Smoky Vegan Cheddar Cheez

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.

Smoky vegan cheddar cheez recipe

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47 comments on “Smoky Vegan Cheddar Cheez

  1. Kathy

    Thanks for this link, Nava. I am certainly trying this one. I don’t seem to have any problem with a vegan diet, except for the cheese aspect. I adore it – it is my ultimate comfort food. I am finding lots of great recipes to replace it, though. Thank you!

  2. Nava Post author

    Kathy, make sure to try Daiya vegan cheese when you want a truly cheesy melt. I’m pretty confident that if I served a pizza made with Daiya mozzarella-style to a nonvegan, they wouldn’t notice the difference!

  3. Darlene

    Can any other nuts be substituted for the cashews? My grandchildren are allergic to cashews but do not have a problem with other nuts.

  4. Nava Post author

    Darlene, blanched slivered almond would work well, too. Place them in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiled water and let them stand for about an hour; that way they’ll soften up a bit and blend better. Hope you and yours enjoy this!

  5. Janet Van Deren

    Hi, I would love to make this, but live in a country where I cannot get vegan cream cheese. Is there any sustitution? Blended silken tofu?? (I brought some back with me from a trip to the U.S.). Or am I just basically out of luck?

  6. Nava Post author

    Janet, you can use some blended silken tofu, but you might try just increasing the amount of cashews — say, another 1/3 cup, which will add up to about 1/4 cup when cooked and blended. Good luck; I hope it works!

  7. Janet Van Deren

    Thanks! I am definitely going to try it. I will let you know how it works out! Love your recipes!

  8. Nava Post author

    Millie, that’s a great question! I’ve never tried, so I don’t know … if you try, can you let me know? I should try it some time, myself.

  9. Millie

    I just made my first batch and will post a picture on FB with the recipe and give you credit for the wonderful recipe. The only problem was not with the recipe but all I have is an immersion blender (stick/wand but industrial hand held). So blending was a challenge but a little bit of nuts will be just fine. As soon as it’s set I’ll try to make a grilled cheese sammy. My husband loved his taste from the bowl. LOL

  10. Millie

    It went so well, and was glad to find Natural Mesquite . I wish I could post a picture of the cheeze. It doesn’t melt, but for Mac ‘n Cheese we’ll use your “Cheesy Sauce for Quick Mac ‘n Cheese.

  11. Millie

    Please let me take the opportunity to say that I appreciate your recipes and philosophy on food. Every recipe you provide I really want to try. The list is huge for TO DO Recipes….LOL So many, many thanks to you and I’ll be in and out with comments, and let you know how my family and friends love your food.

  12. Nava Post author

    Millie, thanks so much for your kind thoughts. I hope you and yours do enjoy all the recipes from VegKitchen that you’ll be sharing. Have a very good holiday season!

  13. Tessa Trow

    Hi Nava,

    I never post comments on food blogs or recipes (this really is my first!) but I just have to rave about this recipe. I had mesquite liquid smoke on hand and it worked perfectly. I made this as one of three appetizers for Christmas and it was an absolute hit. Best of all, it took only 10 minutes to make. Thank you so much for sharing!


  14. Deanna

    Can you use another vegetable besides carrots. Grandson has milk allergy but also allergic to carrots. Would sweet potatoe or rutabaga work trying to think of a firm vegetable….

  15. Nava Post author

    Wow, I’ve never heard of a carrot allergy! I think your ideas of sweet potato and rutabaga are both very good.

  16. Kay

    This sounds scrumptious Nava! I wonder if the cashews could be replaced with brazil nuts or sunflower seeds- not a big fan of cashews. Also maybe replace the nutritional yeast with organic miso and celtic orbhimalayan sea salt

  17. Nava Post author

    Hi Kay — I’m not sure that brazil nuts or sunflower would yield the creamy texture we’re after. Miso might be an interesting replacement for the nutritional yeast — mellow white would be best. I think blanched almonds (whole, slivered, or sliced) would work in place of cashews. And I’d like to experiment with white beans instead of cashews, which are insanely expensive lately. If you try these tweaks, let me know how it works out!

  18. Nava Post author

    Anita, there are no silly questions! I will ask Hannah Kaminsky, who took this photo for me, to leave a reply about the knife.

  19. Mary

    How on earth can this be called cheddar cheese? It only resembles the real thing physically – the taste must be nothing like cheese. Call it a veggie loaf or something, not “vegan cheddar cheese”.

  20. Nava Post author

    My goodness, such wrath! It’s called cheez, not cheese, as it simply alludes to a cheese-like quality, texture, and appearance. There are many vegan “cheeses” these days, and the meaning is definitely evolving.

  21. micky

    This recipe was absolutely amazing! I love the texture a real breakthrough to real tasty dairyfree cheese. Thank you

  22. Nava Post author

    Louise, this keeps for a few days in the fridge. I’ve never put this in the freezer, but my guess is that it might freeze well. I may try it and report back.

  23. Annie

    Firsty; thank you for such an amazing recipe! I love cheddar, and have tried to find a vegan substitute for a long time. Do you think it would be possible to use soy milk or any other plant based milk instead of the rice milk?

  24. Nava Post author

    Hello — yes, you can use any other kind of unsweetened nondairy milk. I should add that to the recipe. I hope you like it!

  25. phil

    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.

  26. Nava Post author

    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!

  27. Nava Post author

    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.

  28. Nava Post author

    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.

  29. Margo

    Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring
    on other sites? I have a blog based upon on the same information you
    discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors
    would value your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

  30. Anne-Marie Reymond

    Es ce possible d’avoir la recette en français s’il vous plais.?
    Anne Marie Reymond

  31. Tania

    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

  32. Nava Post author

    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.

  33. Kyra

    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

  34. Nava Post author

    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?

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