The usual response from nonvegans to vegan macaroni and cheese is “No thanks,” but in the CHOW Test Kitchen, we won over tasters with this recipe. The key is that the dish doesn’t try to pretend it’s made of cheese and milk; it just offers up a creamy texture and rich flavor, achieved through a combination of coconut milk, nutritional yeast, and toasty walnuts. Mixing in spicy cayenne, roasted broccoli and cauliflower, and caramelized onions gives it even deeper flavor.
What to buy: Nutritional yeast is a strain of yeast grown on molasses, deactivated, harvested, washed, pasteurized, dried, and packaged. It is often used in vegan cooking for its cheesy, creamy, nutty flavor. Look for it in the bulk or supplement section of health food stores or online.
This recipe was featured as part of our 3 Surprising Twists on Standard Macaroni and Cheese.
- 1Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
- 2Place 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring rarely, until deep golden brown and caramelized, about 1 hour. Season well with salt and pepper, remove to a medium bowl, and set aside.
- 3Meanwhile, place the broccoli, cauliflower, and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, season with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper, and toss to combine. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are browned in spots and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and set aside.
- 4Bring a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions or until just al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until cooled and the pieces are no longer sticking to each other (make sure to stir the pasta while rinsing); set aside in the colander. Reserve the pot (no need to rinse).
- 5While the pasta is cooking, place the coconut milk and walnuts in a blender and blend until smooth; set aside.
- 6Wipe out any water in the reserved pot, add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil, and place over medium heat until shimmering. Add the flour, Dijon, paprika, cayenne, remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and whisk until smooth. Cook, whisking occasionally, until the flour has darkened slightly in color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the nutritional yeast and cook, whisking occasionally, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.
- 7While whisking constantly, slowly add the reserved coconut mixture, then the soy milk, until evenly combined and smooth. (It will get very thick when you first add the coconut mixture, then thin out when you add the soy milk.) Increase the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens, about 5 minutes.
- 8Stir in the reserved pasta, caramelized onions, and roasted vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta and vegetables are heated through and steaming, about 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper as needed.