Plant-based Cheddar Cheese

Plant-Based Cheddar Cheese

I’ve now tried several recipes for a plant-based cheese, and although I really do like my Plant-Based Sharp Cheddar recipe, I’m still on the hunt for the “perfect” plant-based cheese!

As I search through cheese recipes, most of them are variations of the same theme, which doesn’t mean I won’t try them, but I expect similar results and maybe not a solution to downsides of other recipes I’ve tried. But, this one from Michelle Blackwood over at Healthier Steps, caught my eye as it included some different ingredients that I thought might help make the cheese more firm and perhaps more, uh, cheese-like, or having the same feeling, texture, and type of cutting of a real cheddar. The tapioca starch (or flour) and the cornstarch could make it more interesting!

Recently I’ve been using this agar powder, which is about as good of a price and quality I’ve yet been able to find. It is working great in all of the other cheese recipes. However, the amount of agar (2 T) in Michelle’s recipe seems a bit high, particularly for a 1/2 cup of water. For comparison, my Plant-Based Sharp Cheddar recipes uses 1 T of agar powder to 1 cup water. I would think that Michelle just made a simple mistake and has Tablespoons, instead of teaspoons, but she does properly list 2 teaspoons kappa carrageenan as an alternative, and doubles-down on the amounts of agar powder and water in the comments when some said their cheeses were too soft.

I followed the recipe, only doubling the lemon juice, but, due to the Plant-based Bear not using oil, just skipped the coconut oil in the recipe entirely. I’m not sure how this might affect things, but the cheese turned out fine and didn’t need additional oil, at least from a non-stick angle. All was well…

…Until I started making that agar/water mixture. I couldn’t even begin to dissolve 2 T of agar powder into the 1/2 cup water, and got a gluey ball that wouldn’t at all be able to be brought to a boil. I tried adding just a SMALL amount more water, but that wasn’t enough to make a difference either. I wasn’t measuring my added water, but I’d imagine I ended up with a cup and a half of water or more to make a rather thick agar paste I could bring to a boil. I poured it into the other mixture and blended as instructed.

I have a number of “tiny loaf” pans that I use for making cheese, and instead of oiling up, I simply line them with plastic wrap, leaving excess in place, extending beyond the pan. This makes things non-stick, super easy to clean up, and I can wrap the resulting cheeses in the extra wrap. I bought my 1-cup tiny loaf pans years ago, and can’t for the life of me find any more, but this pan would also be similar. For this recipe, I can make three “loaves” of cheese.

The Healthier Steps original Vegan Cheddar Cheese recipe is below:

Vegan Cheddar Cheese

Prep Time10 mins
Total Time2 hrs 10 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Cheese
Calories: 118kcal
Author: Michelle Blackwood

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup water for mixing with agar powder
  • 2 tablespoons agar powder or 2 teaspoons kappa carrageenan
  • 1/2 cup water for mixing with other ingredients
  • 1/2 cup cashews raw
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper chopped, seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil optional
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca starch
  • 1 tablespoon non-gmo cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch Cayenne pepper optional

Instructions

  • If using a high-speed blender, add water, cashews, bell pepper, nutritional yeast flakes, lemon juice, coconut milk, coconut oil, tapioca starch, cornstarch, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and cayenne pepper.
  • Process until smooth and creamy.
  • Mix cold water with agar powder in a saucepan, bring to boil on medium stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat and immediately add to cheese sauce.
  • Process until smooth.
  • Pour mixture into an oiled container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  • Alternatively, especially when using a regular blender, process all the ingredients including agar powder in a blender until smooth. Pour sauce into a non-stick sauce on medium heat whisking constantly until thick and bubbly. Immediately pour into an oiled container and refrigerate for an hour.

Notes

I find the consistency of the method using the high-speed blender better. This recipe is not like storebought processed vegan cheese. So it’s not as firm. Yes, it slices and shreds but not like storebought and tastes amazing!
The recipe calls for agar powder, if using agar flakes, use 3 times the amount instead.
If you prefer a sharper flavor then add extra lemon juice

The results were okay. I think my “pinch of cayenne” was rather large, so my cheese was a bit spicy, and it definitely was more firm than other cheese recipes (probably due to the “excess” agar.) But I didn’t find it dramatically different or better, and it still looks about the same. It’s still more of a “Velveeta” consistency, rather than a typical hard dairy cheese.

