Vegan parmesan - an easy and healthy alternative to the real cheese


Vegan cashew parmesan

One of the bitterest blows dealt by our new super healthy diet brought on by husband's health concerns, or more accurately my concerns over husband's health, is having to let go of parmesan and pecorino. I'm sure we don't have to completely let go, but I can no longer grate it to pretty much everything I cook. I can still eat chunks straight out of the fridge myself and I often do. Sometimes I substitute dinner with a lovely salty chunk or two. After all, it covers the two main food groups I'm after at the end of a busy day: salt and fat. But what I can no longer do is to grate a bit, or a lot, into almost everything I cook for us.

Because it is mainly fat and salt. Protein of course as well, so perfectly acceptable for anyone with unclogged arteries like me! At least I think they are unclogged, but with the amount of cheese, I do wonder.

But in these dire times,  to the rescue: vegans! Those weird hippies with pale faces, flat hair and hemp shoes, who always make us feel guilty and inadequate somehow as we stumble through our lives destroying the earth and making dolphin babies cry.

Kidding. I have a colleague who is vegan and has a lovely complexion and voluminous hair, and who always wears the most amazing heels (presumably plastic because she is a very serious vegan).

So, solution: vegan parmesan! What a brilliant idea. I don't remember how I came across this in my grief over my lost beloved parmigiano and even more so pecorino (even saltier), but once I started googling through my tears maybe for something like "parmesan healthy alternative" I found lots of recipes. They are all essentially the same, raw unsalted cashews (sometimes some other nuts), nutritional yeast (what the hell), garlic powder and some add also onion powder. All ingredients that meet husband's arterial demands.

I had to google nutritional yeast, because I had a feeling the fact that all recipes said nutritional yeast and not just yeast might be a clue of some sort. I'm glad I did. As it turns out, nutritional yeast is not at all the same stuff you use in bread baking. That definitely would not work here. A nice shop assistant in Holland & Barrett immediately found me this key ingredient as well as some raw cashews and off I went on my righteous quest for cruelty-free parmesan perfection.

It turned out delicious! It really tastes quite lovely and looks very much like grated parmesan. It of course won't melt in foods, but otherwise you can use it as you would grated parmesan. The only tiny niggle I have is that it doesn't really taste like parmesan regardless of what many the vegan blogs that advertise this recipe say. The poor vegan writers probably haven't had a proper chunk of lovely fatty real parmesan as long as they can remember.

So, sorry to announce, this tastes great and will probably work nicely sprinkled over a pasta dish or a soup or in pesto and I will continue using it because it's delicious and healthy, but is doesn't really taste like parmesan. It tastes like ground salted peanuts. Or like ground raw cashews and nutritional yeast.

Chicken, pea and asparagus pasta with vegan parmesan
Edamame and mung bean fettucine with chicken and green vegetables and a sprinkle of vegan parmesan

Vegan parmesan

1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

Place all ingredients in a blender and pulse until the right consistency (same as grated parmesan). Don't over-blitz, because apparently it can turn into a paste, which is not what we want here.

Sprinkle over salads, sauces or soups and pretend it's parmesan.

Store in a jar in the fridge and it will keep for about a month.

Edamame and mung bean fettucine with vegan parmesan

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