Giving up macaroni and cheese was a tough one for me. I mean, it’s safe to say it’s been my favorite food since the beginning of time. Buuuut … as much as I love dairy, dairy – specifically the whey in dairy – does NOT love me back.
This vegan shells and cheese recipe, though? Makes it allll okay.
I’ve already dreamed up one vegan mac and cheese recipe – another stovetop recipe made with butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and coconut milk. I adore that recipe, but I needed another one for when 1) it’s not fall or winter and 2) I haven’t been to the grocery store in awhile.
This vegan shells and cheese recipe might just be my new favorite pantry recipe – made with items I almost always already have on hand – cashews, spices, lemon, garlic, pasta.
It’s not only ridiculously creamy, it’s ridiculously easy to make. Seriously – soak your cashews, cook up your pasta, blend up your sauce, drain your pasta, mix it all together, devour happily. We’re talking dinner on the table in 20 minutes tops.
I first discovered the joy of cashew-based vegan mac and cheese when I tried this recipe from Detoxinista. SO GOOD. I started with that and tweaked from there, changing the pasta/sauce ratio up (less pasta, more sauce) and adjusting the flavorings a tad.
I have to admit, when I first tried the original recipe, I tilted my head a bit at the addition of chili powder. But I’ve tried it without, and you know what? It’s just not the same. Chili powder just gives it that YES factor. In other words, just do it.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: We don’t need no stinkin’ dairy, my friends. This, right here, is the ultimate shells and cheese recipe, vegan or not.
Ridiculously Creamy Vegan Shells & Cheese
- 1 cup raw (unsalted cashews)
- 8 ounces small pasta shells (can substitute another pasta like good ol' macaroni)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/2 medium clove garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt + more to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black + more to taste
- 1/2 cup water
- Finely chopped fresh parsley (for garnish; optional)
- First soak your cashews using either the cold water (slower) method or the hot water (faster) method. Place cashews in a medium bowl or jar and pour 3 cups water over the top. If using cool water, they'll need to soak at room temperature for at least 2 hours (up to 24 hours). Alternately, you can pour 3 cups boiling water over the top, and then they'll only need to soak for about 15 minutes.
- Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. Add several pinches of salt to the water then add the pasta. Stir and cook according to package directions.
- While the pasta is cooking, whip up the sauce. To the pitcher of a high-powered blender, add the soaked cashews, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, mustard, chili powder, turmeric, one teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, and water. Blend on high until completely smooth. The sauce should be thick, but a pourable consistency. If it's is too thick, add another tablespoon or two of water and blend again until it can be poured.
- Drain the cooked pasta and return to the pan (off the heat). Pour the sauce over the pasta. Gently stir with a wooden spoon until the pasta is completely coated with the sauce.
- Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Scoop into bowls or onto plates and garnish with a bit of chopped parsley if you wish. Serve and devour!