I made my own vegan cheese!

by JL Fields on May 12, 2011

I hope you enjoyed the Chickpea-TVP Burgers & Kale-Cabbage-Leek Grill Mix recipes Tuesday! I’m sure loving grilling season.

Okay, to the cheese. I’m excited.  Today I can finally share the results of my first experience making raw, vegan cheese!  I took an Advanced Raw Class with Russell James last month at Organic Avenue and I was obsessed with trying to make the two cheese recipes that we tasted.

Russell James' Caraway, Fennel & Olive Cheese & his Cashew Cheese at Organic Avenue

The recipes were included as part of the class and they are not for me to share. You can find the Caraway, Fennel & Olive Cheese recipe in Russell’s Raw Cheese e-book (and I suspect the “Basic Raw Cheese” recipe in the book is the Cashew Cheese recipe).

I started with the Cashew Cheese because I had all of the ingredients and a nut milk bag (during the class he indicated that he now prefers to use nut milk bags for cheese rather than cheesecloth).

I whipped up the ingredients (which included a probiotic for culturing) in Viv (my Vita-Mix) and poured it into the nut milk bag (error number one?).

I pressed it by setting a Turkish coffee pot on top.

The trick here is to have enough weight to press out the liquid but not too much that the cheese comes oozing out. I’ll confess I was obsessed with this.  I tried a few mason jars with beans and saw cheese coming through. With the coffee pot, really no liquid came out (error number two?).

The cheese was to remain on the counter for 24 – 48 hours to culture. At 24 hours I processed in the additional ingredients and transferred the cheese to a ring mould where it would sit for another 24 hours, this time in the refrigerator.  After 24 hours, it seemed fairly moist (again, pretty certain more liquid should have come out during the 24-hour culturing/pressing process) but I removed the ring mould and wrapped it up as instructed. I placed it in the back of the refrigerator (it’s supposed to be ready in one week, or up to 6 weeks) and headed to Arizona where I completely forgot about it.

I returned to New York, anxiously unwrapped the cheese and, well, it didn’t look like Russell’s.  And it didn’t taste like Russell’s.

I wrapped it back up and waited another week.

That extra week helped!  It still doesn’t look quite like Russell’s but it is tasty. It’s now two weeks old and keeps getting better! So maybe there were no errors, but…

…I bought a cheesecloth.

Last weekend I tried my hand at making the Caraway, Fennel & Olive Cheese. The base is macadamia nuts.  I blended the nuts and probiotics and wrapped up the cheese in my new cheesecloth.

See! Liquid came out!  I was feeling very positive about this experience!  This cheese cultures on the counter for 48 hours.  I had to rinse the bowl because the liquid got stinky (but not the cheese!) but mostly kept my hands off of it.

After 48 hours I stirred in the remaining ingredients and transferred it to a ring mould–the consistency was perfect, no excess liquid!

I placed the cheese in the dehydrator to form a “rind”.

The next morning…

…I nibbled.  WOW!  It was delicious!  But, I held back and wrapped the cheese up and placed it in the refrigerator — this cheese will last awhile, too — and tried it 12 hours later.

A huge success!

Long-time readers know I’m a rather short and sweet kind of cook. I like yummy food but I’d like it to be pretty simple.  Don’t let the length of this process scare you away. Making cheese is very simple. There are just a few steps along the way and patience is required.

I’m going to be making a lot of cheese in the future. And I’ll be using my nut milk bag for milk and use my cheesecloth for cheese!

Have you made vegan cheese?

  • JL, where did you buy a nut milk bag? I need to get my hands on one of those! Everything else lets too much residue through.

  • Anonymous

    I’m so happy to hear you mastered the technique! That’s exactly the process we learned at 105. I’ve made a few variations since I got home. I don’t plan to make it all the time but I think it will be a great dinner party addition to impress my friends.

    • Agreed about dinner parties! LOL I’m kind of cuckoo for cheese, though, so I think I’ll be making more for ME 🙂

  • I have some vegan cheese in my fridge that I made at least a month ago. I used Melody’s recipe from Melomeals. How long do you think it lasts in the fridge?

    • Wendy, Russell said the cashew cheese is good for at least six weeks (even said if you see mold, just but it off). As for the Cashew, Fennel & Olive cheese, I’ll probably eat it sooner, because there are olives in it and I don’t know how long they would last.

