Believe it or not, people have been churning out cheese alternatives for decades. This dairy-free pimento cheese recipe was adapted from the Country Life Vegetarian Cookbook, published in 1990. The author, Diana Fleming, was a pioneer in creating dairy alternatives. She wasn’t afraid to use unique healthy ingredients that are just beginning to hit the mainstream today.
This Dairy-Free Pimento Cheese is a Better Southern-Style Cheddar
I can only imagine how tricky it must have been for Diana’s original followers to track down agar and nutritional yeast flakes. Fortunately, we can easily order them online now, or even pick them up at local natural food stores. But I do have some quick notes to cover ingredient FAQs.
What are Agar Flakes and Where Can I Find Them?
Agar flakes are extracted from seaweed, and have a gelatinous consistency when hydrated. Agar is often referred to as plant-based gelatin. It helps to thicken this dairy-free pimento cheese alternative, to make it sliceable and shreddable. You can find the flakes in natural food stores, or online from Amazon or Vitacost. Agar powder is much easier to find, which I discuss in the next FAQ.
Can I Substitute Agar Powder for the Flakes?
Agar powder has become easier to find. You can use it instead of the flakes, but you’ll want to reduce the amount to 1 1/2 tablespoons. You can usually find agar powder at natural food stores, or you can order it online. It’s shelf-stable and available on Amazon, Vitacost, Lucky Vitamin, and iHerb.
Is there a Substitute for the Agar?
You can substitute gelatin, if you aren’t vegetarian. You’ll want to use just 1 1/2 tablespoons of the powder. But in a pinch, you can omit it, and make this into a soft pimento cheese alternative or spread, instead.
Can I Substitute Another Nut?
Yes! We like cashews best for their neutral, lightly sweet taste. But you can use another creamy nut, if needed. Blanched almonds or macadamia nuts are good options for homemade dairy-free cheeses.
Is the Nutritional Yeast Required?
In my opinion, yes. It’s what gives this cheese alternative it’s “cheesiness.” You can substitute a much smaller amount of miso, to taste (it’s salty, so I would reduce the salt). But it won’t have that cheddar-vibe of pimento cheese.
Special Diet Notes: Dairy-Free Pimento Cheese
By ingredients, this recipe is dairy-free / non-dairy, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free, peanut-free, soy-free, vegan, plant-based, paleo, and vegetarian.
For nut-free dairy-free pimento cheese you can substitute raw sunflower seed kernels for the cashew pieces. The flavor will be notably different.
- 1½ cups water
- 5 tablespoons agar flakes
- ¾ cup raw cashew pieces
- ½ cup diced red pepper or pimentos
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 2½ tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds or 1 tablespoon tahini
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1¼ teaspoons sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- Add the water to a small saucepan, sprinkle in the agar flakes, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The flakes should dissolve.
- Put the cashews, red pepper or pimentos, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sesame seeds or tahini, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder in your blender. Add the agar mixture, and blend until smooth and creamy.
- Scrape the mixture into a mold and refrigerate overnight.
- Un-mold the cheese and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.