Debunking some myths about vegan cheese

Vegan cheese sometimes gets a bad rap. People wonder if it will be tricky to make, or assume that there’s no way it could taste like ‘real’ cheese. In fact, it’s actually quite easy to make a delicious dairy-free cheese with a savory tang that isn’t a million miles away from traditional cheese. In any case, this nutritious cashew cheese is so tasty you’ll make it on repeat, whether you think of it as cheese or not.

With only a few ingredients, this nutty cheese can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. And the best bit? We’ve got both spreadable and sliceable versions. If you’re following a dairy-free diet, you simply must try this.

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Making a nut-based cheese

Nut cheeses are a great go-to recipe when you’re craving something salty and tangy. Using only a few key ingredients, you can create a nutritious dish that can easily be tweaked with different herbs and flavors.

In this recipe, buttery cashew nuts are blended with a little olive oil, lemon juice, and water, with extra flavor coming from the garlic and salt. Nutritional yeast is the secret ingredient, which helps create that familiar cheese-like taste. However, it isn’t essential, so don’t worry if you don’t have any; onion granules are a good substitute.

Cashews are a great source of healthy fats, which keep energy levels high and help our bodies to absorb essential vitamins and minerals. They also contain many important vitamins and minerals themselves, such as copper, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins E and B6. Like several other nuts, cashews are associated with weight management (when consumed in small portions), heart health, and eye health.

Nutritional yeast is a good source of plant-based protein and fiber, and B vitamins which contribute to stable energy levels. The distinct flavor makes it a good dairy-free substitute for parmesan cheese, sprinkled on top of salads, pasta, or roasted cauliflower. This is an inactive yeast, usually made from molasses, and comes in the form of a powder or flakes. Either work in this recipe, though flakes are most common.

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Vegan cheese you can spread or slice

This recipe is extremely easy to make and very versatile. Perfect for any cheesy craving!

Using more water, you’ll create a creamy cheese with the texture of coarse hummus that’s perfect for spreading on baked potatoes, dipping chips into, or stirring into risotto or pasta. It’s ideal for adding creaminess to lasagna, if you need a dairy-free or vegan alternative to béchamel sauce. Just keep adding water if you want a smoother sauce.

Alternatively, keep the liquid level low and let the cheese set in the fridge for a couple of hours – you’ll have a sturdier cheese that can be sliced and eaten with oatcakes, or simply on its own.

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Vegan Cashew Cheese (makes around 1½ cups)

1 cup cashew nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon

3 teaspoons nutritional yeast

1 clove garlic

1 teaspoon salt

1 pinch of pepper

Directions

  1. Put all the ingredients in a food processor for about 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture down the sides of the processor and whizz again. Adjust seasoning as required.
  2. Keep pulsing the processor until you have the consistency you want.VeganCashewCheese3
  3. For a spreadable cheese: add a little cold water, blend, and repeat until the mixture is as creamy as needed.
  4. For a sliceable cheese: stop mixing when the mixture starts to form a ball in the processor. Squeeze out any excess liquid and put the ball of cheese in an airtight tub in the fridge for a couple of hours, so it can set. Use kitchen paper to soak up any excess oil.VeganCashewCheese2
  5. Both versions can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Recipe Notes

  • If you don’t have cashew nuts, Brazil nuts are a great alternative.
  • For a different flavor, try using lime juice instead of lemon, or adding rosemary or basil for a hint of herbs.
  • For a smoother texture, soak the cashew nuts in cold water for a few hours or overnight.
  • For an even creamier texture, add a teaspoonful of tahini, which is made from sesame seeds.

 

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