I don’t know a single Canadian person who doesn’t have a fond memory of macaroni and cheese growing up. It is one of the quintessential winter comfort foods with so many variations. My mom made the best baked mac and cheese with onions and bacon growing up and I loved it so much I would request it for birthday dinner. However, now that I know my food a little better, the fake orangey cheese powder and bloat-inducing pasta from the box reminds me more of the play food my niece has in her mini kitchen than real whole food.
When I started to eat cleaner and avoid dairy for the sake of my skin, I definitely missed having those comfort foods I had come to love. But what this wellness journey has taught me is that there are healthier whole food replacements that are nutritious and not full of additives and colouring so you can still enjoy comfort foods…without guilt! Cashews and nutritional yeast (or “nooch” as many vegans call it) are the two “cheese” replacements in many vegan and vegetarian recipes because they offer creaminess or a slight cheesy flavour (as the nooch does). Daiya cheese is definitely not a whole food, but it is a pretty clean alternative to cheese for those avoiding dairy as it contains no soy or GMOs. While I wouldn’t make it a daily part of my diet, it’s a great alternative to use when you are looking for that authentic taste and meltability (I may have just made up that word.)
It’s not going to taste exactly like the original, but trust me, you and your body will love this better because of how you’ll feel afterwards: nourished and satisfied. If you have a good food processor or blender, this recipe is a cinch. Fast food can most definitely be healthy. Now you can have your comfort food and eat it too!
Vegan and Gluten Free Mac and Cheese
- 2 cups gluten free elbow macaroni pasta (I used GoGo Quinoa Pasta)
- 1-2 cups kale, thinly sliced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1-2 cups cashew “cheezonaise” (recipe here)
- Himalayan salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups Daiya cheddar cheese
- Cook pasta according to directions on the package until al dente. Add the kale for the last 2 minutes to blanch it. Drain pasta and kale in a colander.
- Place drained pasta and kale in a shallow baking dish. Stir in shallot, cheese sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Mix half the Daiya in the pasta mixture and use the rest to top the mac and cheese when you’re ready to bake it.
- Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the cheese melts and the mixture is starting to turn slightly golden. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Leftovers are great too!