This Vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni is a healthier spin on a classic. Loaded with veggies, whole grains, and just enough cheese to make it feel a bit indulgent, this easy stove-top dish is a great weeknight dinner. This post is sponsored by Hilary’s Eat Well.
I want to tell you guys a funny (yet kind of embarrassing) story that my parents just love to tell.
Sometimes people ask my parents where me wanting to become a chef came from. My mom is always quick to respond. She’ll tell people that ever since I was a little girl, I loved food. I always wanted to go to fancy restaurants. I always wanted to order frisée salad (which I pronounced ‘frizzy’). And my make-believe kitchen and Easy-Bake Oven were my obsessions. When my friends played with Barbie, I was in an oversized chef hat pretending to run a kitchen and making up these fancy, elaborate menus.
But my parent’s favorite story revolves around Hamburger Helper. You know, the boxed pasta that comes with seasonings and sauce that you just add ground beef to. My parents loved it.
When they made it for me, though, I cried. I cried hysterically and threw a tantrum. “WHY?!” I screamed through tears. “Why are we eating this? WHY MOM. This comes from a box!” I cried and cried, and my parents never made Hamburger Helper again. They still make me feel bad about it, though.
Looking back at it now, okay. I get the appeal. I mean it’s pasta (always delicious, right?), protein, savoy sauce. And it’s easy. I still see recipes all of the time for a homemade version of it.
Which is why I thought of making a homemade plant-based version. Hence, this healthier Vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni.
No tears this time.
To give this Vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni lots of delicious, savory flavor, I have a few secrets.
First, instead of adding canned tomatoes, I oven-roast fresh grape tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. The tomatoes become much more flavorful, and all of the juices get added right to the sauce.
Second, I love to add a bit of Dijon mustard swirled into the cheese sauce. It gives it a spicy undertone that works wonderfully here.
Lastly, adding plenty of fresh vegetables is a great way to add fiber to this dish and also sneak those veggies into your kid’s dinner plate, too. I like to slowly caramelize the onion, carrot, bell pepper, and garlic.
How to make vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni meatless? I use one of my absolute favorite plant-based burgers from Hilary’s Eat Well. Even though I am not vegetarian myself, I do eat a largely plant-based diet and I really enjoy vegetarian cooking.
I have been eating (and loving) Hilary’s Eat Well products for years. They make delicious vegetarian burgers, salad dressings, and plant-based goodies (such as veggie bites and veggie sausage). Their products are free from allergens, too. That means no soy, dairy, corn, gluten, nuts, or eggs. I love that Hilary’s products are minimally processed and full of clean, healthy ingredients.
I use Hilary’s Black Rice Veggie Burger for this recipe, which is made with whole grain millet, adzuki beans, coconut oil, sweet potatoes, spices, and lots of leafy greens. The Hemp and Greens Burgers or World’s Best Veggie Burgers would also work great.
To make this vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni a bit healthier, we use 2% milk in the cheese sauce and swap out half the milk for vegetable stock. We also use heart-healthy whole grain pasta and add plenty of fiber-rich veggies to the mix.
This pasta is loaded with vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. It has 15 grams of protein and 20% of your daily recommended value of fiber.
And even with all those veggies, it’s kid-approved. I think mac and cheese cancels out veggies in a kid’s mind, y’know?
I hope that you make and enjoy this Vegetarian Cheeseburger Macaroni. Thank you to Hilary’s Eat Well for providing delicious, nutritious plant-based eats and collaborating with us on this post.
And here’s a few things you may need for this recipe…
This post contains affiliate links and are always products I love, highly recommend, and use in my own kitchen.
For the Cheese Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 cup 2% milk
- 1 cup vegetable stock/broth
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
For the Pasta:
- 12 ounces vegetarian burger patties (recommended: Hilary’s Black Rice Veggie Burger or World’s Best Veggie Burgers)
- 1 pound whole-wheat elbow pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 20 ounces grape tomatoes
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Make the oven-roasted tomatoes. Halve the grape tomatoes and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, sea salt, and pepper. Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and releasing juice.
- Prepare the pasta. While the tomatoes are roasting, heat the additional tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan. Saute the carrots, onion, and bell pepper until starting to soften. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add in the garlic and cook the vegetable mixture until it starts to get color and is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water until al dente.
- Prepare the veggie burgers. Cook the veggie burger patties according to package directions (either in a pan or in the oven alongside the tomatoes). Let cool a bit, and then crumble or chop the burgers. Add to the vegetable mixture and toss with the hot, cooked pasta.
- Finally, make the sauce. Cook the butter and flour in a saucepan to make a roux; melting the butter until hot and bubbly and whisking in the flour. Continue cooking the roux until light golden brown in color, and to cook out the flour taste, about 3-4 minutes. Slowly whisk in the vegetable broth, constantly stirring to prevent lumps, followed by the milk. Season with sea salt and pepper. Let the sauce very lightly simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Dijon mustard and the cheese, little by little, until melted and incorporated.
- Pour the sauce over the pasta along with the roasted tomatoes and juices, hot from the oven. Stir to mix everything together and gently stir in the fresh parsley. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1 of 8
- Calories: 418
- Sugar: 7g
- Sodium: 700mg
- Fat: 19g
- Saturated Fat: 10g
- Carbohydrates: 40g
- Fiber: 6g
- Protein: 15g
- Cholesterol: 40mg