28 comments

Dairy-Free Soy-Free Ricotta Cheese

This is one of my proudest creations. Especially since it has helped me fill—as much as I don’t want to admit it—the cheese void in my life. About a year ago, I heard about a Japanese ingredient called Agar a.k.a Agar Agar which acts like a gelatin when heated. Its properties sounded creatively exciting at the time, but it wasn’t until recently that I finally started experimenting. By adding the right mix of other vegan cheese replacements like nutritional yeast and soaked cashews with it, magic happened. Then I took it a step further and used it for my Gluten-Free Vegetable Lasagna recipe and oh, the cheesey-not-cheeseness of it all. See, when it is heated, and then cools to room temp or chillier, it thickens into a textural and flavorful equivalent to dairy ricotta cheese.

You can eat this Dairy-free Ricotta Cheese unheated as a dip with sliced veggies, or tastier yet, spread on fruits like apples and pears. Spread it on Raw White Bread (as a flavored mayo alternative) for a sandwich or mix it with cooked/sprouted grains like quinoa or millet. Stay tuned for more dairy-free cheese creations coming soon—I am having fun in the kitchen these days thanks to this recipe and can’t wait to share the goodness.

Makes: approx. 1 1/2 cups | Preparation Time: 10mins (not including cashew soak time)

Tools:
Blender
Sauce pot

Ingredients:
1 cup pure water
2/3 cup soaked raw cashews
2 Tbsp raw tahini
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
3 Tbsp agar flakes
1 tsp fresh squeezed organic lemon juice
1 tsp pink Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
1/8 tsp Liquid Smoke (optional, but I recommend it for great flavor)

Let’s Get Started:
1. Place all of your ingredients in the blender and mix until creamy.

 

2. Pour into a pot, heat to medium and stir for 5 minutes until mixture thickens. If using in Mixed Veggie Lasagna, you can skip this step.

3. Use immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to use. Break up with a fork if you need to before serving.

4. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

Psst: If you can’t find agar, you will still get a thickened “cheese” when heating this mixture since cashews tend to thicken when heated.

 

Read the comments or add yours.

Comment Rules

  1. Tried it…love it! I’ve never soaked nuts before, this raw thing is a new adventure for me. I think I paid waaaay too much for the agar agar, but it was worth it :)

  2. Dani

    SO GOOD!! Good raw as a dip, but baked in the lasagna it is unbelievable!! You really cant tell the difference! And it firms up so nicely. You could totally fool SAD eaters with this one. MUST TRY!

  3. Helen Shoff

    I’m a little confused! Does Ricotta Cheese have SOY in it?

    • Hi there Helen,
      The “soy-free” in the title just refers to the fact that many cheese alternatives out there tend to be made from soy and this is one that is not made from soy. Hope that helps.

  4. E

    Hi, I’m allergic to cashews. Have you tried making this cheese with any other types of seeds or nuts? Thanks.

    • Hi there E~
      I have not tried this with any other seeds or nuts, but I imagine sunflower seeds, macadamias or almonds would be tasty. Please let us know if you have success with alternatives. I am trying out some recipes for aged nut cheeses right now, so stay tuned. I imagine those experiments will open up many doors…

  5. Tessiew

    I can’t find agar flakes- only agar powder… If I use the powder, is it the same amount or is it less?? Excited to make lasagna tonight!

  6. Amber

    Hae,

    I made the lasagna last night with this and it came out wonderful, but I had a question… What’s a good amount of time to soak the cashews for?

    Thanks :)

    • I’m so glad this worked out for you, it’s a definite favorite. I tend to soak cashews for 2-4 hours. You can read more about soaking times for other seeds and nuts here.

  7. JIL

    I’m curious whether you need to use agar flakes, or is agar powder an appropriate substitute? Is there a difference in resulting texture, perhaps? Thanks!

    • JIL and Tessie~
      Both agar flakes and agar powder will work. 3 tsp agar flakes = 1 tbsp agar powder, so just keep this in mind when making substitutions. I haven’t found a real difference in texture in the instances where I cook or bake a recipe. I imagine a blender with a weak motor might not be able to break up the flakes as well, but it’s worth a try!

  8. Linz

    great recipe. since i couldn’t find agar easily, i just skipped the agar altogether, and added 2/3 cup soaked pine nuts to the recipe. it ruled raw and cooked up nice a cheesy/brown on top.

  9. I would love to try this delicious looking Ricotta using an alternative such as pumpkin or sunflower seeds. I too am allergic to ALL nuts. Has anyone tried seeds in this recipe?

    • Wee, has your doc said “no” to cashews? I only ask because technically they are a seed and may be ok for you to consume, but definitely check with your doctor first. I think you could try this cheese using a blend of millet (cooked), quinoa (cooked) and sunflower seeds instead of cashews. Let us know if it works!

  10. Liana

    would xanthan gum be an okay substitute for agar because of it’s stickyness?

    Thanks.

    • Liana~
      You can actually leave out the agar if you don’t have any. The cashews can firm up pretty well without it once baked and then cooled. You could also try a bit of arrowroot instead. I have never tried xanthan gum—I don’t usually use that ingredient—so let me know if it works. Good luck!

  11. Jessica

    Can I leave the yeast out? I can’t eat it.. or is there a substitute?

    Thanks!

    • You can absolutely leave the yeast out—just know if you are concerned about candida, nutritional yeast is inactive, aka: dead.

  12. jessie

    Hi! I am making this to go along with Lemon mascarpone for a lemon cassata cake for my son’s 4th bday tomorrow! How long do we soak the cashews? Thank you!

  13. tiana

    this is really, really good. i made it for the vegetable lasagna and my boyfriend (a meat and cheese eater) didn’t realize it was vegan. even by itself it’s tasty :)

  14. Marnie

    Recently heading toward gluten and dairy free. My family decided on lasagna for Christmas dinner. I wanted gluten, vegetarian, dairy free and my boys (3 kids and hubby) had to have their meat. I’ve been red meat free for 15+ years but men will be men. I needed a creamy component for my lasagna so I went in search of a dairy/soy free recipe for ricotta. Since this was a Christmas Day and there were no grocery stores open ( as there shouldn’t be), I had to make do with what ingredients I had hand. I didn’t have any yeast or agar. Used the rest of the ingredients but added 5 teaspoons of heap protein and about 2 T of chia seeds to thicken. I layers gluten free lasagna noodles, the ricotta, fresh spinach, thinly sliced zucchini and squash and some dairy/soy free cheese. Didn’t miss a thing. It was delish. Thanks for the start of figuring out my ricotta recipe. As a side note, my recipe mimicked a bachemel more than a ricotta, which wasn’t a bad thing.

  15. Linda

    It’s REALLY liquidy… should I be concerned that I may have over-blended the mixture?

    • Heather Crosby

      Hi there Linda,
      Hmmm, I wouldn’t be concerned. ;) If you are using this cheese to cook something, the heat will thicken the mixture as it cooks. If not, you can always add more nuts to thicken up the “cheese.” Hope that helps! x H

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