This vegan Parmesan cheese doesn’t melt like the real cheese, but it’s a great addition to many dishes. I usually sprinkle it on a Caesar salad, add it to pesto or warm pasta dishes, use it as a topping for pizza, popcorn, or just about anything that needs a mild cheese flavor.
When faced with the idea of switching to a plant-based diet, one of the main reasons people don’t want to do it is that they “can’t give up cheese”. It wasn’t my reason; I thought it was yogurt I couldn’t live without. However, there were a couple of cheeses that I knew were going to be hard to give up, like brie or Parmesan. When I was a teenager, I would eat an entire block of brie or heaps of Parmesan cheese in just one sitting. I loved the earthy smell, melt-y and stretchy texture, and salty flavor. So giving up cheese was definitely an adjustment.
But it wasn’t just the taste of cheese that I missed. We’re all familiar with the “this reminds me of . . . ” experience of eating, when a particular food brings back pleasant memories. I make Alfredo sauce for my family not only because it’s delicious, but also because it’s something my mom made when I was growing up. So when I have cravings for cheese, I’m also having cravings for the people, places, and experiences that cheese just happened to be a part of.
Fortunately, there’re lots of vegan cheese recipes out there to try out. Since Parmesan cheese was one of the cheeses I used to eat all the time (and also because my husband loves Parmesan sprinkled on just about everything), that’s the recipe I started out with first on a plant-based diet.
Tips for Making Vegan Parmesan Cheese
Vegan Parmesan is made up mainly of cashews but you can use a blend of different nuts or seeds, such as pine nuts, Brazil nuts, and a little bit of hemp seeds. I like using cashews because their natural flavor mimics the nuttiness of real “Parm” perfectly. The “cheese” flavor comes from the nutritional yeast, a pinch of salt and a little bit of garlic powder. The garlic powder is optional but it adds a depth of flavor so I always add it in.
The easiest way to make this vegan Parmesan cheese is to use a food processor. If you don’t have one, you could also use a coffee grinder – it works like a charm as well.
It’s best to keep the vegan Parmesan cheese in a glass jar in the fridge so the cashews don’t turn rancid.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Food Processor (Breville Sous Chef)
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- 1 cup raw cashews
- 4 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- fine sea salt, to taste
Add all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until a coarse meal forms.
Store leftover vegan "Parmesan" in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.