Cheese. We’re all addicted to it. Even after I’d been living on a vegetarian diet for years, when someone asked me about going vegan, I always told them it was next to impossible because of cheese.
And let’s face it, we have an addiction to cheese. In 1950 we were consuming just 7.7 pounds of cheese per year. By 2012, that number had increased to 33.5 pounds per year.
Cheese is everywhere. It’s included in just about every meal you’ll find. We sprinkle it on Mexican food, throw it onto a sandwich, melt it into our soups. Even if you’re looking for an appetizer, cheese plates are always on the menu.
Is there any coincidence that obesity rates have risen at the same time our consumption of cheese has risen too? According to Dr Neal Barnard, author of the soon to be released book The Cheese Trap: How Breaking A Surprising Addiction Will help Yo Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy, the answer is yes.
As a vegetarian, it isn’t all about avoiding the foods you like the most; it’s about finding alternatives that taste just as good. And there are great alternatives that allow you to make dairy-free cheese that can be used in place of cheese, yet still provide the same consistency and flavor you’ve come to love about cheese.
You can make dairy-free cheese from many types of nuts or seeds. Raw almonds, macadamias, pine nuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds all make awesome vegan cheese. But when it comes to the best, it may be cashews that yield the best results when making neutral flavored creamy spreads.
Start with the basics. Then add from there. We eat cashew cheese plain, and mix it into just about everything we make.
- 2 cups raw unsalted cashews, soaked
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- ¼ cup filtered water, more as needed
- Place raw unsalted cashews in a dish and soak in warm water overnight. To speed up the process, use boiling water and soak for 1-2 hours. Drain.
- Place softened cashews into a high powered blender or food processor. Add nutritional yeast and enough water to make a smooth consistency. Adjust water based on the desired effect.
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped thyme
- 1 tablespoon green onion
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 2 teaspoons truffle infused olive oil plus more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste