Super Thick & Cheezy Mac ‘n’ Cheeze

I love mac ‘n’ cheeze. I’ve decided that I would try my hardest in life to avoid any stereotypes about anyone, even the seemingly harmless ones (but, I’m not perfect, so don’t “@” me!). And so, I wasn’t gonna say that I’m pretty much obligated to like this side dish staple because I’m Black– but heck, it’s kinda true. I don’t know a single Black person that doesn’t like mac ‘n’ cheese. But there is one thing that most Black people frown upon in the sacred world of this classic food, and I’ve ventured into that territory with this recipe. Out of a box, stove top mac is a no-no. In fact, it’s almost sacrilege. But, when I can up with this cheeze sauce recipe, I knew I was on to something. Sure, it doesn’t have that baked in the oven taste exactly. And sure, it’s not made with real cheese, or even a vegan cheese substitute. And sure, I threw a bunch of seasonings in the recipe that are not at all reminiscent of traditional African-American mac ‘n’ cheese recipes– okay, I see I’m not really making a strong, positive case for my mac. But regardless, when I tried it, I felt like it tasted like something my family would prefer if they had to have the mac ‘n’ cheese made on the stove in like 15 minutes, instead of baked in the oven. Not only that, I made this with all my fellow humans of all ethnicities and cultures in mind, because who doesn’t love a thick and cheezy sauce? There are a lot of vegan cheeze sauce recipes out there, but mine differs in that the goal is for it to be a thick sauce from the start. It’s best when used right away, in it’s thick form. You’re more than welcome to thin it out by adding more almond milk to the mixture, but that defeats the purpose of this being a “super thick and cheezy” mac ‘n’ cheeze — and I know the point of my recipes is to “make them your own”, but I really like this recipe title, so pretty please keep this sauce thick af.

What You’ll Need:

For the Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup vegan butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (x3) plain, unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt (plus more to taste)

For the Noods and Mac ‘n’ Cheeze Dish:

  • 4-7 cups cooked small pasta shells*
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • dried parsley (to taste)
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)

What to Do:

  1. Prepare noodles (boil water, add noodles, return to a rolling boil uncovered. Use approximately 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of dry pasta shells. Drain shells from boiling water and run cold water over pasta shells for approximately 10 seconds. Drain again).
  2. Place noodles in a large mixing bowl and set aside someplace near the stove to keep them warm.
  3. Heat a medium to large sized skillet over low heat.
  4. Add butter and melt over low heat.
  5. Very slowly, begin to add the flour, about 1/3 of the whole 1/4 cup at a time; Use a flat utensil (preferably wooden or silicone) to stir flour into the butter as you add it to the skillet. Stir continuously until all flour has been thoroughly mixed into butter and the entire 1/4 cup has been added.**
  6. Reduce heat to a very low simmer– as low as you can get the flame without turning it off.
  7. Add the first 1/4 of almond milk and stir slowly into the roux until completely mixed-in to the mixture.
  8. Add the second 1/4 cup of almond milk and repeat the above step, stirring slowly until the milk is completely mixed-in to the mixture.
  9. Add the third 1/4 cup of almond milk and repeat the above step.
  10. The sauce will start to form now and should be nice and thick.
  11. Return the heat to low.
  12. Add the nutritional yeast and salt and stir into the cheeze sauce until fully blended. Continue stirring sauce for approximately 1 minute, then, remove from heat.***
  13. Add sauce to the bowl of noodles and stir until cheeze sauce is well blended into noodles.
  14. Transfer some of the mac ‘n’ cheeze to a serving dish and garnish with seasonings to taste.

Date Posted on Instagram: 4/28/2019

* 4 cups will yield a ridiculously cheezy mac, and 7 cups will still be very cheezy but maybe more manageable. You can also use any pasta shape or type you’d like, but I don’t know if the “cheeziness” ratio will change. Most likely, it won’t, but try it out on any pasta you want and play around with the amount of pasta that works for the sauce based on your preference.

** This flour and butter mixture is known as a roux, and it’s the basis for many sauces — particularly in French cuisine (which has a lot of sauce-based dishes), but nowadays, in any cuisine.

*** If you don’t use all the sauce, transfer the remaining sauce to an airtight container (preferably glass) and store it in the refrigerator; it will keep for several days but I don’t recommend saving it for more than 5 to 6 days. To reheat: place sauce in a skillet on low heat. Once heat start to melt the sauce, add about 1 to 3 tbsp. of plain, unsweetened almond milk (add the milk one tbsp at a time) to the skillet and stir the sauce with a flat utensil (preferably wooden or silicone) continuously and slowly until sauce becomes “saucy” again. This should return the sauce to it’s thick consistency, but you can add more milk if you want to thin it out even more.

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*Product Review*: Daiya Boxed Mac ‘n’ Cheeze

Macaroni and cheese is definitely up there when it comes to foods I love to eat. I wouldn’t necessarily call it one of my favorite foods in general, but it is absolutely in an even more specific category: one of my favorite holiday foods. When Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, I am not a happy camper if I don’t have some mac on my plate. And to take it a step further, culturally speaking, I’m used to a very specific type of mac and cheese. B A K E D. African-American households are no strangers to mac and cheese, and to offer us anything other than a tray of baked mac might get you some funny looks (or even a few unkind words), especially at a holiday meal. All the nostalgic memories come flying back to my head of my mom taking the elbow macaroni noodles and tossing them in a huge bowl with tons of cheese and seasoning and them placing it in a few deep dish pans, then, popping them in the oven (with more cheese slathered on top!) for almost an hour — one of the most hunger-inducing hours ever, with the result being a crunchy, soft, smooth, cheesy masterpiece being revealed as part of the rest of the dinner feast.

