So you want to make your own vegan cheese? Today’s MoFo prompt is to write about comfort food – and vegan cheesy things are certainly a comfort food for me! I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts for ages, so I figured it was finally time to finish it up and post it.
It can seem overwhelming, but there are more and more resources out there to help you on your way. I’ve been dappling in the vegan cheesemaking arts over the last months/years, and there have been some failures, but I can also say my vegan cheeses have greatly improved since the beginning!
This post is a summary of all the vegan cheesemaking resources I’ve found, good places to go for tips, popular recipes and some documentation of my own experimentation, hits and misses.
There are now several vegan cheesemaking cookbooks out there. Let me walk you through the major ones.
The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook (DE) – This is where it all began. I was clutching this book to my little baby vegan heart before I ever knew what carageenan was. It has some solid cheeses made with agar, but I quite like the cheese sauces in the book made with white beans (for nachos, of course).
Artisan Vegan Cheese (auf Deutsch) – Miyoko began the second wave of the vegan cheesemaking revolution with this book. Here we actually start to ferment things! You need to make rejuvalac and it takes time, but some of the best cheeses I’ve made were from here. I will say, when I first bought it I got very excited, then immediately had a ton of fails which lead me to put the book on the shelf for a year or two. However, I picked it up again in late 2o15 and haven’t looked back since. Just stick with it, you’ll get it! Be sure to read her More Cheesy Tips blog post for new methods.
The Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook (DE) – Chef Skye has done some amazing things with this book. In some ways I find it a better starting point than Miyoko’s book, as he gives very detailed and extensive directions. There are also cheeses with a soy or almond milk base, for those who don’t have the patience or money for all the cashews and fermenting. He also has an amazing Gentle Chef Facebook group specifically for his cookbooks, where people post what they’ve made with pictures and tips. He posts his new developments as well. I’ve found it super inspiring and it’s great when I don’t know where to start! Check out his seitan book too! There’s an image gallery with pictures of most of the recipes here.
Fromages vegan (auf Deutsch) – This one does not have an English version yet, but it seems the French-speaking vegan community has been super excited about this book. It’s also been translated to German. I will check out the German copy one day and report back!
Vegan Cheeze – Hits and Misses – a Facebook group where people post their vegan cheesemaking attempts and which recipes and resources worked for them as well as which didn’t. Good place for inspiration!
Veganer Käse – a German-speaking vegan cheese group. Since I live in Germany it’s super helpful to have a place to go to ask about locally sourced ingredients, as a lot of things can be very America-focused and shipping and customs are expensive! For example, I learned here that there’s a readymade rejuvelac in most stores called Brottrunk, so I don’t even have to make my own! It’s not originally meant for vegan cheesemaking, but it is totally rejuvelac! More info about rejuvelac below.
The Gentle Chef Facebook Group – After joining this, I’m pretty sure every cookbook should have its own Facebook group! This is not only focused on vegan cheese, but it’s focused on the vegan cheese and seitan cookbooks published by Chef Skye Michael. It’s really, really helpful if you have any of his cookbooks. People post when something didn’t work to get advice, and they post their successes so you can get an idea which recipe to try next. The author also pitches in with advice and with photos of his new experiments that will be in future books.
The Gentle Chef Blog – The blog of Chef Skye Michael, the author of The Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook above. He also has some free complimentary vegan cheese and seitan recipes posted to get you started.
Special Ingredients You Might Need
Kappa Carrageenan (US Link / German Link) – Carrageenan is a thickener that melts, and it’s used in a lot of vegan cheese recipes. There are multiple types of carrageenan, and you must get the kappa variety. There’s a lot of bad press about carrageenan, I think Chef Skye does a good job tackling the issue here, and some more info from Nutritionfacts.org.
Tapioca Starch – This specific starch is often used on vegan cheese recipes because it makes the cheese stretchy.
(Vegan) Lactic Acid (US Link / EU Link) – A lot of vegan recipes use vegan lactic acid powder to give non-aged recipes a cheesy tang. If you’re in the US, you can also buy this lactic acid & carrageenan value-pack. If you’re anywhere in the EU, I recommend buying vegan-friendly lactic acid from a company called Special Ingredients from Amazon.co.uk. It’s only about €8 for 100g and the shipping is just slightly more expensive than buying it within country. I’ve linked to the UK page above, that’s how I got mine and it was easy.
