Homemade vegan cheese of some kind is found almost always in our refrigerator. We love vegan cheese as it adds taste to our meals and can also serve as a fantastic, quick snack together with some bread or even better between two slices of bread when we crave for a sandwich. Besides, making anut or seed cheese at home is neither difficult nor expensive. Not to mention that homemade plant-based cheese, such as today’s almond feta, contains only pure ingredients without the added refined oils and processed starches of most commercial varieties. So besides tasty, homemade nutand seed cheeses enrich our meals with a plethora of nutrients and fill us up.
Today I want to share with you the recipe for our favorite one, an amazing fermented almond feta cheese, that looks and tastes very close to the real feta. Actually this almond feta is the closest to taste and texture to the traditional cheese I’ve tasted, it can be cut into nice slices without crumbling, it has a salty and tangy, strong flavor, a rich texture reminiscent of a soft feta, it mixes perfectly in salads and recipes and last but not least, it’s very easy to make, though it takes some time to ferment.
My favorite nut to make a vegan feta cheese is raw, fresh almonds. Almonds are white in color – just like white cheese, their taste matches perfectly to vegan cheeses, they are rich in vitamins such as vitamin E and minerals such as calcium, we love them and we find plenty of local fresh almonds on the market. In addition, almonds retain a texture after blending that adds an extra bonus to the texture giving the sense of real feta. For our recipe I soak and then peel the almonds but if you do not have time for this, just buy blanched almonds, soak them and follow the instructions below.
What I usually want when making nut cheese at home is a firm texture, so I can cut it without ending up into a crumbled cheese or a cream cheese. I really love vegan cream cheese, but sometimes I just want to have a real, chewable piece of cheese with my bread. To make a vegan cheese that is really sliceable I use agar agar, the magical powder made from seaweed, combined with rice flour (I choose this flour because it has white color and so it is not altering the color of our recipe, it does not contain gluten and does not has a strong taste). Both of these ingredients make our cheese firm, giving it a perfect texture very much like a soft feta cheese.
The secret of taste
A key characteristic of each and every delicious cheese is the tangy taste which regularly is achieved by long-term maturation. So theoretically, we could allow a few weeks our cheese to mature, to let certain microorganisms cause its fermentation and add by this way the desired, sligtly sour and umami flavor. But there is no reason to make our lives difficult with complicated and time consuming procedures when we can speed things up. So to get a taste very close to that of mature cheese, we can take advantage of all the good microorganisms found in a plant-based kefir or vegan soy yogurt! So, after draining and peeling my almonds, I blend them with a cup of vegan yoghurt or kefir (the last one can be prepared by leaving our little kefirs for a few hours in a cup of almond milk or soy milk, in a warm place).Then – and here is the time-consuming part of the process – we should let the mixture ferment at the right temperature for at least twenty-four hours or more to achieve the desired flavor. If you are about to make the recipe, I would suggest a 24-hour fermentation in a warm place (eg near a radiator) and if you decide that you want it even more tangy, you can extend the fermentation for 12 hours or more the next time you make it. Take into account that during summer a 24-hour fermentation in the warm climate of Greece is enough to me, while during winter the time depends heavily on the temperature of our home.
Feta is a salty cheese and if we want a cheese very close to feta, we should take this into consideration. If we really have reason to avoid salt, we can only add 1 tsp of sea salt. But if we want a stronger result I would say 1 1/2 – 2 tsp. My suggestion is to start with 1 1/2 tsp and the second time you make it add more or less as you desire (I say so because I am sure that if you’ll try this recipe you’ll make it again and again!).
- 1 cup (approximately 200 – 220 g) raw almonds, soaked for 6 hours and drained
- 1 cup (240 g) of soy yogurt or plant-based kefir made from almond milk or soy milk
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tbsp agar agar in powder
- 4 tbsp rice flour
1. Peel the almonds. If you leave them for a few minutes in hot water, they are peeled much easier. Alternatively, choose blanched almonds, soak them and use them directly.
2. Pour the almonds, salt and vegan yogurt or kefir in the blender and beat them at medium speed at first and then at a high speed until almonds are fully blended. You’ll need to help with a spatula by cleaning the blender walls.
3. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for at least 24 hours.
4. The next day mix the rice flour well with the almond mixture and leave it aside.
5. In a saucepan, add the water and the agar agar and stir until it dissolves. Simmer over high heat and when it comes to a boil lower the heat, add the almond mixture and stir for about 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.
6. Line a square bowl with a plastic wrap suitable for foods and transfer into the cheese mixture. Cover the surface with more wrap or baking paper and let it cool for a few hours.
7. Turn the cheese over to a platter, remove the wrap, slice and enjoy!