Macaroni and cheese – it’s the ultimate comfort food, areweright? But when you just get home from work and want something tasty and quick, or when the kids are yelling that they are hungry, or that they want mac and cheese, who wants to take the time to “whip up” a vegan cheese sauce?
Well now you don’t have to, you can make it ahead of time, and have handy sticks of cheese sauce in the fridge waiting for you! And if you have an Instant Pot, you can throw your macaroni in there (don’t know how? We’ll include that information here!), and have homemade gluten-free, vegan mac and cheese in a jiffy!
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Stick of Cheese Sauce from the Fridge
This is actually a repurposing of our easy, sliceable homemade vegan cheese recipe, but when we discovered this alternate use for it, we felt it deserved it’s very own space.
Here’s the bottom line: if you have some of these sticks of cheese stashed away in your fridge, all you have to do is melt one or two down (depending on the amount of macaroni) in the microwave (in ours it takes just 30 seconds), and mix into your cooked macaroni and voila! Gluten-free, vegan mac and cheese (assuming you are using gluten-free macaroni, otherwise it’s just vegan mac and cheese)!
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And now back to our recipe!
Is it fast? Yes. Is it easy? So easy! Is it tasty? Yes! Is it gourmet? No, but it’s easier, faster, and better than that boxed mac and cheese with the orange powder! In fact waaaay better!
So here we go!
Make Ahead Vegan Cheese Sauce for Macaroni and Cheese (and Other Uses)
1 can (13.5 ounces) full-fat unsweetened coconut milk – we use the Thai Kitchen coconut milk from Costco, it’s organic, and at about $10 for six cans it’s a good price!
1/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons agar powder (if you instead have agar flakes, we have seen recommendations of using 3 parts flakes for every 1 part powder, so 3 tablespoons agar flakes would equal one tablespoon of powder, meaning that in this recipe you would use 6 tablespoons of flakes)
1 teaspoon white or rice wine vinegar (use apple cider vinegar if doing AIP)
4 Tablespoons nutritional yeast (depending on how strong a cheese flavor you want)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place everything but the agar in a medium saucepan, and whisk until fully mixed. Then mix in the agar, and turn the stove on to medium.
Whisking constantly, bring mixture to a low boil, then turn to low heat so the mixture just simmers, and continue whisking for five minutes.
Remove from heat, and pour into your mold. Using the butter stick mold is ideal because you know exactly how much each stick of cheese sauce contains (1/2 cup), but if you don’t have a butter stick mold, you can really use anything. (You can get the butter stick mold that we use here; we also use it for our homemade vegan butter.) In fact, small glass canning jars are also good because you can take them from the fridge, and stick them right in the microwave to melt your cheese sauce.
Remove however much cheese sauce you want from the fridge (the amount will depend on how much macaroni you have cooked, and how saucy you like your macaroni and cheese), put in a microwave-safe dish, and heat on high for 30 seconds. You want it to just melt, if 30 seconds doesn’t do it, then add 10 seconds at a time.
NOTE: this does not melt like regular cheese, it will be much more liquid, but it does stir into your macaroni and turn it into a lovely mac and cheese.
Melted Stick of Cheese
Stir the melted cheese sauce into your cooked macaroni.
If you have an Instant Pot here’s how to cook macaroni (or really any pasta) in an Instant Pot: Put the pasta in the bottom of the pot. Add enough water to just barely cover the pasta. Determine the regular cooking time provided on the package of pasta; if it’s an odd number, round down – if it’s a range (such as 7-9 minutes) choose the average. Now divide that number in half, and subtract 2. The resulting number is the amount of time in minutes that you want to cook your pasta at manual high pressure. It will usually be 1 or 2 minutes, although sometimes it will be 0 minutes (yes, that’s a thing, it cooks while coming to pressure). Let NPR for 5 minutes, and then quick release (be careful, if a lot of pasta goo starts sputtering out of the valve, close it up again for another 5 minutes and then QR it, although this will yield a mushier pasta).
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