Oh my goodness. I am in LUV with nut cheese.
Yep, that's right. You can make cheese with almonds, cashews, macadamia and more!
Making nut cheese can be really easy depending on your approach. Although there ARE more complex ways to create nut cheeses with different flavors and textures depending on the intended use, this is a very simple way to get started.
Warning…this is delicious. Prepare to have it fly off the party cheese platter, it's delightful for non-vegan pallets as well!!! Just make sure you notify those you share it with that this cheese is made of nuts, as some people have (sometimes severe) nut allergies.
Do allow at least 24 hours to make this cheese (although I have been known to eat it straight from the blender).
2 cups whole raw almonds, soaked overnight and skins removed (optional, see notes)
2 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup purified water
1/2 tsp garlic powder (or 2 cloves fresh garlic)
1 Tbsp dried chives
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (depending on your taste)
In a food processor or high powered blender, pulse the almonds until they are coarsely ground. Add the remaining 6 ingredients and process until as smooth as possible (up to 10 minutes depending on your processing method).
Place the almond mixture in 3-ply cheese cloth and hang over a bowl (see photos above) for 12 hours or overnight at room temperature (you can also put it in the refrigerator, I just prefer the flavor better when it cultures at room temp). As the cheese hangs, the excess moisture will drip into the bowl, just discard this liquid.
Unwrap the almond mixture, form into 3 or 4 small "disks" and place in a lightly oiled (I used coconut oil) oven-safe dish or pan, and bake at 350˚ F for 40 minutes or until very lightly golden in color (my oven is temperamental, so the ones pictured here are very golden…still delicious). Cool (or eat warm!) and serve as a spread cheese or crumble into any dish that calls for a "feta" style cheese.
About the Flavor
The good news is the flavor of this cheese is delicious immediately after mixing it together. The even better new is that the flavor improves after the initial 12 hours in the cheesecloth at room temp, again right after baking, and even more when it rests overnight in the refrigerator after baking. I enjoyed the flavor at 48 hours immensely.
About the Texture
This cheese will be a wonderful texture for cheese spread or a thick dip immediately after mixing. After baking and a few hours of refrigeration, it slices easily for crackers or hors d'oeuvres. If you let it rest in the refrigerator overnight after baking, it takes on more of a "feta" style texture and can be crumbled. So far it hasn't survived more than 48 hours in my house…so maybe I will hide some in the fridge for texting to see what happens over the course of a few more days. You can also experiment with baking time if you want a drier, more crumbly cheese.
About Soaking and De-skinning the Almonds
The first time I made this cheese, I did not soak the almonds or remove the skins. It was delicious. If you are not going to soak the almonds, increase to water to up to 1/2 cup to provide enough moisture for processing the almonds to a smooth consistency. For ease of removing skins, bring a small pot of purified water to an almost boil, remove from heat and add almonds, soaking them in the hot water for a couple of minutes; strain the almonds and pop off the skins.
Raw Almond Cheese Option
Baking the cheese is optional, you can skip the de-skinning step to keep the almonds raw and serve as a raw nut cheese spread. I haven't tried it in the dehydrator yet, but I'm sure that would work nicely as well to dry it to a feta consistency.
Feel free to experiment with flavor variations. Try replacing the peppercorns with 1 Tbsp dried chives or any other flavor combinations you can imagine!
*gluten-free and soy-free