Rating: 4.5 out of 5 –
Vegan Mac and Cheese! It’s available everywhere and at anytime (without having to Pinterest some complicated vegan mac and cheese recipe!) thanks to Annie’s Organic Cheddar Vegan Mac. Long gone are the days of wishing a vegan competitor existed next to that dairy filled blue box mac and cheese that we are all so familiar with. I mean…sure, I can make a mean homemade vegan mac and cheese but if I have Annie’s on hand?? Why would I, right??
Today we’ll be reviewing one of the only vegan mac and cheese products on the market. Daiya does make one that uses a cheese sauce that is similar to Velveeta Mac and Cheese. The sauce packet in Annie’s Vegan Mac and Cheese is a powder that needs to be added to plant-based milk and optionally, a plant-based margarine like an Earth Balance. Feel free to continue reading our review, or to check out Annie’s Vegan Mac and Cheese right away, head over HERE.
A brief bit about Annie’s the company before we dive into the actual vegan product….Annie’s started in 1989 with mac and cheese that Annie wanted to make more wholesome and healthy but still convienent. This was also their first product to go organic in 1998 (way ahead of their time!). Annie’s runs a LEED Gold Certification headquarter space out of Berkeley, California and despite being acquired by General Mills in 2014, Annie’s continues to make unparalleled products and now with the help of General Mills, their products are more available to the public than ever before – good news for the Vegan Mac and Cheese!
What do you expect from a box of basically prepared vegan mac and cheese?? I honestly wasn’t totally sure. I looked at the ingredient list and I didn’t see nutritional yeast or cashews (what I typically make my homemade vegan mac and cheese out of). In fact, the ingredients looked pretty benign and I was more than curious how this was going to taste like the mac and cheese I know and adore – just without the actual dairy or cheese.
After cooking and draining the noodles, I added unsweetened almond milk and a couple tablespoons of Earth Balance to the still hot pot while the noodles were in the colander. Then, I added the Annie’s vegan cheese powder packet to the mixture. It didn’t want to mix together right away but after several good stirs, the mac and cheese powder mixed evenly with the almond milk as the margarine melted. Then I added the noodles and evenly coated each macaroni noodle – just as you might if you were making mac and cheese out of the blue box.
As I’m digging in for the first bite, I notice that it’s about the same color as that good old blue box variety but not as vivid in color as my homemade mac and cheese with nutritional yeast. That first bite tasted cheesy, a bit salty, and surprisingly a bit sweet. There is a dash of brown rice syrup added and perhaps that’s why? It wasn’t an off putting amount of sweet, but a bit unexpected. The noodles perfectly enveloped the sauce and even though the powder didn’t want to melt into the sauce immediately, once everything blended it went together quite nicely!
Given how quickly this vegan mac and cheese pulled together from Annie’s and how surprisingly tasty it is, I definitely stock up on this vegan mac and cheese. I love to pair it with sauteed greens (kale, spinach, collards) and tempeh. I don’t know why but I also love a dollop of fresh sauerkraut with my vegan Annie’s mac and cheese. How and why I don’t know, but trust me – the combination is delicious!
Each 1 cup serving of Annie’s Vegan Mac and Cheese contains 260 calories when prepared with 3 grams of fat (unless you add Earth Balance/margarine). There is 580mg of sodium per serving which is less than conventional packaged mac and cheese with dairy and is appropriate given the portion and that this portion would be more for a meal.
Each serving of Annie’s Vegan Mac and Cheese provides 49 grams of total carbohydrate with 2 grams of fiber. If the noodles were whole wheat or whole grain based, we would expect more fiber but 2 grams is better than nothing! That’s why I try to add a vegetable or other high fiber food with the vegan mac and cheese- to help round out the meal and get closer to that goal of at least 25 grams of fiber per day for most healthy adults.
Also in each cup serving you’ll find 8 grams of protein. I honestly feel like this is more protein than I expected since the noodles are not whole grain and the vegan cheese powder obviously doesn’t contain dairy or a “traditional” protein source. Either way, I think that’s awesome and I’m super excited to consume more plant-based protein than I realized from an unsuspecting source. And people wonder where vegans get their protein…psssht, please!
Given the convenience food and shelf stable-ness of Annie’s Vegan Mac and Cheese, I’m still impressed with the nutrition profile and the ingredient list. This is a staple food that I think should be in your pantry if you love mac and cheese but are trying to go more plant-based (or already are plant-based) and you want some healthier convenience foods on hand when life starts throwing you curve balls.
Ok y’all….so in general, is Annie’s Organic Vegan Mac the healthiest food out there. Well, no. Does it serve a fantastic purpose to provide a vegan mac and cheese option that’s commercially available with little prep? You bet. Does it taste good? Got ya covered there. In fact, our family tends to like the Annie’s Organic Vegan Mac better than the Daiya vegan mac and cheese because the sauce on the Annie’s vegan mac isn’t sticky where the Daiya one is quite sticky! Stock up on Annie’s Organic Vegan Mac and your pantry (and taste buds) will thank you!