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Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese Alternative

Posted on by Alisa Fleming in Appetizers, Cheese Subs, Dairy-Free Recipes with 29 Comments

This vegan cheddar cheese alternative recipe is a sampling from the cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner. This vegan cheddar is a good cheese to have on hand at all times because of its versatility. It’s great for adding to tacos and sandwiches, serving with crackers, and making cheese sauces (perhaps some vegan nachos for the big game?).

Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese Alternative Recipe

Rich and full flavored, this vegan cheddar continues to age and improve in the refrigerator for weeks or even months. What distinguishes it from store-bought vegan cheddar equivalents is that the sharpness is not feigned by adding acidic ingredients; it’s the result of an actual aging process. I often make this several weeks before I want to serve it because it just keeps getting better—deeper, sharper, and more complex in flavor.

You will note the recommendation for storage for up to 4 months. The only reason Miyoko has never aged this vegan cheddar for more than four months is because she hasn’t been able to keep it around longer than that! Although it continues to thicken as it ages, the texture remains more like Cheddar cheese left out on a hot day. (In other words, it’s not quite as firm as dairy-based Cheddar.)

Note that this recipe is a two-in-one. You will need to prepare the Rejuvelac in advance. The Rejuvelac is used in many of the recipes in Artisan Vegan Cheese, so it is a good recipe to master, even beyond this vegan cheddar.

Since Miyoko does use some ingredients that can be more difficult to find, I’ve included links to purchase them online within the recipe. Locally, you can look for the ingredients at natural food stores, but it isn’t likely that they will be stocked at conventional grocers.

Sharp Cheddar Vegan Cheese Alternative
 
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This recipe is from Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner. Reprinted with permissions from the publisher, Book Publishing Co.
Author:
Serves: 1 pound

Ingredients
  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 3 to 8 hours and drained
  • ⅔ cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ cup rejuvelac (see recipe below)
  • ½ cup canola oil (optional; see note below)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons medium brown miso (use a chickpea or brown rice miso for soy-free)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon carrageenan powder, or 2 tablespoons agar powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon xanthan gum

Instructions
Process the ingredients.
  1. Put the cashews, nutritional yeast, rejuvelac, optional oil, 1 tablespoon of the miso, and the salt in a blender.
  2. Process until smooth and creamy, occasionally stopping to scrape down the blender jar and move the mixture toward the blades.
  3. Taste and add more miso if desired.
Culture the cheese.
  1. Transfer the mixture to a clean glass bowl or container, cover, and let rest at room temperature for 24 to 72 hours, depending on how sharp a flavor you want and the ambient temperature (fermentation will proceed more quickly at warmer temperatures).
Thicken the cheese.
  1. Transfer the cheese to a heavy medium saucepan and stir in the carrageenan and xanthan gum with a wooden spoon.
  2. Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly. The mixture will be very thick, grainy, and difficult to stir at first.
  3. Keep cooking and stirring until it is smooth and glossy and starts to pull away from the sides
  4. of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes.
Form the cheese.
  1. Transfer to a glass or metal mold and smooth the top.
  2. Let cool completely at room temperature.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, until firm.

Notes
Storage: Stored in a covered container, soft Sharp Cheddar will keep for about 4 months in the refrigerator or freezer. To store hard Sharp Cheddar, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in a ziplock bag; it will keep for the same amount of time and will become increasingly firm, especially after 3 months.

Crock-Style Cheddar: For a softer, spreadable “crock-style” cheese, omit the carrageenan and xanthan gum. After step 2, cover and refrigerate. The cheese will thicken as it chills, but it won’t be firm enough for slicing.

Oil Note: The optional oil will improve the cheese’s ability to melt and give it a smoother mouthfeel. However, I generally don’t use the oil. Omitting the oil won’t affect the flavor of the cheese, and it will still soften if heated. If you wish to heat the cheese, be aware that a skin will form on top, so it is best to spread the warm cheese with a knife.

Rejuvelac
 
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Serves: about 5 cups

Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole grains (such as brown rice, Kamut berries, millet, oat groats, quinoa, rye berries, wheat berries, or a combination)
  • 6 cups filtered water

Instructions
Soak and sprout the grains:
  1. Put the grains in a 1-quart glass jar and add water to cover. Place a double layer of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. Let the grains soak for 8 to 12 hours.
  2. Drain, then add just enough water to moisten the grains but not so much that they are immersed in water. Put the jar in a warm place out of direct sunlight for 1 to 3 days and rinse the grains once or twice a day, each time draining well and then adding just enough fresh water to moisten them.
  3. Continue this process until the grains have begun to sprout (they will have little tails emerging).
Culture the rejuvelac:
  1. Divide the sprouted grains equally between two 1-quart glass jars. Pour 3 cups of the filtered water into each jar. Cover each jar with fresh cheesecloth and secure it with rubber bands. Put the jars in a warm place out of direct sunlight for 1 to 3 days. The water will turn cloudy and white, and the liquid will have a slightly tart flavor, somewhat like lemon juice.
  2. Strain the liquid into clean glass jars and discard the grains.

