You have plenty of options for making vegan cheese, whether you want to avoid allergic reactions to dairy products, reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding factory-farm products, or bring your spiritual beliefs into action. Your cheese may not taste as creamy as dairy cream cheese, or melt as lusciously as Monterey Jack, but it will come close to providing both sensations, with far fewer calories and saturated fats than dairy cheese as an added bonus.
Almonds and Cashews
Ground almonds or cashews provide the “go-to” ingredients for vegan cheese sauce for mac and cheese and, with less liquid added, a spreading cheese for sandwiches or crackers. For best results, soak the nuts for 6 to 8 hours before blending in a blender or food processors and add an ingredient to provide the meaty or umami taste of cheese, such as vegan yogurt, a fermented grain water or nutritional yeast. Use about 1 cup of nuts to 4 tablespoons of liquid such as lemon juice or white wine.
Pine Nuts to the Rescue
Pine nuts provide a quick alternative to almonds and cashews because they are soft and don’t require soaking. Use 4 teaspoons of liquid for each cup of nuts. Add a bit of olive oil for more spreadable cheese or use a thickener, such as agar flakes dissolved in liquid, for firmer cheese. If you use agar flakes, combine about 1/4 cup of flakes with five times that much water or soy milk for each 1/2 cup of pine nuts.
Tofu works as a cheese replacement with little effort on your part. For a ricotta substitute in lasagna, use silken or soft tofu and pulse it a few times in a blender; Avoid using a food processor because the tofu will lose too much texture. The same tofu paste substitutes for mozzarella melted as the lower layer of a pizza, and tofu you have crumbled with your fingers or cut into tiny cubes substitutes for feta on top of the pizza.
Turn Yogurt Into Cheese
Making cheese from yogurt begins with a container of store-bought, non-dairy yogurt poured into a colander or large-holed strainer lined with a clean dishcloth or several layers of cheesecloth. Tie the top of the cloth together, and place the colander in the refrigerator over a bowl to catch the liquid that drains from the yogurt. In a few hours, the cheese will achieve the consistency of stiff cream cheese; overnight, it will be firm enough to cut for sandwiches or to use in salads.
References and ResourcesVeg News: 3 Rules for Stellar Homemade Vegan Cheese
Food52: How to Make Vegan Cheese at Home
Vegetarian Times: Cheddar Cheeze
Fine Cooking: Creamy Pine Nut and Tahini Sauce (Tarator Sauce)
How to Cook Everything Vegetarian; Mark Bittman
The New York Times: A Recipe Secret Wrapped in a Towel
ResourcesNPR: Cracking The Code: Making Vegan Cheese Taste Cheesier
Food and Wine: Vegan Enchiladas