Refined Coconut Oil – It’s important to use refined so that the cheeses don’t have a coconut taste. Coconut oil is necessary because it’s solid at room temperature, which allows for hard cheeses. Most of the Non-Dairy Evolutions recipes require this, and some of Miyoko’s like the Brie, Boursin and Camembert. In Germany I just buy one with a blue label from any Asian grocery store for about €4.
For the cultured cheeses, most recipes use rejuvelac. It’s made by sprouting quinoa, millet, wheat berries, etc. and then using the liquid from that to age the cheese. It sounds complicated, but all you really need to do is strain the grains in the morning and evening for a few days. The result is a slightly lemony probiotic bubbly liquid.
Some good substitutes for rejuvelac are the liquid from sauerkraut (get fresh, not canned) or possibly plain kombucha, though if this has sugar in it, it will make the cheese taste sweeter. You could also try the liquid whey from vegan yogurt, though this is probably most applicable to homemade yogurt.
Here’s a video that explains how to make rejuvelac. You can also read a written guide here.
In Germany there’s a product called Brottrunk that’s the same as rejuvelac, which you can buy at shops like DM, Denn’s, etc. or online here. It’s shelf-stable until opened. I’m sure you could also ship it from Amazon.de to anywhere else in the EU for a few more euros.
In the US you can buy rejuvelac from Amazon here (looks like the reviews for shipping quality are mixed though, maybe best in the winter?).
Know a place to buy rejuvelac in another country? Please let me know and I’ll link it here!
If you won’t use the whole batch of rejuvelac you can freeze it and defrost to use later.
Ready-Made Vegan Cheese Kits
Urban Cheesecraft Dairy-Free Cheesemaking Kits – there are several varieties:
Brie Cheesemaking Kit from The Vegan Pantry
Cashewbert – A brand new online vegan cheesemaking shop just opened in Germany, which ships to EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. I had the pleasure of meeting the owner at a vegan cheese meetup in Berlin, and can vouch for the awesomeness of his cheeses. This is the real deal. You can buy kits to make your own vegan camembert, blue cheese, almond curd cheese, using cashews or almonds with real mold cultures. As far as I know Cashewbert is the only place to buy smaller amounts of the mold cultures, you get enough for 40 cheeses for about €7, versus the only other shops where you have to buy enough for 1000 liters of “cheese” for €25ish. A Cashew Cheesemaker Starter Kit will set you back €38 and includes 2 cheese forms, 3 cultures, 2 cheese cloths, 1 cheese mat, camembert paper and a Cashewbert bag. You can also buy the cultures and supplies separately. So excited about this!
Where to Start
I know everyone wants the perfect vegan cheddar or blue cheese, but it’s probably best to start out with cheese sauces and spreads and go up from there. Once you get to the hard cheeses it can be frustrating with broken emulsion, etc. Eventually you get the knack for it though and know what it’s supposed to look like when, don’t give up.
Potato Carrot Cheese – I tell everyone to start with this recipe. It doesn’t involve any weird ingredients and it tastes fantastic, I make it at least once a month to put on top of nachos, pour on potatoes, bake with veggies in casseroles, etc. I know a cheese made out of potatoes and carrots sounds like some hippy bullshit, but it works. It’s one of my most requested recipes. I often add a handbook of cashews and a tablespoon of white miso paste for some extra zing, and some pickled jalapenos and juice if I’ll be using it for nachos.
Raw Cashew Cheese – One of the first vegan cheeses I made aaaages ago on this blog. It also doesn’t require any weird ingredients so it’s a good starter.
Baked Almond Cheese – This is a tart, feta-flavor like cheese that gets baked in the oven. It also doesn’t involve any special thickeners. I enjoyed it on crackers and on salads, and it would be great ins spanikopita.
Fresh Moxxarella Cheese – This recipe from Vedged Out is pretty popular and doesn’t require any carrageenan or lactic acid, just cashews and tapioca starch. It’s great for putting on top of pizza.
Kick Ace Extra Sharp Raw Vegan Holiday Cheddar Cheese Ball – this is step 1.5 in vegan cheesemaking, but not hard at all. I made this once and brought it to work and everyone raved about it even though none of them were vegan, so it’s totally not a “weird vegan cheese”.
Vegan Aquafaba Mozzarella from Avocados and Ales – this recipe is vegan internet famous, and for good reason. It does involve carrageenan though. All the Avocado and Ales vegan cheese recipes are great.
Vegan Aquafaba Cheddar from Avocados and Ales – another great recipe, does involve carrageenan.
Smoked Coconut Gouda – allergic to nuts and soy or just like coconut? This one is for you! Another winner from Vedged Out for those who like smoky cheeses. The fat in the coconut milk leads to an awesome cheese, and I promise it does not taste like coconut due to the liquid smoke and vegan worcestershire sauce.