  • Whoa. The rind changes everything. Ravishing!

    • Thank you, Kelly! The rind made me very happy — it really looked like what we got in the class. Have you tried it yet?

  • That looks phenomenal. I need to get in that class…

    • Chad, Russell is a really great chef and instructor. I highly recommend his classes!

      I just checked out your blog. Congrats on your changes and healthy living! I look forward to reading your posts!

  • Congrats on your cheese success. It was interesting reading your experience with this. I haven’t tried cheese yet, because frankly I was scared of the whole culturing thing. I see the word “culture” and I think “fester”… In my pre-vegan days I was a big cheese lover, but managed to ignore how it was made. Nothing you’ve written or show looks too scary. It all looks very good. Perhaps it’s time to ‘get over myself’ and give it a try.

  • Looks so good! I’ve always been to lazy to make my own cheese! Hehe!

    • Ha! Even though there were several steps, each step was really only a matter of minutes. I was surprised!

  • The cheese looks amazing, awesome job! I haven’t tried this type of cheese yet, but have a few recipes on my wish list to try. This looks like the perfect use for my nut milk bag since I have not been using it for almond milk lately. 🙂

    • Yeah, great thing about hemp milk, yes? No need to strain!

  • Celia

    This is so, so cool! When I cook for vegan friends I tend to shy away from soy cheese because it’s rubbery and has a gazillion additives – so nice to know you can DIY!

    • Thanks, Celia! I cannot wait to wow some friends with this cheese!

  • I’ve made something similar a couple times, and it is so good! I definitely want to try more varieties now after seeing yours!

    • I can’t wait to try more from Russell’s book!

      • Make the garlic bread!

  • that looks delicious! I’ve made my own nut “cheese” but it was not cultured so I’m sure yours was a lot better. I’ve been trying to find a good substitute for cream cheese since I don’t really like the vegan ones I can find at the store. I might need to check out that e-book!

    • I think you’ll like the book, Amy. I’m been using the cashew cheese as sort of a “spread” since it’s a bit moist. I spread it on a toasted tortilla. YUM.

    • It is WAY better than tofutti. Just like cream cheese! You have to make it! I have a recipe for cultured cream cheese on my site.

      • I got the E-book! The recipes don’t look very difficult at all. Looks like fun! 🙂

        • That’s great, Amy! And Bitt’s right –the garlic bread looks amazing!

      • Jordan Reynolds

        Bitt, what’s your site?  Desparately looking for a vegan cream cheese for my restaurant.  We use tofutti; we agree that it’s not the best.  Your help would be greatly appreciated.

  • Interesting that Russel says he prefers a nutmilk bag. The thing is, that nutmilk bags have different textures and are not all made the same. So his could have had wider holes than yours. I use cheesecloth with my cheeses too but I dislike that it seems to attract animal fur to it. 😉

    Congrats on your cheese success. I’ve done the rind thing too and I decided after 48 hours is enough for me because I use it as a spread anyhow. I’ve heard to put it in the fridge for a month and it will completely harden up. Maybe I’ll try that, someday. Enjoy it!

  • Kate@Diethood.com

     I am so going to make this!! I always make feta and ricotta…this can’t be that much different. 😉

  •  WOW – what a great write-up and I love how you really outlined all the steps and the little tricks that worked for you. I’ve never made vegan cheese before… but now I’m really inspired to do so!

    • Thank you, Angela. Please let me know if you tried it!

  • How awesome!  I just commented about Dr. Cow’s cheese on my blog and someone sent me this link!  Someday I’d love to try this too! Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Angela — what’s your blog? Would love to check it out!  Definitely try the cheese — it was so easy and so delicious! Thanks for stopping by!

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  • PeterNZ

    Hi there, I have a question. I am selling cheese making ingredients and a customer asked if our cultures are vegan i.e. do not contain any animal products. Now the problem is, all cheese cultures I know of are grown using lactose which comes from milk. So my initial reaction was to answer “No”. Would you see this the same way? And if so, do you know of any cheese cultures which do not contain lactose as a growing medium? The one you used is this lactose free? I couldn’t find it on their webpage. Thank you for taking the time. 


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  • Cool. I’m in the process of making vegan cheese right now! Great article. Glad your second cheese turned out nicely; looks delish!

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