2017 UPDATE: Why would I mess with the second most popular recipe on my site? Because I thought I could do better. I was right! Below is the updated recipe which has deeper smoky-cheese flavor and a modified technique. I also replaced the old point-and-shoot photos from 2012 for brand spanking new ones that I hope give you a much better idea of the beautiful, silky, creamy final product. I’ve left the old recipe purely for nostalgia’s sake.
A mere few weeks ago I was all hot for coconut butters. Now I’m onto nut cheez. The original recipe for this came from The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions and called for roasted red peppers and jalapenos. I made a batch nearly straight-up (reduced the olive oil) true to the recipe and was just blown away by the flavor. (When it’s still hot, it smells uncannily like diary cheese.) It’s by far the best-tasting nut cheez I’ve ever made. I’ve got a thing or two against commercial vegan cheezes but still felt like I was missing out, so this recipe is a great addition to my list of vegan staple items. Slap a slice or two of this stuff between some red chile tortillas, grill – and you will be a very happy camper indeed.
The second time I made it, I thought pesto would be an ideal “add-in” instead of the jalapenos and red peppers. It makes for a beautiful little loaf of healthy, reduced fat vegan cheez. Totally worthy atop homemade crackers or melted between crunchy-soft bread. Making cheez at home is not a cheap option – a 1 oz. bag of agar flakes is about $6.99 and cashews are pricey as well, but a little of this cheez goes a long way and last time I looked, my homemade stuff didn’t have any ingredients I couldn’t pronounce (or tons of oil, either).
Note: I prefer agar agar flakes to the powder because the powder more often than not fails to solidify properly. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, you can find agar agar flakes online here or at natural food stores. Best way to purchase nutritional yeast is in the bulk section of natural food stores. This goes for cashews, too. Be sure to get raw cashew pieces and save yourself some $$. I buy 5-pound bags online at Amazon; the price is a bit less per pound than at stores and I get free shipping with my Prime Membership.
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
- .5 ounces agar flakes (not powder)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. refined coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp. liquid smoke
- 1 Tbsp. white miso paste
- 1 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked in water overnight, rinsed & drained
- 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. onion flakes
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
- Add all of the pesto ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process until the basil and garlic is broken down into little bits. Set aside.
- Have a 2-cup ceramic or glass container (preferably round, but rectangular is fine, too) set aside; no need to oil it. In a small bowl, whisk together the nutritional yeast through the turmeric powder. Once the cheez is processed, you'll want to move fairly quickly so it's best to have everything you need in place.
- In small saucepan, bring the water to a low boil and add the agar flakes. Let cook for about 5 minutes, or until dissolved. Whisk frequently.
- Meanwhile, in a high-speed blender, add the lemon juice, melted coconut oil, liquid smoke and miso paste along with the cashews. Pulse the blender a few times just to break down the cashews. Now add the nutritional yeast/spice mixture. Pulse again, stopping a few times to stir the contents. Don't worry about the cashews becoming smooth - that will happen once you pour in the water/agar mixture.
- Once the agar has dissolved, slowly pour in about a third of the mixture into the blender with the blender running at a low speed. If needed, stop the machine and stir the mixture with a sturdy spatula or spoon. Turn the machine back onto low and continue to pour in the remainder of the agar mixture. At this point, everything should be moving well, so pop the lid back onto the blender and crank that baby to the highest setting. This is when the cheez will get super smooth and silky.
- Turn off the blender and scrape the pesto into the blender and pulse a few times to incorporate it into the cheez. You don't want to go too far or you'll get green cheez. Tasty, but it might scare of some folks. Pour the cheez mixture into the 2-cup container and put it in the refrigerator until firm. Don't put plastic wrap on top until the cheez is completely solid.
- To remove cheez, gently slide a knife around the sides of the container and place cheez on serving plate of cutting board. Slice and serve with crackers or use to make grilled cheese sandwiches.
- 1-ounce agar flakes or powder
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups raw cashews, ground into a fine powder
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4-1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. onion flakes or powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- ~1 cup quick, oil-free pesto (recipe follows)
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- dash ground black pepper
- In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic and pepper until finely chopped. Remove from processor and set aside.
