Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Homemade Almond Cheese (Gluten Free, Casein Free, Soy Free)

Nut cheese

Stop laughing... seriously, that's what it's called! And it's good! And you're still laughing.. ;-P

It's okay... laughing is good for you! I hope most of my posts bring a smile to you! I'm all about smiles!

So once again... today's post is about nut cheese.

I used to think it was funny when vegetarians or people who didn't eat meat, dairy, you name it.. ended up cooking and eating what I considered "fake foods." Not necessarily foods that were bad, but foods created to make up for the loss of something like say a hamburger... people ate soy burgers or bean burgers. I just thought that was plain silly. My thinking used to be "If you're not gonna eat a "real" burger, than just don't eat one... don't try to substitute, that will only make things worse."

Once again... huge foot in mouth!

Since going gluten free I have definitely learned how to make healthy and delicious substitutes. I HAD to learn how to make those foods effectively when I couldn't eat wheat. Gluten free versions of biscuits, pancakes, bread... and now? I can't even tell the difference. I understand why people need substitutes.

About a year into the gluten free diet I became aware of allergic reactions I was also having to soy products: soy sauce, edamame, tofu, soy flour, you name it and my throat would swell up. Not a pleasant feeling. I realized that by default I had been avoiding soy for months because I always reacted after eating it.

And nearly 3 months ago after eliminating foods, I realized I was also reacting to dairy and casein products. In hindsight this makes a lot of sense. It's very common for people who are sensitive to the gluten protein to also be sensitive to the proteins in dairy and soy since they are so similar in nature.

While I had trouble cutting wheat and soy out of my diet, it honestly was not as difficult as dairy and casein. I love anything dairy... and to cut out cheese, yogurt, milk, ICE CREAM? Oh my... I just was not sure I could do that.

Which is why I decided to learn how to make substitutes with nuts. Almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts... they have become close friends! ;-)

I would be lying if I told you that this almond cheese tastes exactly like real dairy cheese. It does not. But it makes a wonderful substitution and definitely fulfills a cheese craving!! This cheese reminds me in taste of a flavored cream cheese and sour cream with a touch of hummus! In texture, it's very similar to ricotta! If you miss having real cheese, it's definitely worth your while to try!

Today's recipe once again uses almonds. I love almonds for their delicate taste and their absolute versatility in cooking and baking!! We'll make an almond-dill cheese with a few simple ingredients, a white cotton cloth or sprouting bag, and your blender!

(For a great online photo-tutorial of making nut cheese, please click here.)

Almond Dill Cheese

1 1/2 cups raw almonds, soaked 12 hours
1 1/2 cups water
3 tablespoons hummus
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or oil of your choice)
juice from 1-2 medium lemons
1 tablespoon dill weed
1-2 teaspoons sea salt (or more to taste)
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon pure garlic granules or (garlic seasoning of your choice)


Rinse almonds thoroughly in fresh cold water, drain and put into blender. Add 1 1/2 cups spring water. Blend on highest setting for 3-4 minutes. Stop blender, add remaining ingredients and blend until very, very smooth (an additional 3-5 minutes.)

Open and place sprout bag or cotton cloth in a large bowl or pitcher. (In the pictures below I actually used a clean white cotton pillowcase, that I also use for wringing water out of greens!)

almond cheese just beginning to drip, you can see a very small amount of whey in the pitcher

Pour the almond cheese mixture into the bag and close with drawstrings, rubber band, or a twist tie as I did. Place bag of almond cheese mixture in pitcher or bowl so that it will drip and strain for 12 hours. Place draining cheese in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours to thoroughly drip. You can also let the mixture ferment slightly (to further sour and develop the flavor) by allowing the cheese to strain on the counter for 6 hours and then moving it to the refrigerator to strain for the remaining time period.

When the cheese is ready, serve chilled with gluten free crackers (or my favorite pretzels) or carrots and celery! Enjoy!!

Store cheese in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Just be aware... you might get addicted to this delicious nut cheese!

almond cheese after straining for 6 hours, notice the amount of whey that has drained

Carrie's Notes:

* The leftover drained liquid is WHEY, you can still use this liquid or you can toss it. It's up to you. If you like to soak grains in Nourishing Traditions style, such as buckwheat, millet, brown rice, or even dried beans you can use some of this liquid to quicken soaking time and assist grains and beans in the sprouting process. For more information on how you can use leftover whey, click here (keep in mind most of these suggestions are using items with gluten or dairy, but you can also use whey with almost any kind of gluten free flour or food.)

