What should we do without cheese? A vegan diet is something that is often considered these days. But still, the fact that no cheese can be eaten makes you feel like something is missing. Fortunately, vegan cheese is gaining popularity. As with other vegan dishes, we would simply replace cow’s milk with vegetable milk, but making vegan cheese is a different story. But what exactly goes into such a vegan cheese? Cashews, a source of lactic acid and a mold, and salt are the minimum. Handy are real vegan cheese cultures, candidum for extra flavor, Leuconostoc for the cheesiness, and transglutaminase to make it firm. Ok, but how do I make it?

Camembert starter kit

Yummie!!

The basics

First of all, your vegan milk. In terms of nutritional value, soya milk, almond milk, and oat milk score best. Rice milk scores worst, with few vitamins and minerals and a relatively high number of calories and sugars. In terms of protein, soya milk is head and shoulders above the other vegetable kinds of milk. But we have an even better one for vegan cheese, made from cashew. Cashew nuts are extremely popular among vegan cheeses since they are not very expensive, contain plenty of proteins, carbs, and fats, which gives them a mild flavor and creamy texture, and therefore we will use them as our vegan milk to make cheese.

You will need a food processor, a cool ripening spot between 10 and 13 degrees (easier during autumn), a sealable plastic container, a clean handkerchief, a sushi mat, aluminum foil, and chlorine for cleaning. Using a cheese mould to give it a real nice form makes it even better.

The ingredients.

We’ll focus on the camembert, the popular white cheese mold. After making your cashew milk/ paste you want to add some 10% coconut oil to make it a bit fatty.

But what we must add now to this paste are the microorganisms because we will start the fermentation, with a real cheese culture. The acidity prevents the cheese from going bad. I use a ‘vegan starter I’, and vegan Leuconostoc for extra taste and texture. To make our specific camembert cheese we use the vegan cultures Penicillium camemberti and the G.candidum mold. That will make your cheese very, very similar to the original camembert. And the secret ingredient: transglutaminase, a (vegan) binding enzyme that glues proteins. It is also used for vegan burgers as it glues to proteins from the beans, and we will use it (just 1%) to make our vegan cheese very consistent. You can easily get all these ingredients on startercultures.eu, the European webshop for home fermentation hobbyists.

Work clean, or your white cheese will turn blue, or worse, e.g. black. We’ll use a bucket with water and some chlorine and disinfect everything we use in that bucket, from beginning to end. Beware that chlorine kills the cultures as well! Next step is to put the paste in the cheese mold and let the fermentation start. The cultures will feed on the sugar in the cashews, break it down and form acids and such. That will take 24 up to 36 hours, I tested it on 32°C (89.6°F) within a few hours, but the resulting pH was the same: 4.6. If you don’t have a pH meter, just leave the cheese fermenting for 36 hours, you can be pretty sure that you’ll be in the pH range of 4.5-5. Next step: salting. We weigh the cheese and add 2 % salt all around the cheese. We do this only now, in an earlier stage salt would kill the cultures. The cheese will lose moisture quickly now

The secondary fermentation is for ripening the cheese- now it tastes like sour cashews. Flavor takes time. Any cold, fresh place of around 10- 12 degrees is perfect. In a refrigerator will take forever- but never at room temperature! We will also need high humidity to keep the cheese from drying out; basically, we want the mold to grow in autumn-like conditions. And we want the mold to grow easily all around, on a cheese mat oxygen is able to reach all sides, and you need to rotate every day. Next step is to wrap the cheese and let it cure in the refrigerator. No more fermentation, the pH starts rising and the cheese is curing. This takes time, the cheese gets softer and starts to smell. Delicious!

Le camembert, ce fromage qui fleure les pieds du bon Dieu

Serve your friends while you mumble ‘Le camembert, ce fromage qui fleure les pieds du bon Dieu’ and watch them being amazed by this excellent, yet vegan, camembert,

vegan blue cheese starter kit

Easy-peasy!! Make your own vegan camembert and/or vegan blue cheese with this ‘all in one make your own vegan camembert/ blue cheese’ starter kit. Enough to make many kgs of real vegan camembert/brie style cheese and/or vegan blue cheese. This complete kit contains:

  • Vegan starter culture
  • Transglutaminase (for optimal vegetable protein bind)
  • 3 small cheese molds for 250 gr cheeses
  • 1 draining mat
  • 5 cheese cloths
  • Vegan Penicillium candidum (white mold) – camembert style cheeses
    or
  • Vegan Penicillium roqueforti (blue mold). – blue cheeses