There seems to be a mixed bag of opinions on the topic of vegan cheese.
There are many of us who don’t, or can’t eat dairy. And there are plenty of companies beavering away to come up with alternatives.
Many of these are made from a base of nuts. But, being quite an expensive ingredient to experiment with – is it worth trying to make at home? And what if you have a nut allergy?
Why Make Your Own Vegan Cheese?
Cheese is hugely popular. Creamy, sometimes salty, maybe a little pongy, but utterly delicious. It’s clearly a go-to ingredient in the UK, where we currently consume around 700,000 tonnes of the stuff every year.
Cheese can be used for so many dishes and eaten in so many ways, that you can see why it’s hard to give up. However there are many “dairy free” alternatives to both snack on and cook with, popping up in the shops.
Many of us don’t experiment with making dairy cheese at home as this is quite a long process. Plus, it requires ingredients not usually found in the home kitchen. Vegan cheese doesn’t need so much work though… so maybe it’s worth giving it a go?
Tried and Tested Recipes
Nuts are full of good fats and provide vital nutrients. They’re a great replacement to milk in cheese. However nuts aren’t a cheap ingredient to be experimenting with. That’s why we’ve done the testing, so you can be sure these Test Kitchen recipes will turn out well!
Ingredients – Makes 1 ball, serves 2-3
1 cup ground almonds, soaked overnight
1 tsp nutritional yeast
½ tsp salt
½ tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp flaked almonds (for decoration)
- Drain off the water from the soaked almonds through a cheesecloth. Squeeze hard to to remove as much moisture as you can. (Reserve the water for the next recipe).
- Add the almonds and the rest of the ingredients to a high-speed blender. Whizz for 4-5 minutes, to get the creamiest texture that you can. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times.
- When smooth, mould into a ball and flatten. Press the flaked almonds into the sides and bake in an oven at 180°C for 10 minutes. You want the outside a little crisp, with the inside soft.
This is a dry, crumbly “cheese” that would be great to crumble on to salads or soups, or just spread on toast.
Eaten straight from the oven is pretty good too!
Ingredients – Makes 2 balls
1 cup of cashew nuts – soaked overnight
¾ cup of dairy free milk (or use the almond soaking liquid from previous recipe)
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp arrowroot powder
2 tsp nutritional yeast
2 tsp agar agar
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
- Drain the cashew nuts. Add to a high-speed blender with the milk (or almond soaking liquid) and oil.
- Whizz for 4-5 minutes, until smooth. You may need scrape down the sides a few times.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and a little more milk/water, if necessary. You need a thickness like a “cheese sauce”. Add to a small saucepan and heat for 3-4 minutes until thickened.
- Spoon into two ramekins lined with cling film and leave in fridge for 2 hours to set.
- Turn out the cheese and serve.
This would be good stirred through pasta, spread onto toast, or used to top a roasted sweet potato.
Ingredients – Makes 1 small jar – great for sprinkling!
¾ cup of cashew nuts (you could also use blanched almonds)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp sea salt
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until fine crumbs form.
- Sprinkle on salads and soups, use as a topping on gratins, add to breads, or whenever you fancy a salty hit!
Allergic to Nuts?
Being dairy free with a nut allergy can prove a little challenging. Even though both cheese and nuts are off limits, you can still enjoy a little creaminess.
For the ricotta and mozzarella, try using firm, pressed and drained tofu. Alternatively, try using sunflower seeds or spread.
Try using roasted chickpeas for the parmesan. Dry these as much as you can before using. Or again, you can experiment with sunflower seeds.
Cooking with Vegan Cheese
Macaroni Cheese – Without the Dairy
Ingredients – Serves 4
1 tbsp dairy free butter
1 cup dairy free milk
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 ball cashew mozzarella
2 tbsp cashew parmesan
- Cook the macaroni as per the packet instructions.
- Place the butter, flour and milk in a small saucepan and heat gradually. Stir continuously until melted and thick.
- Stir in the cashew cheese and salt.
- Divide between 4 bowls and sprinkle on the “parmesan”.
All the cheeses here are good to eat (as voted by family members of all ages). But, could they be described as “cheese”?
Hmm… personally, I would say no. But they are creamy, salty and really delicious in their own right. Plus they won’t stink out your fridge like some “real” cheeses!
There are a few more “cheese-like” versions in the supermarkets. But how much processing have they been through? These homemade versions might not be as close to the real thing, but they are all natural and taste great.
But just as with dairy cheese, dairy free cheese still has a high fat content. So even though these are homemade and natural, they still need to be eaten in moderation. They’re not as high in calcium either, so make sure you’re getting enough from green, leafy veg.
So, perhaps celebrate the foods you choose to eat, treat them with respect and love them for what they are!