The idea for French Onion Mac n Cheese is based on a recipe that I saw on New York Times Cooking. I love browsing NYT Cooking for inspiration, and when I saw the headline for French Onion Mac n Cheese, I pretty much instantly became obsessed with how to make that same thing plant-based.
Luckily, caramelized onions are among the most flavorful and easily-vegan ingredients in any recipe, and vegan cheese is one of the most advanced replicas being made right now. The cheese sauce for this mac ‘n’ cheese is mouth-watering, and tasted better than it looks with the inclusion of a bit of red cooking wine.
French Onion Soup and Mac n Cheese are two of my very favorite old school comfort foods, and so the idea of having those two flavors together really made my nostalgia flare up. I have to say, I was not disappointed.
Violife is really what makes this recipe possible– as a person who is in no way affiliated with them, I will openly say that they easily make the best vegan cheese I’ve ever had. The texture, flavor and melt-ability are all completely on-point to mimic animal-based cheese. Seriously, non-vegan cheese should just be obsolete now.
While the idea is complex, the execution is actually pretty simple. You need to set aside some time to caramelize your onions slow-n-low style, and also to allow the final product to bake– but both of those are relatively hands-off, so time is all you need.
Making caramelized onions is a pretty tedious process, but one that always pays off. Cooking the onions slow-n-low style extracts so much sweetness from the onions, and the flavor it extracts is unbeatable and rich. Also, the thyme and white wine vinegar that used while cooking brings out some of that classic french onion flavor.
Vegan French Onion Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Valencia Onions, sliced – 3 indv.
Thyme, fresh – 2 sprigs
Bay Leaf – 1 indv.
White Wine Vinegar
Red Cooking Wine
Violife Epic Mature Cheddar Block
Violife Just Like Mozzarella Shreds
Large Bread Crumbs or Crustini
- First, thin-slice both of your onions, if you haven’t yet.
- Toss those onions into a large saute pan along with a few tablespoons of plant-based butter, thyme sprigs, bay leaf and a bit of salt. Turn the heat to medium-low, and stir occasionally as the butter melts. Keep your eye on the onions, and stir once in a while until fully browned & caramelized– about 30-45 minutes. Once the onions are done, stir in 2 tsp of white wine vinegar, and then remove from heat. Make sure to take out those thyme sprigs and bay leaf!
- Preheat your oven to 375F at this point, once your onions are almost done.
- While your onions are cooking, or once they’re done, boil water and cook the shell pasta. Make sure to salt your water, and cook the noodles until just a bit al dente, since they’ll still bake a bit later. Shock, toss with a little oil, and set aside.
- Take out a cheese or vegetable shredder, and quickly shred the block of Violife cheddar into a large bowl or onto your cutting board.
- Get out a large nonstick skillet, and place on medium-low heat. Lightly melt down all of the shredded Violife Cheddar, as well as Violife mozzarella. You’ll want to do this slowly, by adding a handful of plant-based cheese at a time, and stir constantly. Also include about ½ tblsp of vegan butter to aid the melting, as needed. Feel free to turn up the heat slightly to speed it up, if you’re feeling confident.
- Once the cheese gets to be pretty saucy, incorporate in a few splashes of cooking red wine; as well as kosher salt, black pepper and garlic powder, to taste. Once seasoned, fold in about ¼ of the batch of carmelized onions.
- You’re almost done! In a large mixing bowl, fold all of the cheese sauce and pasta shells together. Then, grab a deep baking dish and line the bottom with all of your caramelized onions.
- Now, on top of the layer of onions, simply evenly distribute all of the cheesy shells until it fills the dish to the edges.
- Top with bread crumbs, season slightly with salt, and cover tightly with foil.
- Place in oven, and bake for about 40 minutes– or until aromatic and golden.
- Allow to cool for at least five minutes before serving, and enjoy!
Thanks for reading!
~ Chef G.