- Clean and dry the bowl of the food processor and grind the cashews. Either lightly oil a 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan or use medium-sized ramekins to get round cheezes. One loaf pan is perfect for this recipe, but if you go smaller, you will need more than one pan or dish.
- In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring the 3 cups of water and agar flakes to a boil and keep the mixture at a nice, rolling boil for 5 minutes, whisking often. Meanwhile, add the remaining cheez ingredients - but not the pesto or the water/agar - to the food processor. Process until everything is combined and you have a thick paste. When the agar mixture has boiled for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the cashew mixture. It will start off rather chunky, but will melt into the agar. Once it's all whisked and smooth, quickly dump in the pesto and stir only one or two times. You don't want to fully incorporate the pesto - you're looking for streaks and lumps.
- Quickly pour the cheez into the prepared pan(s) or dish(es). Pop into the 'frige and allow to firm up. Once the cheez is firm, you can remove it from the pan(s) by running a knife around the edges.
- Serve sliced or use in quesadillas or grilled sandwiches.
Looks so good! I showed my co-worker, Bryce, this post. He’s requested that I make him some over the weekend and bring it in for lunch. Can’t wait to give it a go.
Oh wow! You’ll love it! It’s kind of addictive.
Wow this looks amazing, looks just like a block of herbed feta cheese, but I love that it is non-dairy and soy-free and most of all you made it yourself. I cannot wait to try this!
I was so surprised at how good it was – and there’s really no guilt about eating it. And there are so many ways the recipe can be tweaked!
You read my mind! Now that Brent and I have been slogging though all the commercially available vegan cheeses… we need to start making our own. Thanks for this recipe!
It would be really interesting now that you’ve sampled all the commercial products to see how a homemade version compares. And NO DOUBT you two will come up with a delicious twist!
I suspect home-made will win the contest, even after we calculate cost. Thanks for the vote of confidence. We aim to please. 😉
Cheese that isn’t cheese but is made with nuts and basil and tastes like cheese? I’m very curious and your photos are beautiful!
I know, right?? Hey, and no tofu involved!!
It’s amazing, I’m too lazy to make it myself but I would love to taste it.
Super gorgeous, Ann! Can’t wait to make my own cheezes… weekend project? I think yes!
An excellent weekend project!
It looks AMAZING. Wowsers. I’m a little scared by cheese in general and terrified of vegan cheese in particular but I used to love a cashew cream cheese that a raw vegan restaurant in town used to make. I am going to have to try this. I know it won’t look anything like your professional version though!!! xx
Sure it will!
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Wow- that came out like a dream. Agar is amazing. Can’t wait for more of your cheeze experiments!
Wait…I’m waiting for YOUR cheez experiments!
As soon as I figure out a non-cashew, non-agar way to make cheez, I’ll give it a go. (soooooo expensive!)
It is $$$. Let us know what you come up with :-)!
Yummy! Also I nominated you for the Illuminating Blogger Award – http://foodstoriesblog.com/illuminating-blogger-award/
Whoa! How cool is that?! Thank you!
Wow looks absolutely amazing! Must give this one a go!
What is liquid smoke? Sounds like something out of Harry Potter 🙂
I like that! Now whenever I grab my bottle of Liquid Smoke I’ll think of you and Harry Potter. Let’s see…it can usually be found where the BBQ sauces, vinegars, etc., are and it’s a distillation of…smoke. Kind of crazy, but it works!
It’s even more beautiful than I imagined! The round version is so lovely that it’s killing me! I think I need to make both versions! How well do they keep? AND THAT SANDWICH…. seriously girl! I made your “real” orange julius again this morning. Dan approved 😉 We had shots of wheat grass first. His first and he drank it straight (and kept a straight face). Success!
I was a big grilled cheese sandwich junkie in my day! I had it BAD! So I’m loving this stuff. I have no idea how long it will last…but probably a couple of weeks?? I think we’ll eat through it long before that. I’m so glad the orange julius passed the test, hehe! And the wheatgrass!! Awesome! I actually enjoy drinking it now.
