There was this commercial in the 80s… the only words of the jingle I remember are “cheese, glorious cheese!” While the jingle played they showed mounds of cheese in every color and shape you could imagine, as well as happy people eating cheese. It sticks in my mind because I’ve always been fond of cheese. It goes well with so many things and it’s also great on its own.
But, it’s one of those no-gos when you eat Paleo. But now you, too, can enjoy cheese because here’s my recipe for Paleo cheese!
While there are many ways to enjoy your cheese, one of my favorite’s is as a topping to my Classic California Burger – complete with a Paleo bun! So make sure you check out that recipe, too. Of course, if you’re thinking of another use for your cheese, don’t let me stop you – keep reading…
The idea of making cheese makes me feel all rustic and in touch with my peasant roots. Like I should be selling it at a farmer’s market or something. And maybe I will! But making cheese is a time-honored skill and now those of us who eat Paleo can join in.
Since we don’t eat dairy on a Paleo diet, and cheese is generally made from dairy, the first task in creating this recipe was to find an acceptable alternative. This wasn’t too hard. I thought of the other substitutes I use for milk – coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk – and, given the flavor (very mild) and texture of cashew milk, I had the feeling it was the right choice.
When you soak the cashews, they get saturated and, if you ate them like that, they would be very mushy (not very appetizing, trust me). But once they have soaked up all that water, you can easily blend them into a milky-sauce-like consistency. Get those blended cashews as smooth as you can so your cheese will be as smooth as possible.
The next task was how to get cashews to taste more like cheese. Of course, cheese comes in so many flavors and styles that it’s hard to nail down any single type of cheese. But one aspect that most cheese share is a degree of saltiness and a bit of umami flavor.
If you’ve never heard of umami before, let me try to explain… You’ve got your regular flavors: bitter, sweet, salty, and sour. Most of us can instantly think of things that fall into each of those categories. Umami is the fifth taste category. It’s a Japanese word and it translates basically into “savory.” I think the best example, familiar to the most people, of an umami flavor is mushroom. It’s a distinct flavor, but it’s not bitter, sweet, salty, or sour. Some people might also call it “earthy.”
So, making the cheese a bit salty was easy – add a touch of salt! And it turns out that nutritional yeast adds a nice umami flavor, so we’ve added a bit of that. In fact, many vegans (those who eat no animal products whatsoever) use nutritional yeast as a cheese substitute itself to sprinkle on other foods like popcorn or potatoes or broccoli. But since it’s usually sold as a flake or powder, and we want the real cheese effect, we’re adding it to our recipe instead of using it alone.
I wanted to up the flavor of my cheese a bit so I added a dash of garlic powder, a bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice, and a touch of paprika. After you’ve made your first batch of cheese, if you want a little more smoky-spiciness in it, up the paprika a bit the next time. These flavors really rounded out the cheese, giving it a complex flavor, like real cheese.
After adding the gelatin – the ingredient that makes this into a cheese and not just cashew milk with other flavors in it – make sure you let it firm up before slicing. It will be soft and creamy – great for eating with eggs or veggies – but especially good on top of my Classic California Burgers. And that is, truly, glorious.
(Make this next: No-Bake Key Lime “Cheesecake”)
- 1 cup cashew nuts
- 6 tbsp water
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ¼ tsp smoked paprika (optional)
- 1 ½ tbsp beef gelatin powder
- salt to taste
- Place the cashews in a bowl, cover with water and soak for minimum 4 hours.
- Drain and place in a high power blender.
- Add 4 tablespoons of water and lemon juice and blend until thick and creamy.
- Add garlic, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika (if using) and blend until smooth.
- Transfer mixture into a bowl and set aside.
- In a small pan add gelatin and 2 tablespoons of water.
- Let stand for 5 minute.
- Heat gently over low heat and stir until dissolved.
- Add the dissolved gelatin to cashew nuts mixture, season to taste with salt and mix until combined.
- Line a small container with plastic wrap.
- Transfer cheese mixture to the prepared container.
- Smooth with spatula, cover with a lid and refrigerate for minimum 8 hours or until set.
- Slice and serve.
P.S. Take a look at the Paleo Grubs Book. With 470+ easy-to-prepare Paleo recipes in 17 comprehensive categories it is the only Paleo book you will ever need.
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