Cultured Vegan Cashew Cheese

Plant-based food can be savory, creamy and cheesy–have your pub cheese and eat it, too! I think the key to a great vegan cashew cheese is culturing the nuts with a live culture liquid like sauerkraut or pickle brine. A brief cashew fermentation develops deep savory flavors that can’t be beaten.

This recipe calls for agar agar, a small flaked white seaweed that can be ordered online or purchased in the Asian foods section of many health foods stores – I have always purchased the Eden foods brand. Agar allows cashew cheese to set into a sliceable mold, which is great for crackers and sandwiches. I like that you can also reheat the recipe below (instructions follow) for use as a pub cheese or a macaroni sauce.

If you would like to skip setting the cheese, this sauce works well for nachos or as a dip. Omit the agar and water, and your dip will be done after the cheese has been blended. Feel free to tweak the spices with whatever you have on hand, but do make sure to use the miso and yeast! In my experience, this cheese keeps well in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Gather

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup live culture sauerkraut brine
  • 1/2 cup dark beer
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp miso
  • 1 tbsp stone ground mustard
  • 1 tsp dry turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp agar agar
  • 1/2 cup water

Make

  • Combine the cashews and sauerkraut brine in a jar and loosely fit on a lid. Leave to ferment for 2-4 days at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Fermentation moves slowly at cooler temperatures and faster in heat, so the nuts will be ready sooner in summer and less quickly in winter.
  • After a few days of fermentation, move the cashews and brine to a high powered blender. Add the beer, yeast, miso, turmeric, mustard, paprika, peeled garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt to begin. Blend on high into a smooth paste.
  • Taste the mixture and blend in more yeast, miso, and salt as needed. If you are skipping setting the mixture, the cheese sauce is now done.
  • Get out molds for your cheese on the counter next to your stove- you’ll need them in the next steps. You can use nonstick muffin pans, mini bread pans, or slightly greased ramekins.
  • Combine the agar agar and water in a small saucepot, mixing together with a small fork. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and close the lid for three minutes. Don’t peek.
  • After three minutes, the agar mixture should be bubbling rapidly. Pour in the cashew puree and whisk constantly so that it doesn’t burn. Continue stirring until the mixture seems stretchy and shiny, about 2-5 minutes. You will notice a distinct shine.
  • Pour the mixture into your prepared molds. They will not expand or contract so fill the molds to the top as much as possible. Move to the refrigerator, uncovered until fully set and cooled. Turn out of the molds and wrap in plastic wrap or seal in a reusable container. The cheese can now be sliced for crackers and sandwiches.
  • To use as a warm pasta sauce or spread, warm the amount of cheese you’d like to heat over low heat in a nonstick saucepan, stirring frequently. When the cheese just starts to bubble it is ready for use. Toss with cooked macaroni, use as a warm dip with pretzels, or spread on baked potatoes or toast!

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