I don’t know if making a cheese sauce from sweet potatoes is actually a thing in the vegan world, but it really should be. Yesterday I was in the kitchen making things up as I went along and discovered that cashews + sweet potatoes + spices makes the most insanely delicious cheese sauce that reminds me a lot of Velveta (who am I kidding, I’ve been vegan for a decade and have no idea what Velveta tastes or even looks like, but I imagine this is what Velveta is like!). It’s so creamy, cheesy, and the perfect orange color. My favorite part, though, is how healthy and unprocessed it is – the #1 ingredient is nutrient-packed sweet potatoes, with some nuts, spices, and almond milk.
I could think of a million ways to use this sauce (nachos come to mind!), but the reason I developed it in the first place was for baked mac and cheese and it really shines here… slather it onto some cooked macaroni with peas and bake until golden on top for something pretty ridiculous:
Makes: 4 servings
- 3 cups diced orange sweet potatoes
- 1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 16 oz whole wheat macaroni
- 2 cups green peas
- Parsley, for garnish
- Blended cashew topping (below)
Prep 1: Soak the cashews in fresh water for 1+ hour to soften before blending
Prep 2: Preheat the oven to 350º F
1. Boil the Potatoes
Peel and dice about 3 cups of sweet potatoes (they’ll be blended eventually so don’t worry about making them look nice) and drop them into boiling water for at least 15 minutes until very tender.
2. Cook the Pasta
Boil a pot of water and cook the macaroni according to package instructions while you…
3. Blend the Sauce
Drain the sweet potatoes and add them to a blender. Drain the cashews and add them to the blender as well. Then add in the: almond milk, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend on high until completely smooth. If it’s too thick, add a few tablespoons of water at a time. Give it a taste and maybe boost the spices, salt, or lemon juice if needed.
If you’re using frozen peas or other veggies, throw them in with the boiling pasta when it’s 95% done just to let them blanch for 1-2 minutes, then drain the pasta + peas through a colander. Return to the pot, pour in the amazing cheese sauce and stir to coat.
Tip: It may seem like you have way more sauce than pasta, but I would be very generous with the sauce. It will dry out as it bakes so make sure the pasta is thoroughly coated. And if you still have extra, save it for nachos 🙂
Transfer the mixture to a dutch oven or similar baking dish. At this point I’d recommend sprinkling on some crumbled cashews to act as a parmesan cheese-like topping. To make that, simply pulverize a few tablespoons of grated cashews with a pinch of salt until finely blended. Sprinkle that on top, then pop the whole thing in the oven (covered) and bake at 350º for about 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and more grated cashews.