How often did you eat Chef Boyardee as a kid?
Like, how often did your whining and complaining to your parents actually work, rewarding you with a delicious can of processed meat and cheese that only a child would consider worthy? #gimme
For me, it didn’t work often, because my family was a knock-off brand family. Nope, instead of getting Chef Boyardee, we got the can on the shelf below. Instead of cartoon character shapes, we got generic shapes. Instead of Beefaroni, we got “Beef Macaroni”.
Even the names lacked finesse.
But that’s okay, because as an adult, I’m not a stickler for “name brands”. I just want stuff that tastes good and is good for you.
Which is why I couldn’t help myself on the recreation of this classic kid cuisine. I wanted my own children to relish in the feeling of Chef Boyardee, without all the overly processed crap and animal cruelty.
Updating the classic Chef Boyardee Beefaroni to vegan
The thing I remember being the most enticing about Chef Boyardee, other than the name and fabulous marketing skills on Saturday morning cartoon commercials, was the fact that you got to eat an Italian meal for lunch.
No sandwiches or leftovers, just good ol’ fashioned pasta in a can. #merica
So, when recreating this, I thought about my 8 year old self. Hence the heavy-hand on the vegan cheese.
I also decided that it would make fantastic to-go lunches for vegan kids, since you could make a huge batch of it on Sunday night and divide it up into containers for the remainder of the week. It’s also a great way to sneak in carrots if you have picky eaters.
When I was in elementary school, I think there was an entire school year where my mom would cook me a can of generic spaghetti-os’ and place it in my Lady Lovely Locks Thermos. It was usually luke-warm by the time lunch came around, but that seriously made my entire day.
It also gave me giant red stains in the corners of my mouth for the remainder of the afternoon, but hey, that’s the price you pay for good lunch.
Dairy Free Chef Boyardee for kids
So if you feel like being the hero of your kids day, make this for dinner or pack it in their not-1980’s lunchbox. It’s legit the best kid-friendly meal ever. My kids love it when I make this meal for them, and always go back for seconds.
And if they don’t like mushrooms, you can use one of the simple swaps that I’ve included in the substitutions section below.
Just make sure to pack a napkin so they don’t have giant stains on their cute little faces, k?
Frequently Asked Questions
While we all have amazing childhood memories of eating store-bought Chef Boyardee, the reality isn’t so amazing: high fructose syrup, high saturated fats, trans fats, and animal byproducts are just a few things you’ll find on the label. That’s why you should just make this healthy vegan Chef Boyardee instead!
First off, you won’t be getting the preservatives that are found in a traditional can of Chef Boyardee. I’ve also swapped the beef for mushrooms, and added in secret carrots for added flavor + a healthy kick.
This vegan Chef Boyardee recipe is so easy to make! All you have to do is boil pasta, prepare the sauce, toss, and serve. Check out the details in the recipe box below.
Nope! If you’re not a mushroom fan, just swap them out for cooked lentils or vegan beef crumbles. For the cheese, you can always up the amount of nutritional yeast if you do not want to use dairy free cheese.
Allergy Information & Substitutions
- This Beefaroni is 100% vegan, meaning it is meat-free, egg-free, and dairy-free. It is also naturally nut-free and soy-free.
- Make it gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta of your choice.
- Don’t like mushrooms? Swap them out for pre-cooked lentils OR vegan beef crumbles.
- For another easy weeknight classic, check out my easy Vegan Hamburger Helper by clicking here.
- You can also try these simple Vegan Sloppy Joes by clicking here.
I hope you enjoy this amazing vegan Chef Boyardee! Make sure to share your creation with me on Instagram by tagging me @bohemian.vegan.kitchen + using the hashtag #bohemianvegankitchen.
Vegan Chef Boyardee Beefaroni
- 1 lb mini penne pasta
- 1 large carrot cut into chunks
- 1 cup filtered water
- 8 oz baby portobello mushrooms chopped small (or use vegan beef crumbles if that's your jam)
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 tablespoon oil of choice such as olive or coconut oil
- 15 oz tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1 bouillon cube vegetable or vegan beef, optional
- 1 ½ cup dairy free cheese such as Daiya brand
- salt and pepper, for seasoning
- Cook pasta according to package.
- Meanwhile, place chunked carrot and 1 cup water in a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender, about 5-7 minutes. While this is cooking, you can add your mushrooms, onions, and oil to a large frying pan–keep on low heat, stirring occasionally.
- When carrot is tender, remove from stove and add carrots plus ¼ cup of the cooking water to a food processor, along with tomato sauce, nutritional yeast, and bouillon. Turn on high until carrot is completely blended; transfer sauce to frying pan with mushrooms and onions and turn up to medium heat. I like to cover my pan with a lid too, so the sauce doesn't start to splatter all over the stove.
- When the pasta is finished cooking (takes about 9 minutes boiling), drain and add to sauce. Stir until mixed well, then add in the vegan cheese and stir until it’s all melted. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Thank you for taking the time to invest in your health and happiness!
This turned out very well! And I’m not even a pasta person (I eat pasta like once a year). But my kids love pasta, so I cook it often and try to make it as healthy as possible. The only modification is that we used a gluten-free penne. This recipe is a little more work but it’s worth it. The secret is to double the vegetables (carrots and mushrooms) and use them for something else. I used extra mushrooms as a side for another dish and added the extra cup of boiled carrots to a loaf of bread. I will make this again in the future.
Thanks so much for your feedback Eva! I love your idea of doubling the carrots and mushrooms- definitely a smart way to save time in the kitchen.