There's a lot of recipes for "vegan mac and cheese" out there that are actually a blend of carrots, cashews nutritional yeast, potatoes, and a host of other non-cheese ingredients. As a true mac and cheese lover, those just don't do it for me (as much as I love a cashew alfredo!). I set out to make an amazing vegan mac and cheese that actually tastes like mac and cheese. And for that, I needed a cheese that actually tastes like cheese. Enter - Conscious Cultures Creamery. I'm not lying when I say I've made this recipe at least 10 times in the last 6 months. I've tried some different vegan cheeses, but it's always the best when I use Conscious Cultures.
Conscious Cultures (check out their instagram here) makes vegan cream cheese, mozzarella, bloomy rind cheeses, blue cheeses, and more, and their products are unparalleled. If you're in the NYC or Philly area, you can get your hands on it at Riverdel Cheese or V Marks the Shop. My personal favorite is called the Barncat, and it is a bloomy rind cheese with a beautiful vegetable ash detail.
I've made this recipe with pretty much all of the Conscious Cultures cheeses, but I would recommend the Maverick, a brie-like bloomy rind cheese, or the Barncat, for this recipe. Alternative recommendations for vegan cheese in the recipe below. I personally don't prefer a baked mac and cheese, especially with vegan cheese - it can become dried out and stodgy. Instead, I made a crunchy, salty, savory breadcrumb topping that can be sprinkled over the bowls when you serve. It cuts out some steps and results in a better final product.
Vegan mac and cheese
Ingredients (serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side):
7oz pasta of choice
2 tbsp vegan butter
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups unsweetened, unflavored nondairy milk (I used oat milk)
3.5 ounces of Conscious Cultures Maverick or Barncat, with the rind cut off, cut into small cubes, or Conscious Cultures cream cheese (*** see below for alternative recommendations)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
For the optional breadcrumb topping:
1 small piece of bread, blitzed in a blender or food processor into a coarse breadcrumb
2 tbsp neutral oil
2 tbsp crispy onions (Yes, like the ones you would use on green bean casserole)
Pinch of kosher salt
***Alternative vegan cheese recommendations, in order of preference (things you can likely find in your grocery store):
Whatever vegan cheese you like!
To make the breadcrumb topping: Add the oil to a pan and heat over medium heat until it is hot. Add the breadcrumbs to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes until they are toasted, golden and crunchy. Turn off the heat and add the crispy onions and salt, stir, and set aside.
Cook your pasta according to package directions to al dente, in well salted water. Strain and set aside.
In a separate sauce pan, melt your vegan butter over medium heat. Add the flour and stir to combine - it will form clumps. Add the nondairy milk and use a whisk to constantly whisk until no clumps of flour remain and the sauce thickens, about 3-5 minutes.
Add the chunked or shredded vegan cheese, turn the heat down to very low, and whisk until it is as smooth as possible. Do not fret if there are some tiny clumps remaining - adding the hot pasta will help to finish melting the cheese.
Add the hot pasta to the cheese sauce and stir well. Add the nutmeg and a dash of cracked black pepper. Taste for salt and add salt until the flavor is perfect. Salt must be added to taste, you will know when you reach the perfect level!
Dish the mac and cheese out into bowls and top with the breadcrumb topping. Enjoy the best vegan mac and cheese you've ever had!