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!!

Pin It!