This creamy and gooey Smoked "Gouda" Mac might be the best mac n' cheese you ever try. Made with potato & cauliflower!
In the American South, no holiday table is truly complete without Mac n' Cheese. Now, how that Mac is best made isn't up for me to say. For me, it's baking it with bread crumbs. For others, it's adding eggs. For some, it's Velveeta and shells, baby. I don't judge. Quite frankly, I love it all. There are few ways to ruin mac n' cheese for me. It's just one of those dishes that we come out of the womb loving and while this dish can be found all over the world, no one can make it quite like a southern church lady or your great aunt at Thanksgiving. These are the facts.
This dish is nothing like the typical macs you've had during the holidays. For starters, there's no actual cheese in this recipe to be found - dairy or otherwise. That's right, this totally vegan dish doesn't even use vegan cheese! Why? Because we don't need it. We also aren't using nuts! Why? Because the cashew trade is horrific for the woman of color who largely make up the labor workforce. So, what are we using? We're taking it back and using an old school vegan method that involves blending up a starchy russet potato until it's smooth as silk and ooey-gooey. Since I didn't wanna just be eating straight-up potato sauce on noodles, I also added cauliflower to amp up the nutritional value a little and improve the mouthfeel. Let's face it though - no one should be expecting to get their vitamins from a Mac n' Cheese anyhow.
Not only does this method allow you to work in vegetables but it also keeps things cost-effective in the long run. Every seasoning ingredient listed is something you can continue to use over and over in your vegan cooking. Plus, potatoes and cauliflower are cheap AF for how much cheese they can make. Like holy wow. Personally, I love this method because it uses ingredients that I typically already have on hand. A cheese sauce is always a possibility so long as you have these staples. Another thing that I love about this method is how versatile it is. Want a cheddar type sauce? Boil a carrot with the potatoes and blend it up! Want a queso-type dip? Add a touch of chili powder and a jalapeno! It allows for so much creativity that isn't bound to working with the flavors of processed plant-based cheese, which let's face it, aren't always great. They often times have a strong flavor from all the coconut oil they contain. This recipe only calls for 2 tbsps of heart-healthy avocado oil!
When it comes down to it, this recipe is really just as easy as making a typical homemade mac n' cheese - just with boiling and blending to make the sauce instead of roux-ing and melting. You'll find that most vegan recipes are just as easy, but ask you to rethink how to thought a dish was made. That's the case here.
For this dish, you'll need:
Stick blender or regular blender. I find that a stick blender works best because you want to blend while everything is hot. You can also use a heat-safe bullet blender. You just want to get everything as smooth and creamy as possible.
A large pot for boiling
8x8 baking dish. This can be glass or otherwise. The dish itself isn't baked, but rather broiled for a few minutes to get the bread crumbs brown and crispy.
Once you see how easy it is to make a "cheese" sauce with literal vegetables - you'll never look back. Nowadays, the only time I buy plant-based cheese is for a good ol' grilled cheese. Everything else? It's potatoes and cauliflower to the rescue.
Smoked "Gouda" Mac with Garlic Bread Crumbs
Author: Megan Thompson Aston
Total Time: 30 + mins
3 cups cavatappi pasta ( any spiraled pasta will do)
1 tsp salt for boiling
For the sauce
1 medium russet potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups of cauliflower, roughly chopped
2 tbsp tapioca starch
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp nutritional yeast
3 tbsp plant milk, room temp ( soy or oat work best )
1 tsp hickory liquid smoke
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp salt + to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
For the garlic breadcrumbs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs, unseasoned ( GF can be used!)
2 tsp parsley, dried
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp avocado oil
1/2 tsp salt + to taste
Prepare vegetables as instructed above. Fill a large pot about halfway with water and salt. Then, bring to a rolling boil.
Once boiling, add your cubed potatoes and chopped cauliflower to the boiling water. Bring back to a boil and reduce to medium heat. Cook until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender.
Once tender, strain the vegetables and transfer to a medium mixing bowl - one large enough to eventually mix your pasta to the sauce.
While still piping hot, toss the vegetables in tapioca starch and blend until a smooth thick paste forms. The heat from the vegetables will help activate the starch.
Once blended into a thick paste, add the rest of your ingredients (except the black pepper) and blend again until completely smooth. Add pepper to taste. Set aside.
In the same pot used for boiling the potatoes, prepare the pasta as instructed on the label.
Drain your pasta and while still piping hot, transfer it to the bowl with your "cheese" sauce.
Gently fold together until completely combined.
Transfer pasta into a well oiled 8x8 pan and set aside. Set your oven to medium broil.
In a small mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for the garlic breadcrumb topping. Mix until the oil and seasonings are evenly coating the breadcrumbs.
Evenly sprinkle the breadcrumb topping over the mac n' cheese.
Insert the dish into the oven and broil until the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Watch closely!
Once golden brown, remove from the oven and enjoy.
If you're not serving this dish immediately, cover the top with aluminum foil and bake at 350 until warm before adding the bread crumbs. Then follow steps 11-13.