Recipe: Smoky Bacon Mac N’ Cheese

I posted this mac n’ cheese picture last week and I’ve had so many people request the recipe, so here it is! This is a tweaked version of like, four different plant based mac n’ cheese recipes combined. I’ve played around with dozens of different recipes, trying to find the perfect one. I’ve used almonds, cauliflower, pepitas (which were terrible), and so many others to try and make the cheese just right, but cashews always seem to set the bar for creaminess. Also, they require about half the soaking time of other nuts. More info on the soaking process here.

The smoked flavor is mostly due to the hickory liquid smoke and the paprika, but it’s an instinctual flavor combination. The tempeh is so savory and flavorful, you can use it in pretty much anything (I put it in salads, on sandwiches, and in tofu scrambles all the time). It’s a useful thing to know how to make, especially if you’re a lover of comfort food like I am.

*Here’s what you need:

For the pasta:
8oz macaroni noodles
1 cup cashews, soaked for 2 hours (ideally) or up to overnight (If you’re short on time, 1 hour will still work, it just won’t be as creamy.)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp non hydrogenated margarine
2 tsp yellow mustard
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of salt

For the bacon:
1 8oz package of tempeh
3 tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 tsp KO Ketchup
1/4 tsp hickory liquid smoke
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp sesame oil

Here’s what you do:

Cut the tempeh into strips about 1/4″ thick. Steam for about 10 minutes until soft. Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a wide, shallow dish. Place the tempeh in the dish in a single layer, making sure each strip is fully submerged in the marinade. Let sit for an hour.

Sauté the onions in the oil with a pinch of salt until translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so, until fragrant. Transfer to a blender.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain, drizzle a small amount of olive oil and toss. Set aside.

Once the tempeh has absorbed some of the marinade, sauté the strips in a drizzle of olive oil, turning over every minute or so to ensure they cook evenly. Once the tempeh is crispy on both sides, remove from the pan and set aside. You can cut them into smaller pieces if you wish.

Drain and rinse the cashews, add them to the blender along with the broth, tomato paste, mustard, margarine, cornstarch, nutritional yeast, turmeric, cumin, salt and paprika. Blend until smooth. This may take 4-5 minutes depending on the power of your blender. Give the blender a break every 30 seconds or so, by scraping the sides down and checking the texture.

Once smooth, pour the cheese sauce into a saucepan and cook on medium low until it thickens and is warm throughout, about 10-15 minutes.

Gently stir in the cooked pasta. Toss in the tempeh, sprinkle some paprika on top and serve.


*Most of the measurements on here are estimated. I usually eyeball the ingredients and add more of this or less of that, depending on how it’s looking while I cook. Consider the measurements to be more of a loose guideline, taste test it while you go and add more, or use less according to your own preference.

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