Almost Paleo, Definitely Vegan, Sometimes Gluten-Free Cheese – Plus, A Giveaway

Raw beets with cashew cheese from Artisan Vegan Cheese

Rolled in herbs or straight from the mold, this fermented cashew cheese is extremely tasty!

If you don’t fall into one of the title groups, you may be getting ready to click away or throw stuff at me.  Stop!  Don’t do it.  You can’t hit me from there anyway and you’ll be glad you stayed.  I didn’t even put quotes around the word “cheese” in the title.  That’s because this stuff is good and it is fermented!  When I decided to do this basic cheese series a few months back, I went in search of an option that would work for my dairy-free readers of all stripes.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t optimistic, but I lucked out big time when I  found the book Artisan Vegan Cheese.   

I felt that author Miyoko Schinner was a bit of a kindred spirit because like me she entertains vegans and enjoys serving up a good cheeseboard for her dear friends.  Like Schinner, I’ve tasted other vegan “dairy” that falls totally flat.  Lemon juice and citric acid do not rise to the level of cheese acidified by the fermentation process, especially when you’re not acidifying dairy.  They don’t transform.  I like to experiment in my kitchen, and I’ve played with culturing different nut purées and nuts with water kefir and the ginger bug.  Both work, but both impart disjointed flavors that, to me, kind of ruin the experience.  Schinner’s brilliant idea, to use rejuvelac, is definitely one of the keys to her superior end product.

Molding cheese

This cheese, about to be unmolded

Cheese-making is a more time-consuming and finicky process than most of the topics I’ve written about here.  It requires lots of experimentation, failure and extras (rennet, lipase, cheese salt, cheese cloth, cheese molds, cultures, etc).  By that standard this cheese is very simple, but it is still a tad more labor-intensive than many of the other how-tos I have posted to date.  So look at this as a first step and as a great offering for any vegan or dairy-free friends who might be jonesin’ for that certain, decadent something that makes dairy cheeses so appealing to most.  Schinner has plenty of options for longer aging, achieving cheeses that melt and all of the qualities that we look for in dairy cheese.  I haven’t gotten there yet, but for the love of my vegan friends, I will.  Is this exactly dairy cheese?  No.  But is has all the complexity and tempting flavor that a ferment should and it is just really, really good.  My guess is that the omnivores will de devouring this at our next fête without stopping to ask whether or not it’s dairy.

Cashew cheese that mimics real cheese

Lying naked on the chives. I didn’t put my cheese cloth in my mold very evenly, so my cheese had lots of lines. It looked pretty cool actually, but I chose to roll it in chopped herbs anyway.

 Herbed goat cheese with beats (made from cashews

Cashew “Chèvre” Adapted from Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner

Yield about 1 lb.  Takes a few days to soak and ferment.

I ended up with about a 1/2 pound of  chèvre, because we ate the unmolded, basic cheese before I could chevrify it.  After tasting the final product, I kind of regretted that.  A half pound is a great yield, but you could also easily double this if you have a particularly hungry vegan crowd coming your way.  I’d be surprised if any of a pound or two or three went to waste in your house.

Special equipment

  • Cheese mold (optional)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in 6 cups of filtered water overnight (up to 8 hours)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup millet rejuvelac, or rejuvelac made with the grain of your choice (store-bought is fine, but GFers, beware.  It is often made with wheat in stores)
  • 1/2 t salt, plus a pinch
  • 1.5 T nutritional yeast
Cashews ready for soaking

Raw cashews ready to be soaked

How-to

  1. Drain water from your cashews.  You can soak them for fewer than 8 hours, if you like (Schinner recommends 3-8)
  2. Put your cashews and a small pinch of salt (more if you like) in your food processor.  Add a 1/4 c of rejuvelac and let it process for a solid two minutes.  Check consistency.  If it’s smooth and creamy, you’re good to go.  If it’s not, add a bit more rejuvelac and blend again.  If you have a Vitamix or other crazy, jet-engined blender, you can process for less time and use only a quarter cup of rejuvelac, total.  I don’t have one and mine is great, but I do have to use the full half cup of rejuvelac.
  3. Once your mixture is entirely smooth and creamy (that can take several minutes of processing) scrape it into a non-reactive bowl, using a spatula.  I used a pyrex bowl, but glass is great too.  I would shy away from plastic since that could do some leaching, and unless you have truly stainless steel bowls, maybe go for glass.  Lactic acid fermentation will be happening in the bowl!
  4. Cover the cheese and let it sit at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for 3 days.  The top layer will get discolored and may harden.  That’s okay.  I didn’t have any surface mold, but if you get some, just skim it.  (This is cheese remember?  Mold happens.  Mold gets eaten.  Mold is delicious.)
  5. After 3 days, your cheese will have solidified a bit more.  You can enjoy it as a tangy snack as is or move on to bliss.
  6. Mix in your 1/2 t of salt and nutritional yeast by hand.
  7. (optional) Line a cheese mold with cheese cloth (or plastic wrap, if you prefer) and pack your cheese into it.  You can also just roll it into a chèvre log or mold it in a glass.  You’re not draining liquid here, so the sky’s the limit for shaping it.
  8. Cover tightly and let it sit in your fridge for at least 6 hours to harden and take shape a bit.
  9. Unmold and serve!  I rolled mine in herbs and I think it looked lovely.