* You can use all different kinds of RAW nuts in this recipe, macadamias (although I have heard not to soak them, as it can alter the taste), cashews, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts, etc... I prefer using raw almonds because they are so mild in taste and really give a beautiful white color to the cheese.

* You can add ALL kinds of wonderful savory additions to this cheese!! Green onions, chives, parsley, garlic... you name it, you can probably add it!! Let me know what you add to your almond cheese!

* I highly recommend soaking the almonds ahead of time. It begins the sprouting process which makes the almonds more nutritious and much easier on your blender! Don't skip soaking!! ;-)

* I am thoroughly looking forward to using this nut cheese as a replacement for ricotta cheese in lasagna!! I will probably slightly change the seasonings for a ricotta/cottage cheese type sub! If you try the cheese in this manner, please let me know what you think!!

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  1. Look at you! This is awesome. Totally going to follow your lead on this and give this one a try. In case you can get the seed milk/ sprout bag- a coffee filter (preferably unbleached) works too!

  2. Bookmarked. I look forward to trying this.

  3. Hey Meghan!! I really liked this cheese!! yummy!! I had not eaten real cheese in ages, so this was a super yummy substitute!! Thanks so much for commenting!! I'm really glad you had a wonderful trip!!

    CanadianFoodieGirl -- Thanks girl!! Let me know what you think!!

  4. I believe that the almonds that you buy at the store are, in general, not technically "raw". They have been steamed to pasteurize them. They will, therefore, not begin to sprout. You can find some places that carry truly raw almonds, at inflated prices.

    Not my area of expertise, but that is what I have heard.

  5. Wow, this is amazing!

    So... yogurt is out, too? I've been told that people with dairy problems can often do yogurt. Boo! I probably should cut back on dairy myself, but am having trouble with that concept. But your posts are making me feel a little more brave.

  6. Amanda -- Yes, yogurt is out, but that's okay I didn't use yogurt that often before anyway! I'm going to make some coconut yogurt as soon as I get the powdered probiotics I ordered, so I'm looking forward to trying that!! ;-) Going dairy free has been tough, but honestly not as tough as I thought it would be!

  7. Hey Carrie, the cheese looks yummy! One question - is it only useful as a dip or could it be used for cooking, as in something like lasagna.

    I'm trying to find a ricotta sub for GFCF lasagna. I tried miso before which was ok but I'd like to try something else.



  8. Thomas -- YES!! I absolutely believe you could use this as a ricotta substitute!! It is not going to "melt" like the other cheese imposter I have listed, the only think I would do different is use different seasonings (like maybe oregano, garlic, and basil) and maybe only use about 1/2 of one lemon for juice, with ricotta you do not want a strong lemon flavor!! ;-) I am absolutely going to try this as ricotta in lasagna!!

  9. That looks really good Carrie! It's funny, before going gluten free sometimes I would end up in the gluten free isle of the health food store and I thought the food there was so weird, and I thought the people who ate that way might have been weird too! If only I knew then what I know now!

  10. You are doing such cool things around here, Carrie! Your blog has really changed and in a totally good way. I'm so impressed with your experiments and successes.

    I thought at first glance it WAS ricotta it has such a similar texture. I bet all kinds of people come here for ideas and advice. Go YOU.

  11. Hi Carrie! I found your blog via your guest post on $5 Dinners. I have a question for you.

    Do you keep your house strictly GF/CF/SF, like a person with celiac, etc. would?

    Just wondering, from curiosity, I guess. I know you said the GF/CF/SF diet made you feel tons better, so I would imagine you do keep a strictly GF/CF/SF house.

    Also, wanted to let you know, I linked your guest post from Erin's blog on my blog so my mom would see it. I want her to be able to check out all your fabulous recipes and links. (She has celiac, gluten sensitivity, and csaein allergy, all positively diagnosed through DNA test, among other tests.)

    Thanks for the awesome blog!

  12. Patricia -- I'm SO glad you found me via Erin's wonderful blog!! Thank you for your fantastic comment and your question!!

    No, I do not keep my home strictly GF/CF/SF, I think my husband would fire me. Haha!