We would make grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade tomato soup at least once a week. Good times 😉
Really trying to up my vitamin C so I may make another julius for lunch. So good!
100 or so pages into Born to Run. It’s a bit sad now that Caballo Blanco is dead 🙁 also I’ve got a way different perspective than the last time I read it.
Incredible! This looks absolutely wonderful! A nice treat to wow folks and get that cheez fix in! Amazing, just amazing!
This looks unreal!! SO amazing. The only thing I miss about being a vegetarian is cheese…and froyo, but that’s a different category all together! This cheez looks incredible.
i’ve yet to attempt makign a vegan cheese, and I just think I have foudn the first recipe to try. Fabulous.
Oh it’s so easy! You’ve got to try it.
Annie, I love you. i love you, I love you, I love you! This is seriously one of the best cashew cheese recipes I have ever seen. I’m envisioning cheese plates re-entering my life. I love it! I think you forgot a step in the instructions, though- the one where I lick the food processor bowl clean. 😉
I know, right?! Cheese plates!! Antipasto! This stuff really does the trick and we are eating it at nearly every meal (oops)!
Homemade cheese never looked so delicious – I love the idea of using cashews 😀
Choc Chip Uru
That looks absolutely beautiful! Your cheez board must be proud. 🙂
Awwww! The crackers in the house are rejoicing, too!
I totally agree with you on the commercial vegan cheeses- some of them I love but I have a little something against them too. Hence, I don’t buy them too often. I tend to put them on everything when I have them which is just not the most healthful thing. But this looks so healthy and delicious! Isn’t that cookbook great? It’s so good for ideas and your take on the cheese is fabulous!
Wow!! I’m new to veganism and I just discovered your blog; your culinary skills are amazing!! Thank you!!
Welcome to the wonderful world of plant-based eating and cooking! Nice to meet you and thanks so much for commenting.
Anything with basil is a winner in my book. What a clever little cheez you have made, there, Annie!
Thank you ;-)!
That looks amazing…so cheesy looking! Am so amazed at how you keep coming up with new recipes. Great stuff!
Oh man, this looks amazing! I tried the Daiya solid cheese and yours looks waaaaay better.
Awwww! Thank you! It’s so crazy-easy to make!
Best looking cheese I have EVER seen!
🙂 Awww, thanks Dena!
Best looking cheese EVER. You are one clever lady
Yummo! Yay, you’ve reminded me how GOOD vegan “cheeze” is – I haven’t made any in a while, must stock up my cashews. Love the idea of the pesto through it, herbs are amazing!
We have SO much basil in the garden right now that I’m putting it in everything! Today I’m going to try some in a fruit smoothie…
I am also experimenting with making my own vegan cheeze!!! I am not yet there! But your tasty creation surely is! I must try this tasty looking cashew cheeze instantly! Just georgous & beautiful! 🙂 Yum Yum Yum!
Can’t wait to see what you come up with, Sophie!
This is genius. I never thought agar could be used to make cheeze, very interesting. I’m excited to give this a try.
I thought of doing a cashew cheese but I didn’t know how and usually the instructions were a bit confusing… But your cheese is just perfect ! And it seems so easy to make … What an amazing recipe !
It’s so easy! I really, really like the taste – too.
Crazy, it totally looks like cheese on the picture – though I assume it tastes nothing like cheese, it HAS TO taste way better than store-bought vegan cheeses.
That cheeze looks amazinnggg. making this for some grilled cheeze sandwiches for sure.
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I’ve got to ask: How much is one ounce of agar in teaspoons? I’ve got a tiny jar of agar powder that I haven’t used in a long time and have never known how much of it to add to anything since the last time I used it in a recipe it turned into something like a superball. 🙂
I believe it takes roughly 6 teaspoons to make one ounce. I don’t use agar much either, but I can tell you that this cheez is no where near being of superball consistency :-)!
