Isn’t macaroni and cheese just the PERFECT comfort food? It reminds me of my childhood and home. It’s creamy, filling and delicious! The perfect combination in my book. But dairy gives me some troubles these days so I look for ways around it when possible. Here, I’ve made some changes to the traditional recipe, resulting in a plant-based and dairy-free macaroni and cheese.
Making a delicious dairy-free cheese sauce
Creating a flavorful dairy-free macaroni and cheese sauce that looked and tasted similar to a homemade cheese sauce made with real cheese was my goal. So how did I get the creamy consistency? Cauliflower!! I know, crazy right? But yes, boiled and pureed cauliflower makes an amazing creamy base for macaroni and cheese.
First, boost the flavor by cooking the cauliflower with onion and garlic. Then to create the cheesy, umami flavor you want in this sauce, I added nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast contributes a parmesan-cheese like flavor to recipes. You will find it used frequently in vegan cooking when cheesiness is a desired flavor.
Most macaroni and cheese recipes contain some blend containing cheddar cheese giving it a bit of an orange color. In this recipe, adding roasted carrots to the cauliflower lends a orange color to the sauce.
The results are pretty spectacular. While the texture and flavor is a bit different from the traditional, this recipe definitely has lots of flavor and a great, creamy texture, and topping it off with the breadcrumbs makes it feel a bit more like mom’s homemade macaroni and cheese.
Pair it with a vegetable side dish or a salad for a relatively easy weeknight dinner. And it’s perfect for meal prep since the cauliflower sauce can easily be made ahead of time and then reheated before combining it with the pasta and breadcrumbs.
Healthy Vegan Baked Macaroni and Cheese
- 8 oz pasta
- 2 ½ tsp olive oil separated
- ½ cup carrot chopped
- ½ cup yellow onion chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 4 cups cauliflower chopped
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- ½ cup plant-based milk soy or almond
- 3 T nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3/4 tsp tamari or aminos
- ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
- 1 T Olive oil
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Place a large pot of water on the stove to heat so you can cook the pasta.
- When water is boiling add 8 oz of pasta to the water and cook following the package directions to an al dente state. You want it mostly cooked but not mushy, Since the dish will be going in the oven for a bit, the pasta will cook a bit more.
- When pasta is ready, drain and set aside.
- Cut up the medium carrot into small diced pieces. Toss with 1/2 tsp of olive oil and spread onto a cooking sheet. Place into oven and cook until carrots are soft, about 15 minutes.
- While carrots are roasting, chop the onion and mince up the garlic. Rinse the head of cauliflower and begin to cut it into small pieces. The smaller the better as it will cook a bit faster.
- Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a saucepan. Add onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté and cook for another 30 seconds. Add cauliflower and vegetable broth and milk. Cook until cauliflower is very tender.
- Allow everything to cool for a short bit so you can handle it without burning yourself. Then place the carrot and cauliflower mixture into a blender or food processor until smooth. Add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt and aminos. Set aside.
- Heat 1 T of olive oil in a sauce pan. Be sure the oil is hot, you should see it swirling in the pan when it’s ready.
- When hot, add the breadcrumbs and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly. They are ready when lightly brown. Remove from heat, add Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and fresh parsley.
- Mix together pasta and sauce. Place into a baking pan. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Place in oven for 15 minutes or until heated through.
Tell me did you make this recipe? If so, please tell me about it in the comments here on the blog. If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate you taking the time to also give it a 5-star rating on the recipe card. If you take photos, be sure to tag me @cookeatlivelove so I see your results!
If you are looking for more dairy-free recipes, check these two out!
Potatoes with Peruvian Huancaina Sauce
Creamy Spinach Basil Pasta with Tomatoes