may 6, 2016
There was a vegan cheese spread I used a few years ago for a client who stopped eating dairy, with a persistent longing for the texture and taste of a creamy cheese, but with a strong dislike for the soy substitutes available. This cheese was made from oats and had a light caramel color and hickory smoke flavor. It was so delicious I purchased some just for me and indulged.
I’ve been reading about and thinking about vegan cheeses made with cashews and today’s recipe is the result of much playing around in the kitchen in order to get it right, and trying to duplicate that terrific spread. Most vegan cashew cheese recipes start with raw cashews, but I used roasted nuts to complement the smoked Spanish paprika and give not only depth of flavor but a pleasant color. Lemon juice for tartness and a hefty dose of raw garlic give a blast to your tastebuds, and the flakes of nutritional yeast lend the umami facsimile of aged cheddar. Nutritional yeast is easily found in the bulk bins of natural food stores and it keeps well at room temperature.
Your best kitchen tool for making this vegan cheese smooth is a nice food processor; if you halve the recipe, use the smaller bowl attachment to keep ingredients more tightly packed together. The spread can be made thick (and keep in mind it will thicken after refrigeration) or thinned out with water for use as a dip or pasta sauce. It makes a unique sandwich spread and would serve as a tasty base for a roasted vegetable flatbread. I could go on and on with suggestions for your enjoyment , as I have become quite attached to this smoky “cheese” spread, through the many versions made and shared with my Official Tasters.
This is a good keeper – up to a week in the fridge. Perfect for those who avoid dairy by choice or necessity, and perfect for anyone else!
Smoky Vegan Cashew Cheese
makes a little over two cups
2 cups roasted salted or unsalted cashews, soaked overnight and drained well
1 large garlic clove, zested or finely minced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes, fine or coarse
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon fine sea salt – I like La Baleine
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, mild (not hot)
½ cup of water (more later if you care to thin after refrigeration)
- In large bowl of food processor, place all ingredients except water and process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl.
- With machine running, add water in a thin stream and process until well blended, again stopping to scrape bowl sides as needed.
- The mixture will look smooth and taste/feel a little grainy which is to be expected.
- Chill in the refrigerator at least four hours until set, and add a little water at serving time to thin if desired.
- To prevent darkening, press a layer of plastic wrap or waxed paper onto the surface of the spread.
- Smoky vegan cashew cheese keeps well in the fridge up to one week.