If you are looking for dairy-free alternatives for cheese, I encourage you try making raw nut cheese. I think you might be pleasantly surprised how easy and tasty they can be. There are just a few key ingredients and elements that can turn a basic nut into a “cheese”! Stay with me, I know for many of you this may sound bizarre but let your adventurous side shine through.
So let’s break down all the components involved and talk about their role in this recipe:
- Cashews (or desired nut) – nuts are a healthy fat and fats coat the tongue and carry flavors evenly over the taste buds. They also play the role of being the bulk substance that gives body to the cheese.
- Probiotics – probiotics bring in healthy bacteria that are great for your digestive system and they are the magical ingredient that gives the cheese that fermented flavor. I buy probiotics that come in capsule form so I can easily pull them apart and pour the powder into a teaspoon. You leave the “cheese” to culture on your counter top for 24-48 hours. The longer it cultures, the stronger the “cheese” flavor will come through. Once you place the cheese in the fridge the culturing process slows down.
- Nutritional yeast – this is optional but it adds a great layer of depth to the cheese, giving it that real cheese flavor.
- Herbs – I didn’t add any herbs to this recipe because I wanted a plain cheese. But you can add your favorite herbs and spices to your cheese to fit any occasion or craving.
- Dehydrating – this is a step that can skipped if you don’t want a rind or are running low on time. This process takes about 24 hours. By placing the cheese in the dehydrator it creates a rind on the outside of the cheese. It is hard to see it in this picture but it is there. I think it was my lighting situation when I took the photo.
- 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 2-4 hours
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp probiotic powder
- 3 tsp nutritional yeast, optional
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- In your blender, mix all of the ingredients (except yeast and salt) until the mixture is nice and creamy. This should take 2-4 minutes. Test it occasionally by rubbing the batter between your forefinger and thumb. If it has any grainy feeling to it, continue blending. Just keep a watchful eye that you don’t over-heat the mixture. Having a creamy texture is the key to having an amazing mouth-feel in the end product.
- Place the mixture in a strainer that has been lined with cheesecloth. Fold the edges of the cheesecloth over the top of the mixture. Then place the strainer in a large bowl. Now place a plate or bowl that is smaller in diameter in the strainer on top of the folded cheesecloth, followed by a weight. I often use a mason jar filled with water, beans, flour or whatever. You want the weight to be enough to help push the “whey” through the cheesecloth but not so heavy that it forces the mixture through the itty-bitty holes. Cover with a towel and set the mixture aside on the counter top for 24-48 hours to culture.
- After it has cultured, now is the time to add in the salt and nutritional yeast. Mix well. You can also use this time to get creative and season this cheese to your liking. You could even go as far as to separating the mixture into several bowls and season each one differently.
- Transfer the cheese to a ring mold or a shallow container that is lined with plastic.
- Place the mold in the freezer for several hours so it sets up nice and firm.
- Remove the cheese from the mold / container and place in the dehydrator on a mesh sheet for 24 hours at 105 degrees. This will cause a rind to develop around the edges. You can skip this step if desired.
- Once done, store in an airtight container in the fridge for approximately 7 days.