Just because her diet is plant-based, that doesn’t mean hot for food blog’s Lauren Toyota eschews comfort food. In fact, she couldn’t live without it.
For Chatelaine’s video series, Vegan It! with Lauren Toyota, the former MuchMusic VJ and current YouTube star and cookbook author demonstrates how to create vegan versions of everyone’s favourite comfort classics — like grilled cheese and caesar salad — without elaborate recipes or compromising on taste.
In this episode:
Lauren prepares creamy, silky and tangy mac and cheese. Here are her tricks for:
Making the vegan mac and cheese creamy
Cashews are a magical vegan ingredient, especially after they’ve been soaked in hot water for about 20 minutes. This softens them up, so when they’re spun in a high-powered blender (like a Vitamix, KitchenDid or Magic Bullet), they transform into a silky smooth sauce that looks just like sour cream.
Giving it that cheesy tang
Lauren uses plant-based ingredients to replicate the flavour and texture of melted cheese. To perfect that mac-and-cheese tang, she adds umami-rich miso paste (it’s fermented, just like cheese), tomato paste, nutritional yeast and tart lemon juice to the cashew mixture. The tomato paste and nutritional yeast also give this dish its signature orange hue. Finally, for flavour and depth, Lauren adds spices like onion powder, garlic powder and chili powder.
Adding a crunch
The best mac and cheese casseroles have a crunchy bread crumb topping — Lauren’s is no exception. She makes hers with a mixture of whole wheat breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast and dried spices and then lets it get nice and golden brown under the broiler.
Recipe: Vegan Mac & Cheese
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
Prep time: 45 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
- 3 cups elbow macaroni
- 1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 20 minutes in hot water)
- 2 1⁄4 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (almond or soy)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
- 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 1⁄2 tablespoons miso paste
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons arrowroot or tapioca flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1⁄2 teaspoon white pepper (or ground pepper)
- 1⁄4 cup multigrain bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Pre-heat oven to 350 F. To cook the pasta, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, but do not rinse.
- To prepare the topping, combine the bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, dried herbs, and sea salt in a small bowl.
- To make the cheese sauce, drain and rinse the soaked cashews. Add to a high-powered blender with the remaining sauce ingredients and combine until very smooth.
- In a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or baking dish, stir the pasta and sauce together until the macaroni is well coated. Sauce will thicken during baking.
- Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly on top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.
- Remove the foil and bake on the top rack of the oven for 10 minutes until the top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling slightly. Depending on your oven and the distribution of heat, you might want to set the skillet under the broiler for 5 minutes to get the top crispier instead of continuing to bake at 350°F. Serve immediately.
- When reheating leftovers, you may want to add more non-dairy milk to get the mac creamy once again.