OK, who loves cheese? The line forms behind me. Seriously… I. Love. Cheese. Which is rather inconvenient, since I’m a vegan. 🙂 As a kid, I was constantly snacking on cheese: string cheese, Swiss cheese, single cheese slices, cheese spread… my mom couldn’t buy it fast enough.
When I became a vegan, out went the cheese – along with my allergies and digestive problems, I might add. But I missed the taste and the comforting, creamy goodness cheese adds to a dish. So I started buying non-dairy cheese substitutes, which were a far cry from the real thing, but they “scratched the itch” and helped me get through the adjustment period. As I grew in my understanding of health and nutrition, however, I found myself wanting to eliminate these substitutes – besides being rather pricey, store-bought cheese alternatives are also very lacking in nutrition and most of them contain casein, a milk derivative. So, I began combing through my cookbooks for healthy, inexpensive cheese alternatives that I could make myself, and came upon a few that I really liked. The one I’m going to share with you today is my adaptation of a cheddar cheese sauce. It’s the result of a lot of experimentation – a little of one recipe, some of another, and a few parts I just made up as I went along. 🙂
This smooth, rich, “cheddar” sauce goes great with nachos, haystacks, baked potatoes or steamed veggies, and makes an absolutely fabulous mac and cheese (I like to pour it over some brown rice elbow macaroni for a guilt-free comfort food treat!). It tastes terrific, and even if you’re not a committed vegan, using this sauce occasionally is a great way to cut back on fat and cholesterol. Best of all, it’s fresh, raw and full of real nutrition! There are endless variations – you can add jalapenos for a spicy, south of the border flair, reduce the water for a thicker, spreadable cheese, or even roll and cover with chopped nuts for a holiday cheese ball (for directions on the cheese spread or holiday ball, make a request in the comments) . Today I’m going to focus on the original cheddar sauce, with an alfredo style variation. As always, if you make it, be sure to come back to the comments and let me know how much you love it!
Ruth’s Fast-n-Fresh Cheddar Sauce
- 1 C raw cashews
- 1 ½ C hot water
- 1/3 C pimientos or chopped sweet red pepper
- 2/3 C nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 tsp celery salt
- 1 Tbls garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 Tbls lemon juice
Blend on high until creamy, adding up to ½ C additional water as needed for desired consistency. If you’re planning to use it immediately, just pour and serve – no additional heating needed. If you’re making it ahead, store in an airtight container for up to three days. When heating, additional water may be needed, as sauce will thicken upon standing.
Eliminate the pimentos, celery salt, cayenne and lemon juice, and add 1 Tbls Parmesan cheese substitute:
- ¼ c nutritional yeast flakes
- ¼ c toasted sesame seeds
- ¼ t salt
Blend well and enjoy!