Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. Unfortunately, many of the store-brought varieties are full of food colorings, preservatives, additives, and other chemical ingredients that are simply harmful for the body. The solution here is gluten-free and vegan mac and cheese.
Side Effects of Traditional Mac and Cheese
When it comes down to it, the pasta is not the focus of the dish. The cheese sauce is what you crave most. However, many people are intolerant to lactose, and others are sensitive to dairy in general. Not to mention the growing number of with celiac disease or gluten intolerance and sensitivities.
1. Lactose Intolerance
Those who are lactose intolerant have trouble digesting the sugar, or lactose, found in cow’s milk. Uncomfortable and embarrassing symptoms such as gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bloating are often the result.
The pasteurization process of dairy milk can also damage good bacteria like Lactobacillus acidophilus and destroy and inactivate important enzymes.
2. Gluten Intolerance
Wheat and even whole-wheat pastas contain gluten proteins that may cause all sorts of issues for those with intolerance or sensitivity, including digestive issues, and possibly depression and anxiety, brain fog and memory problems, joint and muscle pains, hormone imbalances, frequent headaches, autoimmune diseases, or even neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Gluten-free pastas like brown rice and quinoa varieties are great replacements for common wheat pasta.
Yet, many live off of pasta and mac and cheese. I mean, what’s not to love? After all, it likely brings forth memories from childhood, and hits the spot for your taste buds.
Check out the following four gluten-free and vegan mac and cheese recipes that are sure to satisfy your mac and cheese craving.
4 Gluten-Free and Vegan Mac and Cheese Recipes
1. Baked Mac and ‘Cheese’
The following baked and vegan mac and cheese recipe is definitely a favorite of mine. The “cheese” sauce is so unique, and contains a combination of grated carrots, raw cashews, boiled water, onion, garlic, and nutritional yeast. The recipe is full of so many flavors that you likely won’t miss the dairy and wheat version of this delicious dish. You will get about four servings from the recipe below.
- 1 cup of raw cashews
- 1/2 cup of grated carrots
- 1 cup of boiling water
- 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Coarse sea salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups of gluten-free macaroni (brown rice and quinoa pasta will work)
- 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
- 1 or 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup of shelled hemp seeds
- Soak cashews in enough water to cover for four hours, then drain.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- For the cheese sauce, in a high-speed blender, combine carrot, cashews, and boiled water. Blend until smooth, and add nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, mustard, pepper, and salt. Puree until creamy, and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the macaroni. Cook until it is tender, and still chewy. Drain and return the hot pasta to the pot, and add the tomatoes, red onion, and cheese sauce. Combine well; then, spread the mixture evenly in an eight-inch square-baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top is golden brown, and sprinkle with hemp seeds. Serve hot.
2. Mac and Cheese with Almond Milk and Vegan Parmesan Cheese
There are so many ways to make vegan and gluten-free macaroni and cheese. Instead of macaroni you can even use penne pasta. Again, quinoa and brown rice make for a delicious gluten-free pasta recipe. What stands out with the following recipe is the vegan parmesan cheese and the roasted garlic. Both ingredients take a little time to make, but they definitely add to the flavor of this delicious mac and cheese. The vegan mac and cheese recipe will serve four people.
- 1 head of roasted garlic
- 10 to 12 ounces of gluten-free penne (rice and quinoa will work well)
- 4 tablespoons of grapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 1/2 tablespoons of arrowroot starch
- 2 cups of unsweetened plain almond milk, plus more as needed
- Coarse sea salt and fresh pepper, to taste
- 5 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup of vegan parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
*For the vegan parmesan cheese:
- 1/2 cup of raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon of course sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder, or to taste
- For the parmesan cheese, combine sea salt, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and cashews in a food processor, and process until it forms a coarse meal. It will make about three quarters of a cup.
- For roasting the garlic, preheat the oven to 400 F, and cut the top of the garlic head. Drizzle with oil, salt, and loosely wrap in foil. Place on oven rack and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on garlic size. Remove from oven, and let cool.
- Bring about 10 cups of water to a boil in a large pot, and salt. Once boiling, add pasta, and stir to prevent noodles from sticking. Cook according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain, and set aside.
- In the meantime, prepare the sauce. In a large over-safe skillet over medium heat, add oil and minced garlic. Stir and cook for one to two minutes, and add the arrowroot starch and whisk for another minute. Slowly add almond milk while whisking, and cook for two minutes over medium heat, while stirring frequently.
- Transfer sauce to a blender with the roasted garlic, and add salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and the vegan parmesan cheese, and blend on high until smooth. Scrape the sides as needed. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed with a little more salt, nutritional yeast, and parmesan cheese.
- Return the sauce back to the skillet, and cook on low until slightly warmer and thickened (about two or three minutes) while whisking occasionally. As it warms, it will thicken and get really cheesy. For a thick sauce, leave it as is. To thin slightly, add one tablespoon of almond milk at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Turn off heat if it bubbles too aggressively.
