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Cheeky Vegan

Make Your Own Cheese Substitutes!

by Rea Frey – April 4, 2011

Who doesn’t love cheese? The fact is, cheese doesn’t always love us. Whenever I walk into Whole Foods or a fresh market, I marvel at the distinct wedged shapes, the pungent aromas and the hefty price tags. Having become vegan, I have not found a good cheese substitute (I loathe the very concept of soy cheese – plastic does not taste like cheese!). So what’s a non-dairy convert who likes cheese to do?

The fact is, cheese if full of casein, which clogs arteries and is loaded with saturated fat. In a nutshell: it’s not good for you, and it never will be no matter how good it tastes. And while some of us eat cheese in moderation, it’s easy to go overboard. A proper serving is so small (a thumbnail, anyone?) that only strict self-discipline could keep you in line.

And here’s a fun cheese fact: most cheeses contain rennet, which is usually made from using sliced up pieces of dried-out calf stomachs. Also loaded with sodium and very hard to digest, cheese usually does more harm than good. So, the next time you go to take a giant bite, repeat “calf stomach” to yourself. And then walk away.

This week, I am taking a few cues from the book, The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions so you can make your own “cheese” from the following ingredients: cashews, walnuts, nutritional yeast, tofu, maca powder, agar and miso. If you don’t want to make your own, look for nondairy versions such as Daiya, Galazy, Tofutti or Follow Your Heart. Enjoy!

Walnut Parmesan Sprinkles


1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/4 tsp. salt (optional)

Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and pulse to combine until walnut pieces are ground into a powder. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Keeps well for weeks!

Tofu Feta

(Make this cheese a day ahead, so the flavors can develop.)


14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. dried basil or 3 tbsp. freshly chopped basil

Pepper, to taste

Capers (optional)

Crumble tofu in a bowl until it resembles feta. Add in other ingredients. Mix together by hand. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. It keeps for at least a week.

Tofu Ricotta


14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed

1/4 cup raw cashews, finely ground (for creaminess)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (for cheesy flavor)

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil

Pepper, to taste

Crumble tofu in a bowl until it resembles ricotta. Add in other ingredients. Use hands to mix together. Store in an airtight container in fridge. It keeps well for at least a week.

Mac and Cheese Mix


3 cups raw cashews

2 cups nutritional yeast

1/2 cup arrowroot powder

3 tbsp. garlic powder

3 tbsp. onion powder

1 tbsp. sea salt

1 tbsp. ground mustard seed

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. dried green onion

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne

1/4 tsp. ground cumin

Using a coffee grinder or dry blender, grind cashews in small batches into a very fine powder. In a container with a tight-fitting lid, add all other ingredients and shake until well mixed (with the cashews). To use, combine a 1/2 cup of this mix with 1 cup water (or nondairy milk) in a sauce pot. Stir over medium until thickened and add to one pound of prepared pasta!

You can store this mix for up to a month, or freeze!

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To read more about Rea Frey and why she is so Cheeky, please click here.

About the Author: Rea Frey

Rea Frey is a lover of food, words and relationships (possibly in that order). She is the author of two books, Power Vegan: Plant-Fueled Nutrition for Maximum Health and Fitness and The Cheat Sheet: A Clue-by-Clue Guide to Finding Out if He's Unfaithful.

Posted in Food