Monday, August 23, 2021

BRAND WARS: Vegan Mac & Cheese

Have you ever spent a Saturday afternoon wondering what to do with yourself?

The answer is make four boxes of mac and cheese.

For science.

I can say this with authority, because that's exactly what my brother and I did this past Saturday.

Which means....ladies and gentlemen!

It's time for another BRAND WARS!!!!

Dah dah dah Dahhhhhhh!

I think this is the first Brand Wars in, like *checks watch* five years or so, but that's okay, cuz it's gonna be great.

For this episode of Brand Wars, we decided to try vegan mac and cheese.

Actually, if I'm being honest, we decided to buy a shit-ton of mac and cheese and then figured we should do a Brand Wars for justification.

Honesty is important.


This Brand Wars features four contestants: Daiya Deluxe Cheesy Mac, Annie's Deluxe Rich & Creamy Shells & Vegan Cheddar, Field Roast's Creamy Mac 'n Chao, and Trader Joe's Vegan Mac.

It's about to get cheesy,y'all.

So let's talk preparation.

Trader Joe's Vegan Mac comes pre-made and chilled. All ya gotta do is heat it up. We'll call this a win for Trader Joe's.

Mac 'n Chao comes from the freezer section, so this takes slightly longer to heat up, but still, all ya gotta do is heat it up. 

Now we get into the complicated stuff.

For Daiya's Deluxe Cheesy Mac and Annie's Deluxe Shells & Vegan Cheddar, you have to boil water, add pasta, drain, and then add squeezy pouches of sauce.

It's laborious. I know.

But how do they taste, you ask?


We gotta talk shapes.

There are a zillion and one pasta shapes, and half of them are good with cheese and half of them are just kinda weird. Linguini and cheese? I don't think so.

Lucky for us, none of our contestants brought linguini. 

Instead, we had shell pasta from Annie's and Trader Joe's, smooth elbow pasta from Field Roast, and twisty elbow pasta from Daiya. The twisty elbow pasta was definitely coolest, but no knocks to anybody else. This is an open-minded judgement.

Before we talk taste, let's talk quantity.

I didn't think this would be necessary, but do you see this puny little bowl of Mac 'n Chao?

That's just not cool. Everybody knows people eat more mac and cheese than that. What's Field Roast trying to pull? Hm?

Skinny bastards.

Other than that, the portions seemed fairly balanced. The Trader Joe's Vegan Mac was perhaps a little smaller than the box mixes, but it was filling enough to not matter.

But Field Roast? Get in the game, would you?

Now, for the moment you've all been waiting for....... 


Daiya tasted a little rubbery. Not gonna lie. There was something off about that neon orange chewy sauce. It wasn't bad, just weird. Very orange. Very sticky. As my brother said, "There's more cheese than there had to be." And then he took the rest home, so, yaknow, not entirely off-putting. 5/10


Annie's tasted buttery. It was good, but definitely had a mild, buttery flavor instead of a punchy cheese flavor. At the end of our taste test, we added a little sriracha to this and it was superb. 6/10


Field Roast's Mac 'n Chao was a unique experience compared to the other three. The noodles were perfectly al dente -- which is impressive since we microwaved this one. The cheese sauce was flavorful and ooey gooey. But there was something "off" about the flavor. Eventually, we decided it just tastes "too vegan." 5/10


Trader Joe's really took the cake on this one. We bickered quite a bit about where to place the other specimens, but this was our favorite by far. It's like alfredo sauce meets homemade mac and cheese. It's thick. It's rich. It's the best you can do without making it yourself. 7/10

Honorable mention goes to my two favorite mac and cheese recipes: Lauren Toyota's Nacho Cheese (served over the pasta of your choice) and Kathy Patalsky's Baked Mac n Cheese.

 You know I adore mac and cheese, so share your favorites below!

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