For many transitioning into plant-based diet and/or vegan life style, giving up cheese may be the most difficult thing to do. Although commercially available dairy-free cheese alternatives are getting better, they still tend to be pricier and, let’s be honest, they do take some getting used to. Plus: many of these cheeses are still not necessarily something to overindulge in – they usually come with a high fat and salt content. So, when it comes to dairy-free cheese you still need to proceed with caution.
One of the best ways to know exactly what you are getting is to get into DIY (do-it-yourself). Making your own cheese can sound intimidating. And some recipe do sound quite complicated and time consuming! But, there are quite a few vegan cheese recipes that you can do yourself and be happy with results.
For example, making a gooey nacho cheese or a cheese sauce for Mac’n’Cheese can’t be easier. Also, making homemade fresh mozzarella, although it takes time, is simple enough really. And if you want to impress guests, baked mini cheeses are your friends!
Vegan cheese making, including artisan plant-based cheese making, is now becoming very popular and there are quite a few really good cookbooks out there that you may want to take a look at. Before buying any of them, I encourage you to check out your local library! If you are looking for a good place to start, I think either “Artisan Vegan Cheese” by Miyoko Schinner, or “This Cheese is Nuts!” by Julie Piatt will give you plenty to work with.
The baked feta recipe below was created to make my life easier – it includes only 4 ingredients which I usually have on hand anyways, and uses the oven to do most of the work. Plus, it includes no added fat and no added salt, while being rich in protein, which makes it almost an essential ingredient for a healthy salad or sandwich lunch! The cheese stores well for about one week, so you may want to make a fresh batch every 7 days or so. Enjoy!
Vegan Baked Feta
What you’ll need:
- 1 block (14 oz, 400 g) extra firm tofu, drained
- 1/2 lemon, juice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
What you’ll do:
- Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C).
- While the oven is preheating, place 1 block of tofu – drained but not pressed – into a food processor and add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until everything is smooth and combined.
- Line an 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm) baking dish with some parchment paper. If you don’t have this specific size baking dish don’t worry – you can use any oven safe dish that will make your baked cheese block have about 1 in (2.5 cm) thickness.
- Pour your tofu cheese mix into the baking dish, even the surface out and put it in the oven for 45 minutes. Depending on your oven, you may want to check half way through. If your top and bottom are baking at a different rate you may want to flip the cheese, which can be tricky since it will still be went and fragile, or move the rack up or down. The main point is to allow both the top and the bottom to dry out as evenly as possible.
- After about 45 minutes, when the cheese looks more or less dried out on the surface, increase the heat to 425 F (220 C) to finish the baking. This step will produce a nicely roasted crust and add just a bit of caramelization. But keep it short, no longer than about 15 minutes!, because you still want your cheese to stay soft inside so it can crumble well!
- Take the baked feat out, cool it completely, then store it in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. I recommend you let it cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours before using for the first time as this will help with the crumbling and/or slicing. Enjoy!
Note on the salt: feel free to add salt to taste if you like, since this no-salt added version will be on a bland tasting side of things. Alternatively, you can simply add a pinch of salt to your salad or sandwich as you are putting them together. I will leave the answer to the question “To salt, or not to salt” to you!
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019