28 Nov Weekend Pantry Recipe: Vegan “Cheese”!!

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“Pantry Items ” is a term used for staple cooking ingredients.  Staple ingredients vary from cook to cook, kitchen to kitchen.  The list can include olive oil, garlic, onion, lemons, parsley, you know…..things you always have in your kitchen.  My list of staple items is a little different and it is a HUGE list!  My pantry items include homemade pasta sauce, cashew milk, vegan cheese, vegan mayonnaise, pico de gallo, and tons more.  I use these ingredients nearly every week in a recipe.  My Weekend Pantry posts will show you how to make all of my staple ingredients from scratch.  You can then use these ingredients in my other recipes.  You can use the homemade vegan mayonnaise to make my Portobello Mushroom Sandwich with Basil-Dijon Mayo even healthier because you won’t be using store-bought processed mayo.  You can use homemade vegan milk in my Mixed Berry Smoothie Recipe.  Use homemade Pico De Gallo in my Chicken and Vegetable Tacos.  Okay, I think you get the gist!  Now for today’s Weekend Pantry Recipe. 

Homemade Vegan Cheese

Homemade vegan cheese really is a staple in my home.  It’s always good to keep around because seriously, what food doesn’t taste good with cheese sauce added to it?  Potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, tortilla chips, apples, grapes, strawberr……oh wait.  I may have gotten a little carried away.  Okay okay, I guess there are a few things that don’t taste great with cheese sauce!  Jokes aside, this really is some gooood cheese sauce.

But let me be clear. It does not taste EXACTLY like cheese.

In my opinion, it tastes similar and either way this is an all-around DARN good sauce that everyone should know how to make.  You know what two of the secrets ingredients are?  Coconut oil and nutritional yeast.  Yup.  I don’t know why, but the coconut oil mixed with the nutritional yeast makes magic in the blender and really helps the “cheese” taste extra buttery and cheesy.  I also use roasted red peppers in my recipe.  I recommend only using roasted red peppers, although (as you’ll see in my Vegan Cheese cooking video) you can use roasted yellow peppers too.  The yellow peppers will give you more of a mustard color.  The red peppers give the perfect cheese color.

Homemade Vegan Cheese

 

Now lets talk about nutritional yeast.

Ever heard of it?  Probably not. Nutritional yeast is deactivated yeast that is sold commercially as a food product.  Sounds appetizing, right?!  It contains trace amounts of minerals and B-complex vitamins. It is a very popular ingredient amongst vegans because of its slightly nutty and cheesy flavor.  Vegans have been using this stuff for ages as a cheese replacement. This is not the easiest product to find, but if you have a few natural foods stores in your area then check them to see if they carry nutritional yeast.  If not, you can always order it on Amazon.

Now on to the second ingredient that you may have trouble finding.

Agar Agar.

This is the main ingredient needed in order to turn our vegan cheese sauce into a block of cheese. It is made of algae, but don’t worry because it has absolutely no flavor at all!  It is widely used by vegans, and individuals who cannot eat pork, as a gelatin substitute.  This stuff is AMAZING!!  Check out your nearest Asian food store to look for this product.  Asians from all over the continent have been using this ingredient for a loooong time, so most of those stores carry this product.  If you find it, just buy a bunch of packets at one time.  They’re usually pretty cheap.

Homemade Vegan Cheese

 

Do not get the Agar Agar flakes.

I mean….you could, but the flakes suck!  You have to use twice as much Agar Agar flakes as you would with the powder, and the flakes are super hard to dissolve.  I tried using the flakes the first time I made this cheese and it just did not work as well.   If the flakes are the only thing you can find, then go for it.

Now this block of vegan cheese is not as hard as a block of cheddar cheese.  It is a very soft block of cheese.  If you’re craving a grilled cheese, you can use slices of this vegan cheese, although it won’t melt all stretchy and gooey like real cheese.  It tastes GREAT though.  9 times out of 10 I just stick to making the cheese sauce because it literally takes 10 minutes and you’re done.  I make the block of cheese if I’m craving cheese and crackers!

