Vegan cheese, like all other vegan products, is completely animal-free. It is usually made with ingredients like soy, cashews or macadamia nuts, and coconut oil. As with many vegan foods (and all foods in general), the processed versions can often have a long list of less than desirable ingredients. So, if you want to eat a plant-based diet because it’s healthier, then make sure to check out the ingredients list, or otherwise make your own cheese.
The biggest challenge with vegan cheese is to impart to it the same properties you expect from normal cheese. For example, it should be stretchy and melty when making pizza or grilled cheese. It’s also more expensive than dairy cheeses due to the inclusion of pricey ingredients like cashew, soy, and so forth.
1. Cashew cheddar cheese
A great cheese for grating or melting, so you can use it for pizza, sandwiches, and crackers. You can also freeze it!
In a food processor, add 1 cup cashew nuts, 1/3 cup water, 5 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp coconut oil, ¼ cup tahini, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp tomato paste, 2 tsp apple cider vinegar, ¾ cup chopped red pepper, 2 ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp smoked paprika (optional for a smoky flavor), 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard, ¼ cup nutritional yeast (this is where the cheesy aroma comes from!), 1 tsp each garlic powder and onion powder. Blend until smooth.
You now need to thicken the mixture, but you will need to work quickly! Keep the mixture in the food processor and turn your attention to agar agar (this will be used to thicken the cheese). In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water and 1 Tbsp agar agar powder to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove it and pour it into the food processor, blending until smooth. IMMEDIATELY pour the mixture into a round cake pan (coated with non-stick spray). Let it set in the refrigerator.
2. Vegan Cheese Sauce
Use this sauce for pastas or nachos! In a food processor, blend together 1 ½ cups cashew nuts, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 1 tsp each onion and garlic powder, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, ½ tsp smoked paprika, ¼ tsp turmeric (for color), and 2 cups vegetable stock. In a medium saucepan, heat the mixture until hot (but not boiling), while stirring continuously. You can store the sauce in the fridge – if it becomes thicker, just thin it out with a bit of water.