Texas Mac n’ Cheeze Off brings together vegan and comfort food

Acacia Coronado

Dairy-free macaroni and cheese might seem like a contradiction, but ATX Vegans are determined to bring together comfort food and animal comfort. 

The Texas Mac n’ Cheeze Off will kick off August 6 to showcase the different ways the popular cheesy pasta plate can be made without the use of cheese itself. Hosted at Mission: Possible! by ATX Vegan and ATX Vegan Drinks, the event will take place from 2–5 p.m. as competitors line up with their vegan creations for visitors to taste test and vote the best.

“(Vegan mac and cheese) is a cool thing for people to try because it is one of those things people don’t think could be made vegan or wouldn’t be enjoyable because it has ‘fake cheese’ or ‘fake sauce,’” ATX Vegans co-founder Britty Hamby said.

Hamby said after taking over ATX Vegan Drinks with her partner last year, they launched ATX Vegans. They hope to educate citizens about more animal-friendly ways of enjoying popular foods and create a community for those who wish to follow the same lifestyle. 

Now, Hamby said the Texas Mac n’ Cheeze Off, based on a similar event in Philadelphia, will be their first larger-scale event. She said the participants, some of whom are not vegan, are of mixed levels of expertise and winners will be determined by a combination of attendees and guest judges opinions. 

“The rules are you can make any kind of macaroni and cheese that you want,” Hamby said. “It just has to be vegan, which means it can’t have dairy, meat, or anything else that comes from an animal.”

Competitor Megan Newhouse-Bailey said she will be preparing a regular and a gluten-free option, using ingredients such as vegan wedge, shred and cream cheese, a nut-based sauce and chickpea miso for a tangy, cheddar-like flavor. She hopes her recipe will show the public the vegan community can be fun, warm and welcoming and that vegan food does not have to be as weird as Austin. 

“I may be making macaroni and cheese with untraditional ingredients, but it is going to taste like your grandma’s macaroni and cheese,” Newhouse-Bailey said. 

A longtime vegan, Newhouse-Bailey said this diet came naturally to her as she was never attracted to eating animal products. When she got older and realized not eating them at all was possible, she made her lifestyle choice.

“There was a lady who ran a restaurant near my parents’ house who would call me little vegetable girl because that was all I would ever eat,” Newhouse-Bailey said. 

Karena DiNapoli said she and her husband were originally drawn to the vegan lifestyle for health reasons, but have since become passionate about protecting animals by not consuming dairy products. Though they had to drop out of this year’s festival, their signature homestyle recipe is something they continue to develop and improve. 

“It’s a hobby that is a part of our life,” DiNapoli said. “This is something we want to do in the future (and) we do it because it is our passion. We are really excited to get more people involved in changing the way they eat (and) buy things, and changing one heart at a time, seeing the planet become better and better.”

Newhouse-Bailey said she looks forward to showing attendees that though these dishes might not be prepared in a common way, they will still leave you with the happiness of the comfort favorite — but less of the guilt. 

“We may go about things a different way, but we make really delicious food that is better for your body, the environment (and) the animals,” Newhouse-Bailey said.