Looking for more cheese recipes to try out? You can follow my Pinterest Vegan Cheese Board here, where I’ll post more good vegan cheese recipes as I find them!
Blender – You need a blender/food processor that can get nuts smooth without overheating. Lots of bloggers have a Vitamix or Blendtec, but I don’t have enough money and do fine with my €8o blender/food processor. Maybe I’ll invest in one some day! I have the Philips HR7762/90 Blender/Food Processor combo and it’s been going strong for me since 2012 and works just fine for making smooth vegan cheeses. I use this thing for seriously everything, the little jar for grinding coffee, the grating attachments for grating carrots and zucchini and the dough blade for preparing pizza dough.
Glass Tupperware or Form for up to 2 cups of liquid – You need something to pour the cheese into to allow it to form. Since you’re gonna be pouring hot liquid into it probably best if it’s glass. These ones by Pyrex look good, for example.
Nutmilk bag – This isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you’re going to make your own soy or almond milk to make vegan cheeses (especially from Non-Dairy Evolution), then it’s useful. You can also strain liquid through them to get it as smooth as possible.
Drying Rack – For cheeses that need to be air-dried, you need a rack to put them that allows air flow even on the bottom to avoid mold. A baked goods cooling rack works good for this, or you can often just use a sushi mat.
Here’s some photographic evidence of my foray into the vegan cheesemaking arts.
Vegan Brie from the Non-Dairy Evolution
Vegan Cheeses Air Drying – by the way, I don’t recommend this thing for a drying rack, mesh is too fine for air flow.
This is what it looks like when the emulsion breaks. This will certainly happen to you when you get to vegan cheesemaking level 2 and take on Miyoko’s or Chef Skye’s recipes. Usually you can whizz it in the food processor or with an immersion blender to fix it. Best heating method to avoid this I’ve found is medium/low and steady.
Extra Sharp Vegan Cheddar bit with refined coconut oil instead of canola, from Artisan Vegan Cheese.
I think this is probably the Mozzarella Fior de Latte from Non-Dairy Evolution, but I don’t really remember.
I believe this is the Golden Cheddar from Non-Dairy Evolution.
Some melted cheese on homemade bagels from the Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook. Look at that melt!
Air-dried Vegan Cheddar from Artisan Vegan Cheese.
Mozzarella di Tuscano from Non-Dairy Evolution.
Vegan Cream Cheese from Avocados and Ales. This is my absolute favorite vegan cream cheese recipe so far, it’s spot on.
Vegan Camembert from Non-Dairy Evolution. One of my favorites from the book, I even served it recently at a crafternoon I was hosting with mostly non-vegans and there was none left by the end!
This one may not look like much, but it’s my biggest success so far. The Artisan Vegan Cheese recipes are my favorite for flavor, but I find that the thickeners water down the flavor. Ultimately, I also just really want a vegan cheese recipe that doesn’t involve thickeners or tons of coconut oil! Miyoko writes that the cheddar can continue aging for months after cooking, but I don’t understand how as cooking the cheese must kill off the rejuvelac, miso, etc. from working its magic.
What I did here is take Miyoko’s sharp cheddar and replace the optional canola oil with slightly more than 1/4 cup of refined coconut oil. After aging it I poured it into a glass container lined with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge uncovered. After 24 hours the top had dried somewhat and I was able to flip it without getting a creamy mess everywhere. I flipped it onto a piece of wax paper and let the other side air out for 24 hours, make sure if you touch it you have clean hands. I continued doing this for several day in the fridge, and salted the outside with a tin bit of salt just to make sure it didn’t get moldy. Once it was solid enough, I flipped it onto a sushi mat and let it continue drying out in the fridge, flipping every day or so. After 1.5-2 weeks it was sliceable and the flavor is great. I will only be making this recipe without the thickeners from now on!
It’s not working!
So you’ve moved on to the more complicated cheeses and you’re having problems? Here are some resources to help you along:
More Cheesy Tips – The post above, continued. For once, the comments are helpful too.
If all else fails, head on over to the Vegan Cheeze – Hits and Misses group to ask your question if you’re totally lost and need some support.
There you have it, I hope this guide provides a good starting point for you vegan cheesemaking adventures! Now it’s your turn…do you have a favorite vegan cheese recipe that’s not posted here? A cookbook I haven’t heard of? Have you altered a recipe with great success? Please let me know in the comments!
Inspired and ready for another challenge? I have a couple other similar guides on the blog here: