“But what about cheese?” – pretty much the first thing any vegan hears when they reveal their diet to a stranger. I get it, I really do. Cheese was one of my favourite foods prior to going plant based, and along with eggs, it was the one thing I thought I would really pine for, however strong my ethical reasons for abstaining were. Incredibly I did not miss cheese at all which truly shocked me. If I, someone who could happily munch on a whole mozzarella ball can do it, there’s hope for us all.
Science indicates that our bodies break down casein (the primary protein in cheese) into peptides called casomorphin, which have an opioid-like effect on humans, so yes, your cheese “addiction” is likely a real one. After a couple of weeks of no dairy I found it didn’t even cross my mind which is somewhat crazy, but no doubt nut cheeses and other alternatives played a big part. I was still getting my fix of everything I loved about cheese – the mix of fat and salt, that texture and taste, just from plant sources and minus the cruelty.
I’ll do a roundup of my favourite vegan cheeses soon (there are some very good and very bad offerings out there) but today I have a recipe for an easy vegan cream cheese spread that’s perfect on a toasted bagel in the morning. When the dairy free garlic and herb Tesco cheese I was loving disappeared from the shelves I started to experiment and the results weren’t too far from the shop-bought stuff. My version is a little softer but still holds it’s own and is also delicious in a baked potato or added to a tomato pasta sauce to make it creamy. The possibilities are endless!
1/2 block of firm tofu (or about 200g)
1/2 a cup of cashew nuts, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
2tbsp plant milk or plant cream (almond, soya, oat, rice etc)
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (for the cheesy flavour)
A splash of lemon juice
An optional drop of maple syrup or agave to taste if needed (some cream cheeses have a hint of sweetness, this is totally optional)
Herbs of your choice – I like to add 1/2 tsp of chives and parsley but you can add your favourites
Once you’ve drained your cashews they should be soft enough for a blender. If you have a high powered blender like a Vitamix, you can get away with soaking them for an hour in hot water.
Add all of your ingredients to a blender and blitz on high for a few minutes or until totally smooth. Be sure to check the cashews are totally blended.
Transfer your cheese to a jar, the blender will have warmed this up during the process and it will appear runny at this point.
Leave the cream cheese in the fridge to set for at least 4 hours, this is even better the next day when it’s firmed up, but should be spreadable in 4 hours, if you’re desperate you can chill it faster in the freezer for the first 15 mins but keep an eye on it.
Voila! You have vegan cream cheese.
I’ve already gone through 2 jars of this and I can’t wait to experiment with flavours, let me know if you make this easy vegan cream cheese, I would love to see your photos!
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