There’s something about comfort food that is amazingly so…comforting. I’m not sure what about particular foods make us feel so warm and fuzzy inside because they’re not always the foods we grew up with or even loved for ages.
For my kids, their #1 comfort food is macaroni and cheese. And they’re quite the connoisseurs. My daughter rates her favorite places for macaroni and cheese, and sometimes she’ll choose the #3 spot because it happens to be right next to an ice cream shop. I think she’s happy as long as it makes her list.
I’m pretty happy (and proud) that my homemade macaroni and cheese has consistently ranked in her #1 position!
My son, on the other hand, really only has a few places like Veggie Grill where he can have dairy-free macaroni and cheese. I’m not sure if he ever watches his sister enjoy mac and cheese in envy because he certainly would never say anything or complain.
Whenever I can, I like to make his favorite dishes that he can’t often have thanks to his dairy sensitivity. I have to admit, though, that homemade macaroni and “cheese” has been a challenge. We have a great recipe for macaroni and cashew cheese that we all love – even my particular husband who until recently wouldn’t touch anything but the real deal.
The challenge comes in the sauce: there’s a bunch of ingredients that take a long time and there’s often some improvisation involved to get the consistency just right.
On our first visit to Veggie Grill, they mentioned that they use Daiya cheese for most of their foods which was music to my ears. We tried Daiya months earlier and had finally fallen in love with a “cheese” product that was dairy free but actually tastes good and melts…just like the real deal.
As I always do, I asked the kids what they wanted to bring to school for lunches their first week back. They both responded in unison (as if rehearsed!): macaroni and cheese!
Ok, I can do this. A few months ago I experimented with Daiya cheese plus a few other ingredients using a recipe I found online for a dairy free cheese sauce. That recipe wasn’t too far off from the sauce in my real dairy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese recipe so I decided to follow my own recipe, but dairy free.
We replaced the cheese with Daiya “cheddar” cheese, butter with Earth Balance and for milk we used Silk soy milk. We usually use Almond Breeze almond milk but didn’t have any and our local store had a small container of unflavored soy milk. It’s also easy to make this macaroni and cheese gluten free by substituting the flour for your favorite gluten free flour mix and the pasta for rice or quinoa pasta.
The Daiya cheese takes a little bit longer to melt into the butter and oil but not much. Once you have something that resembles a sauce, it’s ready. I wanted to keep cooking it, thinking it would thin out but that never happened. It looks pretty globular but trust me, it will be fine once you add the macaroni and taste fantastic.
Bonus: Cleans up is super easy! Easier than real, dairy cheese!
Here’s our recipe for vegan macaroni and cheese. We hope you like it as much as we do. The kids and I (hubs too!) think it’s just as tasty and comforting as the “real deal”. In fact, they had it for lunch every single day last week and never complained. I don’t recall their food jars ever coming home this empty last year! My guess is that my daughter will request it again soon.
Homemade Dairy Free Macaroni and Cheese Recipe
Ingredients (brands listed are just the ones we used)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter (Earth Balance)
4 tablespoons flour
1 cup almond milk
2 cups shredded Daiya cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt to taste
1 pound elbow macaroni or small shell macaroni
Cook macaroni according to the package. Youll want to bring it to an al dente place (definitely not mushy). Make your cheese sauce while the macaroni cooks.
Heat a good sized pot over medium heat. Add oil and butter. When butter melts into the oil, add flour and mix well. Gently whisk flour and butter together, until smooth and flour has had a chance to slightly brown, about 3 minutes.
Slowly add milk while continuing to whisk, making sure to get any lumps that form. Bring milk to a low boil while stirring frequently. Allow the milk to thicken slightly, then stir in shredded cheddar cheese, one handful at a time. Season sauce with nutmeg. Add salt to taste.
Add cooked pasta to sauce and coat completely by gently mixing both together. Serve and enjoy.
If you have a favorite dairy free recipe please share it with us. You can leave it in the comments section or send me an email to ginarau(at)feedourfamilies(dot)com. We are always looking for new dairy free recipes! We’ll give it a try and share it here for everyone else!