I’ve a lifelong love affair with cheese. On sandwiches, salads, over pasta or soups, or just on its own, I love the salty tang of cheddar, the nuttiness of Parmesano Reggiano, and the creamy softness of a fresh mozzarella.
I could never voluntarily be vegan, because I couldn’t give up what has to be my favorite food. But because I’m always looking to eat lower on the food chain, and I know how delicious vegan food can be, I thought I’d do a taste test of “cheeze” sauce recipes. I whipped up three vegan cheeze sauces to see if they could find a place in my regular repertoire of recipes.
1. Cheezy Sauce from Veganomicon
I had a few parameters. I wanted to try recipes that had fairly regular pantry items. I happened to have what some call the holy grail of “cheeze”: nutritional yeast, but I didn’t have tapioca flour or a few other things that some recipes called for. I also didn’t want anything completely margarine or oil laden. For my first recipe, I went to the vegan gurus, Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero’s Veganomicon. Their “Cheezy Sauce” recipe, based in nutritional yeast or “nooch”, as they call it, seemed like a good place to start. Its ingredients involved veggie broth, flour, olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, tumeric, nooch, mustard, and lemon juice
2. Cashew Cheeze
I also wanted to try a cashew cheeze, because even if its not cheezy, hi! it’s cashews. They’re delicious. I found a Charlie Trotter cashew cheeze recipe that called for approximately six years of prep, so that was out. Then I remembered a cashew cheeze recipe was on Green Options a long while back. Luckily, it was still in the archives, and I had everything I needed to make it except the cashews. This recipe included cashews (duh), water, red bell pepper, onion, nooch, garlic, lemon juice, Bragg’s, sesame oil, and salt.
3. Melty Pizza Cheeze
I know one of the biggest complaints about “cheezes” is their lack of meltability, and melty cheese, whether on pizzas, veggie burgers, or in (shhh..) Iowa State Fair fried cheese curds, is probably my favorite incantation of cheese. When I found a “Melty Pizza Cheese” recipe online, I decided to throw that in the mix as well to see if it lived up to its melty claims. Its ingredients included nooch, water, cornstarch, flour, lemon juice, garlic powder, and salt.
It should be noted that I abstained from dairy cheese for 24 hours before this taste test occurred. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the tasting.
First off, all three of these recipes were incredibly easy to make. I whipped up all three in less than 30 minutes. They were quite easy and had few steps. In fact, the use of my little food processor made everything a snap.
I came in with the expectation that nothing I made was really going to taste like dairy cheese. I was looking for delicious food, nothing more. Did I find it? Actually, I did. Surprisingly to me, I really liked the cashew cheeze. In fact, I’m trying to not get it on my keyboard as I type this. It was easy, and the Bragg’s and lemon juice added a pleasant tang. The tiny hint of red bell pepper was subtle and the richness of the cashews gave it a slight creaminess. While it’s no dairy cheese, I would make this again and use it as a dip or a sandwich spread in a heartbeat.
I was less enthusiastic about the other two cheezes. The melty cheese was a slight winner over the Veganomicon cheezy sauce. Both tasted strongly of nutritional yeast, which some people may love, but I’m apathetic about. The melty cheeze was actually kind of melty–not stringy, but it did bubble and form a kind of skin/crust when I baked it on some bread. Downside: has an unappetizing yellow glow to it.
Sadly, the cheezy sauce was my least favorite of the three. It reminded me of a veggie broth pudding, which is also what it looked like, and was just too strong in the nooch department. I just couldn’t see myself choosing this sauce over other vegan dips or sauces like hummus or plain old tomato sauce. This was disappointing, because I’ve had really great success with almost every Veganomicon recipe I’ve tried.
Cashew “cheeze” was the hands-down winner, and a keeper recipe in my book. Still looking for that holy grail cheese substitute, though. Let me know if you find it.