Categories: Tasty Vegan AppetizersVegan Cheese-y DelightsVegan Recipes

Smoky Vegan Cheddar Cheez

You can make this vegan cheese-y appetizer as a spread in no time, or let it set up into slices. I like it both ways and hope that you will, too. This is good with sliced fresh baguette, or serve it with whole-grain or gluten-free crackers or crispbreads. It’s also quite nice served with chunks of red bell pepper and peeled celery cut into short sections. Grapes served in small bunches on the side add a nice flavor balance. Recipe adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.

Serves: 8 to 10

  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup baby carrots
  • 1 cup unsweetened nondairy milk milk
  • 1/4 cup agar flakes, optional
  • 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon prepared yellow or Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons mesquite seasoning*, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika,
    or 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, any of these to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of turmeric

Combine the cashews, carrots, and rice milk in a small saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer, then cover and simmer gently for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the carrots are tender-crisp. If you plan to make slices, stir in the agar flakes and continue to simmer for 5 minutes longer.

Transfer the mixture to a food processor along with the remaining ingredients and process until very smooth. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula from time to time. It takes a good few minutes to make this smooth.

If you skipped the agar and plan to serve as a spread, transfer to an attractive crock. Allow to cool to cool, then cover and let stand at room temperature until needed, or cover and chill.

If you used the agar, transfer the mixture to a lightly oiled loaf pan (or 2 mini-loaf pans). Pat in as smoothly as you can. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, run a knife around the edges of the loaf pan(s). Turn upside down onto a serving platter. If you’d like, sprinkle a little extra mesquite seasoning over the top. Slice 1/4 inch thick, arrange with slices of baguette and anything else you’re serving with this, like the suggested grapes, and dig in!

* Mesquite seasoning is easily found among the grilling and barbecue spice blends in supermarkets. In my opinion, this gives the cheez spread the most delicious flavor — complex but not spicy-hot.

Nava :

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  • In the off chance Mary should return, or anyone else has similar reservations, nutritional yeast along with vegan sour cream should give this a very cheesy flavor. Also, any good cheddar has a little bit of a bite to it, which is accomplished with the mesquite or liquid smoke. I use liquid smoke for my vegan bacon bits, and they turn out incredibly. Have faith folks, this is a very solid recipe, especially if you've been craving something nicer than the daiya prepackaged cheese.

    • Hi Carrie — the agar might be replaced by arrowroot powder, as it needs something to make it gel, though I have to admit I've never tried that. And the nutritional yeast gives it a little bite. If you leave both out, this could just be used as a dip. Good luck!

    • Paayel, I just changed the rice milk to any kind of unsweetened nondairy milk. As for the liquid smoke, I do have other options there, including mesquite seasoning or smoked paprika. Or, you can just use a tiny bit of any kind of spice you enjoy.

    • Susan, you can just leave it out, or if you want to include something with a little tartness or bite you can add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar or horseradish.

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  • Hi Nava this recipe sound tasty!
    However I've made quite a few recipes that use Agar flakes to create a 'hard' cheese and it just came out "squidgy" like jelly rather than hard or grainy like real cheddar is. I hated the texture of the jelly- so will this turn out the same? - if so I'd rather just make a cheddar flavoured spread and skip the agar... Or is there a way to make it actually hard? e.g. maybe it depends on the brand of the agar- and its just the ratio of agar: liquid I've been using is wrong? Thanks

    • Hi Tania — I would say this isn't squidgy (love that word!) like jelly, but not super-hard. I've made this a number of times and it comes out quite sliceable for me. Give this a try and let me know how it turns out for you! It's also good without the agar as a spread, if you're leery.

  • Hello,
    I made this and it isn't becoming sliceable. I used Agar like in the recipe. Can you think of any reasons?
    Could i try blending again with more Agar.
    Thank you

    • Hi Kyra, so sorry this didn't set up for you — I'm not sure why, as I've made it so many times. You could try blending it again with more agar (you'll need to cook the agar). Did you give it time to set up in the fridge?