I've been getting some questions about nutritional yeast, which is a big component of this recipe, so I want to take this opportunity to give a bit of info about it.
So what the heck is nutritional yeast? When I first started cooking vegan recipes, I would usually skim over nutritional yeast when I saw it on ingredient lists thinking A) it's probably not that important to the flavor of the dish so it won't matter if I leave it out and B) I'm never going to be able to find it anyway. Everyone who gets into vegan cooking encounters nutritional yeast at some point and asks themselves, "What is it?" "Why should I use it?" "Where can I find it?" "Why should I love it?"
Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast meaning that it doesn't grow like baking yeast and has no leavening ability. It comes in the form of either flakes or powder and is an excellent source of B vitamins, which help you extract energy from food. Some brands, including the one linked to below, provide a day's worth of B vitamins. Nutritional yeast is also a complete protein, good source of fiber, and low in calories. Although it doesn't have the most appetizing name, nutritional yeast has a deliciously nutty, cheesy flavor that makes it a very popular ingredient. One of the most common times I find myself reaching for it is to sprinkle on top of popcorn.
So it turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong about both my assumptions. Nutritional yeast is super important and adds so much flavor, that's why I list it as one of my all time favorite ingredients here. It's also really easy to find since it's always stocked at Whole Foods and is available in bulk on Amazon (this is the one I buy).
So hopefully that clears up what nutritional yeast is and feel free to leave any questions in the comments. Nutritional yeast is a staple in my kitchen and has already appeared in several of my recipes including this one, this one, and this one. Once you try it, I know you'll love it and a great place to start is with this baked mac and cheese.
Ingredients (serves 6):
- 1 lb pasta shells
- 2 tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan butter)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups low fat coconut milk
- 2 cups vegan Daiya cheddar cheese (found at Whole Foods)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. While pasta is cooking, heat Earth Balance in a large pot over medium heat until melted. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add coconut milk to pot and cook on medium high until simmering. Reduce heat to low and stir in Daiya cheddar cheese and nutritional yeast. Heat stirring continuously until the cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Add cooked pasta to the cheese sauce and stir to coat. Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes finishing under the broiler if the breadcrumbs haven't yet become golden brown.