Difficulty level: Medium
There are some good vegan cheeses available at the store, but since they are often expensive and/or full of preservatives, it’s nice to have the option to make your own. Read on for tips on setting up your vegan cheese-making kitchen.
Most mock cheeses are made primarily of one of these ingredients:
- Tofu – usually firm or extra-firm, which should be pressed before using. A few recipes call for silken tofu, which just needs to be drained.
- Raw nuts – Cashews, macadamia nuts, and pine nuts are particularly tasty, but almonds and Brazil nuts also make good cheeses.
- Raw seeds – Sunflower seeds are by far the most common, followed by sesame, hemp, and pumpkin seeds.
- Coconut oil – Because it’s solid at room temprerature, coconut oil is key to making many block cheeses. Note that if you don’t want your cheese to taste like coconut, you must use refined coconut oil.
It’s essential for nuts and seeds to be raw (and usually soaked); roasted or otherwise heat-treated nuts and seeds will not give you the same result.
Many cheeses, like almond chèvre, need a culturing agent – see below.
Firm cheeses require a thickener such as agar, carrageenan powder, xantham gum, guar gum, or tapioca flour.
Other common ingredients that add flavor and/or affect the texture are nutritional yeast, lemon juice, vinegar, umeboshi plum paste, olive oil, garlic, herbs, and of course salt.
If you’re interested in making anything more elaborate than tofu ricotta or faux parmesan, you need to culture the cheese. Culturing is what gives cheese – dairy or mock – its characteristic flavor and texture.
There are three ingredients commonly used to culture vegan cheese:
- Rejuvelac is a tart liquid made from sprouted grains. It takes several days to ferment before you even start making the cheese.
- Probiotics are a dietary supplement that you can purchase in a natural food store or order online. To use for cheese making, pour the probiotic powder into to whatever liquid is needed for your recipe, discard the capsule, and whisk to dissolve.
- Miso is a fermented paste commonly found in Asian cuisines. If you’re not using a high-speed blender, you should dissolve miso in cool water before adding it to your recipe.
They can be used interchangeably, but each makes the cheese taste slightly different. I think they’re equally delicious, but you should try them all to see which one you like best.
= 1 c rejuvelac =
= 1 c water + 1 t miso =
= 1 c water + 2 probiotic capsules (¼ t powder) =
For most non-dairy cheeses, there are two essential tools:
- High speed blender: I recommend Vitamix, but there are other very good brands as well. You can try using a regular blender, but in order to get the mixture perfectly smooth, you’ll need to run it for a long time, which risks burning it out.
- Mesh bag or cheesecloth: After you blend most cheese mixtures, they need to culture and, sometimes, drain. There are two ways to do this: either put the mixture in a suspended nut milk bag, or else set a colander over a bowl, line it with cheesecloth, and pour/spread the cheese mixture on top. If you need to press the cheese, fold the cheesecloth over it, cover with a flat plate, then set a heavy can on top of that. (Both nut milk bags and cheesecloth are reusable, just rinse them in hot water before washing them with your kitchen towels.)