Perhaps one of your favorite meals growing up was a plate of frozen Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese, which Mom used to heat up. It was a typical staple in the American diet, but unfortunately, it also helped contribute the unhealthiness of the Standard American Diet. This plant-based macaroni and cheese, however, might make the child in you just as happy as if you were eating mom’s good old fashioned recipe!
Cooking with Cashews
Cashews are used in this recipe because they are high in fats and so they produce a creamy texture, as well as having a nice flavor and mildly sweet taste (which reproduces somewhat the slight sweetness of some dairy cheeses due to the presence of lactose).
This sauce gets its signature “cheesy” flavor from a combination of nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt. Nutritional yeast, also sometimes called “nooch,” is a deactivated yeast. Just one tablespoon of nutrition yeast can contain up to 38 mg of niacin, which is involved in your body’s metabolism and enzyme function.
Cashews are low in sugar and rich in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They're also a good source of copper, magnesium, and manganese — nutrients important for energy production, brain health, immunity, and bone health.
Cashews can be found at most major grocery stores. They are sold in bags or in bulk bins. Depending on the store, there may be salted, unsalted, or even flavored or chocolate-covered varieties.
When purchasing from bulk bins, make sure the cashews are covered, and that the store has good product turnover to maintain freshness. You will find packaged cashews in a variety of containers: resealable and non-resealable bags, plastic jars, and foil-lined cans. When buying packaged cashews, choose vacuum-packed jars or cans over cellophane packaging. This type of packaging will help them stay fresh longer.
Check to make sure there is no evidence of moisture or insects. Look to see that the cashews are not shriveled; this is a sign that they are past their prime. If possible, smell the cashews to ensure they are not rancid. When shopping for cashews, you may also see them described as "cashew kernels," which is the same as the cashew nut.
How to Store Raw Cashews?
Cashews should be kept in an airtight container. They can spoil at room temperature. Refrigerated they can last up to six months and in the freezer, they can last up to one year.
Macaroni Not Cheese
1 onion, chopped
1 cup cashews
⅓ cup lemon juice
1 ⅓ cups water
½ teaspoon sea salt
4 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
16 ounces whole grain elbow pasta, cooked
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sauté onion on medium heat in a nonstick skillet with a little water or low sodium vegetable broth for 5 minutes, until translucent.
In a food processor, combine the onion, cashews, lemon juice, water and salt. Gradually blend in the roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and onion powder. Thoroughly toss the sauce with the pasta.
Place mixture into a 9” x 13” pan and bake for 20 minutes, uncovered, until golden brown on top.