I know, I know. I’ve been stamping the word vegan on every blog post for the past few weeks. To anyone curious: I have not become vegan … Sherif wouldn’t be too excited about that. I am simply fasting from all animal products for Lent, in keeping with my Orthodox Christian tradition. Anyway, though I am enjoying the bout of creativity that this fast has spurred, as well as the discovery of raw and vegan recipes to fill an entire year’s calendar, I still crave the taste of high-quality grass-fed cheese from time of time … scratch that, almost every day. Funny thing is that ever since Sherif became sensitive to lactose recently, we haven’t been buying a whole lot of cheese … so the discovery of this recipe that I’m about to share is actually very liberating, and will likely make vegan cashew “cheese” a staple in our household.
Every time I’ve fasted for Lent in the past, I’ve had to deal with a ton of fake products that are brought to parties and get-togethers, such as processed soy cheeses and yogurts, seitan, margarine, etc. I had the impression there was no other healthy and tasty alternative, and was pretty frustrated by this. This is one of the reasons I didn’t really look forward to these fasts, and oftentimes did not participate. I didn’t feel that it was right to eat a bunch of fake junk … it was not spiritually enriching in the least to me. Anyway, recently, I started realizing that there was actually a lot of vegan stuff that I can make from scratch that is way healthier than the processed junk and actually tastes very good!
The other day I stumbled upon this recipe of vegan cashew “cheese” from the blog Chocolate & Zucchini and was really intrigued. I simply had to try it. I was curious if it would actually taste anything like real cheese. So, on my last trip to Whole Foods, I grabbed a bunch of raw cashews (unsalted and unroasted) as well as a cup or so of nutritional yeast (more on that below) – both from the bulk section there.
For some reason, I thought it would be a lot of work to make this “cheese”, but it was actually one of the easiest recipes I’ve made recently. It’s just mixing!
Vegan Cashew “Cheese” Recipe … Tastes Just Like Boursin
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (1.5 cups)
- 1 and 1/2 cups raw cashew nuts (not roasted or salted), soaked overnight in filtered water with sea salt, then rinsed and drained before use
- 1/4 cup filtered water
- 2 tablespoons dry white wine (optional; substitute water or vinegar if preferred)
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons organic nutritional yeast
- 2 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan salt or other unrefined mineral salt
- freshly ground black pepper
(1) Soak the raw cashews. Rinse the cashews and soak in warm filtered water (just enough to cover them) overnight with a dash of sea salt. Discard the retained water and rinse the cashews.
(2) Add the cashews and other ingredients to a blender. Add vinegar, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, garlic, white wine (optional), salt, and pepper.
(3) Blend. As usual, I used my bullet blender, which worked well … but you can use something more powerful if you’d like.
(4) Cover and refrigerate overnight. Add to a glass container, cover, and keep in the fridge overnight for all the flavors to mingle. It should stay good for 5-6 days after that if refrigerated.
What is nutritional yeast?
If you’ve never heard of nutritional yeast before (I had only heard about it from my friend Siv, a holistic health counselor in Chicago), it’s basically a fungus … Yes, it sounds gross but it’s not! It’s deactivated yeast that is produced by culturing the yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses for a period of 7 days, then harvesting, washing and drying it.
What is it good for?
It’s nutritionally healthy:
It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium and it is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten. Some brands of nutritional yeast, though not all, are fortified with vitamin B12. The vitamin B12 is produced separately from bacteria and then added to the yeast (Wikipedia).
How does it taste?
Nutty, cheesy, creamy … hard to describe, but a great complement to many meals (especially this one). It’s definitely a major ingredient in this recipe, because it supplies a lot of the “cheesy” taste.
Where can I buy it?
Health food stores. I got some from the bulk section at Whole Foods.
Ever since I made this a couple of days ago, I have been addicted to this stuff … I may have almost finished the bowl over the past 2 days (with some help from Sherif) … To me, vegan cashew “cheese” tastes so much like Boursin, the creamy garlicky French cheese that is most commonly spread on crackers. I personally love the taste of garlic, but it’s not overpowering in this recipe if you only use two cloves. It’s the same intensity of garlicky flavor found in most Boursin cheeses. Next time, I’m adding herbs … kinda like this variation of the recipe that I found. Does that look delicious or what!?
Would you ever try this? It’s such a simple recipe so you really have nothing to lose. Okay, I won’t beg. How about this: do you have another equally awesome (or better) vegan cheese recipe to share with me?