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Vegan Mac & Cheese*

Vegans Can Get Their Mac Back

I will admit that it was harder me to switch from vegetarianism to veganism than from omnivore to vegetarian. (Something I still grapple with!) The reason? Dairy… and more specifically… cheese. One of the things it is so easy to miss when you go vegan is the creamy meltiness of dairy. It is hard to replicate, and it is a common component of many comfort foods. Well, at least now with this cookbook, vegans can have their mac and cheese back. Or, as the author says,  “mac uncheese.” However, for simplicity, I will just be going it mac and cheese in this review.

The book is divided into several chapters, starting with basic recipes and ending with some creative ideas for leftovers. In between, the author travels the globe mac-n-cheese style, highlights vegetable versions, and provides some dishes that may in some way mimic people’s previous meaty favorites. The book is full of inspired mac and cheese recipes. The sauce recipes I found to be quite fun. The author is very creative, mimicking the flavors and textures reminiscent of dairy mac and cheese. Nutritional yeast is in most recipes, and miso is common as well. As I have made the Happy Herbivore’s vegan nacho cheese, I can attest to the fact that these two ingredients impart flavor and complexity that is reminiscent of dairy cheese. The author often incorporates vegetables in the sauces, too, which would give both body and flavor. Vegetables used in sauces include red bell peppers, carrots, rutabagas, and potatoes.

The basic chapter is just what it sounds like–several basic sauces highlighting different approaches to vegan uncheese sauces (tofu, nutritional yeast, or cashew based) and even an allergen-free sauce. She even had a powdered version you can pre make to have on hand so you could whip up a homemade mac and cheese dish almost as quickly as that little blue box you get at the store. By the way, she doesn’t use store-bought vegan cheeses in these recipes, though she does talk about them in the introduction. If you like them, though, she recommends adding some to your sauce for another flavor/texture note.

What’s fun about a lot of these sauces (the basics and the other in the book), I think, is that you could mix and match them. Once you find a couple of sauces that you like, you could experiment with them. Use different add-ins, use different pasta shapes, or even use the sauce in a completely different recipe. When I experimented with vegan cheese sauces before, I actually found them very versatile. They make an excellent base for a pizza or something to toss vegetables in.

I thought the global cheesy mac chapter was a lot of fun. Some recipes don’t really come across to me as real mac and cheese type recipes, like the Greek Spinach Orzo Bake or the Blushing Baked Ziti (but it does sound tasty!). However, this is just a minor quibble. I thought that the aforementioned Blushing Baked Ziti and Salsa Mac and Queso sounded particularly good. The next chapter is about incorporating more vegetables into your mac and cheese, both into the sauce and added into the dish. There was even one creative dish that uses spaghetti squash instead of pasta. Where I think the author got the most inventive was in the final chapter, where she gives some fun ideas about what to do with pasta leftovers. She does provide some more “normal” suggestions in the introduction, but in this chapter, she gives you ideas of how to use your leftovers to make mac and cheese balls, mac and cheese pizza, and mac and cheese quesadillas amongs other yummy-sounding delights. I love a cookbook that pushes the boundaries of expectations like that and fires the imagination.

I’ve enjoyed this author’s cookbooks for years, and this book will soon become another favorite, I’m sure. All my family, even the confirmed omnivores, loves the chili recipe from one of her slow cooker cookbooks! I wonder if I could find another such recipe in this cookbook?

If you’re vegan and have loved mac and cheese, this book will be right up your alley. If you’re a mother who would like to add more vegetables to her children’s diets, you may very well appreciate the sauces that incorporate vegetables right into them. If they’re whizzed into a sauce, the kids may never know. Of course, if they’re like some of my younger relations, they don’t want any mac and cheese unless it’s from that little blue box!