Earlier this year I decided to try out a vegan diet for a few weeks as a personal challenge. While I found it a bit difficult when eating out, I really enjoyed cooking vegan meals. Setting limitations on the ingredients I could use made me more creative, and I fell in love with a few dishes that I never would have made otherwise.
Before going vegan, I had never cooked lentils before (weird, I know). During the challenge, I made up for lost time, eating lentils nearly every day because they’re a great source of plant-based protein. One of the best things I cooked was a vegan shepherd’s pie that used lentils in place of ground beef. It was just as hearty as a traditional shepherd’s pie and I maybe managed to eat half a tray of it by myself because it was just plants, ya know?
I made nut roasts on Sundays, because Leo and I couldn’t bear to forego a Sunday roast. I stirred coconut yogurt into vegetable curry for extra creaminess. I even made my own pizza crust and sauce and had a vegan pizza night. Yup, no cheese.
I know what you’re thinking. Pizza without cheese? That’s not pizza. That’s just bread with sauce and vegetables. A few months ago, I would’ve agreed with you. But after I discovered vegan parmesan, the prospect of cheese-less pizza was much more appealing.
Vegan parmesan is just a blend of nuts, nutritional yeast, and seasonings, but it has the same moreish quality that cheese does. It’s not an exact replica, but it’s a wonder in its own right.
The nutritional yeast is undoubtedly the key ingredient in vegan parmesan. Its savory, nutty flavor gives some serious complexity to what would otherwise be chunky nut flour. Though vegan parmesan doesn’t melt like dairy cheese, it gives food the same extra punch of flavor that a generous grating of Parmigiano would. After I tried it, I wanted to sprinkle that sh*t all over my life.
And that’s pretty much exactly what I’ve been doing. From the aforementioned pizza, to avocado toast, to vegan mac and cheese (stay tuned…), vegan parmesan has made its way into an obscene number of my meals.
There are lots of recipes for vegan parmesan on the interwebs. Mine was originally inspired by Dana at Minimalist Baker, who uses cashews to make her recipe. Most versions I’ve seen call for either cashews or almonds, but I found the finished product too sweet for my liking. I experimented with brazil nuts and thought the flavor was just right. You can replace the brazil nuts with an equal amount of cashews or almonds (you could even get creative and try hazelnuts or walnuts!), but the flavor will be slightly different.
- 3/4 cup brazil nuts
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
- Combine all the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until a fine meal forms (be careful not to over-process or it will turn into nut butter!). Add more salt to taste, if you like.
- Transfer to a glass jar. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.