Sharp Vegan Cheddar Cheese Alternative

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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.

4.4 from 9 reviews
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
  • 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.

Carrageenan Substitute: Miyoko originally gave a substitute of 2 tablespoons agar powder as an option, but you have to dissolve it in ⅔ cup water like she does in this recipe before you use it. This does add more liquid to the recipe though, which will make it softer. If you aren't vegan, gelatin is an easier substitute.
4.4 from 9 reviews
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 Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food 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, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

95 Comments

  1. This is so so yummy! I always make the crock style cheese– I don’t thicken it and let it age but use it after it has cultured on the counter for several days. I can find so many yummy ways to use it: in sandwiches, as a dip, really any reason! It doesn’t last very long here!!

  2. I am not vegan or paleo or internet diet. I am only trying to avoid foods to which I have developed and intolerance to. Gluten is of no concern to me.

    I cannot have dairy .
    ” ” ” yeast of any kind.
    I cannot have sugar cane.
    I cannot have chicken eggs…….duck and goose eggs are fine.
    Nuts of any kind are okay.

    Do you know a source of a recipe for (sorry….I call it “fake cheese”)
    fake cheese that tastes like SHARP CHEDDAR? Please, I would like a recipe, as Daiya and all others are not worth the cost to me.
    Thanks for your time and good consideration,
    Mike S.

  3. The taste is great but I had to quick make the first batch and was wondering if I didn’t cook long enough or the fact I didn’t let it ferment long enough was the reason it didn’t get smooth when it was pulling away from the pan. So wondering if I didn’t cook long enough or was it because I didn’t ferment long enough.

  4. I made it today, followed the instructions exactly. What I’m noticing as the cheese cools to room temperature, is that I’m getting little pools of oil…like it’s separating. I’m reserving full judgment until tomorrow. But, I read a few other comments where this happened and they said their cheese was crumbly. Any thoughts as to what I may have done wrong??

    • It sounds like a problem with the emulsification. The oil should be emulsified in and then the gum and carrageenan would help to lock the emulsification. Otherwise, the oil can separate and leave behind a dry cheese alternative. This is Miyoko’s recipe, not mine, but from my experiences, this is what I’m guessing the problem is. I would whisk the mixture before adding the gum and carrageenan to ensure that it is emulsified, and then add the binders and ensure they are thoroughly mixed in before it gets too thick. I hope this helps!

  5. I have read the replies and my problem is when I go to thicken the sharp cheddar cheese. I put it in the sauce pan over medium heat with the carrageenan powder and the xanthan gum but the instructions say that it will begin to look like a smooth and glossy appearance and in my mind I’m thinking that that kind of looks like melted peanut butter. However, the instructions say 3 to 5 minutes. I stirred and stirred for 25 minutes and never saw a smooth and glossy appearance and so I thought well this must be it. So I packed it in my metal tin and I put it in the refrigerator the next day it came out very crumbly and almost like a gram cracker crust appearance. So what am I doing wrong? Is it supposed to have the appearance of melted peanut butter when I’m cooking in the sauce pan?

    • Hi Billie, if it dried out, then it was definitely cooked too long. I would stick to 5 minutes and not get too obsessed on the “smooth and glossy” descriptor. This isn’t one of my recipes, but based on what you have written, I think perhaps their wording is a little off – and based on my experience, I can say that it was cooked too long.

  6. I used kamut and quinoa for the grains, and they never sprouted…even after four days, I used it anyway. Also, the mixture never did get “smooth” when cooking it, got a little shiny but not smooth….it tastes wonderful, and is now cooling before I put it in the refrigerator to age. Only makes about a pound of cheese, so I will maybe double it if we like this batch.

      • I used an organic miso which already smelled a bit like wine, it’seems best before date is 2019 so unless it’s a bad batch it should be good I’ll phone the company tomorrow but hopefully she does weigh in.

  7. Why do you use canola oil? Canola oil is one of the most genetically modified oils out there on the market. Surely there are better oils to use in your recipes.

    • Hi Den, I don’t use canola oil personally. This is Miyoko’s recipe and I believe she uses it for its neutral taste. You can either get a non-GMO canola oil (lots of great brands!) or use another neutral-tasting oil. I like rice bran oil for recipes like this.

  8. Janet C Fowler on

    I would like to know if could substitute gelatin instead of agar or carrageenan? I’ll now have to make my own cheese and I’m wondering what kind of form do I use to make square cheese for sandwiches? Also – would I need to use a cheese press with vegan cheddar cheese?

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  10. Question about substituting agar for carrageenan.
    In Miyoko’s post, which I read in the comments after making the cheese, I noticed she said agar requires dissolving in liquid before use. In your recipe, there was no mention of this step, so I just blended the agar powder directly into the cheese mixture in the saucepan. Now I’m thinking it won’t turn out properly (just spooned into molds and it’s cooling). If one were to use the agar alternative, what type of liquid and how much is required to dissolve first? Is it then added to the cheese mixture before the cooking process?

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  13. When you say the cheese “ages” for up to 4 months do you mean it ages sitting in the fridge – not left out at room temperature? Just checking.

      • Thanks Alisa. I tried this after only a few days in the fridge and was disappointed by its cashew flavour, nowhere near the tangy, cultured taste of dairy cheese at this stage. How long do you think it takes to develop a more cultured flavour in the fridge? Maybe a month? Do you need to take any precautions to stop it from going mouldy in the fridge?

        • Hi Felicity,

          I’m really not an expert in fermentation, but will say that most of the cultured cashew cheeses I have tried do still taste like tangy cashew, not really cheese – good, but not cheddar. As for your question on the flavor / storage, Miyoko has written quite a bit in the earlier comments here. I would read the two large comments she has left. As mentioned in her recipe, she lets it sit in the fridge up to 4 months.

        • Hi ,
          We tried this recipe last week and found it great.We are making it again this week (yes we ate most of it already and shared with friends) but we are adding a little bit more rejuvalac because it was very dry last time and hard to work with.
          We aged our rejuvalac and the mix as long as we could to achieve the sharpest flavour and it was awesome.
          Rather than tasting like cashews I now find cashews taste cheesy.lol
          Great recipe.

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