For the Love of Cheese: a Vegan Dilema

Cheese, glorious cheese!

Cheddar, Parmesan, Asiago, or Brie; Swiss, feta, Colby, or brick, cheese just seems to make a savory dish more delicious. I was born and raised in Wisconsin, known for its artisan cheese production. I have fond childhood memories of shopping at a small country cheese maker’s shop on a country road in Theresa, Wisconsin. The wiry old artisan, Mr. Widmer, shaved samples for us from well-aged chunks of pungent cheeses he had made himself, often years before our tastings. The salty-sour slivers seemed to explode with flavor history in our mouths. And each had a distinct flavor, it’s own history and taste profile. There was no such thing as Velveeta in our icebox, not with old man Widmer’s treasures on the shelf!

As our first “Veekend” (Vegan Weekend) approaches, cheese is the food item I’m obsessing over. Not that I absolutely can’t go 48 hours without cheese…I just usually prefer not to. If it’s true that you can have a cheese addiction, then I think I need a meeting: “Hello, my name is Lisa and my drug of choice is cheese.” Yikes.

Could anything take the place of this wonder food for me? It’s not just the flavors that I adore, but the lovely, silky texture a good cheese lends to a dish. I’m told there are good vegan “cheeses” on the market, and I’ll try some as we go through our year of Veegends, but they are spendy little chunks, a bit pricey for being imposter food. Being frugal, and loving a kitchen challenge, I’ll attempt making a few at home. First, we’ll start with something Cheddar-y, as a fine sharp cheddar is among my favorites. It’s that go-to cheese that marries well with most any savory dish. I’ve made the real deal from scratch…but can I conquer cheese sans dairy?

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I played around with vegan nacho cheese recipes and have come up with one that’s easy and delicious, and rather inexpensive to create. This creamy sauce makes a great dip for chips or veggies, toss it with cooked pasta and sauteed vegetables for a flavorful entree. It’s a great place to start when one is new to creating vegan cheese, as there’s no need to worry about getting the cheese to firm up, and it can be made with or without the jalapenos, making it very versatile, with a great melty-cheese texture, beautiful color, and a cheesy taste that’ll help appease those cheese withdrawals.

Vegan Nacho Cheese Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of soft silken tofu 
  • 1/4 cup cooked carrots 
  • 1/4 cup cooked sweet potato
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped fresh seeded jalapeño (roughly 1 jalapeño)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. To heat the sauce, transfer to a saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir with a stick blender while heating the sauce for about 2-4 minutes or until at desired temperature.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Share your own vegan nacho photos and other ways you used this sauce in the comments.  Enjoy!

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Vegan nacho sauce with whole grain crackers makes a healthy, low-fat snack
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Vegan nacho cheese sauce tossed with pasta and vegetables makes a wonderful vegan entree

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