Quick and easy vegan, plant-based Mac N Cheese; my go-to recipe

Bowl of Mac N Cheeze Every time someone is presented with the thought of becoming vegan, they seem to turn into a turophile, that is, a lover of cheese, and they look at me like I just took away their brie and tried to replace it with soy slices or a block of tofu.

Yes, to eat a whole food, plant-based diet, you need to give up cheese. And no, you are never, EVER going to find anything that comes remotely close to replacing it. You are just going to have to learn to live with it, just like you are going to have to learn to live with the weight and high cholesterol you lose.

It’s hard for me to take credit for the following recipe for vegan mac n cheese. I’ve seen so many of them out there. It’s probably the first recipe I googled after watching Forks Over Knives and switched to a plant-based diet. I, too was scared to death about how I was going to replace cheese, especially mac and cheese, one of our favorite, quick meals.

My cheese sauce is used at least once a week and more often when we need a quick meal and don’t feel like cooking.Macaroni noodles boiling on the stove Once you get good at mixing the sauce, it takes about as long as it takes you to cook up the boxed stuff, strain the pasta, melt a stick of butter in the pan and add the pasta, milk and sauce. With the plant-based recipe, you’re giving up that stick of butter and its 810 calories.

This recipe by no means produces a gourmet food. For those cheese lovers looking for vegan alternatives to your bergenost or Gouda, look elsewhere (and good luck). What this is, is a feel-good, warm meal that will fill you up with whole grains, fiber and protein without the fat and cholesterol you can’t avoid in dairy.

Plant-Based Mac N Cheeze

16 ounce box whole wheat pasta
1 cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp powdered starch (corn or arrowroot work fine)
1 tsp agar powder
1 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp low-sodium tamari
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
cayenne and turmeric powder to taste (optional)

Mac N Cheeze and veggies cooking on the stoveCook the pasta according to box instructions, drain and set aside out of pot. As pasta is cooking, mix remaining ingredients in a blender until consistent and smooth. Set the empty pot back on stove top on medium heat. Pour the cheeze into the pot and heat until it starts to bubble and some of it will solidify (five minutes or less). Stir it to return to a consistent mixture and then add the cooked pasta. Stir it until all sauce has coated the pasta. The key is to keep it creamy as it will thicken quickly once off the heat. If needed, add a tablespoon or so of almond milk to keep it creamy. Eat immediately. For second servings, you may want to keep it heated in the pot and add milk and stir before serving.

Optional toppings: Any number of grilled veggies. Our favorites are broccoli, zucchini and yellow squash.Veggies stir frying on the stove

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