We recently hosted a friend’s birthday party at our place and much to my surprise (and delight), they served our Garlic Mac ‘n’ Cheese as one of the entrées.
But here’s the thing: They made it completely gluten-free, and somehow, it tasted better than mine. Don’t you hate it when somebody does you better than you?
Not me. I kind of love it. I learned something new!
With a few simple swaps, I knew I’d stumbled upon what truly is thee best vegan, gluten-free mac ‘n’ cheese and I couldn’t help but share. Let’s do this!
Origins of Mac ‘n‘ Cheese
Mac ‘n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food! But where did it come from?
It’s believed that the earliest written recipe for a dish resembling mac ‘n’ cheese comes from a 13th century cookbook from southern Italy. The dish (named de lasanis) was made with squares of fermented lasagne dough layered with spices and cheese.
But maybe that’s not what you picture when you hear mac ‘n’ cheese? The dish has been modified in many ways over time!
It’s thought that mac ‘n’ cheese was first introduced in the US when Thomas Jefferson brought back a pasta machine from his travels in Italy. Or perhaps that it originated from a popular New England church dish called macaroni pudding. Then in 1937, Kraft released their boxed mac ‘n’ cheese and it quickly gained popularity because of its affordability.
Our gluten-free, plant-based version has all the comfort but without the wheat and dairy!
Vegan Gluten-Free Mac ‘n‘ Cheese
This recipe is above all, simple. It comes together in about 1 hour (including roasting the garlic), and requires 8 simple ingredients.
I’ve been eating mostly gluten-free lately, and in doing so I’ve discovered the pasta brand Bionaturae, which I’m completely smitten with.
Their penne tastes exactly like “real” gluten penne and doesn’t get gummy or have any weird taste! It truly does pass as the real deal.
The other news to report is arrowroot starch. I’ve been using arrowroot – a natural thickener – in things like my Vegan Lemon Curd to thicken sauces, but when I tried it in pasta sauce, the results were unreal.
Are you guys seeing this? When you begin heating the sauce back up on the stovetop, it gets super thick and a little “stringy” like real cheese! It’s a Christmas miracle (in spring, no less).
The sauce is a classic roux, with the exception of the arrowroot starch, and olive oil in place of the butter. It gets its flavor from vegan parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, and fresh and roasted garlic.
The result is mac ‘n’ cheese perfection – no lie.
I hope you guys LOVE this pasta! It’s:
& Seriously the best
Make this when you want to impress friends with an undetectably vegan and gluten-free pasta! It makes a great weeknight meal or one to save for weekend indulging. Our friends added sautéed kale when adding the pasta, which I loved! Definitely feel free to add in greens of choice for more nutritional benefits.
If you give this a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and don’t forget to tag a picture #minimalistbaker on Instagram! We’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
The Best Vegan Gluten-Free Mac ‘n’ Cheese
- 1 head roasted garlic (see instructions for method)
- 10-12 ounces gluten-free penne* (I love Bionaturae penne found at Whole Foods)
- 4 Tbsp olive or grape seed oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (4 cloves yield ~2 Tbsp)
- 4 1/2 Tbsp arrowroot starch*
- 2 cups unsweetened plain almond milk (plus more as needed)
- ~1/4 tsp each sea salt and pepper (to taste)
- 5 Tbsp nutritional yeast (plus more to taste)
- 1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
- To roast garlic, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C) and cut off the very top of a head of garlic. Drizzle the top with a bit of oil, a sprinkle of salt and loosely wrap in foil.
- Place directly on oven rack and roast for 45 minutes – 1 hour, depending on size of garlic. You’ll know it’s done when the garlic is very fragrant and the bulb is golden brown. Remove from oven, slightly unwrap, and let cool.
- At the 40-minute mark, bring roughly 10 cups (2400 ml // use more or less if altering batch size) water to a boil in a large pot and salt generously. Once boiling, add pasta and stir to prevent noodles from sticking. Cook according to package instructions (usually about 8-10 minutes). Once fully cooked, drain and set aside.
- In the meantime, begin preparing sauce. Heat a large, oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil and minced fresh garlic. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until light golden brown. Immediately add arrowroot starch and whisk – cook for 1 minute.
- Slowly add almond milk while whisking, then cook for 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. The sauce will likely look a little clumpy – that’s OK! We’re going to blend it.
- Transfer mixture to a blender, along with the roasted garlic. To extract garlic, simply push up from the base and the softened cloves should come right out – so gratifying (and delicious).
- Next add salt and pepper, nutritional yeast, and vegan parmesan cheese and blend on high until creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as needed – you want it pretty well salted + cheesy, so don’t be shy with the nutritional yeast, salt, and vegan parmesan cheese.
- Return sauce back to skillet from earlier and cook over low heat until warmed and slightly thickened – about 2-3 minutes – whisking occasionally. As it warms back up, it will thicken and get super cheesy (see photo). For a thicker sauce, leave it as is. To thin slightly, add almond milk 1 Tbsp at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Turn off heat if it starts bubbling too aggressively.
- Add cooked, drained pasta to the sauce and toss to coat. Then top with 1 more Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese (amount as original recipe is written // adjust if altering batch size).
- Optional: Heat oven to high broil and position a rack at the top of the oven. Broil pasta on high for 1-2 minutes (optional), or until golden brown (see photo). Watch closely as it can burn quickly.
- Serve immediately. I love topping mine with an extra pinch of vegan parmesan cheese – I can never get enough of that stuff.
- Leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, though best when fresh. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop – add extra almond milk if it’s dry.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without additional parmesan cheese topping.
*Recipe adapted from my Vegan Garlic Mac n Cheese.