These are the best things I’ve ever made or eaten. After spotting fried mac and cheese bites in the frozen section of Trader Joe’s last week, I’ve had this internal battle about veganizing it myself at home. I’ve made vegan mac and cheese before and I certainly know how to deep fry, but does that mean I should combine those two things together in one dish? Probably not, but I did anyway.
After eating a few of these, I slipped into a wonderful fried food coma. This mac and cheese has the perfect amount of richness with just a hint of acidity from the coconut vinegar, which gives it an overall authentic cheesy (with no trace of coconut) flavor. The texture is gooey and silky, and it’s all perfectly encased in a crispy panko shell. With a tiny tap, they kind of break open and ooze immediately. The large batch you make can also be frozen after they are fried, and then simply refried again (let them defrost for 10-15 minutes first) in smaller batches, with perfect results.
If you don’t want to fry, you can also bake this. Just let the mac and cheese cool completely in the refrigerator, then transfer to a greased cast iron skillet and bake at 350 until warmed through. Top with a generous amount of panko breadcrumbs during the last 10 minutes of baking or until a nice golden color is achieved.
One can of full-fat coconut milk
1 tsp coconut vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp agar powder
a few dashes of white pepper
1 TB tapioca flour dissolved in 1 TB water
2 TB nooch
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tsp Ener-G, whisked with 5 TB water
3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp salt
plenty of canola oil for frying
Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions.
While the pasta is boiling, place the coconut milk into a separate small saucepan and whisk over medium heat. Add in the coconut vinegar, salt, agar powder and white pepper. Whisk briskly until it comes to a small boil. Remove from the heat and add in the tapioca flour/water mixture and the nooch. Whisk until well combined.
When your macaroni is ready, use a skimmer to transfer the pasta to the cheese mixture. Stir well and place the entire pot into the freezer for about 45 minutes. Stir it occasionally and, if it gets too thick or cold, remove it from the freezer.
Spray a large pyrex glass dish with a little cooking spray. Shape the cold macaroni and cheese into golfball-sized bites and place them into the glassware. Then return it to the freezer for about an hour and a half.
When you are ready to fry, place plenty of canola oil into a small saucepan over medium high heat. After about seven minutes, insert a wooden spoon into the bottom of the pan. If bubbles form around the spoon immediately, you are ready to fry.
Remove the macaroni from the freezer. Set up a shallow bowl with the Ener-G/water mixture. In another shallow bowl, mix together the panko, cornstarch and salt.
Dip the macaroni bites first into the Ener-G, then coat in the panko mixture. Slowly slide it into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Only fry 2-3 bites at a time. Overcrowding the oil with cold items will reduce the oil’s temperature and you’ll be left with soggy and oily macaroni.
Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to drain. Sprinkle immediately with a little salt. Serve immediately.