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For the Cheese Lovers 05/09/11

Jodi Allemeier shares some yummy vegan cheese recipes.

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Whenever we talk about cutting dairy, vegetarians respond with “but cheese!”

This was me. Everything I ate had feta sprinkled on top. I ate slices of cheddar while cooking dinner. And devoured entire Camembert rounds all by myself.

Then I discovered the many reasons to feel good about not eating dairy – animal rights, environmental, and health reasons being the most obvious (for more read this). Contrary to popular belief, dairy cows do not magically produce milk and live eco-friendly happy lives (extra reading here and here), nor is milk necessary for human health. In fact, it can be very bad for human health:

I also discovered that cheese is addictive and that up to 80% of adults have some form of lactose intolerance.

Really, there should be warning labels on cheese like on tobacco products.

When I cut dairy, I experienced weight loss, renewed energy, my migraines disappeared and my joints (sore knees were always a problem) worked properly again, amongst other benefits.

So here are some ideas for when you’re craving that mac n cheese or when you need something that is high in protein, fats (good fats) and other nourishment.

NOTE: there are great vegan cheeses out there like No-Muh, Cheezly, Sheese and FreeFood’s, but they tend to be pricier than these recipes and also tend to be made mostly from soy and potato

For crumbling on top of whatever dish or salad

Cashew Crumbles
Very lightly blend, or crush, a handful of raw unsalted cashew nuts with a tsp of salt (Himalayan crystal salt is great stuff) and a half a handful of pumpkin seeds (raw, or lightly toasted if you prefer a smokier taste)

Parmezano Sprinkles – aka “cheese in a jar”
1/2 cup white sesame seeds
2 tbs nutritional yeast flakes
1 to 2 tsp vinegar
1 to 2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
Herbs as you choose

Grind almonds or sesame seeds to a fine powder in a food processor. Poor into a jar. Add remaining ingredients, close the lid and shake.
With a little extra oil or e.g. blend in some mushrooms & spinach, this makes a cheesey topping for pizzas or filling for toasted sandwiches.

Nacho Crumbles
Blend a red pepper, a dash of lemon or lime juice, 2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (NOT to be confused with brewers yeasts or other active yeasts), 1 tsp cumin and (optional) cayenne pepper.

Separately, pulse 2 cups macadamia nuts (raw, unsalted) so that they are roughly broken up but not powdered.

Mix the lot together and dehydrate. If you do not have a dehydrator (I do not, yet!) simply bake slowly like you would do rusks – set the oven to about 60 deg and bake for about 6 hours. Break into chunks. Enjoy!

Basic Nut Cheeses
These cheeses can be used as:

  • Dips
  • Instead of oil or margarine when making a cheesy white sauce
  • Further dehydrated (or slow baked as with the nacho crumbles) to form a harder cheese for crackers, sandwiches, burgers etc.

The basic process is the same for various flavours you might be going for:

Soak either cashew or almond nuts overnight, blend them until creamy. It’s that simple.

Add garlic or herbs or mustard or ground pumpkin seed or nutritional yeast (NOT brewers/active yeast) whatever “flavour” and leave to set in the fridge for a day or two (the longer you leave it the more cheesy it gets – I have some in the fridge from last week still and its actually too strong for me now) or slow-cook in the oven like you do with rusks (low temperature for a few hours).

One version that is really great is 1 cup soaked and drained cashew nuts, 2 tbs pumkin seeds, 2 tsp mustard, dash of lemon juice and fresh chives – blended together and set at room temp for just an hour or two before serving. Adding a small block of firm tofu with this will make more at a similar taste and consistency.

Another of my favourites is 1 cup soaked and drained almonds, 1 clove garlic and dash of salt.  Slow-cook or dehydrate for 6 hours. And then shallow-fry fried in olive oil with rosemary.

Cheesy Sauces and cheese for pasta fillings etc.

Ricotta Cheese
Using a fork, mash up a block of firm tofu with dried herbs, 1 tsp garlic powder, fresh ground pepper and 2 – 3 tbs nutritional yeast (NOT brewers/active yeast)

If using as a topping on something pre-cooked, just zap it in the microwave for a bit, otherwise add as is to lasagnas or when making your own Cannelloni etc.

Cheese Sauce
A vegan white sauce can easily be made using vegan margarine (Ole or Cardin in SA) or oil or a raw cashew “cream cheese” (as above), flour and either non-dairy milk (soy, almond or rice) or a veg stock.  To make this white sauce a little more “cheesy” add mustard and nutritional yeast to taste.

Vegan Mozzarella Cheese – thanks VegWeb for this one!

Vegan heavy cream:
8 tablespoons soy milk powder
1/2 cup hot water
2 tablespoons canola oil

Vegan Mozzarella cheese:
3/4 cup vegan heavy cream
14 ounces silken tofu, drained
1/2 tbs kosher salt
1/2 tbs white wine vinegar
small pinch garlic powder
small pinch crushed lavender
5 tsp agar powder
olive oil, as needed

1. For heavy cream, whisk soy milk powder and hot water, until dissolved. Whisk in oil. Grease 1 glass container. Blend together all cheese ingredients, except agar powder, for about 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth. Add agar powder and blend another 30 to 40 seconds, until smooth.

2. Pour into small, heavy-bottomed sauce pan on stove and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn on heat to medium and keep whisking until it starts bubbling. As soon as it starts bubbling, turn the heat down to low-medium and keep whisking gently as it simmers for another 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Pour mixture into prepared container and smooth over the top. Leave uncovered on the counter until the top firms up. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top to prevent it from drying out and place container (uncovered) in the refrigerator to cool for at least 8 hours.

Jodi Allemeier is  director of the SA Vegan Society. The SA Vegan Society was formed in 2007 and is the primary vegan outreach organisation in South Africa. Their  goal is to promote the ethical, environmental and health advantages of a plant-based diet through online activity and resources, events, protests, product endorsements, products and literature.

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Laura Cooke is the editor and creator of the Veggie Bunch website and community.

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4 Responses to this article

JL goes Vegan May 9, 2011 Reply

This is a great post! So many great ideas!

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Robillm September 13, 2011 Reply

In the recipe for the vegan mozzarella–lavender? I imagine that because of the small amount that the mozz. won’t taste like flowers, but what does the addition of the lavender add to the taste? Thanks!

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Jodi Allemeier September 13, 2011 Reply

Hi there,

The lavender just adds a slightly exotic, sweet flavour to an otherwise savory preparation. You can certainly leave it out, or even use a herb of your preference – for example you might use thyme if its being used with a particularly wintery, hearty dish; or rosemary if serving with roast potatoes.

Thanks for the question – you’ve just reminded me of a recipe I saw for lavender and basil pesto – still keen to try that one out!

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Dulcimer Nielsen November 13, 2012 Reply

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My PhD is in journalism with an emphasis in animal behavior. I have been published in over 70 publications in seven countries.


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