    My husband usually has a loaf of regular wheat bread, boxes of gluten-filled cereal, and of course he loves milk to go with that cereal. I usually make all of our main dishes and in doing that he eats GF/CF/SF because that is how I cook and bake, so any cakes, cookies, bread, etc.. that I make are strictly GF/CF/SF, so he eats what I make, but I think it's okay for him to eat his own cereal, bread, milk, etc.

    But I am also not diagnosed with celiac disease! This is very important to note! Your mom may be MUCH more sensitive to gluten than I am and therefore it may be important for her family and home to be completely free of any food related items that cause her distress! I definitely recommend talking with a nutritionist or doctor to find out what the best method would be for her.

    Thanks again for your great comment and question and thank you for visiting! I look forward to comments from your mom!! ;-)

  13. Carrie, this looks absolutely outstanding. I linked to you from my post today, listing your Almond Cheese as a primal recipe to check out. If I had a blender I'd be all over this. :) Keep it up with the wonderfully inventive recipes, Carrie!

  14. Hi Carrie,

    This cheese looks great! I'm anxious to get back into the kitchen and try some new recipes. The planting season and building the chicken coop are keeping me busy day and night just now.

    I have a quick trick for drying salad greens, using that same pillow case. Rinse your greens. Put them in that clean pillow case. Twist the top closed and put it in the washing machine. Set to "spin." In a minute or two you'll have clean, dry salad mix.

    Of course, a salad spinner works great for meal sized batches. I used to use this method for huge batches of baby lettuce and basil leaves that I sold to restaurants.

    Hope you're loving Spring!

  15. Carrie,
    Last year I went to a renown West Coast raw foods restaurant, Cafe Gratitude. I was impressed. I'm not going to be going the raw foods way, but the enchiladas (dried pressed spinach tortilla) and zucchini lasagne with cashew cheese were really good.
    The cashews seem particularly well suited to making creamy foods.

  16. Hi Carrie,
    Is this literally whey? My husband and I are disagreeing - he says whey can only come from an animal milk - the liquid byproduct of milk curdling. Does the almond have a curdle? Also, do you remove the skins from your almonds? I currently make almond milk and I sometimes soak and sometimes blanche for a whiter, less bitter milk.

  17. Hafida - No nut "whey" is not literally whey as in the same liquid that is released from milk products when making cheese. No, I don't remove the skins from my almonds. It's all personal preference! :-) I don't think almond milk (even with the skins) is bitter at all, it's actually quite sweet.

  18. Hi Carrie! This looks like an amazing recipe and I'm REALLY excited to try it one of these days! Question for you... do you think it would taste okay if I left out the hummus? Or at least made it using half of the hummus you call for?

  19. Megan - You could probably leave the hummus out altogether! I just include it to add tang to the "cheese"! Let me know how it works out for you! I need to make a batch myself! :-)

  20. Hi Carrie...Thank you for this recipe! It's awesome. I just made a plain batch for now with a little bit of salt. I am thinking adding some spice, like maybe a drop of two of liquid smoke, and stuffing dried figs or dates would be awesome. I have been all about tapas and appetizers these days so I am always looking for new ideas to suit my wants and my needs! Thank you!

  21. Thank you for the information you are providing.
    I will be trying this out and browsing your blog to find more helpful information for our family. I hope that my daughter will eventually get to the point where she will do replacements willingly but for now I am hoping she will just eat the replacements that I am creating.
    Thank you for more options for us.

  22. Is it important to use fresh lemon juice to make this cheese or would prepared juice from concentrate work?

  23. Anon - Lemon juice from concentrate is just fine! I'd use about 2-3 tablespoons! :-)

  24. I have my almonds soaking right now and can hardly wait to try this. I recently went dairy free for the sake of my daughter. She is breastfed and has a cow's milk protein intolerance and any diary I eat makes her digestive system exceptionally unhappy. A friend shared your this link with me and I am so excited to try this and many more recipes. Thank you!

  25. WOW WOW WOW. I really love this recipe. I only posted as Anonymous because I don't have time to set up a profile (I'm at work). This is amazing stuff, and has made my dinner table so much better. I can use it as dip, or in a sandwich, or as ricotta, or on baked potatoes or steamed veggies - esp when I add garlic or Dijon and chipotle pepper powder, etc. THANK YOU!! Laine in Portland OR

  26. Would it go well on a dairy free, sugar free, flour free banana cake?