Our Asian-inspired mac and cheese with white cheddar is a twist on the tried-and-true favorite, adding Udon noodles, edamame and seaweed garnish for a delicious Asian flare.
I love the fusion of cultures that spills onto the plate – “East meets West”.
I recently stumbled on a video from Now Toronto for a “guu’d style mac ‘n’ cheese” by chef Masaru Ogasawara. Intrigued by how appetizing it looked, I instantly set off to my kitchen to create my own version of the dish – a vegetarian version. After a few trials and errors, I was very happy with the result.
What to expect
Surprisingly, the chopped Udon noodles and the creamy cheese sauce resemble Kraft Dinner, a Canadian fave, with a bit of kick if you add the Wasabi.
This homemade mac and cheese recipe only takes a handful of ingredients and has more nutrient-rich ingredients (broccoli and edamame) than the regular version or the boxed stuff. A big plus for me.
Another plus is that it only takes only 25 minutes to make since it’s not a baked mac and cheese.
I’m not going to lie though. This dish is not low cal although you can make it lighter if you like. It’s rich, creamy and comfort food at its best. It tastes great and it’s an easy recipe to make.
Ingredients – tailored to your taste
Ingredients: Udon noodles, white cheddar cheese, butter, milk, edamame, broccoli, seaweed.
Noodles: Buy fresh or frozen cooked udon noodles which are soft, thick, slightly chewy wheat noodles available at most mainstream or Asian grocery stores. You can, of course, use al dente elbow pasta, like you find in classic mac and cheese, but you will not experience that Asian feel.
Cheese: We use shredded white cheddar cheese for this recipe. You can substitute it with Gruyere, other sharp Cheddar, Fontina, Pepper Jack or Monterey Jack. Or use a combination of two cheeses.
Vegetables: The recipe calls for broccoli florets and edamame. Edamame is often sold in their pods which are green and hairy. See recipe notes for how to cook them. You will have to squeeze the beans out after cooking. Or buy frozen pre-shelled edamame – much easier! Substitute asparagus or fresh baby spinach instead for the broccoli if you like.
Seaweed: This is an edible algae that adds a unique flavor and crunchy texture to the mac and cheese. We use Nori seaweed sheets, shredded.
Wasabi (optional): Most of the wasabi we eat in North America is not genuine and is actually made from horseradish, mustard and food coloring. The smooth spicy green paste gives a nice kick of heat to this dish, but feel free to leave it out.
Half and half: I use part milk and part half and half cream for a rich sauce. But you can use any combination of milk and cream – or even just whole milk or 2% milk for a lower-calorie version. Just use the same total amount of liquid.
How to make mac and cheese Asian style
Step 1: Prep – cut the broccoli into florets, slice the onions, grate the cheese, cut the udon noodles into smaller pieces.
Step 2: Boil the broccoli, edamame and udon for a few minutes over medium-high heat.
Step 3: Make the cheese sauce.
Step 4: Combine everything together and top it with crispy seaweed.
Tips for the creamiest mac and cheese sauce
- Use a good quality cheese that melts well such as cheddar, gruyere, fontina or Monterey jack. Low-fat cheeses are not recommended.
- It’s better to grate your own cheese, rather than to buy pre-grated cheese which contains additives that can affect the meltiness of the cheese.
- Avoid zero or low fat milk to make the cream sauce before adding the cheese. Use 2% milk or a higher fat content.
- Add cheese to the warm white sauce on LOW heat or remove it from the heat altogether to finish melting, stirring continuously. Avoid high heat which causes cheese to separate and become grainy.
- Use pre-shredded cheese (but note, for best results, grating the cheese is preferable as, without additives, it melts better)
- Buy frozen pre-shelled edamame (big time saver).
Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. To make the dish a couple days ahead, complete the recipe (not including the seaweed garnish) and keep it in the fridge for a few days or freeze it for up to 3 months.
Udon noodles, originating from Japan, are a type of thick wheat noodle made from wheat flour, salt, and water. They have a soft, chewy texture and can be purchased at most mainstream grocery stores fresh, frozen or dried. Follow package directions for cooking. Fresh and frozen udon only take a few minutes to cook.
Yes, Korean-style mac and cheese includes gochujang and sometimes kimchi. And here are a few other spins on mac and cheese collated by Forbes.
Seaweed is an edible sea algae widely used in Asian cooking, particularly in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines. Nori is the most common as it’s used in making sushi rolls. It comes in thin, dried sheets and has a mild flavor and a crispy texture. We use Nori as a garnish in our recipe. Kombu adds rich umami flavor to soups, stews, and simmered dishes. Wakame is tender and slightly sweet and used in miso soup and Korean seaweed salad.
What to serve with Asian-style mac and cheese
You can serve this mac and cheese as the perfect side dish with almost any main course. But it’s such a filling dish, I typically serve it as a main dish.
More creamy mac and cheese recipes (with a twist)
- baked macaroni and cheese with spinach
- quinoa mac and cheese (with bread crumbs)
- creamy orzo pasta with spinach (15 minutes, one pot)
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Mac and Cheese with White Cheddar (Asian-Style)
- 400 grams cooked packaged Udon noodles, cut into small pieces, Note 1
- 3 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted butter is fine
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
- 1 cup edamame beans, frozen and shelled, Note 2
- 2 tablespoon flour
- 1 cup 10% Cream, Note 3 (half and half)
- 1 cup 2% Milk
- 1 3/4 cup aged/old white cheddar, shredded
- 1/2 teaspoon Wasabi paste. optional the amount is for mild spiciness
- shredded roasted seaweed (garnish), Note 4
- salt and black pepper (optional)
- COOK NOODLES AND VEGETABLES: In a medium or large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add shelled edamame beans and broccoli. Boil for 1 minute. Then add cooked udon noodles and cook/soften according to package instructions, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
- MAKE CHEESE SAUCE: Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add sliced onions. Cook onions until translucent, about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes stirring. Stir in cream and milk and cook until thickened slightly, about 4-5 minutes. Turn off heat. Add cheese and stir until fully incorporated. If desired, add wasabi (adjust amount to your preference) for a bit of heat.
- FINISH DISH: Add cooked udon noodles and edamame and broccoli to the creamy sauce and stir until all the noodles are covered with sauce. Place in bowl and top with lots of shredded seaweed.
- Udon noodles are thick, slightly chewy, soft noodles that often come prepackaged and cooked, fresh or frozen. You can use either (defrost first if frozen) Follow package directions – the cooking time is just a couple minutes (see step 1 in recipe above).
- Edamame: It’s easiest to buy edamame frozen and shelled. They are bright green and shaped like lima beans. You can also buy them fresh in their green hairy pods. Here are 4 methods to cook them. Once cooked, squeeze them out of their pods. No need to add them to the boiling water in the first step.
- Milk/cream options: Use whatever combination you like with half and half and 2% milk for a total of 2 cups/473 ml. You can even use all 2% if you want to reduce calories and fat.
- Seaweed: The most common and easily available is Nori seaweed which comes packaged in small flat sheets. This kind will be the best to add that crunch factor.
- Instead of broccoli, substitute baby spinach and/or asparagus
- Instead of white cheddar cheese, use fontina, gruyere or montery jack (or a combination of two cheeses)
- Make Ahead:
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- Freeze the prepared mac and cheese in an airtight container or a ziploc bag (without the Nori seaweed) for up to 3 months.
- To reheat, defrost if frozen, then gently heat on the stovetop over low to medium heat or in the microwave on medium power for a few minutes, stirring part way through. You may need to add a splash of milk to loosen it up.