The main ingredient in all vegan cheese recipes is nutritional yeast. It mimics that funky umami flavor that a lot of aged cheeses have.
As for the young vegan cheese, it often uses just a bit of lemon juice and salt for that classic tang. Tofu is also sometimes called vegetarian or vegan cheese because it’s made similarly to cottage cheese – by separating the curds from the whey.
The Magic of Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is not the same thing that is used to make bread. You could try to use it, but your dough is going nowhere since that stuff is completely inactive. It’s also derived from different sources, mainly sweet stuff like sugar cane and molasses, which further contributes to the distinctive cheesy and nutty aroma. All that combined with oodles of umami provides a flavor that is so much like cheese that even carnivores and vegetarians could not tell the difference.
It’s also loaded with B vitamins, zinc, and protein, and you can use it also as a supplement or even smear over your face instead of commercial face masks.
Can you add nutritional yeast directly to the food?
Of course. It will not have the same effect as when you add parmesan to a dish since it doesn’t bring the same saltiness and creaminess to the party. Still, it’s a brilliant thing to do when you want to add a bit more of umami to any dish.
And speaking of parm, you will have to use way less than you think. Treat nutritional yeast almost like the essence or the extract of parmesan and sprinkle just a little bit here and there.
is beer vegan yeast the same thing as nutritional yeast?
Nutritionally almost, but not when it comes to flavor. It will work in a pinch, but it will not give off as many of the cheesy aromas.
Of course, I’m talking about deactivated beer yeast here. Some breweries sell it and it can be used as a supplement, in cooking to add more umami to the dish, or you can slap it also on your face as a face mask.
A word about Marmite/Vegemite…
They are more or less the same thing, just coming from different continents. On their own… Well, there is a reason why many make a face when you mention them. But you don’t have to spread them on your morning toast to have a reason to make them a place in your pantry.
They are packed with umami and a single tablespoon can create magic in a whole pot of soup or stew. You can also use them to make vegan cheese at home. They will have a slightly different flavor profile, so it’s a great way to mix things up. And bonus points for added color.
Let’s not forget about miso paste.
All these soybean-based pastes (red and white miso, doenjang, etc) are also packed in umami and will contribute to the cheesy experience. They are often used in combination with nutritional yeast, but they could work on their own as well. For example, white miso has the most delicate flavor, but it’s perfect for that authentic aroma when you have cheesecake on your mind.
Does this mean that soy sauce can work as well? Well, not really. You could use soy sauce instead of salt and add an extra layer of umami, but if you use it alone, the end product may end up too soggy and salty.
How to Make Hard Vegan Cheese. Vegan nacho cheese
The easiest way to make a type of cheese that you can place on a board with some crackers and chutney is to blend nuts and nutritional yeast. Cashews are the best base because they have such a neutral flavor and a creamy consistency, but you can sneak a few walnuts or peanuts in there for something a little bit different.
A good starting ratio is one cup of cashews, one tablespoon of nutritional yeast, and juice of one lemon. Beyond that, you can add whatever else you want – from raw garlic or garlic powder to chopped herbs or nuts.
Start by soaking the cashews. Drain completely and place into a food processor or a blender. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Set a colander over a bowl and line with cheesecloth. Transfer the mixture into the cheesecloth and wrap tightly. Leave in the fridge for 12 hours to drain and set. You can transfer it to a serving dish, mold it a bit into a more pleasing shape, and serve.
This cheese will be quite spreadable, but if you want it more sliceable, pop it into the food dehydrator or a low oven to dry up a bit.
But if I made you hungry for some Parmigiano Reggiano, there is an easy substitute for that.
Into a food processor, add a cup of (dry) cashews, 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder. Pulse until you get the coarse sand consistency. Store it in an airtight container and use as you would use grated parmesan.
If you want to press it into a block for presentation purposes, go for it. But remember to use quite a bit of weight, and that it will not slice the same way as the original.
Can you make stringy/melty cheese without dairy? Vegan cottage cheese
Technically you can, with a few special ingredients. It will look more like a science experiment instead of cooking, but it’s doable. In the end, it all has more to do with what happens to the protein and fat in the “cheese”, and not where it comes from.
You’ll find a few recipes online that call for starch or agar, or both, and that will do in a pinch. But, if you want extra meltiness and stringiness, it would be better to adapt ChefSteps’ recipe. Just replace everything with vegan alternatives (soy milk and storebought vegan cheese seem to work the best), and you’re good to go.
As you can see, you will need some special ingredients and equipment, but needs must if you want to make this stuff at home.
How to Make Young Vegan Cheese. Vegan cream cheese frosting
Both methods are incredibly easy and will end up with some fantastic results.
First, you can use soy milk to make “cheese” curds or cheese that is very similar to skyr. You’ll get the best results if you use freshly made soy milk, but most storebought will work fine as well. Heat the milk until you can see steam and add lemon juice or white vinegar to it (a tablespoon per quart). Stir gently, remove from heat, cover with a lid, and walk away for at least 10-15 minutes.
Drain through a colander lined with cheesecloth and add salt as desired.
But if you want to make cream cheese, you will need something with higher fat content. Enter cashews. Soak the cashews for a couple of hours and drain completely. Transfer them to a blender or a food processor. Add some nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt. There is no rule on how much exactly so create a ratio that works for your palate. Blend until smooth, and adjust for seasoning if needed.
If you’re looking for a firmer consistency, you can skip the soaking process.
Can you make vegan brunost?
Not in the traditional way. Okay, brunost is a brown cheese from Norway (brun for brown, and ost for cheese) and is made by boiling down leftover whey after cheesemaking. Whey has a lot of lactose (milk sugar) and when it reduces you end up with a hard sweet cheese with strong caramel and umami notes. It’s after used for both sweet and savory recipes.
Only, there is no lactose in soy milk “whey”. But no one said that we can’t cheat a little bit. Dilute any plant milk (1:1 ratio; the ones with higher fat and protein content will work the best, ie almond milk) and add 1 ounce of sweetener for every 20 ounces of liquid. Sprinkle a tiny bit of nutritional yeast and leave it to boil down. You can add a pinch of salt and some vanilla extract close to the end.
It will not be quite the same, but it will surely impress everyone at your next dinner party.
Can You Make Tofu at Home?
A huge fat yes. And, unless you have a tofu house in your community or a restaurant that makes it regularly and is willing to sell you some, you should consider making this one of your new regular kitchen chores. Fresh tofu is so superior to the stuff that was hanging out in the plastic packaging in the store. It even has the power to convert meat-eaters into tofu addicts.
But the process can be a bit finicky. Honestly, whole books were written about this subject. It’s a small number of ingredients with a small number of steps, but everything needs to be just right for perfect results.
If you don’t mind a challenge, give it a go. And if it seems too daunting, don’t worry – you just need to get it right once, and after that, it will be smooth sailing.
Where to Shop for Vegan Cheeses
Good news – you’ll probably find some in your local mega-mart. Health food stores and chains like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s tend to be better stocked. Also, don’t forget to check out your local farmer’s market.
Finally, if you have a good vegan restaurant in your community, you can ask them if you can buy some from them – especially if they are well known for making everything else from scratch.