Now that we've officially said goodbye to summer, I'm shifting gears into the world of comfort food. But I'm also of the mindset that comfort food can also be really nutritious. I love putting a healthy twist on classic recipes so that everyone can enjoy them anytime they want.
In the past, some of my favorites have been a warm bowl of black bean quinoa chili, or a big pile of sweet potato nachos, but ever since I created that vegan lemon cream sauce, I've had pasta on the brain.
So today's healthy comfort food is a baked vegan mac and cheese recipe!
Just like any traditional mac and cheese, we have three things: noodles, cheese sauce and a crispy topping.
But unlike traditional mac and cheese, we're swapping in our healthier versions of each. We're using a gluten-free pasta made from whole grain brown rice, that vegan lemon cream sauce I mentioned above and topping with the whole thing with a layer of quinoa crispies.
I only made one slight modification to the sauce recipe and that was adding a dash of turmeric to turn it that vibrant orange color, but other than that it was perfect. The combination of creamy cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic and that subtle lemon undertones, makes the pasta pop with bright, cheesy flavor. You'll never even miss the actual cheese! (<– promise!)
Then there's the topping!
If you've never made quinoa crispies before, stop what you're doing and go make 'em!
They are so simple to make and have SO many different uses. We've used them as a crunchy topping on yogurt bowls, for adding a crispy texture to chocolate energy balls, and even as a coating on tofu tacos! Quinoa crispies are seriously amazing.
And today we're using them to replace breadcrumbs on our vegan mac and cheese.
This recipe is super simple to make and freezes well too. You just cook your pasta, blend the sauce, top with the quinoa crispies, bake until warm and bubbly. I made two trays of this and froze the extras for an easy weeknight dinner later on this fall.
But it's also a great base. Since it's just a plain and simple cheese sauce, you could totally add in vegetables, protein, spices, etc., to jazz it up and make it your own. It would be great with peas, broccoli, spinach, grilled chicken or even some ground turkey.
And if you want to make it even higher in protein without adding beans or an animal protein, I suggest using some form of bean pasta (this red lentil pasta is my favorite!), because you're getting 10+g of protein per serving of pasta. Win-win!
So now when you're feeling like you need to be wrapped up in a big food hug, you have something that will satisfy those cheesy cravings in a healthy and delicious way. Because this is proof that we don't need gluten or dairy to make an epic mac and cheese!
What's your go-to comfort food that you would like to see remade in a healthy way? I'm always looking for your suggestions, so if you have one that you just can't seem to let go of, let me try my hand at giving you a healthier option 😉
Baked Vegan Mac and Cheese
This recipe is super simple to make and freezes well too.
- 1 lb gluten-free pasta of choice this is my favorite
- 1 batch vegan lemon cream sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 cup quinoa crispies
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
- While pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce (make sure to soak your cashews ahead of time!). Once blended, add in the turmeric and blend again until combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Drain the pasta and add it to a oven safe baking dish. Pour sauce over top and stir to combine.
- Sprinkle crispies over the top of the noodles, cover the dish with tin foil and bake on the center rack for 20 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
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