For many plant-based eaters, cheese was the hardest food to give up. How many people have you heard say “I would be vegan but I just can’t give up cheese!” After much trial and error, this is the recipe that makes people say “I could be vegan with this!” Yes, it’s our favorite smoky vegan cheese.
This recipe is based on the Almond Milk Pepper Jack from Vegan Richa. I often make a Pepper Jack version, but the smoky version is my favorite to serve with crackers, on sandwiches, or just eat as-is. It has a soft, creamy texture that is so hard to find with commercial vegan cheeses. One of my guests described it as a soft smoked gouda. I usually double the recipe, which works beautifully. Sometimes I’ll add the liquid smoke, put half the cheese into one container, then stir red pepper flakes into the other half. The best of both worlds.
This cheese doesn’t really melt, though it’s substantial enough to grate. Part of the reason this cheese works so well is my rich, homemade almond milk. Other milks just don’t give the same texture.
The ability to slice and grate this cheese comes from the agar, which is a seaweed extract. It must be thoroughly cooked, as described in the recipe, to activate it. Note that agar comes in both powder and flake form. This recipe uses the powder. I’ve never used the flakes, but I’ve read that you need double the quantity and triple the cooking time.
The recipe is gluten free if you use chickpea or rice flour (I like the results with rice flour). Wheat flour works great too. Also, the starches can be switched with a small effect on the cheese’s texture. Experiment with arrowroot or potato starch instead of tapioca starch or cornstarch.
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk, divided
- 1 1/2 Tbl tapioca starch
- 1 1/2 Tbl cornstarch
- 1 1/2 Tbl flour (rice, garbanzo, or wheat)
- 3 Tbl nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbl vegetable oil
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp cider vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 2 1/2 tsp agar powder
- 1 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- In a blender, place 1/2 cup almond milk, starches, flour, nutritional yeast, oil, lemon juice, cider vinegar, salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Pulse until thoroughly mixed.
- Lightly grease a glass container. I use only about two drops of oil.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 cup almond milk with the agar. Bring to a boil and cook five minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture will look like white glue. Turn off the heat.
- Pulse the mixture in the blender one more time, then add to the saucepan with the almond milk and agar. Stir to mix thoroughly.
- Turn the heat back on to medium and continue cooking and stirring another three or four minutes. The mixture should be thick and pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove from heat and adjust seasonings if necessary. Stir in the liquid smoke and mix thoroughly. If you’re adding red pepper flakes, mix them in now.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared glass container and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Place the container in the refrigerator, uncovered, until the cheese is completely cooled. At that point you can cover the container.
The cheese cuts and shreds best if left in the fridge at least four hours. It keeps well in the refrigerator for several days–but good luck not eating it all right away!