We are a cheese loving household… well, we were. Pre plant-based! However for my OH that’s not really changed, just become more of a challenge. We’re currently experimenting with the various dairy free cheeses available to us and deciding which we like best (so far, Violife is winning, but we’ve only tried two). However, this has always been at odds with the fact that we also like to think of ourselves as quite ‘healthy’, so even prior to following a plant-based lifestyle, bowls of cheese-laden sauce and pasta were a rare occurrence. In fact, I was making mac and no-cheese long before we gave up dairy, now that I think about it (but we did top it with grated cheddar back then!)
Anyway, back to the point – smoky mac and cheese. This bowl of dairy free, vegetarian deliciousness came about after I bought some liquid smoke on a whim from the supermarket. It was kind of accidental – I was making some vegan mac and cheese and had a craving for BBQ, like you do. But again, we like to think of ourselves as relatively healthful so I didn’t really want to lather on store-bought, sugar laden (and oh-so-yummy) BBQ sauce on top… in comes the liquid smoke.
If you like BBQ, you need this little bottle in your life! Oh boy. BBQ fans, rejoice! Just a bit of this stuff and you get instant smoky flavours! It’s genius! Add it to your ‘cheese’ sauce for the pasta and say hello low fat, smoked mac n cheese.
How does vegan mac and cheese work?
I will say though, If you’re frightened of carbs, look away now. This is not a meal for low-carbers. RUN AWAY NOW.
Ok, now that little disclaimer has been put out there – back to the mac ‘n’ cheese. Or I should say pasta ‘n’ no-cheese because technically:
- That’s not macaroni pasta in the photo, it’s just ‘whatever is in the cupboard’ pasta
- There’s no cheese in this recipe
So really, calling this recipe “smoky mac and cheese” is leading you all down the proverbial garden path, but bear with me.
When I’ve mentioned eating mac and cheese to those that know I actually no longer eat cheese, I get a funny look. Followed by a question that usually follows something in the vein of “So how does that work then?”
Well, let me enlighten you and share in the vegetable and nutritional yeast love! The thing is… cheese sauce is basically (to my un-formally-educated) a thick sauce that tastes like cheese, right? So let’s break that down:
- Thick sauce = blended vegetables
- Cheesy taste = nutritional yeast
Add a touch of mustard, some garlic powder and seasoning (perhaps a hint of nutmeg if you fancy it) and you have your simple vegan cheese sauce! Epic cheap win!
My favourite combination is sweet potato and butternut squash, however I don’t always have some squash hanging around – either because it’s totally out of season and so very tiny and very pricy in the shops, or because I’ve forgotten to pick some up. Often the latter, even now! So I’ve often been forced to have a play with the vegetables and so far have had success with the usual suspects, with no real impact on taste (because that comes from the nutritional yeast and liquid smoke):
- Sliced carrots
- Peeled & diced white potatoes
Kick up the heat
I’ve included dry chilli flakes as optional in the recipe below, so use your judgement. My OH prefers this dish without the chilli flakes at all – I like it with them in, but it does make it spicy. So be warned and maybe start with none and work upwards, especially if catering for little people!
Hickory Smoked Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Luci Rebecca, Made by Luci
- Prep: 5 minutes
- Cook: 20 minutes
- Total: 25 minutes
- Serves 4
- Calories 475
- olive oil spray
- 1 onion (~160g), finely sliced
- 1 large sweet potato (~400g), peeled & chopped
- 1/3 butternut squash (~300g), peeled & diced
- 1/2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder (or 1/2 stock cube)
- 1/4- 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional, if you like things spicy)
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 4 tbsp non-dairy milk
- 1/2-1 tsp liquid smoke (start with 1/2 tsp and then taste)
- 20g nutritional yeast (I get mine from Amazon )
- salt & pepper
- Dry pasta (I use about 350g, dry weight)
- Add the butternut squash and sweet potato to a saucepan, fill the pan with water and bring to a boil. Simmer until tender (a fork should slide into the squash easily).
- Meanwhile, add a few sprays of oil to a pan and put over a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and cook gently until starting to brown - about 10 minutes. Add a tablespoon of water at a time if they're sticking too much (I tend to add about 3).
- Once your vegetables are boiling and your onions are browning, get your pasta on the go and cook as per the packets instructions. Drain once cooked and keep aside.
- Once the vegetables and onions are cooked, drain them and reserve some of the water (I keep about 1/2 cup). Add everything else (cooked onions, chilli, mustard, milk, liquid smoke, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and stock cube/powder to the vegetables and blend into a puree. Add water as needed to loosen the sauce (I use 1/3-1/2 cup, but add as much as you want).
- Taste & season. Try not to eat by the spoonful like I often do!
- Add the drained pasta to the sauce, mix well and serve!