What you need to make vegan cheese and why...
- Coconut Milk: There are many different methods of making vegan cheeses, but I have found the richest and creamiest vegan cheese is made from a can of full-fat coconut milk. You could use other plant-based milk instead or even cashew cream, but I find that the coconut milk gives it the rich creamy texture that I crave in cheese. (Coconut cream also works well.)
- Water - to add the correct amount of moisture.
- Agar Agar Powder - to make the cheese firm. This is a vegan gelatine that comes in the form of a powder. I get mine for a good price at my local Asian market or they also sell it at many natural foods stores. (If you can not find the powder, you can use agar agar flakes, but you will need to triple the amount of flakes and use 6 tbsp in total). You can also use Kapa carrageenan instead of agar agar powder in equal amounts.
- Nutritional Yeast - for a cheesy flavor. This is a flaky yellow powder that has an umami flavor. This is what will make it taste like cheese, so don’t skip it.
- Salt - for flavor.
- Lemon Juice - for flavor and acidity. You can also use apple cider vinegar instead. This gives your cheese just a little bite.
- Tapioca Starch - aka tapioca flour - to make the cheese able to melt and stretch. (Only use for the meltable variation). I have tested and retested the amount of tapioca starch needed. Anything less than the recommended amount will need high heat to melt, anything more than the recommended amount will be too soft to grate or slice. *You can't use any other starch to get the same stretchy effect as tapioca starch. Only tapioca starch will let your cheese melt and stretch similarly to real cheese.
Okay, let’s talk about agar-agar for a minute:
I have had absolutely amazing feedback on my cheese recipes and they work great for almost everyone. Getting the cheese firm enough seems to be the only place people ever have trouble. Occasionally people will say that their cheese didn't set correctly or it's like jello. These are my tips if this happens to you:
- Use agar agar powder not flakes if you can and measure carefully. Make sure to use 2 full tablespoons, not 2 teaspoons!
- I use Telephone brand agar agar, since I can easily find it at my local Asian market. It comes in small packs so it won’t go bad, and I know that it sets well every time. There are many other brands and there seem to be different strengths of agar agar especially in Europe.
- If your cheese is too soft or jello-like, your agar agar is not strong enough. Increase the agar agar next time you make it. If it is very soft you can add a tiny bit of water and remelt it and add more agar agar and boil it for an additional 6 minutes.
- If your agar agar is not working, swap it out in equal parts for Kapa carrageenan.