So here’s a cheesy vegan rice casserole that is super cheap to make (as I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t have tons of funds for grocery splurging) and doesn’t use any weird ingredients, unless you count tahini as a weird ingredient, which you should reevaluate because tahini is magical. And by saying there are no weird ingredients, what I mean is there’s no nutritional yeast/nooch. Not that I have anything against nooch, but sometimes it’s nice to make a cheesy vegan sauce that doesn’t rely on it.
Instead, the sauce gets its cheesy flavor from tahini, mustard and garlic powder, and its creamy texture from a minimal amount of sunflower seeds and … cooked vegetables. Oh yeah. A veggie casserole with a sauce made from veggies. This sauce is also low(ish) in fat. Now I feel like I’m bragging.
Vegan Rice Casserole
Makes 6 large servings
5 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked kidney beans (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
2 cups small-chopped broccoli
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup diced zucchini
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (optional)
1/4 – 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper, for serving
Salsa and hot sauce, for serving
For the Cheese Sauce (Nutritional Yeast Free):
1 cup water
1 medium potato, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup soaked and drained sunflower seeds (see note)
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Note: Soaking sunflower seeds makes them softer and easier to blend into creamy goodness. Just set ’em in a bowl of water for an hour or two and you’re good to go.
1. For the cheese sauce: In a small saucepan, combne the water, potato, onion, carrot and garlic and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
2. Place the cooked vegetables in a blender along with all the other cheese sauce ingredients. Blend, adding as much of the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to get the blender moving along. Set aside.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 F. In a very large bowl, combine all casserole ingredients (except the breadcrumbs) and all of the cheese sauce and stir well. Pour the mixture into a 9×13 glass baking dish and press down with the back of a spoon to give your casserole a flat surface. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on top and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
4. Remove from oven. Let it cool for a few minutes before serving. Enjoy this casserole the old-school way with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, or top it with some prepared salsa and hot sauce (the yummiest way!). It’d be great with some avocado slices, too.
This casserole is nice and creamy and homey, and since it isn’t strongly flavored, many condiments would pair well with it aside from salsa and hot sauce – saurkraut? Olives? Pickled onions? It’s all good here!
Logan and I made this casserole several times, preparing it with and without tomatoes, and I’ve come to the conclusion that adding them is completely optional. Since we added salsa to the casserole afterward, adding tomato beforehand didn’t feel necessary but it certainly still tasted great.
Well I hope you guys are having a great weekend – I’ll be spending my Sunday enjoying the double-digit temperatures (10 degrees!), eating amazing food and playing a show with my band. Pretty much the epitome of an awesome day. 🙂