Creamy Coconut Mac And Cheese with Broccoli

Just like every other family during the Covid-19 quarantine, mine was turning to cooking and comfort food to pass the time. Of course, traditional mac and cheese has long been considered one of the kings of comfort food, with the rich creamy texture and soft noodles bringing us back to our childhood days (I used to love those Kraft mac and cheese squeeze packets).

Most of the vegan cheese I make has a base of raw cashews, which, when blended with appropriate seasonings is transformed into a thick and hearty cream sauce. I noticed one of my friends repeatedly posting this mac and cheese recipe which instead used coconut milk as the base. I typically try to avoid using too much coconut mild (especially the full fat variety) given the saturated fat content. However, I love it in curries, and it seemed well-justified in this recipe.

I was a bit concerned that there may be a sweet coconut flavor influencing the cheese sauce. However, to my delight, it was nothing but thick, cheesy deliciousness. Everyone in my family went back for seconds (and even thirds). This particular recipe incorporated broccoli, however feel free to mix in peas, diced tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, or whatever veggies you love.

Find the original delicious recipe (as well as other great recipes) at Connoisseurus Veg.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces dried macaroni or pasta shells (or your favorite pasta shape). Can also use black bean, chickpea, or edamame pasta.
  • 3 cups chopped fresh broccoli. Can substitute your vegetable of your choice. Additionally, you can mix in a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach (which will wilt) and/or fresh diced tomatoes just prior to serving. 
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, or another neutral flavored cooking oil, plus a dash
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I also used 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 1/4-1/3 cup of water to help thicken my cheese sauce.
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk (from a can)
  • 1 cup unflavored and unsweetened non-dairy milk of choice (almond, soy, hemp, or non-canned coconut milk all work)
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar-based hot sauce, such as Cholula
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Instructions:

    1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set the timer according to the package directions for cooking the pasta until al dente.

    2. When the timer gets down to 2 minutes, add the broccoli to the pot and give it a stir.

    3. When the timer goes off, drain the pasta and broccoli into a colander and return them to the pot. Toss with a dash of oil to prevent sticking.

    4. Coat the bottom of a large pot with 1 tablespoon of oil and place it over medium heat.

    5. When the oil is hot, whisk in the flour to form a thick paste. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture darkens a bit and begins to smell nutty, about 3 minutes.

    6. Whisk in the coconut milk and non-dairy milk of choice.

      Whisk the cheese sauce until it thickens

    7. Raise the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and allow the mixture to simmer, whisking frequently, for about 7 minutes, until it thickens up a bit. I added 1-2 tablespoons of additional cornstarch dissolved in 1/4-1/3 cup of water to increase thickness.
    8. Whisk in the nutritional yeast, soy sauce or coconut aminos, hot sauce, vinegar, onion and garlic powders, and salt. Taste-test and season with salt to taste. Adjust any other seasonings to your liking.
    9. Add the pasta and broccoli to the pot with the coconut mixture and give it a good stir. Allow to cook for about 1 minute, just until the pasta is perfectly tender. The sauce should thicken up a bit more during this time.
    10. Remove from heat and serve.

Serving suggestion with Buffalo Tempeh Tenders