Hi Vegetarian Carnivores! Root vegetables have been in full swing for a while and we keep exploring new and flavorful ways to explore them. But what if we stuck ourselves back into the basics? What if we took on the challenge of completely reinventing a classic dish with a whole new flavor profile? And what if that classic dish was macaroni and cheese? If you Google “mac and cheese” you get literally a bajillion recipes by everyone ranging from seasoned chefs with their own cooking channels, to the common man microwaving cooked macaroni with Kraft cheese. At the risk of sounding cliche, I did not want this recipe to just fall into that noise. I wanted to create something that completely reimagined the flavor profile of mac and cheese, while still maintaining that ooey gooey consistency that we all crave. After a lot of thought and consideration, I developed this best ever vegan sweet potato mac and cheese recipe.
Why you’ll love this sweet potato mac and cheese
Have you ever had a mac and cheese that was one dimensional? Something that checks off just one box: creaminess. I know I have, and I have made mac and cheese like that before. This time around, I wanted to introduce more than just a creaminess, which, to be honest, gets really boring really fast.
This recipe combines everything you love about traditional mac and cheese (think: super rich, creamy, and savory) with a hint of sweetness from the sweet potato, and a spice kick from chipotle peppers/adobo sauce. There are so many complimentary flavors that keep the taste exciting throughout the entire bowl. The flavor profile develops as you layer in the roasted caramelized sweet potato, nutritional yeast, and chipotle peppers. The sweetness in the sweet potato is balanced out by the cheesiness in the nutritional yeast. And that caramelized and cheesy flavor is further developed by layering on the spice profile.
My cousins and nieces absolutely devoured it during Thanksgiving. You can be sure your family will thank you when you make it for Christmas (or really any other time of year, quite honestly).
How to make sweet potato mac and cheese
This recipe can be made with either store bought canned sweet potato puree, or homemade puree. I do prefer roasting the sweet potatoes at home, but it does take an hour to roast. I like roasting it at home because I feel like the sugars really develop and caramelize in my oven. While it is time consuming, the process is simple. Just roast the sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 1 hour. When an hour is up, take them out and immediately wrap them in aluminum foil. This process is called sweating, and the point is to help the skins peel off easily. But honestly, if you don’t have an hour to do this and need to get dinner on the table quickly, just use canned- there is something to be said for the convenience.
Once your puree is ready, you can start by making a simple roux and bechamel sauce. Then add in your nutritional yeast and sweet potato puree. Mix until well combined. I added some vegan cheddar here, but that is totally optional. Let it simmer for 5 minutes before adding in the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. If the mixture gets dehydrated add in some water to loosen it up, or cover the pan to prevent moisture loss. Let it simmer with the chipotle peppers for 5 more minutes to develop the flavors and fully incorporate it into the dish. Note: chipotle peppers are spicy. If you are sensitive to spice, I recommend just using some adobo sauce to get the flavor through without burning a hole in your mouth.
We want a seamless flavor transition- not a “one bite of sweet potato, and then one bite of peppers” kind of experience. Lastly, we are going to blitz the mixture in a blender to get a uniform consistency and get that chipotle pepper incorporated. Important: if your blender cannot handle hot liquids, you must wait for your sauce to cool down. Else, you may blow the top off your blender and end up with cheese sauce all over your ceiling. I used a Vitamix, so I was able to blend it hot. Use your judgement.
- 4 tbsp vegan butter
- 2 cups plant milk
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup sweet potato puree (equivalent to 2 small sweet potatoes)
- 1 chipotle chili
- 1 tsp adobo sauce (from the chipotle chili)
- 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar, optional
- Parsley, to garnish
- If using canned sweet potato, skip to step 2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and place sweet potatoes. Dry roast them for one hour at 400 degrees. When they are done, take them out and immediately cover them with aluminum foil. Let sit for 10 minutes. The skins should peel off easily now. Measure out 1 cup and set aside.
- In a skillet over medium high heat, melt vegan butter and add in flour. Whisk will until well combined. Keep whisking for a couple minutes until the mixture has turned a golden brown color.
- While continually whisking, add in plant milk until well combined. Keep whisking until the mixture has thickened slightly. It should be just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- Add in salt and garlic powder and keep whisking.
- Add in vegan cheddar, if using, and whisk until completely melted.
- Add in nutritional yeast and sweet potato puree. Whisk until combined and let simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add in chipotle peppers and adobo sauce and whisk. Let it simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to a blender, taking care to make sure you can blend the temperature. Blitz until you reach a uniform, smooth texture.
- Pour over cooked pasta in an oven safe baking dish.
- Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
- Garnish with parsley and serve.