I have so much I want to say about what went into creating this recipe. I have broken them up into sections so that if you do not want to read a ton of text before you get to the recipe, but some of my ideas and advice may be of interest to you, you will be more apt to read the pertinent ones.
First of all, this was an attempt to recreate and veganize this recipe that I was originally alerted to on Pinterest. I had been saving it for a long time, waiting for the right moment in time to do it, and I decided the other day to try.
I was recently doing poorly with my B-12 intake food-wise (I take a vegan B complex vitamin but typically also try to get enough from nutritional yeast added to my food as well. As vegans the food we eat does not naturally have this essential vitamin in it, so it is crucial that we take a supplement and/or eat fortified foods in order to be able to do the awesome work we vegans do for our health, animals, the environment, etc. Not doing so can cause many health issues, such as Anemia.) and my nutrient tracking showed me I needed to improve on that (I use sparkpeople.com to track my food and other health/wellness/goal related things). So I decided to make this, because I knew it’d have a lot of nutritional yeast in it, and it definitely does. It helps me meet that goal exceedingly well!
I also did not want to further bread with flour and breadcrumbs and then deep fry the mac and cheese buns for my recipe. If you want to, go ahead! But I feel this fits with more with what I wanted and that step is unnecessary. It is still sinfully delicious (albeit maybe a bit less crispy and might not stay together as well).
The calories (if that concerns you) can vary a lot. I definitely don’t recommend attempting to fry the mac and cheese buns if you are concerned about them. I used a calculator to determine and tweak the amount of servings and such, but it will vary a lot most likely for everyone depending on how big you choose to make the burgers, the mac and cheese buns, etc. The way I made it, though, It comes out to be approximately 465 calories.
Making it gluten free
It has the potential to be gluten free if you use certain substitutions. I think a whole grain gluten free elbow pasta would work fantastically, as I think it might lend itself to being a bit more thick and sticky which will be pretty helpful in the long run for getting the buns to stay together more. Use a gluten free flour instead of the whole wheat pastry flour that I used. I think the rest of the ingredients I used should be gluten free, but please make sure you check further with people more knowledgeable than I am about gluten free ingredients if making it for yourself or others who have sensitivities or allergies.
This recipe is really kid friendly (not just because of the taste!)
I had a lot of fun making this recipe, not just to create conceptually, but also to prepare. When I was setting up the mac and cheese buns, and making the burgers, I felt like a kid again. It is ooey and gooey in certain parts, you can use your hands a lot to touch slimy and fun textures, can make some funny noises, and get dirty. When I was a kid, these were all qualities that made me interested in helping my mom with cooking, as well as the characteristics of a task that made me want to do it (my earliest “culinary” experience involved me making “mud cookies,” putting them in my outdoors “oven” and then proceeding to convince my younger brother they were actually edible…) so you may really want to have your kids help at certain parts of the preparation! I would recommend having them help you especially while making the mac and cheese and laying it out in the pan, and also making the burger mix! Unless they’re much older, I would say that setting up the mac and cheese buns after they have set and need to be shaped into the buns will be much safer, and less frustrating and wasteful if an adult does that part. It takes a bit of finagling, craftiness, dexterity, and a lot of patience to do that part.
Some other helpful tips:
Do not make this at the last minute. You will need to make the macaroni and cheese at least the night before so it sits for awhile and sets really well in order for the buns to stay together. I probably let it sit in the fridge for more than 24 hours though.
Adjust the burger servings to the amount of buns you make. This may require making the burgers bigger or reducing the ingredients, or just plan to have lots of leftover burgers!
Making them into the buns requires a bit of patience and skill, don’t get frustrated, it will still taste just as delicious with falling apart buns or even just as a side to the burgers with some ketchup on it.
My non-vegan brother was a bit thrown off by the taste of the Mac ‘N Cheese. If this is something you want to make for someone who is not vegan, and is unfamiliar with vegan cheesy tastes, it may not go over so well. I thought it was delicious because I love vegan Mac ‘N Cheese, and I haven’t had real cheese in ages.
(Makes anywhere from 5-10 complete burgers, depending on how large you want to make the veggie burger piece, you will have leftovers. I made 18 veggie burgers for a small slider size and it worked really well. I recommend saving the leftovers, maybe even freezing them for later, and putting them in other types of buns, or doing this again! Or you could just half the recipe for the burgers…)
For the Mac ‘N Cheese (it’s great as a stand-a-lone or typical baked Mac ‘N Cheese if you want to eat it by itself and not make it into the buns!)
