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!
The Cheesy Vegan (DE) – I don’t have personal experience with this one. Do you? Let me know what you think!
Vegan & Selbst Gemacht – Käse, Joghurt, Tofu Milch – For the German-speakers among you, this is a nice beginner book. I have this one and its got lots of simple recipes for vegan cheese, yogurt, tofu and non-dairy milks. They include some fermented stuff and rejuvelac, but also recipes without. Lots of pictures, a good way to get started with vegan cheese and cultured vegan cheeses, but also it’s exciting to make your own yogurt and tofu!
This Cheese is Nuts! (DE) – This one is getting raved about in lots of the vegan cheese groups I’m in. Only downside for me is that apparently some of the recipes call for use of a dehydrator.
Vegan Cheese (DE) – This is another newer cookbook, looks like a nice overview of lots of different types of cheeses from simple to aged. The reviews even note that there’s a cheese made from zucchini! I don’t have this yet (trying to keep my cookbook addiction under control), but let me know how it is if you have it!
Plant-Based Cheesemaking (DE) – This is the next vegan cheese cookbook I’ve got my eye on. The author also goes into the theory of “cheeze” versus “cheese” and all the different fermenting options, and the book is separated by quick easy cheeses, cultured cheeses and firm aged cheeses. She writes recipes using knowledge from traditional cheesemaking. I think this book will up my cheesemaking knowledge and game. She has taken what we’ve learned from Miyoko Schinner and built on it. Reviews say the book is unique as you can cheese with fermenting agent to use, including water kefir! It’s also confirmed that many of the recipes use thickeners (a.k.a. agar and carageenan), which I’m a fan of!
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.
La Confrérie du Fromage Végétal – French language vegan cheese Facebook group.
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’re on your own making it, sorry! 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
Druid’s Grove Non-Dairy Camembert/Brie Kit
Druid’s Grove Non-Dairy Cheddar Kit
Druid’s Grove Non-Dairy Mozzarella Kit
Urban Cheesecraft Dairy-Free Cheesemaking Kits – there are several varieties:
Vegan Cheese Starter Kit from Cultures for Health (Sunflower seed based)
Brie Cheesemaking Kit from The Vegan Pantry
Cashewbert – A vegan cheesemaking shop based in Berlin, which ships to EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. I had the pleasure of meeting the owner at a vegan cheese meetup a few years ago and have done one of his vegan cheesemaking classes. 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.
From the left: Air Dried Vegan Cheddar from Artisan Vegan Cheese, Gorgonzola from Non-Dairy Evolution, and a cultured almond cheese from a Mary’s Test Kitchen video here.
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!
For those ready to take on aging vegan cheese with mold cultures, Full of Plants has got you covered with their vegan camembert and vegan blue cheese recipes.
In the German-speaking blogosphere, Leckerpflanzen has also documented their trials and errors with vegan camembert and come up with a slightly different recipe!
I’ve also been really really enjoying Connie’s RAWsome Kitchen YouTube channel. She has some vegan cheesemaking videos that use rice and nut-based cheeses. First time I’ve seen rice used, and that’s so much cheaper than cashews! I have some of hers aging in my fridge right now. The batter tastes delicious already! Here is the link to her cheese video playlist. I actually find her videos super calming, haha.
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:
Getting Cheesy – A bit of a FAQ from Miyoko about making the cheese recipes from her book, and some new methods she’s come up with since writing Artisan Vegan Cheese
More Cheesy Tips – The post above, continued. For once, the comments are helpful too.
Challenging Cheddar – Some tips from Miyoko about the cheddar recipes from Artisan Vegan Cheese
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!
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Inspired and ready for another challenge? I have a couple other similar guides on the blog here:
How to Make Seitan: An Illustrated Guide
How to Use Dried Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
How to Turn Bread Flour into Meat: Seitan, the Old-Fashioned Way (A Visual Adventure)
This is a really great round up of cheese making – I’m highly grateful for posting this and highly impressed by your cheesemaking efforts. I go back and forth between making my own and buying some in, mainly because of the difficulties with rejuvelac. I’m quite tempted to get some from Amazon now – thanks!
Wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to compile this information. I will be referring back to it often!
What a fabulous thorough guide! One day I’ll have a good enough blender to get started…
Please be aware that chef skye suggests several alternates if you don’t have rejuvelac. One of which is vegan yogurt whey. Can’t remember the other but it’s good advice.
Thanks for the tip, I’ll add some info about that in the post!
Thanks for the awesome cheese guide Nicole! I’m a huge fan of the almond feta, I think it’s originally a Maple Spice recipe. It has the easiest to find ingredients & I even managed to make it in rural Japan! http://www.maplespice.com/2011/04/baked-almond-feta-with-dill-oil.html
Ah thanks, just updated the link!
Wow this is really comprehensive – I have dabbled a bit in cheesemaking and love it but get a bit overwhelmed and often need more time that I have at present unless it is a simple cheese sauce or spread. I have tried a version of the potato and carrot cheese and was disappointed but am going to try it with some cashews and miso because I found it a bit bland (though it was not the one you link to and had less nooch)
I just recently got a miyoko cheese and it was the second best vegan cheese I’ve ever had (the other being Avella from Portland) It does make me want to dip my toes in cheese making… you know one day. XD
I wonder if you could make fermented cheese from kimchi juice? Clearly it would give a particular taste- but that might be a good thing.
I bet you could, I see some people use sauerkraut juice sometimes so it’s the same idea. Let me know if you try it!
Very helpful article, thank you.
Can you tell me if the Non-Dairy Evolution cookbook uses nutritional yeast? I really dislike the aftertaste.
I didn’t notice a mention of Full of Plants blog? He’s done a couple of nice cashew based mould ripened cheeses that look great. I’ve got his Vegan Blue in the fridge, but it’s nowhere near ready to try, yet.
Ah yes, thank you I should add Full of Plants! As for nooch, some recipes in Non-Dairy Evolution use it, some don’t!
Love it! What a great resource. 🙂
Thank you ever so much for this resource and the resources within it.
Is there any reason I couldn’t use liquid lactic acid instead of powdered in my vegan cheese? I found a vegan source for beer making that’s 80% while Druid’s Grove is 60% so I assume I’d have to use less… but is there any reason why I could sub it out at a different ratio?
I’m sure you could use it, but you’d have to play around with the wet/dry ratio a bit. I personally haven’t ever tried the liquid stuff, but let me know how it goes! I see a lot of people post this in the cheese groups so I’m sure everyone would love to know how you get on.
Hi! I’ve just found this incredible resource, thank you! Can you give me any ideas on how much of the dried lactic acid to use please? Thanks!
Please check the individual recipe you plan to use, the info should be there!
Thanks for getting back to me. I’ve got the Miyoko book and she only talks about using rejuvelac.
Best to find a recipe that specifically calls for lactic acid. Doesn’t make sense to use it in recipes with rejuvelac since you’re already going to get the fermented cheesy taste from the fermentation with the rejuvelac. Lactic acid is mostly to mimic the cheesy taste in non-fermented recipes.