Smoky Black Bean Mac n Cheese

Ok, so I know I just recently posted a mac n cheese recipe, but about a week after posting it I came up with ANOTHER mac n cheese recipe, and it is just too good to not share!  And somehow I doubt that any of you will mind adding another mac n cheese recipe to your vegan arsenal.

I decided to experiment with a new mac n cheese recipe after discovering Miyoko’s Fresh VeganMozz.  Miyoko’s is a brand of artisanal vegan cheese.  Their cheeses are so good, and so artfully crafted.  While shopping at a local health food store recently, I noticed the VeganMozz.  When I was younger, every once and awhile I would buy a ball of fresh mozzarella and eat it like an apple.  (I cringe at the thought of  that now!)  When I saw Miyoko’s Fresh VeganMozz, I knew I had to try it.

I unfortunately did not get a good picture of the actual cheese itself, but believe me when I tell you that it looks exactly like dairy mozzarella!  The consistency is softer, almost spreadable.  The flavor is pretty good.  Like many nondairy cheeses, it has a slight sweetness to it that I could do without.  It is very yummy, though.  Typically, fresh mozzarella would be used for things like pizza, caprese salad, or other dishes where it can be served in chunks.  However, of course my mind went to mac n cheese.

The sauce in this recipe is super cheesy!  When I first taste tested it, I immediately thought of Cheez-its – that sharp, salty, cheesy flavor – and moments of my childhood flashed before my eyes.  Many vegan cheese recipes call for lemon juice to add a sharp tangy flavor.  I have never liked this method, as I feel that it makes the cheese taste fruity.  So what gives dairy cheese its sharp and tangy flavor?  Two things – salt, and fermentation.  Cheese is fermented breast milk.  Yup.  Gross.  I know.  But you know what else is salty and fermented?  Sauerkraut!  You will see many recipes on this website containing ingredients relating to fermented foods.  I make a lot fermented foods at home, and have found them to often be the key ingredients in delicious recipes!  I have also found that olive brine is a wonderful ingredient in vegan cheese recipes.  The smoky beans used here are great on there own, too!

Smoky Black Bean Mac n Cheese
Serves 5
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  1. 16 oz small shaped pasta (mini penne, mini shells, etc.)
  2. 1 medium tomato
  3. 1-2 TBS finely chopped jalapenos (or more to taste)
For the beans
  1. 2 cups black beans (slightly less than 2 cans, about 3/4 cups dried)
  2. 1 tsp soy sauce
  3. 1/2 tsp onion powder
  4. 1/8 tsp salt
  5. pinch cayenne
  6. 1-3 drops liquid smoke
For the cheese sauce
  1. 1 1/2 cups water
  2. 1/2 – 3/4 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight if not using a high speed blender)
  3. 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  4. 1/2 cup sauerkraut (store bought or homemade)
  5. 4 TBS olive brine
  6. 1 TBS soy sauce
  7. 2 tsp onion powder
  8. 1/4 tsp garlic granules (garlic powder will work, too)
  9. 1/2 tsp mustard (any kind will work)
  10. 1 (8 oz) package Miyoko’s fresh vegan mozz, cut into small pieces
  11. 2 TBS earth balance margarine
  12. 4 TBS all purpose flour
  13. 1/2 cup unsweetened non dairy milk
For the breadcrumb topping
  1. 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  2. 2 TBS oil
  3. Optional but highly recommended – healthy pinch each Spanish paprika and smoked salt, if you've got it!
  1. Combine everything for the beans and set aside. You can make this a day in advance to let the flavors marinate, but it is not necessary.
  2. Cook the pasta according to package directions. When done, pour into a large casserole dish (mine is 14″ x 9.5″). Preheat the oven to broil.
  3. In a blender, combine everything under cheese sauce except for earth balance, flour, and milk; blend until smooth. In a medium saucepan, melt earth balance over medium heat. Whisk in flour and stir continuously for about a minute. Slowly stir in blender contents, whisking to combine. Bring sauce to a light boil, stirring frequently to prevent burning, for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in milk.
  4. Stir the black beans, tomatoes, and jalapeno into the pasta. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir to combine.
  5. Combine the panko, oil, smoked salt, and Spanish paprika in a small bowl. Stir until panko is well coated. Sprinkle the panko over the top of the pasta.
  6. Place casserole dish in the oven and broil for about 2 minutes, until golden brown (watch closely!) Serve immediately.
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