Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Aged Vegan Cashew Cheese

Cheese. Delicious. Creamy. Cheese-y. Cruelty-free. Dairy-free. Dreamy cheese.

Honestly, this stuff is delicious. 
I recently served some at some holiday gatherings and folks thought it was dairy cheese.
Some folks thought it was goat cheese and some thought it was brie. 
Everyone thought it was yummy.
1 1/2 C raw cashews
1 1/4 C cold water
2 heaping tablespoons non-dairy yogurt with active cultures
1/8 - 1/4 cup sauerkraut juice (from active probiotic sauerkraut - not the stuff in the can)
1/3 C coconut oil
1/8 C nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
teeny tiny pinch of garlic powder
2 teaspoons agar powder (not flakes)

Start by soaking 1 1/2 cups of raw cashews overnight in 1 1/2 cups of cold water and 1/2 tsp. salt.

In the morning the cashews will be swollen to about twice their original size.
Discard the soaking water.
Put the drained cashews, 2 T soy yogurt*
*you can use this:

1/3 Cup coconut oil (use refined if you don't want your cheese to taste like coconut)

1/8 Cup Nooch (nutritional yeast -loaded with B vitamins including B12!)

Blend it all up until very smooth - 5 minutes or so.

Here's something cool! This is a Chinese pickling jar.
The top fits into a ring on the top of the jar that is a reservoir. 
This lid keeps bad bacteria out while allowing the contents to breathe a bit.
As gases form during fermentation, the lids burps occasionally.

Pour your blended cashew mixture into a jar.
If you don't have one of these fancy schmancy jars, just use a regular big jar and cover the top
with a cotton cloth - like a clean handkerchief or cloth napkin or clean old cotton t-shirt
and hold it in place with a rubber band around the rim.
This will keep bad stuff out but let fermentation occur without exploding the jar.

Here's a close up of that reservoir I mentioned above.
I'm like a regular show-off.

Ok so - here's the story, if you want something mild and buttery, let this ferment for 24-36 hours 
depending on how warm your house is etc. 
Taste test your mixture after 24 hours. If you like it you're done with fermentation.
If, on the other hand you want something sharper, more along the lines of sharp cheddar or blue,
then allow your mixture to keep fermenting. 
I just made a batch of sharp - something akin to a sharp white cheddar,
I let ferment for 48 hours.

When fermentation is done, find a couple of ramekins or small dishes you can use to mold your cheese.

Line  them with cheesecloth

You can add some nice looking herbs or edible flower petals or fruit , if you like.
This photo below shows some crushed pink peppercorns.

As your cashew mixture ferments, little bubbles will form on the top.
You may also see some liquid accumulate at the bottom.

Dump the whole mess into a saucepan and heat on medium low.

Lightly sprinkle the agar powder over top - whisking vigorously after each 1/2 teaspoon.

Whisk. Whisk, Whisk.

Pretty soon the mixture will thicken.
Keep whisking another minute.
Then turn remove from the heat.

Pour into your prepared, cheesecloth lined containers

Smooth the surface gently - don't press too hard!

Lightly cover by folding over the cheesecloth and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Remove your cheese from the mold and unwrap the cheesecloth.
Wet your hands just slightly and sprinkle them with salt.
Rub the salt on the surface of the cheese and put the unwrapped cheese back in the refrigerator
for at least a few hours and up to 2 days.
By letting the cheese rest it dries on the outside creating sort of a rind.
Now - you can serve the cheese fresh and/or you can let it age.
I do both.
I make a small round for eating fresh and I let the larger round age unwrapped for 2 days
then I wrap it in parchment and let it age for as long as I can stand it.
Usually I can make it a week without eating a bit, but it can keep aging after you have some.
I have made it 3 weeks.*
After that it is uncharted territory and you are on your own.

I'm telling you, it's beautiful stuff.
This is a wheel that was aged about 2 weeks.
Make cheese. You can do it!
*aging update: I cut small cubes out of this batch and aged them for different amounts of time.
After about 2 months I had something like an asiago in texture. 
After 1 year I had some thing very dense and hard, almost like a Parmesano Reggiano
Am I suggesting you do this? Heck, no. 
I'm just saying I did.
That's what we call CYA ;)


  1. hello thank you for a simple and well explained recipe willi try it out..
    i have 2 question .
    when you heat the cashew mixture is really hi in temperature .. is it still raw ?
    and how long can i keep the cheese in refrgerator
    thank you again :)

  2. Hi!
    I think with enough patience, you can follow the same directions but maintain a temperature below 120F. This would keep all of the enzymes intact.
    I do thicken mine at a bit higher temperature, although your question makes me want to try it at a lower temp!
    As I mentioned - I do cook mine for a short period of time , at a higher temperature. This cheese keeps well in the refrigerator when wrapped in parchment (it actually keeps for MONTHS). I have some pieces that I have aged for over 6 months and they are like hard Parmesan cheese that can be grated over veggies. Delicious!
    Thanks for commenting and let me know how your cashew cheese turns out!

  3. When you age it, it's in the fridge, right? I don't want to let it age on my counter or something and make it go bad, but I wonder if the cold slows the process? Thanks!