This is my happy food. When I was a child my mother’s macaroni cheese could cure many ills and it was still my go to comfort food until I went vegan. I have used a lot of vegan cheese sauce recipes but this one I created accidentally when I needed to make some the day before shopping day. It is a mixture of trial and error and the many recipes that I had tried before it!
The very best thing about this cheese sauce alternative is that it doesn’t use a roux or any added oils or fats (apart from the oil in the tahini) which makes it lower in fat than most other vegan cheese alternatives and MUCH lower in fat than anything with animal based cheese in it. The creamy protein richness of the beans means that it doesn’t need the oil or margarine to make it satisfying but the tangy sweet orangness of the carrots makes it more convincing as a cheese rather than a hummus type thing (which is my usual issue with bean bases faux cheese).
Sauce of Awesome
- 2 or 3 largeish carrots
- 1 cup stock (mine is made with a lot of onions and celery – you may want to add onion to the cooking carrots if your stock is out of a packet or low on onions)
- 1 Tbl soy sauce (we use a slightly watery tamari so you may want less if yours is stronger. Omit or reduce if your stock is high in salt)
- 1 tin white beans – drained (butter beans or cannellini beans work best)
- 1/4 cup of savoury yeast flakes (aka nutritional yeast)
- 1 Tbl tahini (mine is usually unhulled you may want to double this amount if using hulled or mild tahini)
- 1 & 1/2 Tbls white miso (mine is the chickpea and rice sort – this is more mild than soy based brown miso)
- 2 tsps dijon mustard
- 1 tsp onion powder (sub: 1/2 tsp galric powder OR reduce soy sauce and use 1/2 tsp onion salt)
- 1/4 tsp white pepper (DO NOT sub black pepper – the white pepper adds a nuttiness that black pepper will over power)
- 1 clove diced garlic (or 1 tsp garlic paste)
- Rice milk as needed (normally around 1/4 and 1/2 a cup)
Chop carrots add to a large microwave safe bowl with stock and soy sauce. Also add any celery or raw onion if using it. I then cover the bowl (use one that has its own lid or just use a plate) and microwave the carrots and stock for about 2-6 minute on 1000w until very soft – you could also just cook them on the stove top if you don’t microwave.
Add stock and veggies to the blender with all of the other ingredients and start blending. Add rice milk and blend as needed to get a smooth consistency – I don’t measure this I would say it is between 1/4 and 1/2 a cup.
The thing that really made it work as a “cheese” was the astringency of the miso, the creamy bitterness of the tahini then the sweetness and texture of the carrots and beans. Using a soy-free white miso and omitting the soy sauce will make this soy free.
If you use tamari and ensure that all of the ingredients are, in fact, gluten free then this is gluten free anyway!
You could remove the yeast flakes but I would recommend trying it with them it the first time if you can (even if you HATE nutritional yeast) as it does add something and with all the other flavours you can’t really taste it.
Thicker – Melted cheese consistency:
To thicken the cheese (e.g. for a pizza or cheese toastie etc) add 1 to 1.5 cups of cooked millet to the mixture when you blend it and don’t use extra rice milk. Cook the millet with rice or soy milk instead of water. It is usually 1 parts millet to 2 parts liquid and it triples in volume when cooked – so in this case you would want 1/3 of a cup uncooked millet to 2/3 of a cup milk. Cooking times and directions will vary but it is just an absorption method – bring to boil then lower and simmer for 10 mins or so on stove top OR cook it in the microwave for 10 to 20 minutes in short 2 minute bursts.
Make it EVEN Better (with some forward planning or lucky leftovers):
If you have it or are planning ahead you can add some cashew nut sour cream to make the sauce even better. Just add it at the end when you’re adding in the rice milk – you may not even need rice milk depending on the consistency of your cashew cream.
Vegan Macaroni and Cheese
To make a mac ‘n “cheese” just par-cook some macaroni for about 2/3 the time noted on the package (most dry pasta is vegan but do check because some may have egg in them). Add the drained par-cooked macaroni to a large lasagne or casserole dish. Add a full batch of the Sauce of Awesome, mix through and sprinkle sesame seeds and paprika on top. Bake for 10 minutes at 180°c.
I usually add frozen peas or frozen mixed veggies to the macaroni , before cooking, to give it some colour. Layering sliced leek through it can also be a nice addition.
This is very similar to the mac and cheese above. I use the purple and green cauliflowers when I can get them but white works just as well (or even use frozen). Chop up two heads of cauliflower into small to medium florets. Add to a large casserole or lasagne dish. Mix the sauce through well and cook at 180°c for around 25 minutes (it may take longer depending on the size of your florets) until the cauliflower are nice and tender.