If you’re looking for comfort food, you needn’t look further than macaroni and cheese. Chances are you grew up on the dish – elbow noodles swimming in a cheesy, creamy sauce. But these days, you want an elevated mac and cheese that will move away from the boxed after-school staple toward a more satisfying adult version. But when there are two obvious main ingredients – macaroni and cheese – and one of them isn't vegan, finding a good plant-based version can be tough. Should that mean your journey with the dish ends? With these vegan macaroni-and-cheese options in Denver and Boulder, your journey's just beginning.
City O’ City
206 East 13th Avenue
Whatever your desired comfort-food dish, City, O’ City has it veganized. With pizzas, poutine and “chicken” and waffles with carrot bacon, it's no shock that there’s also a tasty homestyle mac and cheese. Savory mac and cheese is topped with barbecue tofu, mustard-glazed greens and a creamy coleslaw. The whole dish is then showered with crunchy fried shallots. Want a handheld version? Take all of that barbecue-bowl goodness, along with house made pickles, and pile it into a wrap.
Fresh Thymes Eatery
2500 30th Street, #101, Boulder
This Boulder eatery has an eclectic menu that appeals to both meat-free diners and carnivores. There are plenty of vegan options, including a beet falafel burger and tempeh tacos. The “Mac Attack” is a popular vegan item, with gluten-free noodles and a dairy-free cashew cream sauce. You can add on items, too, such as caramelized onions, mushrooms, seared greens, green chiles and Spicy Riot sauce.
Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro
900 Walnut Street, Boulder
Jill’s Restaurant, located inside the St Julien Hotel, is no stranger to knocking it out of the park when it comes to cooking for vegans. During one of the Friday vegan lunch buffets or the Monday night multi-course vegan menus, you can often catch the vegan mac and cheese. After making a roux, Jill's adds in almond or soy milk and whisks in vegan cheese. Other ingredients are often added to kick it up, such as truffle oil or fresh herbs.
Native Foods Cafe
680 South Colorado Boulevard, 303-758-3440
1675 29th Street, Boulder, 303-442-0213
Native Foods Cafe is vegan fast food at its finest. Technically, the mac and cheese is offered as a side dish or a kids' option, but this hearty dish could definitely make a meal. Fusilli pasta is covered with a white-cashew-and-veggie-based sauce for a cheesy delight. If you’re sticking with it as a side, try a bowl with the Oklahoma Classic bacon burger or the crispy chicken ranch wrap.
Nooch Vegan Market
10 East Ellsworth Avenue
This one's a bit of a cheat, since you'll have to heat your mac and cheese up at home — but think of it as a return to childhood and boxed noodles. Nooch is a vegan grocery store that's always bringing in the latest vegan products on the market to share with customers. The store’s selection is ever-evolving, but currently Nooch offers Leahey Macaroni & Cheese, Leahey GF Macaroni & Cheese, Upton's Cheesy Mac, Upton's Cheesy Bacon Mac, Field Roast Mac 'n Chao, Field Roast Chili Mac 'n Chao and Amy's Rice Mac & Cheeze, so you have plenty to choose from.
Shine Restaurant & Potion Bar
2480 Canyon Boulevard, Boulder
Triplets Jessica, Jill and Jennifer Emich opened Shine with a goal to nourish the community in a healthy and holistic way. The kitchen is entirely free of gluten, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a killer mac. Gluten-free pasta is smothered in a thick sauce of cashews, sunflower seeds and “cheesy” nutritional yeast.
3 South Broadway
Sputnik isn’t totally vegan, but the hip Broadway kitchen offers an entire meat- and dairy-free menu filled with twists on traditional bar food, including a Buffalo tempeh po’boy, a tofu hangover scramble and a jackfruit Cuban sandwich. The vegan mac here is completely guilt-free, with a sauce made from puréed carrots, bell peppers, potatoes, celery, turmeric and other spices.
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SHOW ME HOW
837 East 17th Avenue
With an entirely plant-based, dairy-free menu, there's nothing but choice for vegan eaters at this long-established Uptown eatery. And the choices continue when you’re designing your own mac and cheese. The homestyle dish starts with a creamy cheddar cheese-style sauce and chives, and is then topped with crispy panko breadcrumbs. You can add fresh broccoli, tempeh chorizo, or ultra-flavorful tofu bacon bits — your choice.
Whole Foods Union Station
1701 Wewatta Street
Whether you’re grabbing it to go or dining in-store, check out the vegan mac and cheese from Whole Foods Union Station's hot bar. The base for the sauce is from a local company, the Honest Stand, which produces non-dairy cheese sauces ideal for adding to dishes, using as a dip and of course, kicking off a silky mac. Whole Foods then blends in roasted cauliflower, broccoli and tomatoes. Starting in mid-April, two different vegan recipes will be available in easy grab-and-go 24-ounce containers.