I'm really excited about sharing this week's recipe with you. (Truth be told I get excited about most week's recipes). But in all seriousness, this one is a real goodie. It's another of my pantry staple series, which focuses on my favourite easy go-to recipes to keep in your fridge, pantry and freezer, when you're moving towards a plant-based whole foods lifestyle.
One of the biggest difficulties people have when giving up animal products is dairy. As an avid foodie I can totally appreciate this, I mean, cheese does taste mighty fine! Luckily I've got a host of alternatives for you to try out, that not only taste great, but will nourish your body as well as benefit the sustainability of our environmental footprint, curb global warming, and reduce our reliance on animal products. All in a tub of cheese you say? Yes! The choices we individually make three times a day (or five times as the case may be), make the single biggest impact in terms of our planet's health and that of all its inhabitants. Enough musing though, let's get into the cheese.
If you haven't yet tried making cheese out of nuts, you're in for a treat. The key to making a good cheese out of nuts is to recreate the same elements you normally taste in cheese - creamy, salty, tangy, and at times a little bit fermented. This cashew nut cheese does exactly that. The cashews and olive oil provide the creaminess, the sea salt and nutritional yeast adds the saltiness, while the lemon, garlic and shallots provide the tang.
This cheese is soft, similar to a spreadable feta dip. It's quite soft when you first make it, but hardens up really nicely in the fridge overnight. If you'd like to try a drier cheese as well, make sure you check out my Cashew Nut Parmesan recipe, which I published a while back sprinkled over some Italian Meatballs with Cauliflower Mash (yum!).
Nutritional yeast - the dairy-free way to say cheese
If you haven't yet tried nutritional yeast and you're looking to go dairy-free, this is one ingredient you definitely need to get savvy with. Nutritional yeast (sometimes known as savoury yeast) is an inactive form of yeast, and has a nutty, savoury, cheesy flavour making it perfect for making an animal-free cheese. It's very different from brewer's yeast (which has a characteristic brewery smell), and so those who have sensitivities to yeast containing foods (and tend to suffer from Candida albicans or thrush), are perfectly fine with this inactive form.
As well as its delicious cheesy taste, nutritional yeast is a great source of vitamin B12, the availability of which is sometimes questioned on a plant-based diet. B12 is made by bacteria, and traditionally has been found in plentiful amounts in our soils and produce. Chemical spraying and washing of our foods however, as well as modern hygiene, has virtually eliminated this vitamin from our food supply. Nutritional yeast is therefore an easy and tasty way to get it, along with tempeh and fortified soy milks. Just check the label to see whether yours is fortified with B12 or not - the one I use for example (which you can get here) contains 40% of your daily recommended B12 intake in one 5g serving.
I made this particular batch of cashew nut cheese as part of a tasting platter for a good friend of mine's book launch - she's just published her very first children's book! It's the perfect cheese to add to a platter as is so easily spreadable on crackers and breads. I paired it with a simple mix of cherry tomatoes, avocado sprinkled with hemp seeds, grapes, quinoa sourdough and oatcakes (and lets just say the platter got demo'd!). You can keep your cheese in the fridge for up to a week and use it anywhere you'd normally use cheese - in a salad, on pizza, mixed through pasta, on top of a lasagne or bake, turned into a cheese sauce by mixing it with some plant-milk (soy, oat, rice etc), or simply spread on crackers and bread.
If you have access to locally grown organic or spray-free macadamias and pine nuts you can use a half blend with the cashews, which adds a really nice texture and depth of flavour. Here in NZ though they're both rather expensive so I only do that occasionally! You can also use a blend of brazil nuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds or sesame seeds with the cashews. Try a few different batches to see what you like best - whoever limited themselves to just one cheese anyway!
If you'd like you can also culture your cashew nut cheese so it's fermented like traditional cheese. To do that, add half a teaspoon of dairy-free probiotic powder to your blend, then keep the sealed jar in a warm place for 24-36 hours (I place mine beside or on top of my dehydrator). Taste it to see if it's started to go a bit sour (you might also see a few earthquake-looking lines on the side of the jar where it's started to bubble and ferment), then pop in the fridge. It will continue to ferment over the next few days in the fridge, so don't let it get too sour before you pop it in! This step though is by no means necessary, the fresh one tastes amazing too - so if you're short on time just go for that. I find the fermented version lasts about 5 days in the firdge (before it starts getting a bit too fermenty), while the fresh version lasts a bit longer up to 10 days. Both versions will firm up overnight to a delicious spreadable semi-soft feta consistency - seriously good.
Last tip - don't try and halve this recipe. I've tried making smaller batches before, and (a) it gets eaten way too quickly, and (b) it's not enough mixture in the blender to get a silky smooth blend - you'll end up instead with a gritty mix which tastes totally different. So go with the full measures straight up!
I hope this delicious Cashew Nut Cheese becomes a regular feature in your house just as it has in ours. If you make it I'd love to see how you use your cheesey goodness on Instagram - tag me @begoodorganics and #begoodorganics so I can come say hello and also feature you in my monthly Be Good Organics in Your Kitchen album on Facebook and Insta.
Enjoy the rest of your glorious Sunday, and all its cheese-filled adventures!
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Always use certified organic, local and fairly traded ingredients wherever possible
1 1/2 c cashews* (soaked 2hrs, rinsed & drained)
1/2 c water
1/3 c lemon juice (and flesh)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp extra virgin cold-pressed olive oil
1 tbsp shallots
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt (OR kelp salt**)
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
Optional: 1 tablespoon kefir (if you want to ferment your cheese)
** I always use kelp salt in savoury recipes, in the place of regular salt (I use Himalayan pink sea salt in sweet recipes or where the kelp will be a noticeable flavour). Kelp salt is a wonderful natural source of iodine, and means you're overall salt measure contains less sodium. Try it out here!
c = 250ml cup, tbsp = 15ml tablespoon, tsp = 5ml teaspoon