With my Year of Nothing New Challenge just around the corner, my thoughtful husband bought me the most perfect early birthday present: A refurbished food processor. Up until this point, I always made Vegan Nut Cheeses in my blender. The poor machine would smoke and whine, and the cheeses always came out a little grainy. Vegan cheese is super easy to make as long as you have a decent food processor, and I am so thrilled to say that now I do.
It makes me happy that he took the extra step to buy a refurbished used food processor, too. It feels like new to me. Everything works perfectly, and I didn’t have to painstakingly clean it like I do with my thrift store finds. It means so much to me that he values my ambition to live more simply and create less waste.
So, as long as you have a food processor, some raw nuts, and some flavorings, you’re all set to make a creamy, spreadable nut cheese or smooth, cheesy sauce or dressing. The great part of making nut cheeses is that you just throw the ingredients in a blender! You can taste and adjust the flavors as you go along, so it’s almost impossible to not make something delicious!
Cashews are the typical go-to nut for vegan cheese, and I almost always include some. They are relatively affordable, and have a great texture and subtle taste. I like to add a few macadamia nuts sometimes because they are unbelievably creamy. Their taste is very distinct, though. Brazil nuts are more savory, and they make a nice addition to cut the sweetness of cashews. Almonds are a great choice, too. They make the cheese a little crumblier like feta.
As for flavorings, it’s important to add something acidic, like lemon juice or vinegar, and some salt. I add nutritional yeast because it is the cheesiest taste in the vegan universe and it has loads of B12. Add it a little at the time, though, because the flavor is strong. If you haven’t added nutritional yeast to your vegan pantry yet, you should give it a try. It provides hard to find B Vitamins, and it tastes great in everything from pastas to popcorn. I like Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast because it’s easy to find at any health food store, and it doesn’t come in massive containers like the nutritional supplement brands.
I also always add garlic because I practically eat it by the bulb and couldn’t imagine a garlic-free vegan cheese. If you’re a vampire or something, though, you can totally skip it.
After that, just add the flavors that sound good to you! I like to make an herby chevre style cheese with lots of rosemary and some thyme. A little horseradish makes a zippy sandwich spread. I’ve added smoked paprika. I’ve thinned the cheese a little and added jalapenos for a spicy queso. You can even make spinach and artichoke dip with nut cheese.
Here’s my basic recipe for vegan nut cheese:
(this recipe makes 2 cups of vegan cheese)
- 2 c. raw nuts: I like cashews, almonds, macadamia nuts, and/or brazil nuts
- 1 lemon
- 1/2 T salt
- 1 T nutritional yeast
- 1 heaping T chopped garlic
- herbs and spices to taste
- Soak the raw nuts overnight.
- Add the nuts and a bit of the soaking water to the food processor and begin chopping.
- Add the garlic and other ingredients that will need extra blending to ensure a smooth texture.
- Add the lemon juice (or vinegar) as the nuts blend.
- Toss in the salt and nutritional yeast.
- Scrape down the bowl and check the texture. If it seems dry or like it isn’t going to get smooth enough add more liquid.
- Add any herbs and flavorings that you want to be blended smoothly into the cheese. If you want chunks of herbs, wait until the mixture is almost done blending.
- Fold in any additional flavorings that you’d like to remain chunky. For example, this is a good time to add chopped spinach and artichokes for spin dip.
- Refrigerate for up to a week.
If you want to make a cheesy sauce for mac n cheese or a salad dressing, just thin with additional liquid. You can also bake the cheese at about 350 degrees for an hour to create a rind and make a sort of slicing cheese. While nut cheeses can’t mimic the strong, distinctive flavors of some dairy cheeses, they are a wonderful cruelty-free substitute. Even my cheesetarian daughter likes them.