While this vegan almond cheese doesn’t taste like cheese made from cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk, it’s a great dairy-free substitution similar to cheese. Its salty and tangy flavor, and creamy texture makes it a great all-purpose white cheese.
Ahhh, cheese! The kryptonite of most vegans. Probably 80% of of the time when I tell someone that I’m a vegan, the first words out of that person’s mouth are, “I could not live without cheese!”. Turns out that researchers have known since the 1980s that cheese actually contains small amounts of the addictive opiate morphine. Some researchers believe this occurs as a way to ensure babies (humans, cows, etc.) continue to nurse during infancy, which helps the survival of the species.
Milk also contains the protein casein, which provokes similar effects to opiates when it’s turned into cheese, due to the casomorphins being greater concentrated. Just for comparison, cheese contains seven times more casein than milk. It’s the most concentrated form of casein in any food. It’s for that reason that cheese has previously been described as “dairy crack”.
If that was not enough, cheese also stimulates receptors, which are associated with dopamine release due to the high fat and high salt content.
Admittedly, there are few things in this world as magical as cheese. I think that’s why I have been asked so many times to come with a spreadable and/or slice-able vegan cheese recipe. The root problem with vegan cheese is that it’s trying to be something that it’s not. I don’t buy vegan cheese in the store and honestly, I don’t make my own vegan cheese at home either. Instead, I look for vegan foods that taste great where cheese would have, too. For example, you could try an avocado on a burger instead of cheese. Or have hummus and crackers instead of cheese and crackers.
If the idea of vegan cheese appeals to you though, here is my favorite vegan almond cheese recipe. It’s slice-able or spreadable (depending on how much thickening agent you use), cheesy, and the flavors are very well rounded.
Tips for Making Vegan Almond Cheese
As you might have guessed, the main ingredient in this vegan almond cheese are almonds. You can either use already blanched almonds or peel the skin off soaked almonds. Removing the skin before making almond cheese gives the cheese a smoother texture and lighter color that looks like cheese. For even creamier consistency, you could add some unroasted cashews.
Nutritional yeast is another essential ingredient in this almond cheese. If you’re wondering if you can substitute nutritional yeast with brewer’s yeast, torula yeast, or active yeast, the answer is “no”. It’s not the same thing and won’t deliver the results you want. Nutritional yeast has a relatively strong flavor that is somewhat similar to that pungent taste found in cheese. Also, nutritional yeast is not a standalone flavor. To bring out its cheesy side, some salt always helps.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can alter the flavor based on your favorite herbs and spices. I like to keep the cheese plain. So, I usually just add some lemon juice for a bit of tanginess and some garlic powder to enhance the savory flavor. If I want to go fancier, I add fresh green herbs, such as parsley, dill, or chives.
The olive oil in this recipe is optional, but it does help yield a smoother, creamier texture.
To make sure the cheese has a spreadable or slice-able consistency, you’ll need to add a thickening agent. I like to use agar powder (also called agar-agar powder or kanten). If you’re not familiar with agar powder, it’s a whole food derived from red algae (seaweed). For a stretchier texture, you might want to add some starch, such as arrowroot, tapioca, or corn starch. However, since starches are pretty much just empty calories with very little nutritional value, I don’t use them. That being said, while there are not a lot of good things that starches do in the body, there aren’t a lot of bad things either. So it’s just about how wholesome you want your diet to be.
Making this recipe is quite simple. It just requires some planning ahead. If you’re starting with raw almonds, you’ll need to blanch the almonds first to remove the skin. To blanch the almonds, pour boiling water over the almonds and let the almonds soak for a few minutes. Drain and rinse the almonds. Then rub the almonds with a towel or just use your fingers to peel and pop the skin off.
For creamier cheese, soak the blanched almonds in the fridge overnight. Once soaked, drain the soaking water, rinse the almonds thoroughly, and put them in a blender together with the other ingredients. You could also make this almond cheese in a food processor, but the texture won’t be as smooth.
Transfer the almond cheese mixture into a shallow pan and bring it to a boil. You will need to cook the agar a little bit so it thickens up. A few minutes of cooking and constantly stirring the mixture is all you should need. The cheese will set as the ingredients cool down. So, once cooked, transfer the cheese mixture quickly into a cheese mold (I used a small spring-form pan) and let it set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Blender (Vitamix Pro 750) | 2. Cookware Set (Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 3. Springform Pan (4-Inch, Wilton, Coated Steel) | 4. Measuring Cup (2 Cups, Pyrex, Glass) | 5. Mesh Strainers (Set of 3, Cuisinart, Stainless Steel) | 6. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Bellemain, Stainless Steel) | 7. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel)
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