My Thoughts on Vegan Parmesan Cheese
I am not the creator of recipes for vegan parmesan cheese. I have tried a few and overall I wasn’t impressed. I refused to believe that store-bought brands were the best way to go, but there are few rare occurrences where that is true. Until one day I came across a die-hard vegan who pointed me in the right direction. Now not only have I tasted delicious vegan parmesan cheese, but I also have 3 recipes to share!
What is Vegan Parmesan Cheese Made of?
Most Vegan parmesan cheese recipes only consist of 4 or 5 ingredients and these are no exception. This recipe for vegan parmesan cheese is delicious. The reason why it outshines others in because the proportions are just right. Everything is well balanced because me and my friends are a bunch of food nerds. Here are some ingredients you will come across when making this cheese.
Cashews are the base for most recipes you will find on this subject. This came to me at no surprise at all because cashews are closely related to cheese substitutes in the vegan community.
Cashews grow on tropical evergreen trees and are native to Central and South America, even some tropical islands. These tree nuts have been around and consumed for thousands of years in those areas. It wasn’t until the 1500s that the Europeans discovered then and shortly after shipped them to Africa and India. They didn’t become popular in America until the 1920s when the general food company began shipping them in bulk.
Cashews have huge health benefits as well as flavor. Cashews contain high amounts of protein, which has been linked to weight loss and metabolism acceleration. Cashews are also rich in antioxidants, specifically polyphenols. You will also see a large amount of healthy fats associated with cashews. These benefits paired with some of the nutrients in cashews have been known to reduce certain risks for disease such as high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
Nutritional yeast is a widely known condiment similar to its relatives, baker’s yeast and brewer’s yeast. Technically speaking, it is a deactivated yeast that gets its names from the proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants it contains. This yeast is specifically grown to be a food product and is growing in popularity not only in the vegan community but in other diets as well.
Nutritional yeast has a unique umami flavor. It has a cheesy, slightly nutty, and savors flavor making it very desirable to people with dietary restrictions. This can be bought in two different forms such as: fortified and unfortified. Unfortified is completely natural but doesn’t contain a lot of the nutrients its counterpart does.
Fortified is a manufactured product that contains a lot of synthetic vitamins added to it. Fortified is the most common form sold to the masses. Nutritional yeast can be sold in flakes, granules, or powder.
Nutritional yeast has a multitude of health benefits ranging from proteins to B vitamins. Nutritional yeast is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine amino acids. One tablespoon has 2 grams of protein. Fortified nutritional yeast is also very rich in vitamin B6 and B12making it very appealing to vegans.
Hemp seeds are also known as industrial hemp. This seed is a variety of the cannabis Sativa plant specifically grown for industrial use. It is used to make a multitude of different products and is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world.
Along with its many uses, you will see a wide variety of health benefits as well. Hemp Seeds have huge amounts of proteins making them very desirable the dietary conscious people in the world. For every three tablespoons of hemp seeds, you could see almost 10 grams of protein. These tiny morsels also yield an impressive amount of unsaturated fats that are beneficial in heart health. You will also reap the benefits of dietary fiber eating hemp seeds, which is known to promote a healthy digestive tract.
Hemp seeds can be easily incorporated into your diet. They can be eaten raw or cooked, which makes them perfect for vegan parmesan cheese!
Parmesan is normally salty which makes it imperative you add salt to the vegan version. I like to use sea salt because it is minimally processed and it still does the job well. Sea salt gets its name from how we procure it. We obtain large quantities of sea salt by evaporating seawater and in turn, use it for a wide variety of everyday things. From food to cosmetics, sea salt is utilized by the masses.
Agar-agar, or just agar, is a vegan gelatin substitute. This jelly-like substance made from red algae. Its made from two components called, polysaccharide agarose and agaropectin. These two groups of molecules form a specific structure in the cell walls of the red algae and are activated upon boiling.
Basically, agar is a very strong thickening agent extracted from seaweed. A little goes a long way. This substance needs to be added to a liquid then brought to a boil to have the extreme thickening effects.
Uses For Vegan Parmesan Cheese
Using these recipes should be pretty straight forward considering parmesan is probably the prevalent cheese on the planet, but I will go over some of the uses of this cheese. Its important that you avoid cooking it to preserve its flavor. Cooking the yeast will kill off most of its flavor leaving you with whatever base you choose.
Bring pesto back into the mix your favorite vegan parmesan cheese recipe. This recipe with add the cheesy and nutty flavor back into this sauce.
Parmesan and pasta go together like the best combination. Simply garnish whatever vegan pasta you want with this grated parmesan recipe.
