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vegan macaroni and cheese with oven fried tofu
Southern Style Vegan Macaroni and Cheese with Oven-Fried Tofu and TVP Bacon Bits

Before going vegan, I was obsessed with this amped-up macaroni and cheese dish from a local restaurant. They call their dish "Sweet Home Alabama", and it's basically macaroni and cheese served with chunks of fried chicken and BBQ sauce on top. Keeping with their Lynyrd Skynyrd theme, but adding my own cruelty-free twist, I decided to call this piece of vegan heaven the "Free Bird". Just think of all the chickens you’ll save by making this veganized version with carrot/potato cheese sauce and oven-fried tofu. 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, macaroni and cheese
Servings: 4 people
Author: Michael Monson
For this dish you'll need
  • 1 pound Pasta - use your favorite macaroni that you would like to cheese.
  • Oven-fried tofu (recipe below)
  • Cheese sauce (recipe below)
  • TVP bacon bits (recipe below)
  • Barbecue sauce - your favorite brand will work fine.
  • Green onion
  • Diced red or sweet yellow onion
For the oven-fried Tofu:
  • 1 package frozen and defrosted firm or extra firm tofu
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • ½ cup
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Southern style hot sauce to taste I use Frank’s
  • 1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil optional
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cooking spray optional
For the Cheese Sauce (heavily inspired by Hot For Food):
  • 2 cup peeled, cubed, and cooked white potato
  • 1 cup peeled, cubed, and cooked carrot
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup roasted red pepper
  • 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 12 pickled jalapeño slices
  • 6 tablespoon jalapeño pickling liquid
  • 4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoon tapioca flour/starch
  • ½ cup sunflower oil
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk (or water)
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
For the TVP Bacon Bits (based on The Edgy Veg’s rice paper bacon recipe):
  • 5 tablespoon TVP
  • 3 tablespoon warm water
  • 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 3 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • ½ tablespoon maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
To make the oven-fried tofu:
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Drain the tofu, and lightly squeeze out as much liquid as you can without crumbling or breaking apart the block. Place the tofu between two towels and weigh down with a heavy pot or pan. Let sit for while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. In a shallow dish (Pie pans work great for both the batter and the breading.), combine the batter ingredients. Stir together until they form a thin batter. Don't be afraid to add more chickpea flour or water to adjust. You really want the texture to resemble a thin pancake batter, or even more accurately, a beaten egg. Add as much hot sauce as you want. I like quite a bit, as in two or more tablespoons. Pro tip: your batter will taste terrible. Raw chickpea flour tastes terrible. Do not judge your batter’s flavor at this stage. You can test to see if it’s too salty, or too spicy, but it will be bitter and unpleasant.
  4. In another shallow dish, combine all of the breading ingredients (except the cooking spray). You can omit the oil if you want, but it will help the breading brown. Without the oil or the cooking spray, you will still get a crisp breading, but it will be a bit blonde. Mix the ingredients with your hands. Taste it. It should taste like a barbecue potato chip. Adjust the salt and spices to your taste.
  5. You can really choose to cut your tofu into any shape. I like to cut it in half once lengthwise, and then cut it into long strips of the same width and depth. I then cut the pieces in half again so that I have short cuboids of tofu.
  6. Place enough tofu into the batter so that they all have space to move. Don’t be afraid to work in batches. Coat each piece of tofu with batter, and then transfer them to the breading. Coat each piece generously in the breeding, gently pressing the breading into the tofu. Work until all of the tofu is battered and breaded.
  7. Place the tofu onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Spray the pieces with cooking spray to help them brown. Bake at 400 for 35-40 minutes, turning halfway. Watch them. When they are brown and crispy all around, they are done.
To make the cheese sauce:
  1. Boil the potatoes, carrots, and onion for exactly 10 minutes. Drain. Add the cooked potatoes, carrots, and onions to a high-speed blender along with the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth and viscous.
To make the TVP bacon bits:
  1. Mix everything but the TVP together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Stir in the TVP. Let set for at least 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Spread the mixture into a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, or foil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. You want the texture to be a bit chewy, almost like chopped up jerky. Let cool to room temperature.
To assemble:
  1. Cook your pasta according to package direction. 

  2. Toss your pasta in the cheese sauce. Portion out your sauced pasta into 4 to 6 portions. Top each bowl of pasta with a few tofu pieces, a sprinkling of onion, and a drizzle of barbecue sauce.  Finish it off with a generous sprinkling of TVP bacon bits.