I remember when my sister first became vegan back in 2001, the options for vegans and vegetarians were kind of scarce. Her old college, UC Irvine - a university that is now known for being particularly vegan and vegetarian friendly - used to only really have tater tots and PB&J available for vegan students. And whenever she went to a natural supermarket for something she could eat, not only was the quality not that great, but it was definitely outside of a student's expected budget.
Now almost 15 years later, you can buy vegan products at any standard supermarket. There's vegan buffalo wings, vegan beef sliders, and let's not even begin listing all of the different (and affordable!) nut and soy based cheeses out there.
Perhaps my favorite 'transformation' is the options vegans now have for boxed macaroni and cheese. I remember when my sister originally bought her first box of (still very commonly sold) vegan mac and cheese about a decade ago. The cheese sauce itself was this strange green color and smelled like cardboard. (You can only imagine how it tasted!)
This week, however, we were able to make an amazing pot of stovetop macaroni and cheese with a brand called Leahey Gardens. And, to my surprise, it really tasted great - and best of all, it wasn't green! At less than $3 a package, it's also a fantastic meal solution for vegan students who can't afford the extravagant prices slapped on some Whole Foods-esque vegan products.
The best part is that Leahey Gardens is just one of the many terrific stovetop macaroni and cheese products out there for vegans. So to my hungry student vegans out there, I've decided to make a little list of my favorite instant macaroni and cheese brands, along with a few pictures so you know what to look for when heading out to the store!
1. Leahey Gardens' Macaroni & Cheese ($2.99/box): My sister bought her box from the Republic of V, a vegan grocery store in Berkeley, California, but I would recommend simply ordering a few boxes online from the Leahey Foods online retailer.
2. Earth Balance Vegan Cheddar Mac & Cheese ($3.50/box): The Earth Balance brand has come up with quite a few impressive vegan products in the past few years, from Cheeseless Cheese-Its to Buttery Popcorn, but their mac and cheese is perhaps my favorite. Earth Balance is known for their buttery vegetable spreads, so you know this is going to taste nice and creamy too! It can be found in most natural food supermarkets, including Whole Foods.
3. Amy's Organic Non-Dairy Macaroni & Cheese ($5.29/box): So this one isn't stovetop, but considering it's microwaveable, it's really just as instant! I love it because it's quick to make and just as creamy as you would expect from other 'TV dinner'-style macaroni and cheese products. Plus it's made with rice macaroni for those with gluten sensitivity and can be found in the vegetarian/organic freezer section of most supermarkets!