What do you think of when you hear the words vegan cheese? Did you say, “that’s impossible!” or make a face and say, “yuck”? I said, “I want to try it!”
For some of you, trying different foods is a real stretch. Why? Because our eating habits and preferences are highly personal – and fascinating! Why are some children “picky eaters” and others just happy to have something to eat? Adults too! Why do many men eat mostly meat and potatoes, but pass on vegetables and salads? Why do we eat fast, frozen and junk food even though we could make healthier choices?
As with anything new, there’s a bit of a mental adjustment. For example, plant-based burgers are not made from an animal, so expect the taste and texture to be different – yet similar. They are not meat and they never will be. After a few bites, your brain says “even though I have a hard-wired association with the word ‘hamburger,’ I can also like something else – and it’s better for me (and animals!).”
It’s the same with vegan cheese. To be honest, I had more doubts about finding a healthier alternative to one of my favorite foods than for meat. For me, that was easy (I love animals and even take bugs outside).
One day, while shopping at my neighborhood natural foods store, I met a lady named Robin Hendrickson. We struck up a conversation about eating vegetarian and she mentioned that she makes vegan cheese. Well, I was more than curious to see how it’s done and how it tastes, so we made plans and spent a fun morning making it. I brought my vegan friend Diane along with me to take some pictures and as a co-taster.
Robin decided to make a “cheese” sauce recipe for us that even her non-vegetarian husband likes! It’s easy and versatile so it can be used over pasta (like mac and cheese), veggies, and stirred into soup (which we did). In addition, she had also generously pre-made three other vegan cheeses – “brie,” “gruyere” and “parmesan” – using recipes from a cookbook titled Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner.
Not only were they good, I was shocked by HOW good they were! The “gruyere” was spreadable and tangy with a rich miso flavor. The “brie” was delicious and melted in your mouth (we also tried it on a cracker with homemade blueberry compote-yum!). The “parmesan” was air-dried for about two weeks and could be grated like a hard cheese.
The Cashew “Cheese” Sauce we made was also amazing. In addition to the base recipe (below), you can stir in your own ingredients, like: salsa, chopped chiles, garlic – even veggie bacon bits! We stirred it into the delicious broccoli soup Robin made and added a dollop to the top. I can’t wait to try making guilt-free mac and “cheese” with it and also try it over sliced tomatoes after a couple of minutes under the broiler.
How good was vegan cheese? After we were done, I told Robin I would not only like to do it again (and try other kinds too), I’m going to try and give up dairy cheese and lower my cholesterol even more by making my own. I love an excuse to get together for delicious, healthy fun and friendship in the kitchen.
Do you make vegan "cheese"? We hope you'll share your favorite recipes. Do you buy vegan cheese at the store? What are your favorite brands? Leave us a comment. We're all hungry to know!
Linda the Veggie Groover
Here’s the recipe Robin made for us:
Cashew "Cheese" Sauce
2/3 C. Raw Cashews (unsalted)
I tsp. Onion Powder
2-1/2 C. Water
¼ C. Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1 T. Lemon Juice
½ tsp. Garlic Powder
4 oz. Pimientos
5 T. Arrowroot Powder
½ tsp. Coriander
2 tsp. Salt
- Blend cashews with 1 C. water until smooth (for the smoothest results, use a high speed blender such as a Vitamix®)
- Add pimiento and remaining water while blending.
- Add all other ingredients and blend for one minute.
- Cook on low in saucepan until thick. Cool.
Makes approximately 4 cups.
(from the Maranatha Mission Cookbook / Dayton, OH, now out of print)