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Cheese Replacements

Plant-based cheese has come a long way indeed!  In fact, there are many good brands on the market today. Two we like that are widely available are Daiya and Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet.  Both come in several flavors, including cheddar, mozzarella and monterey jack. Daiya is soy and gluten free and melts well.  Other good non-dairy cheese options are Teese, Chao Slices from Field Roast and Tofutti,  so experiment to see which brand and varieties you prefer.  If you buy a commercial brand not named here (and there are many), check to see if the package is labeled “vegan.” If it is not, look at the ingredients. If the product lists “casein” or “whey” as an ingredient, it is not dairy-free.

There are several good non-dairy cheese cookbooks on the market including:

  • Artisan Vegan Cheese, Miyoko Schinner (Book Publishing Company, 2012)
  • The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook, Skye Michael Conroy (Skye Michael Conroy, 2014)
  • The Ultimate UnCheese Cookbook, Jo Stephaniak (Book Publishing Company, 2003)

To get you going, here are a few basic recipes for you to try at home.

For more information and additional plant-based cheese recipes please see Vegan Cheese

Replacements for Dairy Cheese

Please note that all nuts used in the recipes are raw and unsalted. Most require soaking of the nuts in warm water overnight, then draining and rinsing them prior to use in the recipe. However, if you own a Vitamix or other high speed blender, you can skip this step. You should still rinse and drain, but you do not need to soak the nuts. If you do not own a Vitamix, presoaking the nuts really isn’t a big deal since the recipes come together so quickly afterward. You can even soak the nuts during the day while you’re at work.

NUTVETTA

This is a healthy and tasty replacement for the overly processed orange stuff sadly sold in many grocery stores today. If you have a Vitamix there is no need to presoak the cashews. Try this slathered over baked potatoes with steamed brocolli.

  • 1 cup raw cashews (soaked overnight then drained and rinsed)

  • 2/3 cup roasted red pepper

  • ½ cup shelled hempseeds or raw sunflower seeds

  • ½ cup nutritional yeast

  • ¼ cup water

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (or use part lemon juice and part raw apple cider vinegar)

  • ½ tsp. salt

Place all ingredients in a blender and process at high speed at least 3 minutes or until the mixture is velvety smooth. If desired, warm the sauce in a pan over low to medium heat. Otherwise, refrigerate the cheese in a glass container for later use. This cheees will keep for several days refrigerated.

CHEDDAR CHEESE BLOCK

This recipe is from Valerie Wilson, which she adapted from County Life Vegetarian Cookbook. This cheee block can be shredded and used to replace dairy cheddar in any recipe (or to make grilled cheese sandwiches). If you have a Vitamix you can skip the presoak. 

  • 1 ½ cups water

  • 2 ½ teaspoons agar powder or 5 Tablespoons agar flakes (*See Note on Using Agar)

  • ¾ cup raw cashews (soaked overnight then drained and rinsed)

  • 1 T tahini or 2 T white sesame seeds

  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes

  • ½ cup roasted red peppers

  • Juice of 1 large lemon

  • 2 tsp. onion powder

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Put the water and agar flakes or agar powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer on medium for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Meanwhile put all the remaining ingredients in a blender. Add the hot agar water and puree at high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is velvety smooth. You may need to scrape the sides of the blender once or twice. Pour the cheeZ into a glass mold and chill overnight.

*Important Note on Using Agar: Agar is the plant alternative to animal gelatin. You can use agar powder (sometimes called agar-agar) or agar flakes. The amount of agar you use will vary depending on whether you use agar flakes or agar powder. Some conversions call for 1 teaspoon of agar powder for every tablespoon of agar flakes.  We use less – closer to ½ teaspoon agar powder for every tablespoon of agar flakes. However, you should experiment to find the consistency you like.

CASHEW RICOTTA

This cheese is simple, delicious, versatile and healthy. Use it in place of dairy ricotta in any recipe. Remember, if you use a Vitamix you do not have to presoak the cashews. 

  • 1 heaping cup cashews (soaked overnight then drained and rinsed )

  • ⅞ of a cup of water

  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried

  • 2 T nutritional yeast

  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil

  • Juice of 1 or 2 lemons (about 3 T)

  • ½ tsp. salt

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, well drained

Put the cashews and water in a blender and process on high speed for several minutes or until the mixture is very smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl then mix in all of the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the tofu. Once you have thoroughly drained it, use your hands and crumble the tofu into very small pieces into the cashew mixture. Stir to blend. The cheese will be grainy.

NOT-SO CHEESE SAUCE

This recipe from Vitamix uses raw almonds instead of cashews. Once made, it can be refrigerated for several days and provides numerous opportunities for easy, tasty and nutritious meals. Again, if you use a Vitamix you can skip the presoak. 

  • 2/3 cup raw almonds (soaked overnight then drained and rinsed)

  • 1 cup hot water

  • 1 2 oz. jar diced pimentos

  • 2 T fresh lemon juice

  • 4 T nutritional yeast

  • ¼ tsp. onion powder

  • 1 tsp. salt

Place all the ingredients together in a blender and process on high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is very creamy.

PLANT PARMESAN

You can buy plant parmesan at most health food stores, but if you want to make your own, try this simple recipe. 

  • 1/2 to 1 cup nutritional yeast (start with 1/2 cup and add more to taste)
  • ½ cup pecans or almonds
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. garlic

Blend the ingredients together in a food processor until the nuts are ground. This cheese will keep quite a while refrigerated in a glass container.

ALMOND RICOTTA

  • ¾ cup raw almonds, soaked in warm water to cover for 2 hours then drained and rinsed

  • ½ cup water

  • 1 clove garlic

  • ¼ tsp. salt

Put the soaked almonds, ½ cup of water, garlic and salt in a blender and process on high speed until very smooth.  Refrigerate and use as you would dairy ricotta cheese.