Updated: Jan 2
Happy New Year everyone! I don't know about you, but with the holidays coming to an end, I am ready to transition back to healthier eating. However, I am not quite ready to ease off the carbs just yet. Made with simple ingredients & without anything processed, this vegan jalapeño mac & cheese is the perfect solution to this conundrum.
Like many vegan "cheese" sauces, the base for the sauce is potatoes, carrots and cashews. The starchy potatoes give a great consistency to the sauce, carrots add colour and cashews give the sauce its richness. Nutritional yeast, arguably one of the most important ingredients in plant-based cooking, gives the sauce it's cheesy-ness. To keep things interesting, I decided to add jalapeños to the mix and satisfy my need of spicy food during the cold winter months.
Since this sauce is so silky and smooth, I really wanted to have a contrasting texture to add another dimension to the dish. Breadcrumbs are sautéed with a little garlic & chili flakes to amp up their flavour and add this really satisfying crunch to the mac and cheese. This dish is super creamy, perfectly spiced and deliciously cheesy. Best enjoyed while sitting on the couch, cozied up and binge-watching your favourite series (or at least that's how I do it).
VEGAN JALAPEÑO MAC & CHEESE
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 35 minutes Servings: 4
1 cup peeled & diced carrot
1 cup peeled & dice white potato
2/3 cups raw cashews
1/4 cup diced pickled jalapeños
3 tbsp pickled jalapeño brine
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp dried mustard powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup of warm water
250 g shell pasta (or other short pasta shape like macaroni or penne)
For the breadcrumbs:
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp sea salt
1. Place cashews in large measuring cup or heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for about 20 minutes until the rest of the ingredients for the sauce are ready.
2. Put the diced potato & carrot in a pot, cover with water & bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium & simmer for 20 minutes or until fork tender.
3. Using a large knife, peel & lightly crush the cloves of garlic. Add olive oil in a small skillet & heat over medium-low heat. Add garlic & crushed red pepper flake to the skillet & sautée for 3-4 minutes or until garlic is soft & golden brown. Add Panko breadcrumbs & sautée until deep golden brown & crispy. Discard garlic & transfer breadcrumbs to a bowl.
4. Fill a large pot with water & season it heavily with salt. Bring to a boil and cook pasta according to directions on the packet.
5. Once potatoes & carrots are tender, drain and place into a blender. Once the cashews have softened (if they come appart easily when you squeeze them between your fingers, they are ready), drain & add them to the blender along with jalapeños, jalapeño brine, nutritional yeast, dried mustard powder, salt & 3/4 cup of water. Blend on high for 1-2 minutes until the sauce is silky & smooth. The sauce should be easily pourable. If it is too thick, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup of water until desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
6. Once your pasta is cooked, drain and place back into the pot. Add sauce to the cooked pasta & mix well to combine. Divide into 4 bowls & top with a few tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Enjoy!
NOTE: For those of you who aren't too keen on spicy food but who still want to enjoy this mac & cheese, simply leave out the chili flakes, pickled jalapeños & swap out the pickled jalapeño brine for 1 to 1.5 tbsp of lemon juice.