- Add the pasta to the sauce, toss to coat, and then top with another tablespoon of vegan parmesan cheese. Serve immediately. The leftovers will store in refrigerator for up to three days.
3. Simple Vegan Mac and Cheese with Broccoli
Do you want vegan macaroni and cheese with a little something extra? Adding broccoli to mac and cheese is a healthy way to get some more vegetables in the meal. Broccoli is a good one to choose, too. It’s loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, and health-promoting sulfur compounds. This vegan mac and cheese recipe will make for four small servings.
- 10 ounces of brown rice or quinoa macaroni
- 4 cups of chopped broccoli
- 1 1/2 cups of vegan cheese sauce
For the cheese sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water for at least four hours
- 2 cups of filtered water
- 3 tablespooms of nutritional yeast
- 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of chopped onion
- 1 small garlic clove, chopped
- 1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
- For the cheese sauce, drain and rinse the cashews and transfer to the blender. Add the water, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, onion, and salt. Process until completely smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender with a spatula, and move the mixture toward the blades. The sauce will store in the refrigerator for three days. This recipe makes three cups, but for the macaroni, you will only use one and a half cups. Save the rest for the next day, and use on top of potatoes or a vegetable like cauliflower.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat, and stir in macaroni and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the pasta is firm and tender, for about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.
- Put one inch of water in a medium saucepan, and add the broccoli and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and cook until tender for about five minutes. Drain and return to the pot.
- Gently stir in the macaroni and cheese sauce, cook over medium heat, and stir gently from time to time, until well heated. It should take about five minutes. Serve hot.
4. Mac and Cheese with Peas
The following vegan mac and cheese is different from the others, as it contains potatoes in the cheese sauce. It is certainly different than your traditional mac and cheese; however, the creaminess of the vegetables adds more flavor to the sauce. The white wine vinegar, Herbamare, sriracha, garlic powder, pepper, and paprika increase the intensity of the flavor as well. This recipe will take mac and cheese to a whole new level. I guarantee that it will be a regular part of your healthy diet, whether you are a full-time vegan or not. The recipe will serve three people as a main dish, or four as a side dish.
- 8 ounces (225g) of brown rice and quinoa macaroni or fusilli
- 1 1/4 cups of frozen peas, thawed
- 1 batch of cheese sauce
- White wine vinegar, start with 1/2 teaspoon and add from there, if desired
- Sriracha or other hot sauce
- Fine sea salt or Herbamare (herb-flavored salt)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Garlic powder
For the cheese sauce:
- 1/4 cup of raw cashews
- 1 1/4 cups of diced and peeled potatoes
- Heaping 1/3 cup of diced carrots
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, to taste
- 2 tablespoons of refined coconut oil, or other neutral oil like grapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of filtered water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice, or more for taste
- 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon of fine sea salt, or to taste
- 1 medium clove of garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon of white wine vinegar, to taste
- Optional: sriracha or hot sauce
- Sundried tomatoes, chopped
- Chopped avocado
- Green onion
- Hot sauce
For the sauce:
- Soak the cashews in a glass container for four hours, or overnight. Rinse and drain.
- Place the potatoes and carrots in a medium pot, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, and reduce the heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until fork-tender. Drain.
- As an alternative, you can steam the vegetables. Transfer the cashews, carrots, and potatoes to a blender, and add the coconut oil, water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and vinegar, and blend until smooth. If too thick, add some more water or oil. Add some more salt and hot sauce, if desired.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta, and cook the pasta according to the package directions, then drain.
- Return the pasta to the pot and add peas, and cheese sauce. Stir and heat over low, until it is well heated, and slightly thickened. Taste and season with vinegar, Sriracha, Herbamare, paprika, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste. Serve immediately with desired toppings, like avocado or sundried tomatoes.
Gluten-Free and Vegan Mac and Cheese Can Be Tasty
Although mac and cheese generally has a bad name with lots of carbs and dairy, there are several ways to make mac and cheese healthy. You won’t even need to use cheese or pasta to make it, as crazy as it sounds!
Luckily, you likely won’t notice the difference, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too. Gluten-free and vegan mac and cheese will be a new favorite in your healthy diet, and it may be your family’s new comfort food. With the above vegan mac and cheese recipes, you can enjoy mac and cheese, dairy-free, gluten-free, and guilt-free.
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Liddon, A., Oh She Glows Every Day: Quick and Simply Satisfying Plant-Based Recipes (Toronto: Penguin Canada Books Inc., 2016), 177, 251.
Dupont, C., The New Enlightened Eating: Simples Recipes for Extraordinary Living (Summertown: Books Alive, 2012), 115, 138.
“The Best Vegan Gluten Free Mac ‘N’ Cheese,” Minimalist Baker website; http://minimalistbaker.com/best-vegan-gluten-free-mac-n-cheese/, last accessed March 28, 2017.