Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese Alternative
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?).
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
- 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
- Put the cashews, nutritional yeast, rejuvelac, optional oil, 1 tablespoon of the miso, and the salt in a blender.
- Process until smooth and creamy, occasionally stopping to scrape down the blender jar and move the mixture toward the blades.
- Taste and add more miso if desired.
- 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).
- Transfer the cheese to a heavy medium saucepan and stir in the carrageenan and xanthan gum with a wooden spoon.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring almost constantly. The mixture will be very thick, grainy, and difficult to stir at first.
- Keep cooking and stirring until it is smooth and glossy and starts to pull away from the sides
- of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Transfer to a glass or metal mold and smooth the top.
- Let cool completely at room temperature.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, until firm.
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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Continue this process until the grains have begun to sprout (they will have little tails emerging).
- 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.
- Strain the liquid into clean glass jars and discard the grains.
Covered and stored in the refrigerator, Rejuvelac will keep for about 4 weeks.