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vegan mac and cheese daiya
Photo: themarmot on Flickr

Between my dog and myself, we have a host of dietary hurdles to overcome. He can’t digest protein or citrus; I can’t have gluten or dairy. We’re a hot mess, he and I, yet we make it work. I diligently make him banana and potato biscuits every week, and for myself, I indulge in the most verboten dish of all for the lactose and gluten-averse: mac ‘n cheese.

I like this recipe for a lot of reasons. It’s super easy, fast, cheap, and allows for endless customization. But best of all, it reminds me of the blue-box version my mom used to make when I was young. We all know this box. Delicious when you’re age 8, but tastes more like chalky nostalgia in your 20s.

The process is exactly the same for this recipe, only I’ve substituted high quality, diet-friendly ingredients for stuff in the box. The starchy pasta water helps everything bind together without the need for milk. I can usually tolerate a small amount of butter without my body staging a coup d’etat, but if your dietary sensitivities are more severe, a substitute like Earth Balance works fine. I like using Daiya vegan cheese and use a combination of 60:40 cheddar to mozzarella to add a clingy thickness to the sauce, plus gluten-free noodles, but the recipe is essentially a template. Modify however you see fit — regular pasta, different varieties of vegan cheese, add blanched peas or sautéed kale…the world is yours.