Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese
I loved Mac and Cheese as a kid. It’s for sure a comfort meal, one that brings me back to my childhood. I have vivid memories of summer lunches where Mac and Cheese was a staple part of the meal. You can find boxed vegan Mac and Cheese these days- something that wasn’t widely available when I went vegan (about 8 years ago). I much prefer a homemade Mac and Cheese. One where I get to pick all the ingredients and add my own flare.
One of my original Mac and Cheese recipes is made with a base of cashews. The cashews when blended are extremely creamy and when you cook cashews it has a cheese- like texture. That’s often why you’ll find them used as a substitute for creamy recipes, desserts, sauces, and more. Cashews are so versatile and a main stable in my kitchen. However, I wanted to create a nut-free version of a Mac and Cheese recipe that is just as good! Enter the sweet potato and tahini combo. Tahini is ground up sesame seeds (similar consistency as almond or peanut butter) and helps add some healthy fats to the meal. Sweet potatoes are very creamy option when blended. They are great for sauces and even add a bright orange color for this Mac and Cheese recipe. Given that sweet potatoes are slightly sweet, this will have a bit more of a sweet texture than perhaps other Mac and Cheese recipes you may have had before. I love this recipe, though, and so do the crew of my taste testers.
A few notes before you get started:
SWEET POTATOES: I have not tried this recipe with Japanese sweet potatoes (though that sounds amazing) or pumpkin/ squash- feel free to test it out! If I do try any of those variations, I will be sure to update the results here.
PASTA: I love using bean noodles. One of my favorite brands is Tolerant (not sponsored) because the noodles hold up so well in liquids. Some bean pasta noodles really struggle with being in sauce for an extended period of time. If you know this to be true of your pasta, you could keep it on the side and add it when serving (especially if you know you’ll have leftovers).
VEGGIES: Feel free to mix and match the veggies with your favorites. I love kale and broccoli because they are packed with calcium, something that vegans should be more mindful of in their diet.
TAHINI: If you want to use a nut butter in place of the tahini. Almond or cashew butter should work just fine. Peanut butter would not be a good option. You could try omitting it too (You may need to adjust the water ratio slightly), I have not done it before- but plenty of people have sweet potato Mac and cheese recipes out there that don’t use a nut or seed butter.
SEASONINGS: Feel free to use spices of your choice! Add some crushed red pepper or your favorite seasoning blends. I love the smoked paprika in this for a little smokey taste.
2 cups diced, cooked orange sweet potatoes (about 1½ cups mashed)
1½ cups water, add ¼ cup more if needed
2 tablespoons tahini
½ cup nutritional yeast
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon salt-free chili powder
1 tablespoon white miso paste
Black pepper, to taste
8 oz package of bean or whole grain pasta
1 cup chopped onion
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika, or to taste (optional)
2-4 cups chopped broccoli
1 cup diced tomatoes or zucchini
2-4 cups chopped kale
If the sweet potato is not already cooked, steam or roast the potato until soft.
Prepare the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a high speed blender. Blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add an additional ¼ cup of water until the sauce reaches desired consistency. Set the sauce aside.
Prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package.
In a large skillet, sauté the onions with 2-3 tablespoons of water. Add the garlic powder and paprika. Cook for a minute or two until the onions start to soften. Add the broccoli. If using zucchini, add the zucchini too. Cook until the veggies start to soften. Add the kale. If using tomatoes, add the tomatoes with the kale. Cook until the kale wilts down. Cook the veggies until they reach desired texture.
Add the pasta to the skillet with the veggies. Pour on the sauce, you may not need it all- so just add as much as desired. Cook the dish for a few minutes to heat the sauce.
Serve and enjoy! Any leftover pasta sauce can be saved in the freezer for the future or used as a dip for veggies.