Many people have one caveat when it comes to the idea of going vegan – cheese. “I could go vegan, except that I couldn’t live without cheese!” Luckily, there’s really never been a more delicious time to say goodbye to dairy. Even in small towns, vegan cheeses are popping up in grocery stores. And it’s not the waxy yellow slices of yore. These plant-based cheeses* are scrumptious and full-bodied in their own right. I particularly love nut-based cheeses, because like the avocado, cashews can really do no wrong.
Even though I can easily get my hands on packaged vegan cheeses, you can’t beat the convenience, cost savings, and endless variety of making it at home.
Today’s spread is a new favorite of mine – jalapeño cashew cheese spread. With a base of raw cashews, this spread snaps with the flavor of pickled jalapeños. Start by soaking the cashews in water until they have softened, add jalapeño brine, lemon juice, and other seasonings. Then blend until wonderfully creamy. Serve right away or put it in a covered container in the refrigerator to further solidify.
This spread combines my love of cashews and pickled jalapeños in one mouthwatering vegan cheese. Even though it involves brine from the jar and jalapeño slices, I wouldn’t say it’s overly hot. It has the flavor of peppers, but the nuts in it temper the heat.
That said, I should probably just buy stock in the pickled jalapeño industry. 9 out of 10 of my meals involve a hill of jalapeño slices on the side. (It would be 10 out of 10, but jalapeños don’t pair well with soup.) When I run out of jars of pickled jalapeños, it is like running out of coffee – a serious emergency. (My favorite jalapeño slices are Jeff’s Naturals. They are thickly cut and have a great crunch to them.)
This jalapeño cashew cheese spread is a perfect fit with crackers, olives, and raw vegetables for a nibbly night or vegan charcuterie board. It is also a tasty sandwich spread or bagel schmear. Recently I used it as the filling for stuffed squash blossoms instead of my standard cashew cheese, and that was a delectable change of pace. (Although you really can’t go wrong either way with that recipe.)
I also used leftover cashew cheese on a charcuterie board with seitan slices from Herbivorous Butcher. With raw vegetable slices, olives, and spreads, it’s a casual meal that feels like an extravagance, especially when paired with a glass of Tempranillo.
For a dinner party appetizer platter, starter, or as a whole meal, you can’t go wrong with a plate of nibbles and a creamy jalapeño cashew cheese spread.
*Some people get upset when vegans use words like cheese to describe plant-based foods. But it’s common in language to illuminate by comparison. Eggplants aren’t eggs but are egg-shaped. Peanut butter is spreadable. Spaghetti strap dresses aren’t made with pasta, candy corn isn’t a whole grain, and jellybeans would be terrible in a burrito. However, by drawing comparisons, people understand something about the size, shape, or use of the object. When I call this vegan cheese, not only does it tell you how to use the product, it also helps to simplify internet searches. A lot more people are searching for vegan cheese than they are for jalapeño cashew spread. For more on this topic, read this post.