For the first Corrie Food Festival in October this year, we tried out some homemade vegan cheeses to serve with a range of chutneys and coleslaw. Some recipes worked, some didn’t. But over the last few months, we’ve arrived at this vegan cheddar cheese. It’s the best and tastiest.

There are lots of different recipes for vegan cheese – many include using agar-agar, which is hard to come by on an island. So the cheese we were looking for had to contain ingredients we could get here on Arran and also, when mixed together, would produce the right texture (agar-agar helps solidify the cheese, which is key in avoiding the cheese turning into a cream cheese).

The cheese we settled on is very close to these two recipes: vegan cheese ball and smoked jalapeno cheese, so we’re not claiming the vegan cheddar cheese as our own! The recipe and instructions below outline how to get that cheddar zing with the right texture (minus the agar-agar).

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of cashews
  • 2 sun-dried tomato pieces (let oil run off of them)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of miso paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1/8 cup of coconut oil melted

How to make vegan cheddar cheese:

First step – soaking

Put the cashews in some cold water for a few hours – don’t leave it too long, as they get too soft

cashews in water
Soak the cashews for three hours

Second step

Put all the ingredients (except the yeast and the oil) into a container for you to blend up. We use a hand blender, but you could probably use a food blender too.

Two things to be wary of: make sure you let the oil run off the sun dried tomatoes and be careful not to add too much cider vinegar (once the mixture gets too running, it’s hard to recover from that).

Third step – blending

Use the hand blender to blend the ingredients together. You’ll probably have to scrape the inside of the blender out a couple of times, as the paste gets quite thick. The trick here is to blend it enough that the paste starts to come through the slots in the hand blender.

If you’ve ever made peanut butter, you will notice that there is a point that the peanuts stop being ground up peanuts and turn into butter – it’s like magic. Blending the cashews with other ingredients in this recipe is a bit the same. Hint: If you think it needs blended more, it probably does.

cashews being blended
We use a hand blender to blend the cheese mix

Forth step – the yeast

Get a spoon and add the nutritional yeast to the paste. Mix the yeast in with the spoon – don’t blend it. The trick here is to dry the paste out using the yeast because blending it keeps the paste moist, so use a spoon to mix it in. If done right, the mixture should stick together as a dry paste. If you over mix it, it will get moist again.

vegan cashew cheese mix with yeast
The mixture should be dry and stick together

Fifth step – add the oil

Melt some coconut oil in a pan and make sure it’s about 1/8 of a cup’s worth. Get your spoon, pour the oil in and stir the oil into the mixture. Avoid chopping through the mixture too much. You want to move the mixture around the bowl and it should stick together cleaning the jug as you go. The best way to describe this is through a photo. Below, you can see that the side of the jug are “clean”.

vegan cashew cheddar cheese mix
The sides of the jug are clean

If you mix it too much, or the mixture is too wet, then you won’t produce a solid mass and the mixture will stick to the sides of the jug.

Six step – maturing

 The cheese now needs to mature and solidify. Don’t hang around. Get a plastic container and put a bit of parchment paper on the bottom of it, so that the cheese doesn’t stick when it’s time to remove it. Cover the container and stick it in the fridge for a day.

parchment paper in tupperware
Add some parchment paper so the cheese doesn’t stick
vegan cashew cheddar cheese in plastic container
Vegan cheddar cheese before maturing

Once the cheese has hardened, cut around the sides with a knife and turn the cheese up side down. It should be a solid block – BUT WAIT!!! Don’t eat it just yet. Wrap it in parchment paper and stick it back in the fridge to harden some more. If you wait a week, and assuming you’ve mixed it right, then the block should be nice and firm.

Naturally, it melts when you take it out of the fridge, but both your vegan and non-vegan friends will be impressed with how it looks, tastes and feels. It’s also gluten-free!

matured vegan cheddar cheese
A block of matured vegan cheddar cheese

PS – interested in other vegan recipes? Check out how we make scrambled tofu every morning!

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