Making an Excellent Paleo Cheese Substitute
In all honesty, this was a bit of a concern for me until I found this recipe for making the most delicious homemade paleo cashew ‘cheese’. While no, it’s not technically real cheese, it’s probably as close as you’re going to get if you’re doing a strict 100% paleo diet (there are folks out there who definitely make some exceptions for cheese).
I was seriously blown away by this recipe the first time that I tried to make it. I didn’t think it would work out anywhere near as well as it actually did. The reason this recipe works so well is without a doubt thanks to the incredibly smart ingredient choices used.
Cashews generally have quite a mild flavor to them, and once you soak them, they become quite easy to blend into a mixture that has a very ‘milky’ consistency. The smoother you can blend your cashews, the smoother your cashew ‘cheese’ will end up being.
In addition to working incredibly well for providing the texture for your cheese that you’re looking for, cashews also end up adding quite a lot of nutritional value to the recipe as well.
They’re a great source of heart healthy fatty acids, and they also offer up modest amounts of dietary fiber, protein, antioxidants, and essential vitamins and minerals. Studies have also found that cashew consumption both increases the ‘good’ kind of HDL cholesterol while also reducing the ‘bad’ kind of LDL cholesterol. (1)(2)
With cashews providing your cheese texture, the next step is to give them a taste that’s as close to cheese as we possibly can. Cheese generally provides a flavor that can best be described as a cross between ‘salty’ and ‘umami’.
Giving the cashew ‘cheese’ a hint of saltiness is easy enough – simply add in a pinch of salt and you’ll be all set.
Add Nutritional Yeast for Taste and Texture
But the umami flavor? That’s a bit more complicated. Thankfully, there’s indeed a work around and it ends up working out amazingly well. Just add in ¼ cup of nutritional yeast. Not only does nutritional yeast have a flavor that’s incredibly similar to umami, it’s actually commonly used in vegan recipes as a cheese substitute thanks to said flavor.
Just making cashew ‘cheese’ that has a similar texture to real cheese along with a tasty blend of salty and umami flavors would be well and good enough. But I really wanted to take the taste of this recipe to the next level.
With that in mind, I also ended up adding in ½ teaspoon of garlic powder, one tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, and ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika. As you can probably imagine, adding these ingredients into the mix really helped to round out the recipe and give the cheese a more complex flavor, much like real cheese.
The garlic powder alone probably would have been good enough to give this cheese a mouth wateringly good flavor (take my word on this one folks, I add garlic powder to literally everything). I don’t just use it for the taste though; garlic is packed full of some pretty amazing health benefits.
It’s well known that garlic consumption is capable of giving your immune system a boost, but did you know that it also contains some pretty potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well? (3)
The smoked paprika (totally optional to use in this recipe by the way! I realize that not everyone is as crazy about spicing up their meals as I am) adds even more great benefits into the mix as well, on top of giving the cheese a delicious smoky-spicy hint of flavor.
Paprika contains a carotenoid known as capsanthin, which studies have found has a beneficial effect on the levels of HDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. (4) What this means is that paprika actually helps to further reduce your risk of heart disease along with the cashews in this recipe.
Last but not least, the only remaining ingredient that you’ll need to finish this recipe is some beef gelatin powder. The gelatin is what will take this recipe and actually turn it into cashew cheese and not just a weird hybrid cashew milk that sort of tastes like cheese. Just be sure to let your ‘cheese’ firm up for a little while before you slice it. This will help to make sure that it’s as soft and creamy as possible.
Is Cashew Cheese the Only Paleo Cheese Alternative?
This cashew cheese recipe is perhaps the best way I know to enjoy ‘cheese’ on the paleo diet without actually eating real cheese. However, if this recipe somehow still isn’t enough for you, then I’ve got a few more recommendations for paleo recipes that will satisfy your desire for some cheesy goodness. Check out a few of my favorites from around the web:
- Dairy Free Paleo Strawberry Cheesecake (The Healthy Foodie)
- Dairy Free Roasted Cauliflower “Cheese” Sauce (Detoxinista)
- Paleo Mac & Cheese (Living Loving Paleo)
- Paleo Dairy Free Nacho Cheese Sauce (Against All Grain)
- Paleo Vegan Cheese Pizza (Apples to Zoodles)
Lastly, I just wanted to take a few moments to briefly go over a few of the most common questions that I get from my friends when it comes to making your own homemade paleo ‘cheese’. If there’s anything important related to this recipe that I haven’t already covered, odds are pretty good you’ll find your question answered below. If not, feel free to leave a comment with your question!
Do I Have To Soak the Cashews When Making This Recipe?
The world seems to be torn between two types of people – those who always soak their almonds, cashews, and other types of nuts…and those who do not.
In most cases, I would say that the choice of whether or not to soak your nuts is entirely up to you. I personally always do because I find it enhances the inherent spiciness of the nuts, while also giving them a better texture.
With that being said, for the purposes of this cheese recipe, soaking your cashews is pretty much mandatory. The reason being that soaking them will make them nice and mushy, which is perfect for blending them into the consistency that we’re looking for when making paleo cheese.
How Long Does This Cashew Cheese Stay Good For?
There’s only real downside that I can think of when making this cashew paleo ‘cheese’ recipe when compared to real dairy cheese. That downside being that this cheese doesn’t last anywhere near as long as regular cheese does.
You can expect your cashew cheese to remain fresh for about five to six days, so long as it’s stored properly in an airtight container and kept in the fridge. To be perfectly honest though, that’s not such a big deal. Once you get your first taste of how good this cheese is, I doubt it will last anywhere close to six days!
If you decide to freeze your cashew cheese, you can expect it to last for between six to eight weeks.
(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.
This looks great and I’d love to try it but is there an alternative setting agent that could be used – I’m wanting this for a vegan in the family. Thanks
You can use powdered agar-agar for vegan version. 1 teaspoon gelatin = 1 teaspoon agar powder
I have tried a number of paleo cheese substitutes. This one is, hands down, the very best. And it’s pretty easy too! Thank you for sharing.
Thanks so much, I really appreciate getting feedback – yay! :).
I just made this. Although it still needs to be refrigerated for 8 hours, the flavor is AMAZING!
Thanks so much Karen, I’m glad you like my recipe. 🙂
Explain the beef gelitan and can’t we use the plain stuff?
You can the regular gelatin if you want.
This looks wonderful. Thank you so much. I will be making this very soon.
SO delicious. once it solidified i cut it into slices and added it into a quesadilla, it melts really well! you can chop it up and use as shredded cheese for pasta recipes… truly so good. my mom (who is not dairy-free) tried it and even she loved it. thank you for this recipe !!
side note: i had to blend the cashews first, then remove from the blender, add the water/lemon juice, then add the blended cashews back in for my blender to be able to blend it together. keep that in mind if your blender wants liquids on the bottom like mine does 🙂 if you add too much water to make it blend well, it doesn’t have the same gooey texture, but still tastes great.
oo i also wanted to add that i did not add the nutritional yeast, because i’ve noticed that it upsets my stomach, and it tastes AMAZING and cheesy even without it! i also added 1/4 tsp of salt !