Two years in a row, I have made my husband Noodles & Company mac & cheese rip-offs for his birthday. Last year, I did Truffle Mac, and this year, I did a vegetarian version of their BBQ Pork Mac & Cheese recipe. I don’t really know how this became a thing for us, but I guess it has. I don’t think anyone can beat us when it comes to nonsensical traditions to mark important occasions, which is okay with us, because mac & cheese is far superior to sappy greeting cards anyway.
This item isn’t always on the Noodles & Company menu, but when it was, Chris and I were both intrigued. We wondered if they could sub out the pork for tofu, but neither of us wanted to be that person, so we didn’t ask. For months, I promised him I would try to make a meatless version at home. When tackling this recipe myself, I knew that I couldn’t just use any kind of tofu—it had to be baked!
The last thing you want in your mac & cheese are soft cubes of tofu. Baked tofu has a firm, chewy texture because baking in the oven dries it out. My Baked Barbecue Tofu recipe is one of the most popular posts on Oh My Veggies. It really is tofu for tofu haters! Or at least people who think they hate tofu, because if you still hate it after it’s been baked to chewy perfection and slathered in barbecue sauce, then you really do hate tofu and you can wear that label proudly. Or with shame. Whichever you prefer.
I tweaked the tofu recipe a little bit to make it work for this mac & cheese—I cut the tofu into smaller cubes and I skipped marinating it to save a little time. Because I had a big block of smoked cheddar in the fridge, I used that instead of traditional cheddar, which made the finished dish even tastier.
Between the creamy mac & cheese and the chewy BBQ tofu, this is the kind of meal that will scratch any comfort food itch you might have. A lot of vegetarians miss the smoky flavor of some meats, like bacon, and if you fall into that camp, this recipe is for you.
Smoked Cheddar Mac & Cheese with Baked BBQ Tofu
A meatless remake of Noodles & Company’s BBQ Pork Mac & Cheese. (Yes, it involves tofu!)
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings
- 1 (14 oz) package extra-firm tofu
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, divided
- 8 oz elbow macaroni, cooked according to package
- 2 cups reduced-fat milk
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Press tofu for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Transfer it to a bowl and toss it with 1/4 cup of the barbecue sauce, then place it on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the tofu for 20–30 minutes, or until it’s browned on the edges, stirring halfway through cooking time. Put the tofu back in the bowl and toss it with the remaining barbecue sauce.
- While the tofu is baking, start the mac & cheese. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until warm, then reduce heat to low. Stir occasionally to prevent film from forming.
- In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk it into the butter. Continue to whisk until the mixture is golden brown, 3–5 minutes.
- Slowly pour the warmed milk into the flour mixture, whisking constantly. Once the sauce is smooth, let it continue to cook until it’s slightly thickened, about 3 minutes, continuing to whisk constantly.
- Remove the sauce from heat and whisk in the smoked cheddar. Fold in the macaroni, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Divide the mac & cheese into 4 bowls, then top each one with 1/4 of the baked tofu.