“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It’s a popular saying, and many people feel this way about the idea of vegan “cheese”. Cheese is perfect the way it is, right? Why should we cook up a substitute for cheese? How could a vegan cheese substitute ever compare to the real thing?
Well, don’t get me wrong; cheese is awesome. But so is vegan “cheese”!
Admittedly, I was also very skeptical that vegan “cheese” could be tasty. Now, I am a total fan of the thick, flavorful, and nutritious sauce. In fact, I fully believe that anyone who has yet to try it is missing out.
Vegan “cheese” is full of whole ingredients and naturally transforms macaroni and cheese into a nutrient-dense meal. Comparatively, other macaroni and cheese recipes made using cream, butter, and cheese are high in saturated fat and calories and low in vitamins. The difference is due to the use of nutritional yeast instead of the fatty dairy ingredients. Nutritional yeast is a flaky deactivated yeast made from sugar cane and beet molasses. It is full of protein and fiber and rich in vitamins like riboflavin, folate, and zinc. One of the biggest health benefits of nutritional yeast is that it is high in B12 which is a vitamin that many people are deficient in.
Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy, and savory flavor. It tastes amazing sprinkled over roasted vegetables, salads, soups, stews, popcorn, scrambled eggs or tofu, and even on bread. It adds a phenomenal dimension to many different foods. In this recipe, nutritional yeast gives the sauce a cheesy taste while complementing the flavors of curry and cumin. You can find nutritional yeast in the bulk foods section of Friendly City.
1 16 oz. package of macaroni (or whatever pasta you’d like)
1 ½ c. carrots, chopped (about 2 large carrots)
½ c. sweet onion, chopped (approx. 1 med onion)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled & chopped
¾ c. cashews, chopped
¼ c. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. curry powder
garnish: pinch of paprika & parsley
- Chop sweet potato, sweet onion, and carrots. Add to 2 cups of boiling water in a pot. Cook until tender or about 10 minutes. Do not drain the veggies.
- Transfer soft veggies & liquid to a blender and pulse until smooth.
- Add chopped cashews, nutritional yeast, Dijon mustard, vinegar, and spices. Pulse and swipe the sides with a spatula. Continue pulsing and swiping the walls of the blender until the sauce is smooth.
- Add water as needed if the sauce is too thick. I added about ¼ cup of water to the blender.
- Cook pasta, and mix with the “cheese” sauce. Serve with paprika & parsley as garnish.
May this recipe set aside skepticism of vegan “cheese” and showcase the surprises of nutritional yeast.
Madeleine is a senior at James Madison University, studying to be a registered dietitian. She loves exploring recipes with fresh and nutrition ingredients. As a native to the Shenandoah Valley, she passionately supports the local food economy in Harrisonburg.