Carlos's grandmother always got her holiday parties started by serving a HUGE cheese ball and having everybody dig in. There's something about that timeless combination of cheese and crackers and cheese and bread that is so simple yet festive, not to mention the fact that it's the easiest party appetizer because you can make it ahead of time, serve it and forget it!
Yes... I said make it.
We're going to make vegan cheese at home!
One of my favorite cheeses in my pre-vegan days used to be goat cheese, mostly because I loved the texture of it. It held its shape, but it was also creamy and stuck to the roof of your mouth giving you that blissful decadent feeling. The cashew cheese I'm teaching you how to make today is very similar. It holds its shape since we're using agar-agar (a vegetarian gelatin you can find at any supermarket), but it's marvelously creamy and perfect on a cracker. We're also decorating it so it looks super festive, and turning the whole thing into a yummy vegan holiday cheese platter!
This recipe was created for our dear friends at Vegan Outreach who do incredible work to help spread the vegan message and support people on their transition to a vegan lifestyle. We just love them! Please check out the wonderful work that they do here, and subscribe to their youtube channel! They offer awesome content including monthly recipes by, well... me! If you also have the tradition of giving out donations this time of year, all of the proceeds that come into Vegan Outreach from now until December 31st will be doubled! That means double the impact for people and animals alike.
Ok, are you ready? Say cheese!
CREAMY CASHEW AND CHIVE CHEESE FOR A FESTIVE VEGAN CHEESE PLATTER
Yield: 2 round cheeses ⎮ Pre-soaking time: 4 hours to overnight ⎮ Prep time: 15 minutes ⎮ Cook time: 2 minutes ⎮ Chilling time: 4 - 24 hours depending on how firm you want the cheese
For the cheese base:
- 1 & 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 4 hours or overnight
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 & 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 1 & 1/2 teaspoons agar agar powder, diluted in a bit of cold water
- 1 tablespoon water (use only if needed to help your blender run. The less you use the better)
For decorating the cheeses:
- Chopped chives
- Smashed pretzels, and some whole for adding on top of the cheese
- Smashed pink peppercorns
If making a cheese platter you can also add:
- Fresh fruit (I love strawberries, raspberries, figs and grapes)
- Extra pretzels
- Toast points
- Dried fruit (I love apricots, dates and dried figs)
Drain the cashews from the soaking water and add them to a blender.
Add the garlic powder, salt, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and coconut oil and blend, scraping down the sides as needed until you have a thick cream. Depending on your blender, you may need to add a tablespoon of water to help it run, but add this only as needed.
Transfer the creamy mixture to a small pot and fold in the chopped chives.
Add the agar agar diluted in a bit of cold water to the pot and mix.
Heat the mixture at medium heat, stirring constantly. Let it cool slightly while you place some plastic wrap over two flat ramekins or small containers.
Divide the cheese mixture between the two ramekins, placing the mixture on top of the plastic wrap. Press it down well into the ramekin with a spatula since this will be your mold. Wrap the top with plastic wrap.
Place the cheeses in the fridge for anywhere between 4 hours to 24 hours, depending on how firm you like it. It will still be a creamy cheese, but the more you leave it the more sliceable it will be (you can also increase the agar agar if you want an even firmer cheese).
Right before serving your cheeses, carefully remove them from the moods by pulling a bit on the plastic wrap, and remove the plastic.
Place the extra chopped chives on a plate and carefully place the cheese over them so that they stick to the top. Turn it over and place it on your platter. Repeat the process with the second one only this time, using the smashed pretzels and smashed pink peppercorns. Stick some whole pretzels on top of the pretzel-peppercorn topped cheese for a beautiful look.
Add any additions you’d like to your cheese platter, from fresh fruit, to different breads and toast, dried fruit, olives, etc., and serve immediately. Enjoy!
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