Tadka Mac n’ Cheese Recipe


Photo by Farideh Sadeghin

Serves: 4 to 6
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes


for the mac ‘n’ cheese:
8 ounces|225 grams elbow macaroni
kosher salt, to taste 
1 tablespoon neutral oil
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds or ½ teaspoon cumin powder
3 curry leaves (optional)
2 Indian green chilies, minced 
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 hefty teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons vegan butter, plus more for the pan
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup|250 ml unsweetened full-fat plain oat milk
¼ cup|60 grams plain non dairy cream cheese
1 cup|100 grams shredded vegan cheddar
¼ cup|40 grams shredded vegan mozzarella
¼ cup|30 grams shredded vegan pepper jack
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (stems and all!)

for the cajun breadcrumb topping:
½ cup|30 grams plain unsalted panko bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika 
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
pinch of dried thyme 
hefty pinch of kosher salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper 
2 teaspoons olive oil


  1. Cook the pasta: Bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil and add a hefty pinch of salt. Add the elbow macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup|250 ml pasta water. Set aside.
  2. Let’s get spicy: In a large heavy-bottom pan, pour in the neutral oil and set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle and pop for 30 seconds. Then add the curry leaves, if using, and stand back, as they aggressively pop. Once the popping subsides, lower the heat to medium and add the green chilies, onion, and garlic. Sauté for about 2 minutes, until the onion looks translucent and starts to sweat. Add the turmeric and toss to coat. Lower the heat to medium-low.
  3. Let’s get cheesy: Add the 2 tablespoons of vegan butter and the flour and whisk together with the onion mixture to create a roux. Once the roux has a nutty aroma and is slightly golden and clumpy, pour in the oat milk and continue to whisk. After 1 to 2 minutes, after the mixture has thickened to a béchamel consistency—a good test is dipping in a steel spoon and running your finger down the back; if the sauce doesn’t bleed into the middle of your spoon, it’s ready—add the nondairy cream cheese and whisk until completely blended. Next, add the shredded vegan cheeses and whisk. Notice we have not added salt yet! Once you have a thick cheese sauce, taste for salt. Add if necessary—the vegan cheeses tend to be on the saltier side, so add salt cautiously. Add a pinch of pepper. Then switch to a spatula, add the elbow macaroni, and toss to coat completely. If the pasta looks too thick and is sticking together, add some of the reserved pasta water. Butter a medium baking dish or casserole dish and pour in the macaroni and cheese.
  4. Make the breadcrumb topping: Heat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, toss together the bread crumbs with all of the seasonings and the olive oil until well coated and incorporated. Top the macaroni and cheese with the bread crumbs. Bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Broil for another 2 minutes until the bread crumbs are golden brown and the macaroni and cheese is slightly bubbling.
  5. Garnish and serve: Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool for 2 minutes. Top with the cilantro and place on individual serving dishes or directly into your tiffin. This remains perfectly creamy even when cooled down to room temperature!

Excerpted from The Modern Tiffin: On-the-Go Vegan Dishes with a Global Flair. Copyright © 2021, Priyanka Naik. Photography by Melissa Hom. Reproduced by permission of Tiller Press an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

Get recipes like this and more in the Munchies Recipes newsletter. Sign up here.