Notes
Covered and stored in the refrigerator, Rejuvelac will keep for about 4 weeks.

About Alisa Fleming

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

View all posts by Alisa Fleming →

Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living

29 Comments

  1. RickiJanuary 29, 2013 at 3:33 pmReply

    I’ve been dying to try this since I first read about it. But the time involved!! Then again, most of it is time I don’t actually have to be there. ;-) Sounds SO good! And great photo.

  2. Becky BrowningJanuary 29, 2013 at 3:43 pmReply

    You have carrageenan powder listed. What is your take on the research that says this is carcinogenic?

    • Alisa FlemingJanuary 29, 2013 at 5:20 pmReplyAuthor

      Becky, I haven’t used carrageenan myself. I’ll see if the recipe author can’t comment on your concern. She does use carrageenan in many of her recipes (rather than agar or gelatin – since it is a vegan book), though I believe any “gelatin” can be used.

    • Miyoko SchinnerJanuary 30, 2013 at 3:51 pmReply

      The carrageenan issue. To avoid this ingredient, you would really have to read every label, because it is in so many foods (almost all non-dairy milks, yogurt, ice cream, etc., contain a form of it), so my book is not the only source. The reason I use carrageenan and not agar for certain recipes (and certainly not all or even most recipes contain it) is because it melts. Agar, once solid, does not. Therefore, it is the basic hardening ingredient in my meltable cheeses. If you don’t want to use it (and I’ll get to the research in a minute), you can just leave it out. Your meltable cheeses won’t be hard (they will be more like goop, due to to the tapioca), but they will still melt in your dishes. For some of the other aged cheeses, carrageenan allows for solidification without increasing liquid content. Agar must first be dissolved in an adequate amount of water to be effective. Carrageenan can be heated in the cheese base and work just fine. To age a cheese, you don’t want a high liquid content, as that leads to mold. I have experimented and thought through these issues quite a bit.
      Now, as far as the health issues are concerned, I would say that the research is inconclusive. There is one predominant researcher (Dr. Tobacman) who has been studying this. It was once thought that it was only the degraded, non-food grade carrageenan that caused potential ulceration and cancer, but now she states that the food grade kind degrades when heated (as in my cheeses, or the countless food products out there). There are some who dispute this. In my opinion, a little carrageenan in your cheese once in awhile is far less damaging than dairy and meat. Remember, there are those that villify soy as well for being carcinogenic. The interesting thing is that Irish Moss, from which carrageenan is derived, has been used medicinally to treat the very thing that its purified cousin (carrageenan) purportedly causes. If you prefer to avoid the purified form, you can substitute Irish Moss powder, which is cheap and readily available. It works as well, albeit can sometimes leave a fishy smell (some people don’t mind it). Or you can leave it out entirely, or substitute some boiled agar for it.

      • Alisa FlemingJanuary 30, 2013 at 4:03 pmReplyAuthor

        Miyoko, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to these inquiries and with such detail!

  3. HannahJanuary 29, 2013 at 7:05 pmReply

    The cheddar was the only cheese I tried that I didn’t have very good luck with… I adored the rest, of course, but I hear that Miyoko has since further refined that recipe. Maybe it’s worth a second try.

  4. Miyoko SchinnerJanuary 30, 2013 at 3:38 pmReply

    Thanks for posting this. I hope to answer a couple of the readers’ questions here. First, about the sharp cheddar. Consistently, in my classes and demos, this is one of the cheeses that is a favorite. Students love to see how it changes from tasting like miso, cashews, and nooch on day 1 to something akin to cheddar on day 3 or 4 (sometimes longer, depending on the climate). And then they are thoroughly delighted after tasting the cheddar after it has aged for several weeks or months, and hardened quite a bit. But I’ve also learned that it is perhaps the hardest of the cheeses to “get right.” Part of it is the waiting period. It simply will not be hard like you expect right after you make it, even with the carrageenan. I think expectation comes into play here, and people want something you can slice right away. But that’s the thing – these cheeses are more like their dairy counterparts in more ways than one. Dairy cheddar takes weeks or months before it is hard enough to slice. This is the same with my sharp cheddar. Part of the problem is patience – or a lack thereof. I probably should have spelled this out more in the book, particularly about this cheese. I haven’t further refined this recipe, except to suggest to those who can’t wait, that they wrap their cheese in cheesecloth and store it in the fridge that way. With some air circulation, the cheese will dry out in a couple of weeks. Still, the flavor of this cheese is indeed one that improves after months. That’s why I published an easier version made with agar in VegNews (one that is firmer right away).

