A video has popped up several times on my Facebook feed for a vegan mac n’ cheese, depicting a “cheesy vortex” created from mixing raw cashews with water that has been boiled with potatoes, carrots and onion. I was intrigued enough to consider trying the recipe but had the inspiration to add some pumpkin as part of my seasonal creations to feature in my yearly “Pumpkin Palooza” newsletter. I also felt that it would need a bit of nutritional yeast to give a true cheesy flavor so I tweaked the recipe, as below.
I used 1/4 cup fresh pumpkin (not the sugar variety!) but this can probably be made with a couple tablespoons of canned pureed pumpkin instead. It is rather hard to cut through a pumpkin and you also have to remove the skin; For that reason, I generally buy chunks of carved pumpkin (see photo below) from either the Asian market or the Indian market. I find so many wonderful treasures at those two stores, which happen to be across the street from each other in the University of South Florida area of Tampa, about 20 minutes from my home.
You can use any brand of macaroni that you prefer; To make it gluten-free either a brown rice or quinoa would be good. Below is a photo of all of the ingredients I used, minus the spices. I used paprika in the photo but in my serving I sprinkled Harissa to give it more of a kick. If I had any truffle salt or oil on hand, I think that this would have been the crowning glory to a decent-tasting bowl of faux mac n’cheese. In order to get a savory rather than sweet finish, add additional nutritional yeast. Note: The brand name of Tree of Life has been rebranded recently to “Cadia” so you might still find some in the old packaging/branding.
Pumpkin Mac N’Cheeze
This makes a large, family-sized meal with many portions so adjust accordingly or freeze the leftovers.*
1 bag macaroni (I used Cadia’s Brown Rice)
1 regular white potato or 2 yukon gold
1 large carrot (or 4-5 carrot chunks)
1/2 white onion
1/4 cup fresh pumpkin, peeled – cut into chunks, but not too small*
3 cups filtered water (for boiling the vegetables) – you will also need water for boiling the macaroni separately
1 cup raw cashew pieces
1/4 cup of nutritional yeast (plus extra for flavoring or sprinkling)
1-2 cloves garlic or 1 TB. garlic powder (I used a TB of Kyolic aged garlic liquid)
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1-2 TB. sea or Himalayan salt
Optional: paprika, Harissa or black truffle salt/oil for topping
*replace with 1-2 TB. canned pumpkin puree
Directions: Boil macaroni according to package instructions, drain and put some ice to cool and keep from becoming too soft. With the 3 cups of filtered water boil the potatoes (cut into large chunks) for about 7 minutes, add carrots, onion and pumpkin and boil until soft. About another 7-10 minutes, testing with fork. Retain 1 1/2 cups of the vegetable boil water. In a high-powered blenders add the cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic and spices and pour 1 cup of the boiling water and blend until smooth. Add the boiled vegetables and continue blending (adding extra water if needed but keep consistency thick and creamy). Taste and adjust seasonings.
Pour into serving bowls and top with paprika, harissa or truffle salt/oil. Have extra nutritional yeast on hand for sprinkling on the individual servings. Serve while hot!