This 4-Ingredient Vegan "Cheese" Makes Pasta Night So Much Better

August 30, 2018
Put me in, coach. Photo by Ty Mecham

“Cheese makes everything better” is a core tenet of my cooking philosophy.

But like my fellow recipe developer Emma, I’ve recently boarded the “maybe less dairy, sometimes” bandwagon. Like Emma, I’ve been making little swaps here and there, and I have to admit, it’s been great for my skin. It’s also been great for that overstuffed, puffy feeling I sometimes get after I eat too much cacio e pepe. (If this means I’m slightly lactose intolerant, please don’t tell me.)

But it hasn’t been so great for pasta night.

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Until I found vegan Parmesan. More specifically, the four-ingredient version from Julie Piatt and Rich Roll's The Plantpower Way: Italia, which comes together in the time it takes to boil a pot of water.

This is the soaked-cashew version. Photo by Ty Mecham


Plantpower's "Parmesan" calls for just four ingredients: cashews, miso paste, garlic, and nutritional yeast.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—cashews are the MVP ingredient of vegan cooking. They provide enough creamy richness to mimic cheese, without a discernibly distinctive mouthfeel. In other words, they’re a blank canvas.

Meanwhile, miso steps in as a double-duty power hitter: It adds saltiness and umami. Using a white or yellow miso will yield a mellower flavor, while using red miso will impart more assertiveness.

Last but certainly not least, nutritional yeast packs a cheesy nuttiness that, when paired with garlic, simulates the delicate pungency of Parmesan.

You can—and should—adjust the recipe to taste with fine grain salt.


Depends on your ideal texture.

As Piatt and Roll say, “If you skip soaking the nuts, your cheese will have a firmer texture.” Unsoaked cashew Parmesan is more grainy, like what you’d use to top pasta.

Soaking the cashews unlocks a creamier dimension to the recipe, yielding something of a hybrid crumble/spread. (And if you disobey the recipe and keep pulsing beyond the point of “mealy” with soaked cashews, you’ll get more of a dip.)


Like I’ve said, when it comes to cheesy toppings, I think more is more. As in, more cheese, on more dishes, more times a day, and oh my god, can we add more hours to eat cheese into the solar calendar??

Accordingly, I’m a proponent of sprinkling this cashew Parmesan on just about everything, from greener pursuits to grain bowls to "meat"-balls to savory galettes.

In its soaked form, vegan Parmesan would be great spread on a sandwich, layered into lasagna, dotting a cauliflower pizza, on tacos, or in a Caesar dressing.

One batch will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator.


Have you tried to make vegan cheese? Let us know in the comments!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.