I bought Artisan Vegan Cheese and I liked it so much it occurred to me to ask the publisher if they would offer a copy to my readers.  They very kindly agreed.  So here’s how to get a free copy:

  1. Contest is open to residents of the continental United States.
  2. To enter, leave a comment telling me why you’d like to try making vegan cheese, or how it went if you already have (yes, it’s cool to say, “I’m vegan!” or, “I’m paleo!”)
  3. Contest ends at 11:59pm EST on Thursday, June 20, 2013.
  4. One comment per person, please.  Additional entries can be made, for a maximum of three per person, by tweeting a link to this post with the hashtag #phickleferments, or by pinning it and posting a link to the pin in a separate comment before the contest ends. Tweets entries will be added as numbers to the random.org generator for consideration.

This post is part of a series on cheese.  We’ll do some how-tos for stuff you can reasonably make at home and visit some local spots around Philly for great cheese.  I’ll also share a few personal memories about cheese.  Of all the ferments I love, cheese is definitely the one to which I’m most viscerally connected.  I hope you enjoy my flights of sensory memory.

EDIT: A previous version of this post indicated that Ms. Schinner is not vegan.  It appears that was incorrect.  I sincerely apologize to the author for my error!  The correction has been made.  Thanks to Mylène for pointing out my error.

Congratulations, uncatim!  Sometimes it pays to be the earlybird!  Check your inbox!

Ferment Vegan

85 comments

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Tim,

      It is good. I hesitate to say “surprisingly” because that seems rude, but I was honestly surprised at how good it was. The herb roll was a good idea, but even the plain cheese was pretty damn tasty. Good luck!

      Amanda

  1. Amanda – this looks amazing. I can’t wait to try this. I am dairy and gluten free so this is perfect for me. I am concerned on how to find safe millet rejuvelac. Any thoughts? Sign me up! I’d love to win this book.

    I’m tweeting and pinning this now!

    XO – Sherrie

  2. Eileen says:

    Making vegan cheese sounds amazing! The most I’ve ever done is to make unaged cashew & herb puree, which is great, but I’m definitely looking forward to more variations. Actually aging vegan cheese? THAT sounds SUPER interesting. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  3. MizzB says:

    Have made vegan cheeses from Jo Stepaniak’s Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook with excellent results. Tried one from this book when it was excerpted in VegNews magazine. Would like the book to try the other recipes.

  4. Kari W. says:

    Would so love to win this book! The only food I have truly missed being vegan is cheese! Sounds so good! Thanks!

  5. jona shoe says:

    Hi! I’m kinda in love with making pumpkin’ mac and “cheese” (i’m a big fan of vegan yack attack’s recipe). I’ve also played my hand at making almond cheeses using a dehydrator (jalepeno, thyme, garlic!!). But, I really need more schooling! Would love to win this book, it would be so super helpful! Thanks and glad to have found this blog – thanks for allyson kramer! xo

  6. Rochelle says:

    I have just borrowed this book from the library! It’s a beautiful book filled with great recipes. I would so love to own it. I am vegan and finding a good vegan cheese is difficult, so it is fabulous to be able to make some of my own. I was just getting ready to make some rejuvelac today. =)

  7. Caitlin says:

    i’ve only ever made cashew cheese with nooch and i love it. this book sounds fantastic and i’ve heard such amazing things. i’d love to really learn more and experiment with this book!

  8. Allison says:

    I am looking forward to trying to make my own cheese. I am vegan and I’m not keen on buying faux cheese from the store. I’m really emphasizing homemade things in my kitchen these days (nut milks, juices, etc.). I can’t wait to try this, and I’m psyched for the opportunity to win this book!! =]

  9. Richa says:

    i’ve made some coconut milk cheeses but havent tried rejuvelac versions yet. i’d love to get this book so i can try my hand at the artisan style cheeses!

