This vegan cauliflower macaroni and cheese is creamy, garlicy, and delicious. Roasting the cauliflower first adds flavor to this light, low-fat casserole.
Last Monday morning, I was checking my blog comments, as I always do, when I found a new comment on my Easy Vegan Macaroni and Cheese:
I was so surprised I nearly choked on my coffee. Not only had my darling daughter made my recipe, but she’d taken the time to leave a comment. And she’d correctly used a comma! This seemingly small thing meant a lot to me as a mother, a food blogger, and a former English teacher.
I’m kidding about the comma (mostly), but if you have kids that live far away, you’ll understand my joy at getting a little message from her in a place I wasn’t expecting it. Since she left to go back to her college town a month ago, I’ve been missing my daily interaction with her.
I’ve been working hard to keep busy. I took a whirlwind vacation to New York City, where I did a lot of sightseeing and ate ALL OF THE VEGAN THINGS. I didn’t bring my camera and relied on my phone for photos. Here’s a favorite:
I was hoping my food tour of New York would provide me with some recipe inspiration, but other than a vague desire to create vegan French food, I didn’t come away with any new ideas.
But my own daughter’s comment on my Mac and Cheese had me craving it. I just needed to address my one problem with that recipe: It’s supposed to serve 8, but my family of three almost always managed to eat the whole thing in one meal, with maybe a little leftover for E’s lunch the next day.
Even vegan macaroni and cheese is pretty calorie-dense without being especially filling. Two ounces (uncooked) of macaroni may be the standard portion, but when it’s combined with just a sauce and no added beans or vegetables, it doesn’t take up a lot of space on the plate or in the stomach.
So I got the bright idea to combine macaroni with that great replacer of all things carb and universal stretcher of recipes: Cauliflower.
Some people don’t like cauliflower. Maybe you’ve seen this meme:
I don’t know where this originated (maybe my daughter), but I disagree. (I also don’t like that comma splice.) I like cauliflower, and the times I’ve used it to replace rice (taco filling, split pea soup) or to add creaminess to sauces (cheesy sauce), I loved it. I even have a whole category dedicated to it: Cauliflower Magic Tricks.
It’s especially delicious roasted, so I decided to roast it with garlic before combining it with macaroni and cheesy sauce. I used the oven, but if you have an air fryer, you can probably air fry it even faster. I like it super-garlicy, so I used 3 cloves; normal mortals may want to stick to 2.
I slightly adapted my nutritional yeast cheese sauce to omit the miso my daughter didn’t have and the tahini, which adds creaminess and calories. I thought it was plenty creamy without tahini, but you can always add a tablespoon or two or a handful of raw cashews to the blender while making the sauce.
Also, I fancied up this cauliflower macaroni and cheese by topping it with panko and baking it until browned. I loved it and will probably always make it this way, but if you’re short on time or want to save a few calories or carbs, you can leave it off. (The panko I used was Private Selection Traditional Panko, which has no added oil and only 3 ingredients. I highly recommend it.)
How filling was it? Well, considering I cut the amount of pasta I normally use in half, one serving with a salad was very filling. I divided the whole pan into 6 servings, not 8, which also helped to make it more hearty.
Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese is one of those recipes that somehow tastes better the next day. Overnight, the garlic flavor becomes more pronounced, so if you plan to make it ahead, consider using the lesser amount of garlic. Or just go ahead and enjoy this cauliflower mac and cheese in all its garlicy delight!
Roasted Cauliflower Macaroni and Cheese
- 12 ounces small cauliflower florets (about 4 cups)
- 2 tablespoons aquafaba, vegetable broth, or water
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2-3 cloves garlic pressed or minced
- 8 ounces uncooked macaroni or other pasta
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup unsweetened plain soy milk or other plant milk
- 3/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch (or potato starch)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard (any prepared mustard will do)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 pinch cayenne powder (to taste)
- black pepper (to taste)
Bread Crumb Topping
- 1 cup panko (choose a brand with no added oil)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Preheat oven to 400F. Combine the cauliflower florets in a large bowl with the aquafaba or broth and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Mix well. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the cauliflower on it. Bake for about 15 minutes, until a little tender and beginning to brown on the edges. Stir in the garlic and bake for another minute. Remove from oven and set aside.
- While the cauliflower is roasting, cook the macaroni in salted water according to package directions. Drain well and return to the pot. Add the cauliflower to the pot once it is done.
- Place all sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until combined. Pour the sauce over the macaroni and cauliflower. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often and scraping the bottom, until sauce boils and thickens. Sauce should be very thick.
- Check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or other spices to taste. You may serve the macaroni at this point or add a topping and bake it as a casserole.
To Bake as a Casserole
- Preheat oven to 375F. Pour the mac and cheese into a medium-sized casserole dish (the one I used was 6 1/2 x 10 x 2-inches tall.) Combine the topping ingredients and spread it evenly over the top. Bake for about 10 minutes, until top is lightly browned in places. Serve hot, garnished with fresh oregano leaves if you desire.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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