A normally unhealthy dish gets a whole food based makeover. This vegan sharp white mac and cheese bake is as creamy and delicious as it’s dairy counterpart!
Let’s talk cheese sauce. After the huge success of my original Ultimate Cheese Sauce, magic in the kitchen happened again and my Sharp White Cheese Sauce was born. This one has been just as popular so far, which makes me do a happy dance, Elaine style (Seinfeld reference for all my fans out there). I love when I can create a healthy version of a traditionally unhealthy dish. No bloating for me!
Ultimately it comes down to the fact that I love food, as if that wasn’t apparent, but furthermore, I love good food. I only eat what tastes amazing, and when we made this diet change I was not going to settle for less than absolutely delicious. And I’m here to tell you that this new vegan white mac and cheese bake is definitely not less.
I can make almost anything plant based!
When I made the sauce, I was trying to recreate the flavor from a mac and cheese at a favorite restaurant of ours. We were with some friends that ordered it and literally almost passed out from how good they said it was. The very first thing I thought was “I can make this, without all the unhealthy stuff.”
Disclosure here, I had to try a bite in order to know what I was going for. I couldn’t create something I had never tried, but one bite was all it took for me to know for sure that it could be done. So off I went to make the impossible possible. I was going to create a creamy baked sharp white mac and cheese with a crispy topping all using vegetables, no oil, no dairy, and a gluten-free topping. No pressure there!
I knew the sauce I could definitely do since I had my original vegan cheese sauce already solidified in the books. I simply used the white versions of the veggies from that sauce, and played with the different spices and seasonings.
But making a baked pasta that stayed creamy and did not dry up, plus have noodles that were not mushy, was a challenge. Plus having a gluten free crispy topping without added oil or butter was not going to be easy. After a few trials with the sauce, I figured out how to keep this mac and cheese bake creamy and al dente. Done.
Hemp seeds are such a great whole food fat!
Now enter Manitoba Harvest and their email to me about partnering up for a post using their Hemp Hearts…I immediately knew what I was going to do. Hemp hearts, other than being one of my favorite things ever, have an amazing whole food fat content that when pulsed with things give the appearance of added oil or butter.
Side note, although this post is sponsored by Manitoba Harvest, I have loved their products and used them long before they even know who I was, plus I only endorse things I love here.
It’s magic I tell ya!
This is the perfect main meal, holiday side, or “put stretchy pants on, sit on the couch and gorge” type of recipe. Not saying I do that, but you know, in case that’s your thing 😉 I’m happy to report that I have served this to our friends and they can not believe it has no dairy.
This is my ultimate success. Like a magician plays tricks on the eyes, I play tricks on the palate. Your mouth says yes this is cheese…but I say it’s actually veggies mixed ever so carefully with other flavors to give you the illusion instead. Vegan white mac and cheese in disguise.
So, now your job is to experience this illusion. Better yet, serve it to your friends, family, guy off the street (no wait don’t do that, it could be dangerous) and DON’T tell them it isn’t dairy.
If you really want a laugh, just leave it be. And every time they come over and tell you that they could NEVER give up dairy, giggle a bit because you know something they don’t 😉
- Sharp White Cheese Sauce
- 1 1/2 cups water or water from cooking veggies
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon mustard seed powder (take out or use less if you don't want it too sharp)
- 3/4 teaspoon chickpea miso (see notes in sharp white cheese sauce recipe)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 24 ounces your favorite pasta
Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C).
Make cheese sauce according to recipe.
After it’s blended, take a spoonful and eat it because it’s so good. Then add the water, extra apple cider vinegar, mustard seed powder, chickpea miso and salt.
- Blend again. It will now taste much stronger and be watery, but this is ok. When baking, it loses a bit of flavor and creaminess so this will make sure that it is perfectly sharp and creamy after baked.
- Put all crispy topping ingredients into a food processor. Process until well combined.
- Cook pasta for only about 2 minutes. You will be baking this so this prevents mushy noodles. Although it doesn’t seem like a long time, if you overcook then your noodles will end up mushy after baked.
Once pasta is done, drain and rinse well to prevent too much starchiness in the baked dish.
Return to the pot and mix in cheese sauce.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until crispy on top. Start checking at 10 minutes to ensure your pasta doesn’t overcook. I made this with a gluten free ancient grain pasta made from brown rice, quinoa, amaranth and corn. Different pastas cook differently so make sure to check it starting at 10 minutes.
- Promptly stuff into face without getting burned, this is best hot from the oven!
- This makes an extra sharp artisan style baked mac and cheese, but if you want it more mellow then leave out the extra sauce ingredients and simply add the water to the original white cheese sauce recipe.
- The crispy topping makes on the more side, this way you can decide if you want a thicker layer or thinner layer. Keep leftovers for next time.
- Tips to prep ahead: Make cheese sauce and crispy topping.
- Baby/toddler food idea: This can be baked a little longer for baby and pulsed into a smooth or chunkier food. If baby is new to foods, you can also leave out the extra spice/seasoning ingredients in the sauce and it will be less sharp.