  10. Anna says:

    Never have made cheese (dairy or vegan). It has simple ingredients, which is so important to me and I think it’s something I could do! I can no longer have dairy, so finding good vegan recipes is a must! Thanks for the giveaway!

  11. Kathy says:

    This sounds fantastic! I’ve been vegetarian for a while, and vegan for the last 4 months– would love to give this a try. So many non-dairy cheeses are not vegan, or are just gross!

  12. Mylène says:

    This is the first I hear of Miyoko Schinner’s purportedly not being vegan. She mentions on her site as well as in a few interviews that she is. Where did you read otherwise, if you don’t mind providing a source.

  13. I am a gluten free soy free vegan and finding good store bought cheese is difficult. Being an Army Brat & having lived overseas, I developed a deep love of fresh cheese. It would be awesome to be able to make my own.

  14. Luisa M. says:

    I would love to start making vegan cheese because I am currently trying to change my eating habits and way of life. I have been a vegetarian for so many years but I never fully transitioned into veganism because I did not want to let go of cheese. After gaining so much weight for not monitoring what I eat, I have been receiving help from a friend who is guiding me through a detox. Due to my hard work and perseverance, I have been able to find & appreciate myself again; and I want to continue this lifestyle.

  15. Rev. CC Coltrain says:

    I’m vegan and gluten-free and so is my husband – most of the time. I’d love to make him some cheese that would taste good so he could quit making excuses to eat junk!

  16. Amanda says:

    @Sherrie, I make my own. The link to the recipe is in the post! I know people are freaked out by sprouting, but I personally am not. I also think the added step of making rejuvelac helps by basically soaking the sprouts in lactic acid before they are consumed. If you aren’t comfortable with sprouts, this probably isn’t right for you. You could try using kvass, water kefir or a ginger bug instead, but my experiments in that domain haven’t been as delicious.

    @Mylène, That is possibly my error! In the intro and preface of the book, the author describes holding vegetarian fundraisers and also accurately describes the taste of dairy cheese compared to vegan cheese. Looking at her site it does appear she is strictly vegan. I sincerely apologize to Miyoko Schinner. Editing the post now to reflect your correction! Thank you!

    @Amanda J. – I’m with you! Minimal ingredients are what I like!

    @Kellie Blackwell – You will find lots of good things for you in this book!

    @Kathy – I totally agree. This was a welcome change!

    @Anna – Me too! I’m personally really excited to serve at least a couple of these cheeses to my dairy-free friends

    @Richa – Care to share a link or recipe to your coconut cheeses? That sounds great!

    @Allison – Yes, I am also a from-scratch lady. Making ferments all the time can be time-consuming but for me, the payoff is worth it!

    @Caitlin – That was also my experience before this book, and you are not going to believe the difference!

    @Rochelle – I am a library cookbook stalker! At one point I realized they had Paul Virant’s “The Preservation Kitchen” and I couldn’t believe I’d been buying before I tried for all those years. That’s a great book, btw. Worth checking out!

    @Jona Shoe – Thanks for clueing me into my dinner for tonight. Pumpkin mac sounds AMAZING!! :-)

    @Vegyogini – Just wait! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the difference fermentation makes!

    @KariW – I hear you! You will be extremely happy with the diverse variety of options this book offers. She even makes cheeses that melt!

    @MizzB – I think I’ll be keeping this book in the kitchen for the foreseeable future. There are a wide variety of recipes to try.

    @Jeni – It’s fun and worth it! Good luck!

    @Eileen – I love my cashew purées, but this is in a whole other class!

    Thanks to you all for stopping by!

  17. Amanda says:

    @Luisa M. – This just might do the trick for you. These are really THAT good!

    @Rev. CC – LOL! He’ll have a rough time making excuses after he tastes these, I promise.

  18. Becca says:

    Wow. This looks amazing. Love cheese but my tummy and ethics don’t! Store bought vegan cheese is terrible. This would be amazing to have ;)

  19. Johnna Jackson says:

    I am vegan and also try to stay paleo-ish, ie. gluten, grain and soy free. I fail frequently on the -ish. I miss cheese sooo much! The store bought vegan cheese is less than stellar tasting and not exactly healthy. I’ve had nut-based cheeses before and yum! Would love to try my hand at making them at home!

  20. Courtney says:

    I am vegan, and I have been eying this book since it came out. My library doesn’t have a copy of it, so I would love to win it!

    Courtney

  21. Karen D says:

    I’m finding that dairy cheese upsets my body, both physically and mentally, so I want to make more vegan cheeses (and avoid the additives found in a number of the commercially available!

