If you're considering a shift toward dairy-free living, you're probably wondering how you could ever stop eating traditional cheese. But whether you're avoiding dairy for health, environmental, or personal reasons, the good news is that you don't have to go without cheese. Vegan cheese is now readily available at most health food stores, but it's also fairly easy to make at home.
Many store-bought vegan cheeses provide convenience and variety, but the downside is that they often contain many preservatives and additives, such as partially hydrogenated soybean oils, food coloring, and excess sugar or salt. If you plan to eat vegan cheese alternatives regularly, you might want to consider using fresh and natural ingredients (that you may already have in your pantry or refrigerator) to make your own vegan cheese at home.
The Basics of Homemade Vegan Cheese
You can make your own vegan cheese by soaking almonds or cashews in water for at least eight hours in the refrigerator, rinsing and draining them, and then transferring them to your blender to make a smooth and creamy base. Organic silken tofu is another wonderful creamy base that blends easily and saves prep time. If you want a thicker faux cheese, you can add agar-agar, a seaweed-based gelatin with incredible thickening capabilities. If you want a stretchy, melted final product, the best ingredient is a tapioca starch/flour, which can be found at any health food store.
Once you have your base, add your favorite mix of spices, herbs, and heat to create a cheesy flavor profile. Try any of these suggestions for a full-flavored vegan cheese.
- Lemon juice or zest adds a tart, fresh quality and some acidity.
- Dried or fresh garlic, onion powder, or paprika provides depth, punch, and spice. Roasted garlic can also add a nutty flavor.
- Apple cider or white wine vinegar can bring out a sour and bitter quality that mimics real cheese.
- Dijon or yellow mustard in dried or liquid form provides a gorgeous yellow color, as well as heat and pungency.
- Nutritional yeast helps mimic a real cheese flavor and also adds a yellow-orange color.
- Salt and pepper pull all the flavors together, livening them up.
To get you started on your homemade vegan cheese journey, here are a few vegan cheese recipes to try at home.
- Liquid sauce to pour over vegetables, potatoes, or proteins: Not-So Cheese Sauce
- Crumbles for topping salads: Greek Salad with Faux Feta
- Dry sprinkles for pasta or pizza: Vegan Parmesan Cheese
- Thicker, stretchy sauce for nachos or grilled cheese: Gooey Vegan Mozzarella
- Solid ball to spread on crackers: Vegan Holiday Cheddar Cheese Ball or Raw Vegan Goat Cheese Dip
- Creamy filling for pastries: Vegan Macadamia Nut Brie En Croute
Whether you're a vegan or just experimenting with dairy-free living, give homemade vegan cheese a try. You might surprise yourself by not even missing traditional cheese.