A simple guide to making your own versatile vegan cheese, to enjoy as a spread, in pasta dishes and sprinkled over your favourite savoury dishes.
Vegans don't need to miss out on the flavour and texture that cheese adds to a dish. We've created two fabulous recipes that are easy to make at home. There's no cooking required, just nuts, a food processor and a desire to try something different.
Vegan and vegetarian cheese
Many cheeses contain animal rennet, an enzyme that helps coagulation and separates the curds and whey. This means they don't fall into the category of vegetarian or vegan.
A vegan cheese needs to be free of rennet and dairy too. You can buy substitutes which use vegetable oils, nutritional yeasts, nuts, tofu and soy proteins to create the flavour and texture of cheese, and they range from soft and spreadable to hard and sliceable.
However, it's not always easy to get your hands on these products, so making your own using readily available ingredients is a delicious and useful skill to have at hand. The easiest way to test the waters is with a simple nutty spread. We've used cashews and chives in our recipe but why not mix herby combinations to your liking?
What you need
A simple vegan soft cheese can be made with nuts, herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of water. Nuts are a great base for these spreads as they pack in the protein and flavour, while adding texture.
To make our vegan cashew cream cheese, it helps if the nuts have been pre-soaked in water for about 4 hours beforehand to soften them. Then all your ingredients are blended together to the desired texture in a food processor. All it needs is firming up in the fridge for an hour or so before serving. Trust us when we say, it's great on toast, seedy crackers or stirred into pasta.
You can choose any number of herb and nut combos to create your cheeses. Almonds, pine nuts and macadamias all lend themselves well to blending. Throw in chives, garlic, basil or parsley for extra flavour. If you're looking for something special to impress, give your cheese an indulgent twist with a drizzle of truffle oil. You can also add a jar of sundried tomatoes, peppers or a few chilli flakes for a Mediterranean hit.
Make sweeter nut spreads that follow the same method, by adding a couple of drops of vanilla essence, brown rice syrup or maple syrup.
For a sprinkling of flavour to finish a dish, why not try this super-simple vegan Parmesan? No cooking involved means this cheese is ready in five minutes.
Recipes to try
Try substituting vegan cheeses in these tasty recipes...
Stir vegan cashew cream cheese into this courgette & ricotta pasta and finish with a sprinkling of vegan Parmesan. For a quick and easy lunch, try using cashew cream cheese instead of cottage cheese in this open cheese & red pepper sourdough sandwich.
Do you have any favourite vegan cheese suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below...