  22. Amanda says:

    I am a gluten free vegan and I love making vegan cheese! However, my recipes are very basic that I made up on my own. I’ve seen Ms. Schinner’s book and I’d LOVE to try out her creations! Thanks for this giveaway!

  23. Amber says:

    Hello!

    I have been eyeing this book for awhile now! I am allergic to gluten, dairy, egg, and yeast, so my cheese options are very limited. Even some of the soy, rice, and almond cheeses have casein added back in, or Daiya vegan cheese has yeast! So I think it’s time to try to make my own! Thank you for making this one gluten-free!

    On a side note, you said you add the salt and nutritional yeast at the end, is there a substitute for the yeast, or can I just leave it out? Thank You,

    Amber

  24. Glenda says:

    Am eager to try this for exactly the reasons you outline…lemon and citric acid just aren’t giving me the tang I need. This sounds fabulous!!

  25. Jo says:

    I am a vegan who lives in Wisconsin – the cheese state. The one thing I miss about being vegan is a good cheese and I would love to win a book and start trying out the recipes for cheese-making. Thanks for the info and the recipe!

  26. Christine says:

    Saw Miyoko give a demonstration a couple of years ago before the book came out and was in awe of the magic she was able to create using nuts to make cheese. I make a fermented cashew cream cheese but it’s time to expand my repertoire.

  27. Kelly G. says:

    I’d love to try making my own cheese because vegan cheese is PRICEY! I’ve had my eye on this book for awhile, but couldn’t justify buying it since it looks a little difficult for me. If I won a copy, on the other hand…

  28. liselle says:

    I’m vegan. I would revel in the opp. to entice non vegans with such cheeses. Especially vegetarians, who claim they can’t go vegan because they’d miss cheese too much!

  29. islandami says:

    I bought this book already. Tried it. Loved it. Gave it away to the Vegan Kid from NYC when he came to town. Would LOVE another copy!

    (Vegan Kid from NYC now loves it!)

  30. Sean A. says:

    I would love to win this book so I can give it to my girlfriend as a gift. She has been working really hard in eating healthier and incorporating a vegan lifestyle. I’d love to surprise her with this book!

  31. Terri Cole says:

    I’m vegan and I would love to have this book! I’ve made cheesy sauces with cashews and nooch, but have not tried culturing vegan cheese yet. Thanks for the chance to win!

  32. Suzanne says:

    I am both lactose intolerant and I get post-nasal drip from dairy protein, so try to live a dairy-free life. It is not so easy. New cheeses available are much better than 10-20 years ago, but variety is still minimal. I’d love to make a real non-dairy cheese with a flavor and character of its own!

  33. I do adore cheese and I eat a lot of cheese, but I also like to eat vegan and I hate those rubbery cheese alternatives sold in the supermarket. This looks creamy and delicious and I’m curious about the rejuvelac.

  34. Julie Lingerfelt says:

    I’m vegan and I really miss cheese. I have made vegan cheese sauce for macaroni, but haven’t tried making cheese itself yet.

  35. KB (@kbtheology) says:

    Mmm! This looks delicious! Definitely going to try to make this soon.

    I would like to enter the contest. I have been switching over to a vegan diet for about a month and a half, and I miss cheese terribly…. *booohooo* Daiya doesn’t cut it for me. (Cut it… the cheese. Ahaha! Uh, not funny sorry. :P) I added this book to my Amazon wishlist yesterday, so it’d be awesome to win a free copy.

    Thanks!!

    • Amanda says:

      @KB, I’m so with you! I think this book will make it much easier for you to make the full transition you want to make. Be prepared: these recipes can be time-consuming. But they are not difficult for the most part and as a dairy cheese-eater, I find them worth it. So if you don’t have the option of dairy, you’ll probably find them doubly so!

  36. Nick says:

    I’m not vegan, nor vegetarian, but I am a huge lover of fermented goods. My wife is lactose intolerant and loves cheese, so having some additional dairy-free foods in my arsenal would be great.

  37. Monica says:

    Everyone in my family has negative reactions to dairy, so we do a quick cashew cheese all the time, for tacos, lasagna, and anything else. I’ve had the Dr. Cow nut cheeses, which are an actual cultured product, and they are FABULOUS, but super-expensive and hard to get. I look forward to trying my own hand! Not to mention, it’s always good to get more probiotics into our diet.

  38. Lakshmi says:

    Well I have gone vegan in the last year and am trying to get my little boy vegan but he is a cheese freak. So this would be a great book for me and him. Thanks you so much.