- 2 tbsp vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance)
- 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
- 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or substitute gluten free flour)
- 1 1/2 cups nutritional yeast
- 2 slices Daiya cheddar cheese (what I used) or 1/4 cup Daiya cheddar shreds
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/8 tsp turmeric
- 1 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
- 1 box elbow macaroni (you can substitute it with gluten free or whole wheat elbows if desired)
For the Burger sliders:
- 15 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup chopped kale
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp unflavored veggie-based protein powder (optional)
- 1 tbsp liquid smoke (if you can’t find a gluten free brand, maybe use extra smoked paprika and use gluten free tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead)
- 1 tbsp ketchup or chili sauce (the kind that’s sort of like ketchup, I used it and think it tastes a bit better than ketchup)
- 1 tbsp prepared yellow mustard
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (or regular if not available…I buy my smoked paprika at Trader Joe’s)
- 1 tsp salt-free italian herb blend
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- Salt, to taste (optional…I try to cook with no added salt lately)
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 cup whole wheat (or gluten free) bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- 1 tsp mustard seeds (can omit if necessary)
For the Mac ‘N Cheese buns:
- Prepare the elbow macaroni according to the directions on the package. Note: I would suggest you don’t drain it immediately, and let it sit a bit to get a bit stickier, but don’t wait horribly long. You can definitely start the cheese sauce while you are cooking the pasta, and then let it sit until you are almost done with the sauce.
- Prepare the cheese sauce by pouring the almond milk into a large sauce pan.
- Place the margarine into the pan, and turn the heat to medium.
- Stir somewhat frequently until the margarine is melted, and the almond milk is hot but not fully boiling.
- Add in the flour, and stir with a whisk until smooth.
- Stir the nutritional yeast until combined.
- Add the cheese, stir until melted.
- Continue to stir if possible, and fold in the salt, onion powder, paprika, turmeric, and mustard.
- Pour the drained elbow macaroni into the sauce, mix until every bit of pasta is completely covered.
- Spray a large casserole dish or baking sheet (it needs to have sides, though…) with a small amount of oil.
- Place the mac and cheese on top. If you are working with kids (see my note about kid friendliness up top) I would say it would be really fun to use your bare (clean) hands. But if you do not like making funny squishy noises and getting your hands really messy, then take a piece of plastic wrap that covers the pan completely, and squish down, making it as compact as you can.
- Place in the fridge to set, at least 6 hours, preferably overnight or longer.
- When set, preferably after you have cooked the burgers (see below for instructions), preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- There are several ways to make the bun shape. I used a drinking glass. But you could also use a biscuit cutter, or a ramekin, or whatever else you think may work like that.
- In my case with the drinking glass, I pressed the opening lip into the mac and cheese, wiggled it in a circular motion a bit, and pulled up. It might (and did for me) get stuck inside the glass (that is actually a good thing for the final product, I believe!) What I did to correct this is to take a knife and un-wedge the pasta circle by sliding the knife around the edge between the glass lip. Work slowly and carefully, and be ready to place it down onto another baking sheet sprayed with a small amount of oil before you get it unstuck.
- Repeat until you are out of Mac ‘N Cheese to make into buns. Or you can save some of it to eat on it’s own, along with the potential mangled reject mac buns which are very likely to end up existing.
- Place in the oven until crispy. This takes about 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your buns and also your oven.
For the slider burgers:
- Heat 2 teaspoons of oil along with the chopped veggies until soft, somewhere around 5 minutes in a large frying pan. Let sit for a bit to cool before placing into a food processor. Do not discard the pan as it will be used for cooking the burgers.
- In the food processor, blend the beans along with the condiments, spices (except for mustard seeds), and protein powder until they are no longer resembling whole beans, and the other ingredients are uniformly mixed.
- Add in the veggies, blend until combined, but not to the point where they are complete mush.
- Take out the mixture and place in a large bowl.
- Add the bread crumbs and brown rice, and combine with a spoon or (better yet) use your hands to mix it really well.
- Add the mustard seeds and follow the same procedure as the last step, making sure they’re spread evenly throughout.
- Spray the frying pan with a lot of oil so it is heavily coated. Heat on medium.
- Place the burgers into the pan carefully, in batches if necessary.
- Heat each side about 3 minutes, or until completely cooked and lightly browned.
To assemble the whole burger:
- Take one Mac ‘N Cheese bun, place the smooth side up.
- Place the burger on that side.
- Add any desired condiments, it tastes delicious with just some chili sauce or ketchup on top, and some salad on the side.
- Carefully place the other bun on top, smooth side down. You may want to use a toothpick in the middle to help it stick together.
- It’s going to be a bit difficult to eat the whole way through in tact, but definitely take a few bites out of the Mac ‘N Cheese Bun burger before it falls apart!
- Eat, enjoy, and have fun!