There have been a ton of advancements in the vegan food scene, but finding a good, boxed mac and cheese has been sorely missing. Even though it is disgusting (and slightly embarrassing to admit), sometimes I miss the Kraft macaroni and cheese or even the velveeta days. So, on a recent trip to Whole Foods, I grabbed one of each vegan mac and cheese. Here are the contenders.
Daiya was the only entrant that featured the liquid cheese pouch. The pasta cooked easily (how can you mess it up, really) and had a really good tenderness. After mixing in the pouch of liquid cheesy goodness, I gave it a taste.
And there was a ton of it! The texture was gooey and slightly sticky, but had a really good flavor. It reminded me of the aforementioned Velveeta garbage I used to eat.
The only problem? HOLY SODIUM! The amount of sodium in this actually made me stop eating. Each serving has 580mg of sodium – and there are 3 servings in the package! That is almost 75% of the RDA of Sodium in one small box of mac and cheese. So while the flavor was good, I would only eat 1/3 of the package, and probably only once a year.
I was excited about the So Delicious mac. They make some really good vegan products so I figured they really couldn’t mess it up. The So Delicious still packs 450mg of Sodium, but there are 2 servings in the box, so it’s a paltry 900mg per box versus the blistering 1700mg of the Daiya.
The shells cooked up easy and had a great texture. But the sauce. Man, we need to talk about the sauce! It was HORRIBLE! It tasted like a mix of wet dirt and wheat grass. And you know me, I am a pretty positive guy. But it literally tasted like ass. I spit out my spoonful, and threw the whole pan in the trash.
Annie’s had a much tamer Sodium content (at 270mg per serving and 2.5 servings per box). I assume they achieve this by adding more veggies and less “fake cheese.” So this mac comes with the claim of sweet potato and pumpkin.
Again, the pasta was easy and tasted good. But, again once I tried the sauce, it was almost puke worthy. The flavor was incredibly bland, and the “pumpkin and sweet potato” flavors tasted like moss and wet cardboard. I am not sure how they pulled off such a flavor, but it was absolutely abysmal.
At this point I was really bummed. I mean my options were enjoying the flavor of the Daiya, and ending up in the ER with cardiac arrest form 1700mgs of sodium, or eating something that tasted like wet cardboard and triggering my gag reflex.
But I had one more box to go.
I cracked open the box, and the low grade cardboard felt welcome in my hand. The box was designed pretty simply and I found myself nostalgic for the Kraft days as we boiled the straight “dynamite stick” shaped pastas. No fancy elbows or shells here!
The bright orange, super processed cheese powder also wafted a cloud of cheesy goodness as we blended everything in a giant bowl.
The sodium cops show up again with this entrant, at a total of 1375mgs of sodium in the package. But at this point, I was so bummed, I would eat this or an entire container of Morton’s iodized salt, so I figured I’d give this a go.
And boy am I glad I did! This was the most nostalgic of the samples I tried. The flavor pretty much mirrored the one I remember from my Kraft M&C days. As the steam lifted out the bowl, my mouth watered, and I put a forkful of the dynamite stick pastas into my mouth.
It was truly glorious.
Being that we either traded a catastrophic sodium count for a wet cardboard/wheatgrass flavor, I will pick Sodium as the lesser of the 2 evils. Because we can choose to eat it in moderation. Like once a year moderation.
So that leaves us with Daiya or Earth Balance.
And to help distinguish, you need to decide how important the nostalgia factor is. Because if it is high, choose Earth Balance.
But if the best flavor and texture is what you are looking for, you should totally grab a box of Daiya.