How to do it, Vegan
Comments 15

Is Vegan “Parmesan cheese” worth a try?

A spoonful of vegan "Parmesan cheese"

The three-year-old and I tried a new experiment the other day: Together, we made vegan “Parmesan Cheese.” I know! I’m not one to enjoy fake foods of any kind. No soy bacon for me, thank you, or whatever they use to make fake bacon. No low-fat cheese or fat-free sour cream either. Ugh!

But I have a loved one with diabetes to think about when I cook now, and I keep seeing articles from other bloggers about the tasty Vegan Parm they make and how much their families like it. Worth a try, right?

Ingredients for vegan "Parmesan cheese": Cashews, nutritional yeast, sea salt

Ingredients for vegan “Parmesan cheese”

We used this recipe by Madison Butler at The little’un is getting quite good at measuring ingredients, and loves pouring them into the bowl. When I turn on the noisy food processor, though, she squeezes her eyes shut, covers her ears and shouts, “Tell me when it’s done, YayYay!”

Butler makes her vegan parm from cashew nuts, nutritional yeast and salt. It’s incredibly easy. To make this cheese substitute, you will need a food processor and the following ingredients.

  • 1 C Raw cashews
  • 1/4 C Nutritional yeast
  • 1 t Sea, Celtic or Pink Himalayan salt

In the food processor, run the raw cashews, nutritional yeast and salt until they reach the consistency of finely grated Parmesan cheese, like this.

Ground cashews, nutritional yeast and salt looks a little like finely grated Parmesan cheese

Ground cashews, nutritional yeast and salt looks a little like finely grated Parmesan cheese

Store in a reusable container, such as a Fido jar (see my review here), and refrigerate and use on top of pastas, salads, and any other way you might use Parmesan cheese.

Vegan "Parmesan cheese" keeps well in Fido jars with their locking caps

Vegan “Parmesan cheese” keeps well in Fido jars with their locking caps. I forgot to remove the jar of soaking cashew nuts before snapping this pic. We made delicious nut milk with them.

Now, I love cheese, many cheeses in fact. I’m fussy about my Parmesan. No green can for me, thank you. I buy a hunk of the real deal and grate it myself. (Take a look at A Parma Style Cheese to see why imported is the best tasting.)

I didn’t expect this to taste like good, freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It doesn’t. But if we allow ourselves to enjoy it for what it is, rather than what it isn’t, we find we like it. No, it’s not as rich or flavorful as the real deal. Yes, it is satisfying in its own way, as a salty, slightly cheesy topping.

A spoonful of the Vegan Parma

A spoonful of the Vegan Parma

The other day, I sprinkled some on my lunch-time pasta and thoroughly enjoyed it. But I don’t kid myself. That somewhat cheesy aroma of the nutritional yeast is merely a hint of the complex scent of a good, imported Parmigiano Reggiano. If I were serving a carefully prepared meal where every morsel had to be just perfect, I’d opt for the real deal. So far, this is a winner for everyday fare.

What? You’re shocked that every meal I prepare isn’t stupendous? Let’s just say, they’re all tasty. Except for the mistakes, of course. I do a lot of experimentation in the kitchen!

Vegan "Parmesan Cheese on egg noodles over sauteed beet greens with red and green onions

Vegan “Parmesan Cheese on egg noodles over sauteed beet greens with red and green onions

We tried this vegan parma on popcorn too. Since the diabetes diagnosis, we don’t eat it every weekend like we used to, and certainly not buttery, salty, cheesy rich. We’ve tried nutritional yeast on our popcorn in place of Parmesan cheese and it was … okay. This cheesy substitute definitely takes it up a notch.

Organic popcorn seasoned with garlic and homemade vegan "Parmesan cheese"

Organic popcorn seasoned with garlic and homemade vegan “Parmesan cheese”

Neither of us would say this recipe tastes as good on our popcorn as freshly-grated Parmesan Reggiano. But this slimmed-down, more nutritious option tastes good enough that we can add popcorn back into our weekend treats. Yay!

Your turn

What do you think? If lowering fat and/or dairy is part of your diet today, might you give this vegan cheese substitute a try? Do you have a similar recipe you’d like to share that does this one better?






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  2. I love kicking up a meal with a little vegan Parmesan! I use a Brazil nuts in a recipe that really similar. I love the added salt and bit of texture it adds to a soup or salad. Your photos are beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Andrea. A pleasure to see you here. You’re the second (or is it third) to mention Brazil nuts. I look forward to giving them a try. Btw, you’ll find a link to one of your recipes on my Friday 5 post today.


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  4. Homestead Downunder says

    Food is interesting stuff and there are SO many trains of thought out there as to what is good/bad food. I think the variety and experimentation is good for us also, so often we fall into an eating rut and life becomes ho-hum.
    I also feel it is important to find the best fit for ourselves, what works for one, doesn’t necessarily suit another.
    I will definitely look into ‘nutritional yeast’ to see how it fits into my 80/20 paleo world – thanks for the idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome. Don’t know that I’ve ever seen it on a paleo site, but vegans rely on it for many things. The food author Adele Davis once suggested that nutritional yeast could prevent starvation worldwide.


  5. I tried a similar recipe once. I think it was pecan based. As you say, when trying vegan substitutes for old favourites, we can’t ecpect them to be the same as the originals. That goopy cashew cheese I use for grilled cheese sandwhiches and mac & cheese is never going to fool anyone. My nut-based ‘parmesan’ will never replace the ripe-smelling, tangy deliciousness of freshly grated parmesan.

    That said, the vegan parmesan was a nice addition to some dishes (pastas, for instance). It did not rock my world. I haven’t made it a second time, but I might try out the cashew version.

    Popcorn, you say? Mmm… maybe…

    Liked by 1 person

    • You hit it right on, Leah. Nut-based substitutes so far don’t rock my world. They lack the nuances of flavor and texture of a real cheese, as you so aptly describe. Another person suggested Brazil nuts as a tastier alternative. I intend to give those a try. And I’m already experimenting with this recipe.


  6. I have a variation that is very similar. Simply substitute raw almonds for the cashews. This is a wonderful alternative for those people who do not tolerate Dairy or Gluten and who want to reduce the carbohydrates in their diets. Many of the shredded cheeses (the green can stuff) contain Gluten – a real problem for those who are Gluten intolerant.

    Yes, those who expect it to completely replace “Real Parmesan Cheese” will be disappointed. For those of us with dietary restrictions, “Parmezan Cheeze” is a blessing. 🙂

    Please don’t fool yourself that this is “low fat”. Nuts are nutritionally dense (higher calorie) foods. Fortunately they also contain many nutrients! The experts are slowly coming around to the fact that the low fat regimen is incorrect and are encouraging people to eat healthy fats like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, butter, nut butter and nuts.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful commentary. I’m delighted to see your notes. I’ll have to give almonds a try with this recipe sometime soon.

      Regarding fat, fortunately, the fat in nuts is a “good” fat. We’re grateful to find that generally, they have less fat, gram per gram, than dairy cheeses. And, as you say, lots of nutrients.

      This article, from the Mayo Clinic staff, Nuts and your heart: Eating nuts for heart health, includes a handy comparison chart for the calories and fats in several different kinds of nuts.

      Thank you again for your comment. Much appreciated!

      Liked by 2 people

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