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Amazing, it looks like real cheese. I need some agar and then Im whipping up a batch of this. Beautiful photos here. Happy days…
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Hi. I just made this cheese and it’s great but boy it sure makes alot. Do you think it could be frozen? How did you store it once you made it? Any suggestions? I can’t believe how wonderful it is! Thanks so much for the recipe.
I agree – it makes a ton! It can be frozen, or so I’ve heard from another reader. So glad you liked it!
Thanks for sharing such a great recipe. I tried it and it really is delicious!
How cool! I’m so glad you tried it and even happier that you liked it! Thank you.
This looks amazing. I have a question, is the nutritional yeast absolutely necessary? I have used it in a few sauces, and I’m sorry to admit but I hate the taste! Will this be horrid if I omit it?
Hi Hillary! Truth is, I don’t love nutritional yeast. However…it does add flavor and a bit of color to the cheez, but doesn’t come across overly powerful. If you forgo the NY, you might add something smoky like chipotle peppers (processed until smooth) or a touch of Liquid Smoke. Thanks for the comment!
I got my husband to make this a couple of times now and it was delicious. The first time he followed the directions I believe. The second time he made it he split it in two and made some with chipote peppers and another one with olives. We used a tad of liquid smoke too.
Now I’m wondering how a touch of sriracha would taste in it. Oh, and for the record, it does freeze well.
Thank you thank you and thank you again. 🙂
Amazing – I just recommended to someone that they add chipotles or Liquid Smoke to the cheez in place of the nutritional yeast. Great minds ;-).
I love making this cheez and one could really create endless varieties. Thanks for letting me know you like it and for telling me it freezes! Excellent!
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Im a vegan as well, and im so glad i cam across this recipe. Does it do good for macarni and cheez, does it melt?
It does melt! I haven’t tried it to make mac and cheez, so can’t vouch for that – I’d love to know if you try it!
I will, matter of fact, this week is ptluck week at church… will defenitely try it… thanks for the recipe! Cant wait to show my mom!
Hi! Absolutely love the idea of this cheese! I do have a question though. I have pesto that I made sitting in my freezer (it contains oil). Do you think the oil will change the consistency of this recipe? I can certainly make another batch without it, but for convenience, I’d just assume use it in this recipe. What do you think?
Also, love your blog! Thanks for amazing recipes!
Hi Sherry! Thanks for visiting and commenting (and for the compliments ;-)!) I think the pesto you have on hand would work just fine! Better to clear out that freezer! If you try it, do let me know how it turns out for you.
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HELLO, you have the most amazing website here, excellent job!! Thanks very much for your creative efforts!
I would like to know if I could use agar powder instead of flakes or must it be flakes? I so then how much?
thanks very much!
Thanks! I appreciate that! I use flakes and here’s why: every time I’ve tried to use powder, the cheese has failed. It tastes fine, but doesn’t firm up correctly and I get kind of a spread instead of something I can slice. So – – I’ve stuck w/ the flakes. Maybe it’s the brand I’m using, but it’s very frustrating!
Thanks for your prompt and clear reply, I understand, I was just hoping since its cheaper, where is the cheapest price, have you sourced it yet?
It’s like gold, isn’t it?! I haven’t done a lot of comparison shopping on it, though I keep meaning to. I usually buy the small packets at Whole Foods (about $8 for 1 oz.!). I checked Amazon thinking I’d find a good deal, but the price per ounce came in a little higher.
ok thanks! I will look at an asian market since they are usually cheaper there as its a common product for them..
That’s a great idea!
Have you seen them in Asian markets?
Hello again sorry for the bother once again on the same subject. Your recipes calls for either or on the flakes verses powder?
Yes I have! Just have to check whether its the powder or flakes. Happy day!
Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez –
Hello again sorry for the bother once again on the same subject. Your recipes calls for either or on the flakes verses powder?
I like to use the flakes and at one point I asked someone else and they said they use the flakes too. Have fun with this recipe and have a beautiful day. 🙂
Thanks very much!
