Annie’s Vegan Mac and Cheese
I never thought I’d see the day where I missed Kraft Dinner noodles. What an arbitrary thing to take for granted. After just 8 months of being vegan, I’ve really come to miss the classic, boxed mac and cheese experience provided for years by KD.
I basically grew up on that shit, so I was bound to miss it sooner or later right? When I found out that Annie’s – another brand of boxed mac I frequently consumed as an adult – came out with a vegan version, I knew I needed it in my life. However, living in Canada, most of my vegan dreams remain memes. We never get the good shit here! I mean you can order boxes online from Vegan Supply, but let’s be honest, no one has time for $20 shipping charges and $6 per box mac & cheese!
When we went to Toronto I was so sure that we would finally fulfill these Annie’s vegan mac and cheese dreams, with a wholefoods kickin’ around and all. But alas, even after the long awaited journey to wholefoods, we still walked away empty handed. This is when I gave up… well almost. We did end up getting a Road’s End Organics boxed mac & cheese as a consolation. Either way, still not the same thing!!!
Weeks passed. I finally dropped my preoccupation with Annie’s vegan mac… it had been days since I scrolled past a bowl of it on insta, my mind was at ease. Until I got a text from my sister one night!! She and my parents took a secret trip to Calais, Maine that weekend (I didn’t have my passport so I wasn’t in on this secret agenda). She was texting me to tell me she found vegan Annie’s at Marden’s on sale for $1 and she got me 4 boxes! Why only 4 when I would have personally bought out the entire stock? I don’t know, but I’m just grateful to be graced with this miracle of a meal!
The Annie’s vegan mac cheddar flavour is probably the most similar vegan experience you will get to the classic KD. Honestly, I feel like the taste of the mac and cheese sauce itself is more similar to a white cheddar flavour, or even like a less potent version of KD (I’m thinking knock off brand KD ). This is actually a nice feature though, it was very light and non offensive. I feel like a lot of vegan cheese sauces have a strong, weird fake sort of smell to them, but this one didn’t have that at all! It was such a nice, light, white cheddar-y flavour! And since it was so light it also went really well with ketchup. I’ve never been a fan of ketchup on mac and cheese – which is weird because I’m such a fan of both on their own – but the boyfriend is obsessed with that combo and he confirmed it goes really well together. Some mac and cheese – especially the vegan stuff – clashes with the ketchup-y flavour because the cheddar is too sharp / strong, but this wasn’t the case with Annie’s! The lightness of the flavour was very receptive to other flavour additions. I also added pepper to mine and it worked so well! Took it up a notch and neither overpowered the other.
What I loved about this mac and cheese was that it was really buttery and creamy, just like real mac and cheese. We added the suggested 2 tbsp of butter (but probably more like 1 tbsp) to the cheese sauce, so that probably made it extra buttery but even before we mixed it in, it looked and felt very creamy.
My most pressing comment I have on the texture of this mac and cheese is that the sauce literally becomes one with the noodles. I’m not used to that happening, I’m used to the sauce kinda sliding off the noodles and more of it ending up all over the bowl than on the pasta. I think the sauce combined so well with the noodles because the sauce was really rich and creamy. I find some mac and cheese sauces to be a bit stringy and sticky (like daiya) and usually those kinds are the really potent ones too! But this mac and cheese sauce was almost velvety it was so smooth!
The box suggests mixing the cheese powder with plant milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat, then adding the cooked noodles in after. We used this method and the cheese sauce came out so incredibly smooth! Not a single chunk left behind! Although it was thick and creamy when it was being made, once it was mixed with the noodles, it created a very light, almost thin coating over the noodles. I think the consistency of the cheese sauce – how it was a bit thinner than daiya sauce – really added to the KD texture similarity. This is a consistency I find is hard to come by with vegan boxed mac and cheese. I think this is also why it combined so beautifully with the pasta!
And don’t even get me started on the noodle texture!! I knew I was missing this noodle shape for a reason. It really is the pinnacle of all pasta shapes, they’re just so smooth and nostalgic! I think this also had something to do with how well I – accidentally – cooked the noodles. The box says to cook for 8 – 10 minutes, but I knew better. I knew I didn’t want mushy, over cooked noodles so I timed them for 6 minutes, and took them off at the 5.5 mark when my taste test was successful. Perfect, firm pasta goodness!
As you can probably tell by the shape of the noodles alone, the presentation of this mac and cheese was perfection…. It was KD let’s be honest. BUT!! This mac and cheese has even better presentation than the original because it wasn’t as liquidy and weird as KD!! The sauce actually stuck to the noodles rather than all collecting at the bottom of the bowl so it looked cute af right till the very end! It also had a really nice colour to it. It was a subtle orange-y / yellow colour. Didn’t seem weirdly vibrant or unnatural at all!
The box itself was also super cute. I really love Annie’s branding because they use bunnies everywhere and guess what?! I’m obsessed with bunnies! I just so happen to have my very own Bernie bunny myself – except her name is Ace! So I love that there are bunnies on the box. On the side where you’re supposed to pour the pasta out, there’s a little bunny with his tail facing outward, and it says ‘push tail to open’. It’s actually the best thing ever, I love how whimsical their entire branding is!!
I feel like mac and cheese gets a bad rep when it comes to its nutritional profile. Sometimes, it’s warranted, but upon further inspection of this Annie’s vegan mac, it’s really not that bad! First of all, it’s 100% certified organic! I know the non-vegan ones are only about 80% organic most of the time, so vegan win! There’s also no artificial colours, flavours and no preservatives. This would explain why the cheese sauce was a bit less vibrant than normal KD, but it also makes me feel a lot better about consuming it! No crazy, tested on animals, food colourings!
The nutritional profile on this wasn’t bad at all! I’m used to mac and cheese being an indulgent, decedent treat of a meal, but this one wasn’t so bad. The box makes 2.5 servings, and each serving is 250 calories, with 3g of fat, 49g of carbs, and 8g of protein. What’s even better is that the ingredient list is super short, and everything is recognizable! The cheese sauce mixture is made with: rice syrup solids, palm oil, salt, corn starch, pea protein, natural flavour, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, annatto extract (for colour), and silicon dioxide (for anti-caking). When I saw how short the ingredients list was – especially compared to products like Daiya – I immediately felt better about eating it! And the minimal ingredients also translated to a light, clean flavour, which was so nice! So overall, not a bad nutritional profile for mac and cheese… unless you care about carbs. The only time I care about carbs is when I haven’t eaten enough, I get cranky.
My sister picked this up for us when she was in the states, and it pains me to relay this information to you but they were only $1 per box. Like are you fucking kidding me, why do we only have 4 boxes. This is the best deal on literally anything ever. Seriously, can you think of a better deal than $1 for the best mac and cheese sans murder you’ve ever had?! No? Exactly! It is the deal of all deals. Online these suckers cost at least $5, and that’s not even including shipping costs!