Sometimes, you just want to travel back to your childhood and prepare one of those “comfort meals” that you nostalgically remember from your youth… and sometimes, you’re inspired by a kick-ass recipe that you find from another vegan food blogger online. And that’s how this vegan chili mac recipe was born!

My vegan chili mac is the lovechild of me and Lauren Toyota (even though she doesn’t know it) – the mastermind behind Hot For Food. I had heard whisperings in the vegan community for years that her infamous nacho cheese recipe was hands-down the best out there. But I had actually never tried it for myself.

Lauren’s recipe actually has the same base that many fake “cheese” sauce recipes out there have: boiled potatoes and carrots. It’s a great foundation to start with… but boiled veggies and some nooch and some salt won’t create a realistic nacho cheese sauce on its own.

Having tried Lauren’s recipe a few times, I know now that there are a few key ingredients that make her nacho cheese stand out amongst the rest: a bit of tomato paste, sliced pickled jalapeños, and juice from the pickled jalapeño jar. It creates the perfect tangy + spicy combination that sends your brain and your tastebuds soaring back to that old movie theater-style nacho cheese sauce that we all know and love.

If you’re pressed for time, you can even make Lauren’s nacho cheese sauce the night before and store it in the fridge ’til you’re ready to mix everything together.

And of course, no vegan chili mac recipe would be without ground “beef” crumbles! I’ve tried a lot of brands out there – from Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Ground to MorningStar Farms’ Grillers Crumbles (which, unlike many MorningStar Farms products, is actually vegan!) – but for this particular recipe, I used what I had on-hand: Boca’s Original Veggie Crumbles.

Honestly, just use what you like. I think Gardein has the best flavor/texture combo… but all of the brands mentioned above get my stamp of approval. We simply had stockpiled on frozen Boca products a few months ago when they were on the Ibotta app, so it was the most convenient one to use.

Once your crumbles and your pasta have been cooked, simply mix everything together and voila! Delicious, flavorful, comforting vegan chili mac.

Vegan Chili Mac

Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4

Hot for Food Nacho Cheese Ingredients (slightly varied):

  • 1 c. white potatoes, cubed (I leave the skins on for extra nutrients)
  • 1/2 c. carrots, sliced
  • 1/4 c. vegetable oil of choice (I used avocado oil)
  • 1/4 c. nondairy milk (I used almond milk)
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 6 pickled jalapeno slices
  • 3 tbsp. jalapeno pickling liquid
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt

Other Chili Mac Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni, cooked
  • 10-12 oz. vegan crumbles of choice (I used Boca), cooked

Instructions:

  1. Before preparing your nacho cheese sauce, cook your elbow macaroni (drain and set aside) and your vegan crumbles (brown in a skillet, then set aside).
  2. To prepare your nacho cheese sauce, boil the potatoes and carrots in pot of water for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain your veggies from the boiling water and add to a high-powered blender immediately.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the blender and combine until smooth. 
  5. Combine your nacho cheese sauce with your macaroni and crumbles. Stir until well incorporated. Serve, and enjoy!