I just made this “cheez” last night and it is to die for!!! I just noticed your post above regarding the flakes vs powder. I used the powder, as that is all I could find. The cheez worked out perfectly and is totally sliceable! 🙂 On another note, this recipe made a LOT of cheez. How long will it keep before it goes bad? And do you think I could freeze some of it?? Wondering if will have the same taste/texture, etc? Thanks again for sharing this recipe!!
COOL! I’m so glad you liked it. Isn’t it fun? I don’t know why I cannot get the powder to work for me – – wish I could cuz I have a huge bag of it in my pantry…
How many teaspoons of agar would you need? I can’t work ounces out, but use ts, tb or cups etc.
Hi Simone – I just weighed 1 ounce of agar flakes on my scale and it came to just under 8 tbsp. The stuff is light!!
Sorry….. I just found your previous reply that it can be frozen! I’m going to vacuum seal it for extra freshness! I am still curious to know how long it will keep for! Thanks!!
Let’s see…I want to say between 5-7 days. Not a very long time so you have to snarf it right up or freeze it.
Cheese was the hardest thing for me to give up when I went vegan. I craved it for the first few months after going plant-based. I don’t care for the vegan cheese substitutes, but I’ve never attempted to make a dairy-free cheese. I don’t really crave cheese like I used to, but I wouldn’t mind having a tasty dairy-free cheese on occasion. I just might try this Annie. From your photos, it looks wonderful. Celeste 🙂
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I made this over the weekend for a vegan potluck I hosted yesterday, and I can’t believe how great it turned out! I didn’t think I’d get anything close to how pretty yours looks, but it did! I used a muffin tin and got about 4 1/2 mini rounds of cheese. It does make a lot, so next time I’ll definitely half the recipe, since I’m the only person in the household.
Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to make different varieties!
That is fantastic, Lindsey!! I’m so happy to hear that it was a success and I truly appreciate you taking the time to let me know. Yes, the varieties are endless :-)!
Oh and side note, this is the only vegan cheeze I have ever tried that I can enjoy cold!
Nice! Let me know what you put in your next batch!
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Oh my! This is fabulous. I made a 1/2 batch with 3 cubes of frozen pesto, and it filled 4 custard cups. I used Agar Agar strands, cut into a manageable size, weighed, and put them in my NutriBullet to grind into flakes. Worked great (I really don’t think grinding is necessary, as it all melts). I bought my Agar Agar strands at an Asian market, 1.5 oz for $1.59. Can’t wait to experiment with uses and other flavor combos as it makes so much.
Hey Leslie! I’m so glad you liked it! I know…the possibilities…endless!
This looks amazing and so simple!! I need to try this recipe ASAP. My only concern is with the liquid smoke, is it safe? Could I leave it out of the recipe? Thanks for posting!!!
Hi Cristina! So glad you found me :-). It’s a very simple recipe and versatile – you can add in almost anything. If you’re not comfortable with using Liquid Smoke, use some smoked paprika instead.
Hi there, I know it’s been a while since the last comment, however I had a question for you about “aging”. I’ve been making a cashew goat cheese and almond feta for the past year and the recipe has them sit for a few days while the probiotics develop a “sharpness” to the flavor… Have you aged with this at all with this recipe? Or in general?
Glad for another cheese recipe to work into my routine… And a way to use the agar I bought for one recipe a while back… That’s just taking up space now. 🙂
Hi Rhonna – I have made “aged” cheese using Miyoko Schinner’s recipes. Some have been successful, some not so much :-P. I have NOT tried aging this type of cheese, but I’ll bet letting the cashews develop a bit of tang over a few days would add nicely to the flavor. If you try it – let me know!
Hi! Just made this cheese and I love it! (As does my non-vegan husband and our non-vegan brunch guest!) I was wondering if you’ve ever tried to freeze it? It seems like a pretty big batch and I worry it’ll go bad before I finish it. Thanks!
I have tried it, Rachel – with mixed results. Some batches thawed with no changes in the texture, but others when thawed were a little bit softer than when originally made. That doesn’t help much, does it :-)?
