Chipotle mac and cheese (4 servings)

What if I told you that you could make a completely dairy-free, animal-free macaroni and cheese dish that tasted like BACON? Would you call me crazy? (It's okay; I've been called worse.) 

Thanks to the ever-impressive Isa at The Post-Punk Kitchen, it's possible. And it's possibly one of the most delicious vegan dishes I've made to date.

Chipotles (smoked jalapeños) provide a bacon-y depth, while ground cashews make the dish decadent and creamy. I'll admit it: I was pretty skeptical about this one when I first found the recipe. I've had plenty of bowls of rich, gooey macaroni and cheese concoctions over the years (especially since moving to the South), and I wasn't sure how a dairy-free version would turn out. This version is a beautiful species of its own and shouldn't be made with the intention of fooling anyone into thinking it's made with real cheese or bacon. However, it is equally satisfying -- just in its own lovely way.

Isa's version called for miso in the sauce, but after scouring the Internet for ways to replace miso (I didn't want to buy a whole tub for one recipe), I found I could use tahini instead. Also, because Bryan isn't a fan of Brussels sprouts, I replaced them with roasted broccoli, which I think actually worked quite well, as the sauce soaked into the broccoli florets and infused them with flavor.

You will need: 

  • 8 oz dry macaroni (I used brown rice pasta but would recommend something sturdier)
  • 1 lb broccoli
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Sauce: 

    • 1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
    • 2-4 chipotles in adobo, seeded (I used 2!) 
    • 1 cup vegetable broth
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
    • 2 Tbsp sesame tahini

    Steps: 

      1. Preheat the oven to 425° F and start a pot of water boiling for the pasta. Cut the broccoli into florets and wash/drain. Toss them with the oil and a dash of salt, and spread them out on a baking pan. Roast for 18-20 minutes, or until they're lightly browned on the edges.
      2. While the pasta water is working on boiling, make the sauce. Drain the cashews and place them, along with the rest of the sauce ingredients, into a blender or the bowl of a food processor. Blend until the sauce is totally smooth. (If you're using a food processor, it might not get totally smooth. Myeh. Still tastes good.) Taste for salt.
      3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and place it back into the pot. 
      4. Ideally, the broccoli should be roasted by this point so that you can immediately add it into the pot with the pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli and stir gently to distribute the smoky, creamy sauce. Add salt, if needed, and serve immediately.

      One note: If you forget to soak the cashews ahead of time, you can simmer them in water in a covered saucepan for 15 minutes, and then just drain them and go from there. 

      It might have been the fault of the pasta I used, but this dish wasn't great when reheated in the microwave the next day, so try to eat as much as you can when you make it! (It won't be hard; trust me!)