Mac O Lanterns are easy, vegan, and gluten-free. This recipe uses easy-to-find ingredients and most will be available at local groceries.
Ingredients in Vegan Mac O Lanterns
Bell Peppers: Any bell pepper will do, but orange, yellow and red look especially nice. They’re pretty delicious, too, and get even sweeter when they’re baked.
Gluten-Free Pasta: I’ve used gluten-free rotini here. I like how the spirals hold lots of tasty cheese sauce. Elbows would work as well.
Carrots: Carrots are starchy and add pretty orange color to the cheese sauce.
Potatoes: Potatoes add stretching starch here and make up a great deal of the volume of this cheese sauce. You’d never know it though.
Oats: These thicken and add a lot of starchy “strechiness” to the cheese sauce.
Nutritional Yeast: Yummy nooch is what makes it cheesy!
Lactic Acid: This is a less commonly found ingredient and is not a deal breaker. It also adds a tangy, cheesy flavor and is a great addition to any plant-based cheese recipe. It also can be used in gluten-free baking. A little goes a long way and I always keep some on hand. But if you don’t have it don’t worry about it.
Lemon Juice: This will add a bit of tang to the cheese sauce as well. The acid helps the sauce emulsify as well. Use it in addition to or instead of the lactic acid.
Mustard: Just a little!
Broccoli: I added steamed broccoli in my mac and cheese for this recipe. You don’t have to, or you can add other vegetables. That’s just what I was in the mood for.
Vegan Cheese: To make this extra cheesy and creamy, I added some packaged cheese shreds. This can add to the cost and can be left out, but it does make it all extra delicious!
Bread Crumbs: These added to the top add some crunch. Make your own or use store-bought.
Pumpkin Carving Kit: This can be helpful. Of course you can just use a small, sharp knife to carve the faces, but a pumpkin carving kit has serrated tools that work really well.
Making Vegan Cheese Sauce for Mac and Cheese
The cheese sauce is super easy to make in a high speed blender. Just add all the ingredients (except the packaged cheese shreads) and puree until it’s all silky smooth. Then heat briefly on the stove to thicken it up. Stir into the cooked pasta and add the cheese shreds and any broccoli or vegetables you’d like to add. So simple and takes just minutes. Then just stir it into your cooked pasta.
To the cheese and pasta, I added broccoli that I steamed for a few minutes in the microwave. Just stir it in until evenly distributed.
Some flavor options would be to add more paprika, or smoked paprika. I think diced jalapenos would be good, too.
Carving the O Lanterns
This is fun and pretty much like carving a pumpkin. In fact, pumpkin carving tools can come in handy here. Just carve these the same way you would a small pumpkin. Slice off the tops. Do this kind of carefully so you keep a good “lid” but also have a large enough bottom to carve a good face in. If your peppers are wobbly, slice a small amount off the bottom so they’re able to sit level.
How to Bake Mac O Lanterns
I stuffed the Mac O Lanterns with the mac and cheese and then topped with with some bread crumbs and baked them at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes. The bell pepper shell stood up really well but also softened and developed a more delicious taste.
- 6 orange red or yellow bell peppers
- 12 oz rotini pasta or elbow macaroni
- 1 cup peeled chopped carrot
- 1 cup peeled chopped potato
- 1/3 cup quick oats
- 1/4 cup nutitional yeast
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 3 cups wtaer (more or less for blending
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon lactic acid (optional)
- 1 1/2 cup steamed broccoli or other vegetables
- 1 cup bread crumbs
Cut the top off the bell peppers. Clean out the membranes and seeds inside and carve a jack-o-lantern face using a small, sharp knife or pumpkin carving knife.
Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well.
To make the cheese sauce, add all the ingredients to a high-speed blender and puree until very smooth. Pour into a heavy-bottomed pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer and stir constantly for about 3 minutes, until the cheese sauce is silky smooth.
Steam the broccoli or vegetables in the microwave. Simply put them in a microwave-safe bowl with a few tablespoons of water and heat for about 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir the cheese sauce and the broccoli or vegetables into the pasta until evenly combined. Spoon into the carved bell peppers. Top with a couple of tablespoons f bread crumbs.
Place the Mac O Lanterns on a heavy baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes. These can also be baked in the air fryer at 375 F for about 15 minutes.
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Hello! I’m Lisa, a vegan artist, photographer, author, Vegan Life Coach Educator, and RYT 200 yoga teacher. I love showing others how simple and delicious a plant-based diet can be. I draw and paint, cook, write, take lots of pics, eat lots of chocolate, and practice gratitude daily.