A Vegan Baked Smoky Cashew Cheese made with whole ingredients, smoked paprika, easy and simple methods for a tangy, cheesy and healthy baked cheese. It slices, it spreads and it is completely dairy-free and oil-free!
*This post contains affiliate links. See my full disclosure policy here.
VEGAN BAKED SMOKY CASHEW CHEESE
This Vegan Baked Smoky Cashew Cheese not only blew me away, but it also blew away my mother-n-law!! My mother-n-law loves dairy cheese and is not vegan and she exclaimed, "Omg! This tastes just like cheese!" We were kind of inhaling it warm from the oven.
I've been wanting to try a baked cashew cheese forever, more specifically, a slice-able one and I really wanted to create one that could be served to guests.
Now, it's been years since I've had dairy cheese, but I still remember what it tastes like and I can tell you, this satisfied us both my mother-n-law and I. She said she was going to take the whole round of cheese and sneak it back into her room, haha! That's an endorsement, right?
As you can see, there is 2 cheeses featured here, the other one is this Vegan Baked Herbed Cashew Cheese made with fresh Thyme. It is milder in flavor than this smoky version, but equally as delicious!
THE SECRET TO THIS VEGAN BAKED CASHEW CHEESE
Ok, now, if we want to get as close to a true cheese taste, that is going to require certain ingredients and not just lemon juice, like so many vegan cashew cheese recipes rely on alone, am I right? Lemon juice is great, but it's not enough.
So, I came up with this incredible blend and it is fan-tas-tic. Cheesy, super tangy, rich, depth-of-flavor and NO oil and NO nutritional yeast. Say what?
Normally my go-to acidic element in my cheese recipes, is white distilled vinegar like in this Cream Cheese Alfredo (and some recipes in my cookbook) and apple cider vinegar in this Strawberry Cream Cheese, BUT, my friends I made an amazing discovery when I was making cheese by accident, I was out of white distilled vinegar and had rice vinegar in my fridge, so I sadly subbed it thinking it wouldn't work as good, but, it is better. I can't even explain the gourmet depth of tang it gives to cheese. It's not as sour as white distilled vinegar, but more of a gourmet, almost wine-like taste.
HOW DO YOU MAKE VEGAN CASHEW CHEESE?
You only need 7 ingredients (+salt/water) for your vegan baked cashew cheese:
- raw cashews (gotta be raw folks)
- vegan worcestershire sauce (this can be found at Sprouts or Whole Foods or on Amazon)
- rice vinegar (this is the magic!)
- lemon juice
- fresh garlic cloves
- tomato paste
- smoked paprika
First, you will soak your cashews overnight. Drain and then add all of the remaining ingredients to a food processor. Process until completely smooth and not gritty.
Spread the cheese mixture into a 6 inch round cake pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 325°F for 35 minutes until firm and just beginning to crack.
OR, bake it for 25 minutes for a more soft-style spread for bread and crackers.
Cool about 15 minutes, then slice and serve. It is heavenly warm and you can also chill it in the fridge if you like. It is delicious any way you serve it.
The cool thing about this vegan baked smoky cashew cheese? It can be sliced, will stay firm at room temperature indefinitely AND it also spreads like a cream cheese! And NO WEIRD ingredients like agar agar or starches or thickeners etc. that are hard to find. I wanted this to be easy and simple!
See how it spreads too? Just slice and press it down onto the cracker. YUM.
I hope you all really love this Vegan Smoky Baked Cashew Cheese as much as we did, be sure to come back and let me know!
Don't forget to try this Vegan Baked Herbed Cashew Cheese too!
Vegan Baked Smoky Cashew Cheese
- 1 1/2 cups (225g) raw unsalted cashews, soaked overnight, DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP
- 2 1/2 tablespoons (37g) plain (not seasoned) rice vinegar, please do not sub with another vinegar!
- 1 teaspoon vegan worcestershire sauce (I use the Annie's brand, it can be found at Sprouts or Whole Foods, etc.)
- 1 tablespoon (15g) tomato paste
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (23g) fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (30g) water
- 2 garlic cloves (roughly chopped (if you love garlic, choose big or choose small for a mild flavor)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika or more to taste
- 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
- NOTE: I use this food processor for my recipes.
- You will need a day in advance to make this cheese, there is no way around this and rushing it will result in a gritty cheese. Trust me on this and do not skip soaking the cashews overnight. This makes the nuts very soft and is necessary since so little liquid is used and is needed to get a creamy consistency.
- Add your cashews to a bowl and pour boiling water over them by at least an inch at the top. Cover and leave to sit overnight on your counter or 8 hours minimum. Drain them and rinse them well.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F (162°C). Line a 6 inch round cake pan with a large piece of parchment paper (see photo) and press it inside the pan and against the sides to make it flat as possible.
- Add the soaked/drained cashews to a food processor. Add the rice vinegar, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, lemon juice, water, garlic, smoked paprika and salt. This will not work in a blender, I'm sorry, there is too little liquid and it will never get smooth enough because of the lack of space to go around. Process the mixture for around 30 seconds, scrape down the sides and then blend again for a solid 5 minutes or so until 100% silky smooth and creamy and NO bits of cashews remain. It should be dreamy smooth like the photos. Do not stop processing until it reaches this stage and scrape the sides as needed.
- Taste and tell me is that not totally delicious?! If desired, add even more smoked paprika for a stronger smoky flavor or even liquid smoke if you like. The 1 teaspoon smoked paprika gives a smoky flavor that is noticeable but not overwhelming.
- This cheese is delicious unbaked too and after chilling in the fridge, will resemble a cream cheese style consistency. So, you can always do that and not bake it as well if you like. The flavor is tangier raw, versus baked as well, both both ways are delicious!
- Pour all that yummy cheese mixture into the pan and spread out evenly to the sides and smooth the top.
- Bake for 35 minutes for it to be firm and slice-able as pictured. I would advise not going any longer or it can get dry and crumbly. It should just be beginning to crack at the top and be firm.
- OR, bake it for 25 minutes for a more soft-style spread for bread and crackers.
- Cool 15 minutes and then slice and serve warm. Or, you can chill it in the fridge first. I found that I liked it both ways but the smoky flavor seems stronger while warm.
- The end result is cheesy, super tangy, rich and a wonderful depth-of-flavor. I love to add slices the next day from the fridge, put on bread and then slightly toast it. SO GOOD. It would also be awesome topped onto hot soup at serving!