I’ll have to try it again soon, with what I’ve learned, and then maybe publish a Plant-based Bear edit!

I did slice the cheese up, and pair with Pretzel Crisps, fresh veggies, and some home-made hummus to take to a get-together, and everyone loved it!

Michelle has some real interesting things on her site, so I do encourage you check it out if you like Jamaican, Asian, and/or Cajun flavors.

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Plant-based Cheddar Cheese, Veggies, Hummus and Pretzel Crisps!
No Oil Tabouli Salad

No-Oil Tabouli Salad

I’ll not get into a debate about whether it’s Tabouli, Tabouleh, or Tabbouleh, but needless to say, when the weather is hot (or even not), this is a great thing to make and have a cup or two of! It’s one of my favorite prepared salads!

I’ve long followed a recipe which I think I got online somewhere long ago. However, most tabouli is made with olive oil, and, well, that’s not going to work for me. So I’ve made some adjustments:

No-Oil Tabouli Salad

Parsley-based, cold, fresh salad.
Last updated July 28, 2019.
Prep Time1 hr
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Servings: 6 large servings or more
Author: Plant-Based-Bear.com

Ingredients

  • 1 c Bulgar wheat dry
  • 1 1/2 c boiling water
  • 1/4 c lemon juice or put as much as you like!
  • 2-3 T tahini (pre-made or grind your own)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 t to 1 1/2salt
  • black pepper
  • 4-8 green onions minced
  • 4-6 c parsley packed, minced (about 4-8 bunches)
  • 10-25 mint leaves chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes diced

Instructions

  • Put the Bulgar wheat in a big bowl, cover with the boiling water, and cover with lid or plastic wrap for 10-15 minutes, which should get it mostly tender.
  • In the meantime, start mincing, and then add lemon juice, tahini, garlic, salt, and pepper to the big bowl with the Bulgar, and mix well. (Salt can be left out or left until the end if you want to monitor it.)

Notes

If serving immediately, mix in the rest of the ingredients, but do try to chill for just a bit first. This one is great COLD!
If serving much later, consider leaving out the greens until right before serving time, and then mixing together.

I have a big Tupperware bowl that I use for this, and while I haven’t measured the parsley in years, I basically just fill the bowl until I don’t think any more can get in! Then I carefully stir, with one hand mixing, and one hand holding it in the bowl.

I’ve also done it where I mixed in all the liquids into the Bulgar, and then topped with the greens, leaving them this way in the bowl until ready to serve, and then mixing it up, instead of leaving them completely separate.

For today’s version, I added extra lemon juice, and I also had some fresh dill, and diced cucumbers. While it may not be “authentic,” I’ve never been one to care, and I like the little bit of extra crunch and it’s certainly delicious, although I learned that a little chopped dill goes a long way!

At the top, I said this is a great salad to make on a hot day, but that’s a bit of a lie. It’s actually great to EAT on a hot day, and working endlessly mincing is never that much fun. But, if I do make it on a hot day, I know there will be a delicious reward waiting a bit later, and for that, I’m willing to do it!

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No-Oil Tabouli Salad.
The big bowl isn’t full already, before I can even get this into the refrigerator!

Plant-based Cheese Sauce

Most plant-based cheese sauce uses a lot of cashews, nutritional yeast, and a bunch of other less-than-common ingredients. But, the author of this cheese sauce claimed it was the ultimate, and it was pretty much just basic plants (and those ever-present raw cashews!)

So, for my plant-based omelette attempt, I knew I’d want some good cheesy sauce, so why not make it first!

The recipe called for boiling the veggies (and yes, those cashews) for 20 minutes or so, but one person had used an Instant Pot. I haven’t had the chance to use mine in awhile, so went this route, chopping up the veggies, adding them to the Instant Pot, setting it for 5 minutes at high pressure, and then mostly letting it naturally depressurize.

Then I added the ingredients in the specified amounts (for example, I’d cooked up too many potatoes for the the 2 cups I needed) and blended them all up in my Ninja blender.

Tasty cheese sauce!

And, it worked! I still think I can taste a bit of the potato and carrot in this, but it’s rather cheesy tasting, and quite delicious. It also went well with my plant-based omelettes I was making! (If only those omelettes were as good as this cheese sauce!)

Delicious with the pretzel crisps!

By the way, those dark specs in the sauce are because I didn’t peel my potatoes. To me it’s not a problem!

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