Saturday, 28 September 2013

I once shared an apartment with a Love Vegetarian.  A what?  Basically, he had become a vegetarian because his girlfriend was a vegetarian. One night we were discussing the availability of vegetarian and vegan food and I mentioned I’d been reading a lot of vegan recipes featuring nutritional yeast.  The Love Vegetarian informed me that nutritional yeast was truly disgusting and suggested that I never, ever try it.  As this advice was delivered by a man who lived on a diet primarily consisting of processed soy fake chicken and frozen cheese pizzas, I figured it was safe to form my own opinion on the matter. 

I’ve seen a billion recipes for vegan ‘mac and cheese’ on the internet and they’re all slightly different.  Some use cashews, some use soy ‘cheese’, and some use nutritional yeast.  Some use all three.  But I don’t have the patience or the equipment to soak and blend cashews, nor do I have any sort of affection for ‘cheese’ made from heavily processed soy products.  I eventually combined a few elements from different recipes together.  I used fresh pasta that I bought at a farmers’ market last weekend, but obviously you can use dried. 

Vegan Mac and Cheese (Serves 4)

1 small sweet potato
¾ cup coconut milk
1 tbsp corn starch
6 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp tumeric
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to season
200g fresh macaroni (or other small pasta of your choice, ie rigatoni, spiral, orechiette)
One head of broccoli, cut into florets

Start by steaming the sweet potato.  You can of course peel and chop the potato before placing it over a double boiler, but if you have a microwave, a fast and easy option is to place the potato with skin still intact into the microwave and heat for about five minutes.  Remove and allow to cool before peeling and mashing. 

To make the ‘cheese’ sauce, whisk together the coconut milk and corn starch in a small bowl.  Add the nutritional yeast, tumeric and Dijon mustard, and whisk until smooth. 

Pour the olive oil into a small saucepan over low heat.  Add the minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, but not coloured, about one minute.  Add the ‘cheese’ mixture to the pan and increase the heat to medium.  Continue to cook the sauce for a further five minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened.  Add the mashed sweet potato and stir until well combined – for a really smooth sauce you can use a stick blender.  Season to taste and remove from the heat. 

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in lightly salted boiling water according to packet instructions.  For the last minute of cooking time, add the broccoli.  Drain the pasta and broccoli, reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water.  Return the pasta to its pot and pour over the ‘cheese’ sauce.  Add the reserved pasta cooking water and gently fold the sauce into the pasta.  Serve immediately!

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