Everyone has that one food that makes them feel like a kid again, right? And by one, I mean like 80 foods, obviously. Regardless, cheesy potatoes are definitely one of those foods for me. My grandma would always make them for Easter, but they often made appearances for Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, and pretty much any eating-related holiday (which is every holiday, right?).
When I was getting my hair cut a few months ago, my hairdresser and I naturally struck up a conversation about cheesy potatoes. Please don’t tell me that’s weird, cheese and potatoes are kind of my version of small talk. Anyway, she happens to be vegan and basically didn’t want to deprive A. herself or B. her daughter of delicious, cheesy potatoes. She asked me to come up with a recipe, and I’m obviously not going to say no.
But then I slacked off, and I don’t even know why. I’ve seen her a few times since and she’ll excitedly ask about cheesy potatoes, and then I break her heart saying I don’t have it yet. Happy to say, I now have the perfect vegan cheesy potatoes. I didn’t want to use silken tofu, because I have thyroid issues and like to explore other avenues when possible (I eat enough soy as it is in everything else!). I almost went with my typical vegan cheese sauce, but this recipe demanded something a little more decadent. Cashews help add a luscious quality while keeping it vegan. True, they contribute a little fat, but it’s heart healthy and still lower fat and calories than using real cheese.
1 c milk, divided (I recommend unsweetened almond milk)
3 medium russet potatoes
5 tbsp. nutritional yeast
¼ – ½ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried parsley
½ tsp smoked paprika, see note
Add the cashews to a bowl and fill with enough water to cover them. Let soak for a total of 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare 4 small ramekins or a 8″ x 8″ casserole dish by spritzing with nonstick spray.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and slice the potatoes into ¼ – ½ inch rounds. Boil the potatoes for 8 – 10 minutes, until they are fork tender but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.
When the cashews are done soaking, drain and add to a food processor of blender. Blend with ½ c of almond milk until thick and smooth. Pour the puree into a bowl. Add another ½ c of milk (I actually used this to rinse out the blender, pulsing a few times to get any cashew that was stuck near the blades), the salt, a generous few cracks of pepper, garlic, parsley, and paprika. Mix until smooth.
You can either toss the potatoes in the sauce or layer in the ramekins/casserole dish. I layered to avoid breaking up the potatoes and to ensure I had my preferred ratio of cheese to potato.
Bake for 10 minutes. Switch the oven to broil and cook until the top starts to brown.
If you don’t have smoked paprika, you can use regular paprika and a few drops of liquid smoke. You can omit the smoky flavor, but it will taste a little less cheesy. I didn’t measure the size of the serving, but it was pretty large. If making in a casserole dish, you could easily serve 6 instead of 4.