Nacho Plant-Based Mac and Cheese to Heat Things Up at Lunchtime

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There isn’t a shortage of vegan mac and cheese recipes or products, but this Nacho Plant-Based Mac and Cheese definitely fills a niche. The creamy sauce is mildly cheesy, rich with flavor, and perfectly spicy, but it’s made with simple healthy ingredients. It’s also spiked with fresh produce for a dish that’s not only more colorful, but also more nutritious.

Nacho Plant-Based Mac and Cheese Recipe - dairy-free, soy-free, vegan-friendly, and healthy! A sample recipe from the cookbook Vegan Buddha Bowls. Photo by Jackie Sobon.Photo credit: Jackie Sobon.

Nacho Plant-Based Mac and Cheese to Heat Things Up at Lunchtime

Back in March, as we headed toward the warmer months, I shared a Vegan Ranch Salad Recipe from a new cookbook, Vegan Buddha Bowls by Cara Carin Cifelli. Now, as we’re looking forward to the comfort food season, it’s time for this Nacho Plant-Based Mac and Cheese Recipe. It’s a second sample recipe from Cara’s beautiful collection that I was just waiting for the right time to share.

Vegan Buddha Bowls cookbook by Cara Carin CifelliWhat would a cookbook be without a comforting mac & cheese recipe? Incomplete, that’s what! I love the simplicity of this recipe and how much of a crowd-pleaser it is. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this one!

This is a great dairy-free mac and cheese recipe for those of you who don’t love nutritional yeast. It uses a mere tablespoon in the whole recipe, which gently influences the flavor without overwhelming it.

The sauce is very creamy, thanks to the use of cashews. Cara mentions that you can substitute sunflower seeds if you need nut-free. But keep in mind that sunflower seeds aren’t quite as creamy and do have a more pronounced flavor.

Nacho Plant-Based Mac and Cheese Recipe - dairy-free, soy-free, vegan-friendly, and healthy! A sample recipe from the cookbook Vegan Buddha Bowls. Photo by Jackie Sobon.

Special Diet Notes: Nacho Libre Vegan Mac & Cheese

By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, and vegetarian.

For gluten-free vegan mac and cheese, use gluten-free pasta.

Nacho Plant-Based Mac and Cheese
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
The creamy nacho cheese sauce is finger-licking good and goes so well with the crunchy veggie mixture and noodles.
Author:
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
Cashew Nacho Cheese
  • 1 1⁄2 cups (210 g) raw cashews, soaked in very hot water for 12 minutes (see Notes)
  • 1⁄2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) hot sauce of choice; I prefer Cholula
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pasta
  • 1 pound (455 g) dried pasta shells
Veggies
  • 1 tablespoon (14 g) coconut oil
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 4 cups (268 g) chopped kale leaves
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice (optional)
Instructions
  1. Make the nacho cheese: Drain and rinse the cashews, then place in a high-speed blender. Add the fresh water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, hot sauce and salt and black pepper to taste. Blend on high speed until smooth.
  2. Make the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta shells and cook according to the package instructions. Drain.
  3. While the pasta cooks, make the veggies: In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, season with salt and black pepper and mix well for 30 seconds. Add the bell pepper and kale. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the kale is wilted and bell pepper is soft. Add the lemon juice if using, and season with more salt and black pepper to taste.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, nacho cheese and veggies, then mix well. Divide equally among 4 bowls and serve immediately.
Notes
Notes: You can substitute raw sunflower seeds if you want a nut-free version.
If you do not have a high-speed blender, soak your cashews (or sunflower seeds) for an hour or overnight, to protect your blender.

This recipe is reprinted with permission from Vegan Buddha Bowls by Cara Carin Cifelli, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019.

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About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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