  5. JLFebruary 7, 2013 at 7:01 pmReply

    I made this for the first time and i just finished up the last step today by stiring in the agar and xanthan on meduim heat, and then letting it cool. In the pot on medium heat it did pull away from the edges and become glossy, however it has cooled for about 8 hours and it is still has a grainy/crumbly look and looks like it has seperated from the oils. I didnt know if i should cook it longer until it becomes smoother or if this was normal and it would eventually come together and firm up. It definitly doesn’t look like the pictures above but the flavor is great! Thanks!

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  7. TammyApril 9, 2013 at 6:10 pmReply

    Just made the air dried cheddar cheese and it’s on my drying rack. My husband said “no, no, no, tastes like stinky feet”. I taste elements of cheddar in there, but it’s not there yet. Hoping the taste changes as it air dries.

    We are transitioning to vegan and bought the book to find some dishes that let us bring traditional dishes into our new lifestyle. The cream cheese came out alright, slighly hummus-like, but the tartness is there. The lowfat chipotle cheese sauce didn’t taste right. Maybe it was the frozen butternut squash that I used or maybe used too big of an onion. People were raving over it online, so I’m inclined to think that I messed it up.

  8. betsy shipleyApril 18, 2013 at 3:48 pmReply

    I am having problems with the rejuvelac.. I started with the recipe in Sept.Oct. Veg news last year which uses some liquid in both the first set of ingredients and also in the agar agar mix. This time I used more rejuvelac for the dry ingredients since the Vitamix is having a hard time mixing and there is a lot left in the canister that is difficult to get out. That being said, I mixed and left it to cure for several days. Then I dissolved the agar in a little more liquid, mixed it until it was bubbly then added the ingredients from the bowl, stirred until smooth and left it sit until cool. Then wrapped it in parchment paper and placed in the frig. It’s not hardening up like I wanted. So……… the next time I will use some xanthan powder and guar gum. I love the taste and with tempeh bacon on home made bread, it is delicious!
    betsy shipley

  9. BrendaSeptember 17, 2013 at 4:40 pmReply

    I am enjoying reading your recipes and saw some reference to a ‘faster-reacting’ cheese recipe like the Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese but in VegNews; however, I’m having a difficult time finding it. Did that occur and if so, what issue–please & thank you~

    • Alisa FlemingSeptember 18, 2013 at 1:53 pmReplyAuthor

      Hi Brenda, I don’t know. I don’t get a VegNews subscription so I wouldn’t be of much help. Sorry!

  10. Susanne LeeOctober 11, 2013 at 3:23 pmReply

    I just tasted my first batch of cheddar – I could only stand to let it age four days! It’s still very soft but absolutely wonderful! Looking forward to making more of the cheese recipes from Miyoko’s book!

  11. HugoNovember 20, 2013 at 9:28 amReply

    Would it work if I use grapeseed oil as it is less process than canola?

    • Alisa FlemingNovember 20, 2013 at 10:24 amReplyAuthor

      Yes, they can be used interchangeably.

  12. CallieMarch 6, 2014 at 11:54 amReply

    Can I use regular gelatine powder instead of carrageenan? I don’t need my cheese to be vegan, just dairy free. Also, would it be 1 to 1 or a different ratio?

  13. CathieMarch 29, 2014 at 8:30 amReply

    I’m allergic to cashews and pistachios but not other nuts. How much of the cheddar-like flavor comes specifically from using cashews?

    • Alisa FlemingMarch 31, 2014 at 11:54 amReplyAuthor

      Cashews just have a more neutral flavor, light sweetness and very creamy texture. You can substitute macadamias or almonds with some slight variation.

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  16. Christian GallesJune 29, 2014 at 10:26 amReply

    Yeah this broke my blender.

  17. Christian GallesJune 29, 2014 at 2:24 pmReply

    Make sure to blend the nuts first.

  18. Christian GallesJune 29, 2014 at 2:26 pmReply

    I used a smoked appleseed sea salt.

  19. Christian GallesJuly 7, 2014 at 4:42 pmReply

    THIS IS WONDERFULLY-GOOD!!!

  20. Nicko DjangoJuly 27, 2014 at 6:34 amReply

    Is there another way except Rejuvelac?
    Rejuvelac sounds a long story.

    • Alisa FlemingJuly 27, 2014 at 7:36 amReplyAuthor

      There are other cheese alternative recipes, but this is the method that Miyoko works with!

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