Add a little flair to your roasted vegetables by sprinkling this cheese over the top when they come out of the oven! Think about cauliflower steaks or squash. Or you can check out our street corn recipe!
Top your favorite salad and a lot of them! You could also use this in a dressing too! Bring back the traditional Caesar or maybe a Cous Cous or quinoa salad?
Eating soup but it needs a little flair? Chances are this recipe for vegan parmesan will go perfectly with it!
Vegan Parmesan Tricks and Tips
These recipes are made by me and other chefs so if the amount of salt is too high then just adjust the amount of salt next time, or you can take the existing batch and add more base. If there is not enough salt for your liking, then add a touch more. These recipes are easily manipulated.
Type of Yeast
Be mindful of the form of nutritional yeast you are using. Remember there is flake, granules, and powder. I have also found the best three brands are Revstar, Revly, and Bragg. Find those brands and you will be in good shape. I get mine off amazon but be careful of what you buy and use. You can search nutritional yeast but brewers’ yeast may find its way into the results.
Toast your base if you want to add some depth of flavor to your vegan parmesan cheese. I personally toast my cashews, but I do nottoast the hemp seeds. To toast cashews, simply lightly coat them in oil. Then lay them flat on a tray and roast them in the oven at 350F for 8 – 12 minutes. To toast hemp seeds, simply cook them in a sauté pan over low heat with a touch of your preferred cooking oil.
If you are allergic to cashews, they can be replaced with walnuts at a 1:1 ratio. If you are allergic to nuts in general, then use the hemp seed recipe. If you are not a fan of hemp seeds, then you can replace the hemp seeds with sunflower seeds at a 1:1 ratio.
Store these recipes in an airtight container and at room temperature (except for block parmesan), or in the fridge for 3-4 weeks.
- 1 food processor
- 1 storage container
Vegan Parmesan Recipe (Cashews)
Yields: 2 Cups(32 tablespoon servings)
Prep Time 5 Minutes
- 1 ½ Cup Raw Cashews
- 5 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast, powder
- 1 ½ tsp Sea Salt
- ½ tsp Garlic Powder
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a fine meal-like powder.
Vegan Parmesan (Hemp Seeds)
Yields: 2 Cups (32 tablespoon servings)
Prep time: 5 Minutes
- 1 Cup Hemp Seeds, hulled
- ½ Cup Nutritional Yeast, flake
- 1 tsp Granulated Garlic
- 1 tsp Granulated Onion
- ¼ tsp Sea Salt
- Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
Vegan Parmesan Cheese Block
Yields: 1 Block (roughly 12 oz)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
- 6 oz Cashews
- 6 oz Almonds, slivered
- ¼ Cup Nutritional Yeast
- ¼ Cup Refined Coconut Oil
- 1 tsp Agar Agar, powder form
- ¼ tsp Sea Salt
- Combine cashews and almonds in a food processor and grind into a fine crumble.
- In a small saucepot, heat the refined coconut oil until hot and boiling. Then add the agar, and whisk thoroughly. Continue to boil the agar for 3 minutes, while continuously whisking.
- Once the agar has dissolved, quickly add the rest of the ingredients (Nutritional Yeast, Sea Salt, Agar Mixture) to the nuts in the food processor. Pulse this mixture until just combined. Don’t pulse too much, because you will get a bunch of little air bubbles in your cheese.
- Once combined, transfer the mixture to whatever mold you like and line it with wax paper so the cheese is easier to remove. Refrigerate until cool and cheese have set.
- The cheese will last for 2 weeks in the fridge.
- Make sure you are using agar powder. The flakes wont work properly for this recipe.
- Make sure you are using refined coconut oil. It works with the agar and has no coconut flavor. You MUST use refined coconut oil.
- Can youstore these recipes in the freezer?
Yes, absolutely. If you do not plan on using it all in a week or so, then definitely store some in the freezer.
- Can I add herbs to these recipes?
Of course. I think oregano, parsley, thyme, or rosemary would be a great addition. Simply chop your herb of choice and add into the nut’s mixture and pulse in the food processor. Then follow the recipe like normal.
- What are some nuts I can use instead of cashews?
Almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.
- Can you make the parmesan block without oil?
Yes, you can make it with water but it won’t have the same texture. It will have a soft texture.
Brennan, D. (2020, August 31). Cashews: Health Benefits, Nutrients, Preparation, and More. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-cashews
Crichton-Stuart, C. (2018). 9 benefits of hemp seeds: Nutrition, health, and use. Retrieved November 25, 2020, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323037