  39. Actually I’d like to give this to my uncle, who is a vegan but he still has huge cravings for gourmet cheeses. He’s a fabulous cook and would totally groove on the idea of making his own vegan versions! :)

  40. Sara says:

    My boyfriend is vegan, and starting me out on vegan adventures, and I’d love to surprise him with this tasty cheese!

  41. charj says:

    I am anxious to make my own cultured vegan cheese. I’ve tried some recipes that only call for lemon juice and/or vinegar that were very disappointing.

  42. Laura says:

    Wow! I’ve never seen a recipe for vegan cheese that looks as well-crafted and delicious as this. My mum is lactose intolerant so I love to find recipes that provide alternative for foods she thought she would have to avoid forever. Thanks so much!

  43. Risa says:

    I want to make vegan cheese because I eat a very low dairy diet (health issues), but boy do I love cheese. We keep non-dairy substitutes in the house (daiya and the like) but I know homemade would be so much better!

  44. Margot C says:

    I am curious about this and I’m very good at scientific type cooking and preparation. My stepson is vegan now and I’m working hard to make it more interesting for him.

  45. Ann says:

    Hi Amanda,
    I just made this cheese and had to post that this is the best vegan cheese I have ever made. I am not vegan, but like trying out different things. And I love real cheese. Really love cheese. I have a regular old Hamilton Beach blender that I acquired as a wedding present 15 years ago and this still came out very creamy for me. I do think the rejuvelac made all the difference. (even though I stll haven’t acquired a taste for rejuvelac on it’s own yet.)
    One question though, when you cover it and let it sit for 3 days, is it an airtight cover or just a cloth tight over it cover? I ended up just covering my bowl with plastic wrap.
    Thank you for posting this!
    Ann

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Ann,

      I’m in the same boat as you. Not vegan, but open to most dietary experiments. This cheese was a revelation and I had to share!!

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I really do appreciate it!

      Amanda

  46. Dash says:

    Do the cashews have to be raw in order for it to work? I want to try this like now but if it has to be raw cashews ill have to order them. You can do this too with raw pickle juice if you make your own, which is safe for GF.

    • Amanda says:

      No problem, Dash! I actually haven’t tried doing it with roasted nuts. I think there could be a texture issue because they’re drier than their raw counterparts and changed in other ways, as well, but it could be an interesting experiment!

  47. Priya says:

    Made this using wheat berry rejuvelac, and I let my cheese ferment for 4 days instead of 3. Oh man, so delicious!! I didn’t even add the nutritional yeast — turns out I didn’t have any, but I actually found the cheese didn’t need it! I’m about to make another batch… this is going to become a staple in my house. :)

  48. JBR says:

    Ugh… I would avoid using the terminology “gluten free”— this is media hype that’s based MORE in how we bleach wheat flour than the actual wheatberry itself. Anyone who wants Americans to have a better relationship with food should STOP with the media buzzwords.

    I would wager dollar to donut that “gluten-phobes” would have NO PROBLEM eating sprouted wheatberries…

    • Amanda says:

      Hi,
      I’m not gluten-free personally, but I would love to see the science behind what you mention. Any links to studies?
      I know many people who suffer pretty badly from either celiac or gluten-intolerance, and I’m sure they would be overjoyed to have evidence suggesting there is a way for them to safely eat wheat.
      I also know many who’ve tried all the known tricks: local, small-batch, unbleached wheat from GMO-free farms, sprouting, soaking and fermenting to no avail.
      I know it can be tempting to call any food intolerance you don’t have “hype,” but until you’ve dealt with a weird one, you don’t actually know how it feels.

      Any true science in this domain will be very welcome, I’m sure. I know few people who are happy to have given up pasta and bread permanently.

    • Amanda says:

      Hi Ashley,

      I haven’t, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. The downside is the flavor and salt. The nuttiness and cheesiness of rejuvelac are natural fits for a cheese substitute. Vegetable brines are generally much saltier than rejuvelac, even after the veggies themselves have absorbed a lot of it and they taste, well, like sour veggies. It could make for a fun vegetable flavored, salty cheese!

  49. Loretta says:

    I pinned it and bought the supplies. The millet is turning into rejuvelac now.

    But 1 question: for the initial ferment, should the cover on the bowl be airtight or cloth?

    • Amanda says:

      I just use the bowl lid, but saran wrap would probably be fine as well. If you use a cloth or something that will let lots of air in, you’ll contribute to the drying of the surface. That’s not the end of the world, but it’s not the most desirable outcome either!

      Thanks for reading! I hope you like it as much as we do!

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