I’ve been wanting to create a vegan mac and cheese recipe for a while. The idea to add caramelized onions popped into my head recently. After that there was no stopping me.
I’m soooo happy with how this turned out. Even absent the caramelized onions and/or baking, this is a great mac and cheese recipe, as is evidenced by the fact that I had to exercise serious self control to avoid shoveling the whole batch into my mouth before baking or adding the caramelized onions. (On a side note, if you want to skip the baking step, you can. Just leave out the panko and cut the milk by about 1/3.)
I think a few things are key here. First, and perhaps most importantly: cashews. I made a first attempt at this without cashews and the flavor was there, but the cheesy richness I was looking for was absent. Second, nutritional yeast, which adds a crucial element of zippy cheese (cheddar, to be specific) flavor. Finally, just a touch of vinegar brings the tartness right to where it should be.
When my second attempt at this (with the addition of cashews) came out of the oven, I let it cool for a few minutes before tasting it. I was totally floored. “This is amazing!” I shouted to my boyfriend in the other room, as I snapped away at the photos you’re now viewing. “Tastes just like the stuff my mom made growing up. I’m calling my mom. She needs to make this for my dad. He’ll never know it’s vegan.” Mom, are you reading? Dad, are you reading? (Sorry if you are!)
In any event, the result was absolutely delish. My boyfriend came in for a taste, and returned minutes later with a big spoon to scoop out a good portion of the batch, informing me that less food in the skillet would make it look like more was eaten, so my photos would appear more appetizing. I guess that would be truth in advertising.
Vegan Caramelized Onion Mac & Cheese
For the Caramelized Onion
- 1 large onion thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 tsp. sugar
For the Vegan Mac & Cheese
- 10 oz. dried macaroni
- 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water 4-8 hours
- 1 1/2 cups unflavored soy or almond milk
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp. white vinegar
- 2 tbsp. vegan margarine
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1/3 cup panko
Caramelize the Onion
- Place onion, oil and sugar in medium skillet over low heat.
- Stir to coat onion and distribute oil and sugar.
- Cover and allow to cook for about 1 hour, until onion is golden brown and very soft, uncovering to stir every 10 minutes or so.
Make the Mac & Cheese
- When your onion is almost done, prepare macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Coat a large cast iron skillet or baking dish (9 x 9 square works) with oil or cooking spray.
- Place cashews in blender or food processor and blend to a thick paste.
- Add milk, nutritional yeast and vinegar. Blend until smooth.
- Place macaroni, cashew mixture, margarine, salt and pepper in baking dish or skillet. Stir until margarine is melted and mixture is fully blended. Stir in caramalized onion.
- Sprinkle top with panko.
- Bake 20-23 minutes, until panko just begins to brown.