brownies

I made these brownies last week for the Creatrix Certification and Training event I catered. The phrase “multiple orgasms” was used more than once to describe the experience of eating them.

 

I feel like these are a little too good to be true because they contain no animal products, no refined sugars, no grains and they’re quick and easy to throw together, and yet they’re by far my favorite brownies of all time. Including all the brownies I ate back in the days before I even knew what the word “vegan” meant.

  • 1.5 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 3/4 cup almond butter (or sunflower seed butter, hazelnut butter, a combination of all of those, etc. You can do up to 1/4 cup of peanut butter and still not have it end up tasting like peanuts)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or agave
  • 3 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder or cacao powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips/chunks, melted (I melt them in a DIY double boiler, stirring constantly with a little almond milk or coconut oil)
  • Optional: chopped walnuts, coconut, etc. for topping1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 8×8 pan with parchment paper or grease it well
    2. Wisk applesauce together with vanilla, melted chocolate, nut/seed butter and maple syrup/agave
    3. Stir in the cocoa powder, coconut flour, salt and baking soda. Wisk together thoroughly
    4. Smooth batter into pan and sprinkle on any toppings if desired
    5. Bake for 30 minutes (closer to 35 at high altitude), then let cool fully

PRO TIP: if you omit the baking soda and refrigerate these instead of baking them, this recipe makes amazing fudge! I can’t tell if I like the fudge version or the brownie version better.

Maple-Sriracha Seared Tempeh over Cannelini Bean Puree with Braised Red Cabbage and Crispy Kale

Maple-Sriracha Seared Tempeh over Cannelini Bean Puree with Braised Red Cabbage and Crispy Kale

Y’all have been very patient with me as my catering and client work have gotten hectic, and I so appreciate your patience.

As you may have guessed from the title, we’re going all-out this week. Wanna impress the living daylights out of someone who’s vegan or gluten-free (or not at all vegan or gluten-free)? Make them this meal. Have someone in your life who’s worried about vegans getting enough protein? Make them this meal. If it sounds intimidating, don’t worry- you’ll see that each component is actually fairly simple and I’ll walk you through all of it.

This particular take on tempeh was the brainchild of Chef Matt Props, and he and I worked together when we owned Stay Fresh Veg to create this particular meal. Major props (PUN INTENDED) to Matt for being an incredible innovator as always.

tempeh 1

Cannelini Bean Puree:

  • 1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cube bouillon (or the amount of bouillon you’d use for one cup of water)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/3 cup water

Put all ingredients into a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, then blend into a puree

Braised Red Cabbage:

  • 1 small red cabbage, cut into thin strips
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3-4 Tbsp spicy brown mustard

Heat a large pan or pot on medium-high. Add olive oil. Add cabbage, salt and vinegar and stir thoroughly. Once the cabbage has cooked down for about 6 minutes (stirring frequently), add the mustard and cook for another 3-4 minutes

Crispy Kale:

Just make any simple kale chip recipe. Kale ripped into pieces, some olive oil, some salt, and an oven preheated to 400 for a couple minutes and ya done.

Tempeh:

  • 2 8oz  blocks Tempeh
  • 2/3 cup corn starch
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup  Sriracha
  • 1/3 cup tamari or Soy Sauce
  • 4 Tbsp grapeseed, canola, or vegetable oil
  1. Cut tempeh into rectangular cutlets about 1cm in thickness (for most tempeh blocks, that means cutting them in half widthwise). If they are too thick, they will not cook thoroughly. If they are too thin, they will fall apart easily.
  2. Place cornstarch into a shallow bowl and dredge each tempeh cutlet so that it is fully covered in a thin layer of cornstarch. Gently pat off extra starch off tempeh and set aside
  3. In another bowl, whisk together maple syrup, siracha and tamari/soy sauce. Taste to adjust for desired levels of heat, sweetness and saltiness
  4. Heat a seasoned cast iron pan* on medium heat for approximately seven minutes or until hot. Once it is hot, reduce heat to medium and add oil and distribute evenly around pan. Allow oil to heat for an additional minute
  5. Once oil is hot enough to sizzle when tempeh is added to it, carefully place tempeh in pan. Allow it to cook undisturbed for approximately 6 minutes per side or until each side is golden-brown. If needed, add more oil as tempeh cooks. Once tempeh is cooked on both sides, turn the burner completely off
  6. Wipe out excess oil and starch from the pan with a paper towel
  7. Return tempeh to pan and pour sauce over it. Allow sauce to bubble, reduce, and coat the tempeh thoroughly as a thick glaze

*you can get away with a regular skillet, but cast iron works infinitely better here

Assemble: 

Spread some of the cannelini puree on a plate, then pile some of the red cabbage on top of it. Layer a couple pieces of tempeh on that and finally, top the tempeh with some crispy kale. If you have a little extra sauce from the tempeh, go ahead and drizzle that in some sort of fancy way. Look at you being impressive.