Cajun Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Mac ‘n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food. There’s nothing like curling up on the couch with a big, hot bowl of macaroni, covered in a decadent cheesy sauce. I grew up eating the prepackaged Kraft macaroni and cheese but have long since given that up. Thankfully, there are so many delicious, healthy, and vegan recipes out there for mac ‘n’ cheese, I am never tempted to go back to that blue box!
When I’m craving some macaroni and cheese, I usually stick to this recipe and add in any veggies I have on hand. But lately I’ve been on the hunt for new recipes and twists on the classic dish. Back in the fall, Vegan Yack Attack posted this incredibly delicious recipe that I’ve been dying to try. My favorite thing about this recipe is the inclusion of okra. Okra, or lady’s finders as they are called here in Malaysia, are incredibly popular here. I honestly can’t remember ever eating okra before moving here. I was missing out! Now, we eat it all the time and I’m always looking for new ways to cook it. This recipe calls for roasting the okra in the oven which makes for a delicious crunch in the macaroni.
This recipe is quick, easy, and fast. It’s full of Cajun flavor and makes for a wonderfully complete meal! It’s a fun twist to traditional macaroni and cheese. I did have to change the recipe a bit because I can’t buy Daiya cheese out here. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where you can easily buy vegan cheese, then please enjoy some for me! This macaroni makes perfect leftovers as the spices and flavors improve the longer they sit!
(adapted from Vegan Yack Attack)
3 cups okra, sliced into coins
2 cups red bell peppers, chopped
1 cup red onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 cup dried noodles (whichever shape you prefer)
1 cup cooked chickpeas
3 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
1 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Toss the okra, bell peppers, onion, and jalapeño together in the olive oil in a large bowl. Then spread them out on a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 mins. Then mix the pieces around and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of water, lightly salted, to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the dried noodles and cook according to package. Once the noodles are done, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Next, start preparing the sauce. Combine broth and flour in a measuring cup and whisk with a fork until dissolved. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add broth, turmeric, paprika, liquid smoke, cayenne pepper and stir until well combined. Add nutritional yeast. Use a whisk or spoon and stir constantly. The mixture should start bubbling and thickening in about 3 minutes or so. If the mixture does not start to thicken, turn the heat up a bit higher. Add the lemon juice and yellow mustard. The mixture should resemble a thick melty cheese. Taste for salt, you may need to add more depending on how salty your vegetable broth is.
Using your big noodle pot, add the noodles, roasted veggies, chick peas, and cheesy sauce and mix well until everything is well combined. Season with salt. The sauce will thicken the longer it sits. Serve warm and enjoy!