When you have memories of homemade mac and cheese being as insanely good as I do, it’s kind of hard imagining a ready-made style, boxed mac and cheese that you don’t even bake could be as good as anything I’ve just described. Well, that’s not entirely true. Because there’s one brand of boxed mac and cheese that has stood the test of time. It’s from that really popular brand that we all know– it starts with a “K” and I have many memories of seeing their commercials on TV as a kid. They promoted the heck out of that boxed mac. And it worked because I know it was a popular product for kids across America– maybe even a staple in their childhood diets. It’s also a staple in the poor college student’s diet, the can’t be bothered to cook bachelor’s diet, and maybe even sometimes the single woman in the city’s (or country?) diet. But believe it or not, I’ve only had that mac and cheese maybe twice in my whole life. Pre-vegan of course. And I am not unhappy about it, because even before I had the more refined foodie palate I currently have, I always knew that homemade baked mac was where it’s at.

Then I became vegan. And I started learning about the world of supermarket vegan food. Not the fresh, whole foods I love talking about on this blog and on my Instagram, but the fast-growing variety of ready-made, easily prepped, frozen, and packaged convenience vegan foods. Most long-term vegans are in awe of the products they see today, because several years ago, most of these easy-to-make products didn’t exist yet! But being vegan today has never been so easy. Even though it may not be the healthiest way to live, if you can’t cook or don’t want to cook, there’s still no excuse for you to harm animals or the planet for your meal when you can stock your cabinets and freezer with tons of microwavable and ready-made vegan options (you also don’t have to do much cooking on a vegan diet that’s based in mostly whole foods but that’s another blog post for another time!). And you also don’t have to give up childhood favorites like ready-made mac and cheese!

That’s where Daiya’s Deluxe Cheddar Style Cheezy Mac comes in. This boxed, quick mac IMG_8285and cheeze is prepared like any other quick macaroni with cheeze sauce product: you boil the noodles, drain them, then add the cheeze sauce. And within minutes you have a hearty, cheezy pasta dish to have alone or to accompany the rest of your meal. So why am I doing a review on this product when several vegan options like it exist already? Well, there are a few reasons. Vegan cheese has come a looong way. I became vegan at the tail end of it’s growth, but I had already heard many of the rumors. Vegan cheese has sometimes gotten a bad rep. There’s been issues with it not melting easily. Issues with texture. And most importantly, there have been issues with taste and flavor. Some just aren’t feelin’ the flavor of vegan cheeses.

So when trying this product, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve tried Daiya‘s cream cheeze and I must admit, I wasn’t a fan. This was toward the beginning of my vegan journey and it wasn’t the best introduction into vegan cream cheese options. So I wondered if this cheeze sauce would follow suit with the cream cheeze debacle.

It absolutely did not.

Not only is this mac and cheeze amazing when it comes to flavor, but the texture is mind-blowing! The noods are basic elbow noodles. Oh, and it’s also worth mentioning that the noodles this mac comes with are gluten-free which is a plus for the gluten-free folks out there! But the cheeze brings in all the punch and glitz; it’s thick and creamy and there was actually an overabundance of the delicious saucy-goodness. The noodles were well-coated when I was only about 3/4 of the way through the sauce pack!

And let’s get more into the flavor. This cheeze sauce is SO similar to dairy-tasting cheese! If you are trying to ease into a vegan lifestyle (or get a non-vegan to try a vegan dish), this is perfect because your taste buds won’t know the difference! I can’t put enough emphasis on how much it tasted like the dairy-cheese I used to eat — it reminded me of hearing about folks on vegan Instagram complain that some meat substitutes tasted too

Daiya boxed mac components
Noodles + cheeze sauce = happy belly.

much like animal meat and it freaked them out. That was my experience here. This tasted so much like dairy cheese that it was a bit weird! But knowing that it wasn’t actually made from dairy was all the comfort I needed to continue to enjoy my mac. And again, the sauce is thick a.f! No need to worry about the sauce being too runny or not cheezy enough. There is also the perfect amount of saltiness to it. I jazzed mine up by adding some pepper to the finished product– if you check out the pic of my mac below, I also added some bacon to it because even as a vegan, I still believe that bacon makes everything better 🙂 But I didn’t add any salt because it didn’t need it! If you do add salt, do so sparingly– every palate is different so maybe you’ll think it needs some but enjoying it “as is” is perfect. And honestly, I’m considering trying my hand at baking this mac– with a few additions like some milk, shredded cheeze, and breadcrumbs, this can easily become a baked mac and cheeze masterpiece suitable for a spot on any holiday feast table. When I do bake it, I’ll be sure to update you all on how it went, and more importantly, how it tasted! 😀

So that’s it! If you’re looking to add a boxed food to your kitchen arsenal for quick meals or those times where you don’t feel like cooking (or don’t have the time to cook a more elaborate meal). Or if you actually just prefer to eat mac and cheeze that isn’t baked, or boxed mac because it brings back some childhood nostalgia, you need to get this product! I know there are a few other vegan boxed mac and cheeze’s out there– although I haven’t tried them yet, that won’t take away from how good this Daiya one is. Maybe I’ll do a taste test on a few of them down the line. But comparing to the taste, texture, ease of preparation, and overall deliciousness of this Daiya mac is not gonna be easy. Thanks for keeping us vegans going strong Daiya!

Daiya boxed mac closeup
Daiya boxed mac. Cheesy goodness with bacon crumbles on top. Yes, please.