You guys.  This cheese tastes MARVELOUS on crackers.

 I think even some hardcore meat and dairy eaters would prefer this vegan cheese with their crackers over real cheese.  I also like to cut the cheese in chunks and toss it in brown rice pasta with vegetables and cheese sauce, like I did in this picture.  Yum!!

Vegan Cheese

 

Now if you’re one of those who is scared of fat, don’t worry.  The coconut oil is optional, although I believe there is a big difference in the taste if you don’t use it.  Also, we only use 1 cup of cashews.  Whole plant fats, like nuts and seeds, have many many health benefits when eaten in moderation.  And this vegan cheese recipe makes 3 – 4 servings, so that’s 1 cup of cashews divided by 3 or 4 servings…..that’s barely any fat!  Don’t forget there’s also a whole zucchini and roasted red peppers in there.  It is definitely a healthy alternative to real cheese, and children would really love this creamy “cheesey” sauce!

Alright, now that I’ve given you the low down on this vegan cheese, it’s time to get in the kitchen and try it out!  I highly recommend you watch the cooking video for this recipe so you can see exactly how the agar agar is supposed to look when mixed with water.  Also, if you choose to make the block of cheese you have to stir it constantly on the stove for 10 minutes, so the video will show you exactly what consistency it should be before pouring it in your mold.


 

WATCH THIS COOKING VIDEO TO SEE EXACTLY HOW TO MAKE VEGAN CHEESE!!

 


 

Vegan Cheese sauce
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Pantry
Serves: 3 - 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 zucchini, peeled
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup water, filtered if possible, more if needed.
Instructions
  1. Place everything in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. I use a high powered blender, so it annihilates these ingredients, but if your blender is having some trouble, add water a tablespoon at a time until it can blend everything easily.
Notes
This sauce is GREAT for nachos, macaroni and cheese, creamy cheesy casseroles, cheese dip, vegan mushroom philly cheese sandwiches...I could go on and on!

A Block Of Vegan Cheese
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Pantry
Serves: 3 - 4
Ingredients
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1 zucchini, peeled
  • 1 cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ cup roasted red peppers
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 ½ cups water, filtered if possible
  • 2 tablespoons agar agar powder, NOT THE AGAR AGAR FLAKES
  • ½ cup boiling water
Instructions
  1. Have your "mold" ready and waiting for you on the counter. You can literally use ANYTHING as a mold. In this video, you will see that I used some really old and ugly lunch tupperware as a mold because that's all I could find!
  2. In a small bowl, mix the agar agar powder with the boiling water. Stir until it forms a thick paste. There may still be a few lumps of agar agar in the mixture, but that's fine. Set aside for 5 minutes. This helps activate the agar agar. Cold water will not activate it.
  3. In a blender, add everything including agar agar mixture that you set aside. Once blended smooth, place it in a pot on the stove on medium heat.
  4. STIR STIR STIR! Stir this mixture constantly for 10 minutes. It will get thicker and thicker as it cooks. If the pot is getting too hot and it starts to burn on the bottom, lower the heat slightly, or just take the pot off the stove for a few seconds and stir. Put it on the stove and stir. Take it back off for a few seconds and stir. You get the gist. We just don't want it to burn.
  5. If the mixture starts becoming a bit oily, then take it off the heat. It's done. In the cooking video I made, I almost got to the point where it was oily. It usually happens if you cook it longer than 10 minutes. If that happens, don't worry. You can still make the block of cheese, but try to avoid it if possible.
  6. Moving quickly, pour the cooked "cheese" mixture in your mold. Use a rubber spatula, or the back of a spoon to smooth the cheese on top. The agar agar will start to do its magic very quickly, so try to pour it in the mold and smooth it fast.
  7. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 45 minutes to an hour. When it is completely firm you will know it's ready.
  8. Now have your crackers ready for some awesome vegan Cheese and Crackers. What a great snack!

 

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