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I’ve used this cheese recipe several times. The last time I switched it up and made four different versions of it using things I had in my house. This is such a good recipe, even without the pesto. It’s so fun because you can add other things to it. I added baked peach to one and it was amazing. I’m fifteen and recently started getting into cooking. It’s funny because only a few months ago the idea of me making cheese, honestly, had never even crossed my mind. Now I’m making crazy cheeses and it’s so much fun. I’ve tried several cheese recipes but this one is my favourite by far.
YAY!! What a wonderful comment to read this morning – thank you so much. I love that you have taken this recipe and “run” with it. I predict a very bright cooking future for you :-)! Baked peach sounds in-cred-ible!!
hey there! stumbled across the recipe and absolutely feeling the call to make it, but have a few questions before I can actually go ahead!! what is the measurement of the agar flakes in teaspoons or tablespoons (I just have the kind in a jar that I can’t measure by ounce!)? would Brazil nuts be a decent substitute for the cashews as I can’t do cashews? and lastly – is there anything I can use in place of liquid smoke (know it’s not the same flavour component but would coconut aminos work?) as I can’t get ahold of it easily here! thanks so much and looking forward to hearing back!! 🙂
Hi! Glad you found me :-). I believe one ounce is about 6 Tbsp., which sounds like a lot, but agar (as you know) is very light. As far as substituting nuts, I have no idea if Brazil nuts will work – but – my guess is that almost any nut would work as long as it’s very smoothly processed. And you can try using smoked paprika in place of Liquid Smoke OR yes, I also find that liquid aminos also have a nice, smoky flavor.
Hello, I purchased a bag of agar agar flakes (says 1 ounce on the package) Do I use the whole bag for this recipe?
Hi Michelle – yes, you’ll need the whole bag. Hope you enjoy the recipe!
Wonderful recipe! I just made this and it made for a super grilled cheese sandwich that I’ve been longing for, for awhile. I halved the recipe and used agar powder instead of flakes. It is quite firm. Is that how yours turned out or is it meant to be a bit softer?
So glad to hear that! And I appreciate you letting me know you liked the recipe. Yes, the cheese sets up firmly.
Buy agar agar in sticks or strands at the local Asian market if you can. Then whir it in the food processor to get flakes. You can use it in stick form but, it takes longer to melt down. I just bought 1.5oz of strands for under $3(Ta Lin Market, NM). You may be able to order from an online asian market for less too.
I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks
I’ve never heard of agar agar sticks! I’ll look for them next time I’m at the Asian market in OKC. Thanks for the tip – – and I hope you enjoy the cheez!
Can this cheese be frozen and used later? I made it and it is delicious! But it made more than I thought and I don’t want it to go bad.
Hi Amber, I’ve never tried it with this recipe, though I have frozen other types of plant-based cheeses. I found that when thawed the consistency had changed to something softer and more liquid-y. No change in flavor – just the texture.
Hi there never made cheese in my life but will attempt to make this one looks delicious . What sort of size tin do you put it in to set and then do you keep in fridge? Also what is nutritional yeast and how much weight is a cup? We do by ml if liquid weight in UK or kilos by dried. I don’t know what cups is do you mean teacup? Thank you lovely recipes . Can’t wait to try it .
Hi there! So nice that you found my recipe/site. I hope I can satisfactorily answer your questions! Nutritional yeast is yeast that has been “deactivated” using heat so that it is no longer “alive.” It can no longer act like yeast that you would use to make bread. It has a kind of cheesy, nutty flavor which is why you’ll often see it in vegan recipes. It’s dark yellow, comes in flake form and is dry. Health food stores are your best bet in locating it though it’s also available on Amazon.com. One cup of DRY ingredients is equal to about 128 grams or 4.5 ounces. When I say “cup/cups,” that’s the U.S. measurement. For the liquid measurements, 1 cup liquid is equal to about 250 ml. I use a bread/loaf pan (the kind that you’d bake a pound cake in, say, or banana bread) – but you could use small ramekins and make several smaller rounds of cheez, too. And yes, it must be kept in the refrigerator. Let me know if you have any other questions!
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