Raw, Vegan Spin on Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Raw, Vegan Beet and Goat Cheese Salad


GREAT response to my chia seed giveaway! Keep them coming. For those of you who didn’t check in yesterday, I’m giving away a giant bag of chia seeds. Come and get’ em!

Yesterday’s sun and cheery disposition persisted well into today, which was busy, but touched by beautiful weather. Yay! Double yay for the fact that I got to spend a little time in my kitchen—not as much as I would have liked, but just enough to keep me sane.

I often here the same thing from clients, friends, and acquaintances who are thinking about veganism: “I’d love to, but I don’t think I could ever give up cheese.” Cheese, it seems, inspires some  pretty fierce devotion—a fact that’s hard for me to understand, since I never much liked the stuff. Even pizza—most beloved of beloved foods—was never a fave.

I did, though, have one fondness when it came to fromage, and that was for goat cheese. Odd, maybe, given that I’m sensitive to the more fragrant, soft varieties of cow’s cheese, but there you are. I liked to toss it in salads or with roast veggies, and while I can’t say I miss it, I can say that the challenge of finding a vegan simulacrum has been on my mind. Simultaneously, I’ve been meaning to try a fermented spin on nut “cheese”; I adore my nut cheeses, which I’ve written about here and here. And I’ve been curious to see how they would taste fermented.

So this weekend, I was on a dual mission: 1) make fermented vegan cheese, and 2) make it taste like the goat cheese of my memories. Let’s also throw in 3), which was to replicate the goat cheese dish I used to most enjoy: roast beets, spinach, and goat cheese salad with candied walnuts. A few hours later, mission was accomplished!

Fermenting: it sounds so intimidating. In fact, it’s an easy process: making kraut, kimchee, coconut yogurt, and fermented nut cheese is as simple as watching and waiting. You mix your ingredients (sometimes with the addition of probiotic powder), and leave them in a warm place for at least 6-12 hours (in the case of something like sauerkraut, you’ll have to leave them for at least three days). When the fermenting process is done, you’re left with a tangy food that’s loaded with healthy bacteria and is optimal for smooth digestion.

To make a fermented nut cheese—either the one I’m about to share, or any variety—you begin with one cup of raw nuts or seeds. Soak them in filtered water for at least six hours (this will do for seeds, cashews, and pine nuts) and up to twelve (better for almonds, Brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pecans). If you’re soaking the nuts for more than six hours, stop once to drain, rinse, and replenish the nuts with fresh water.

The next step is simple: when the nuts have finished soaking, you place them into a food processor with 2 teaspoons unpasteurized miso and a few tablespoons of water. You can also add ½ teaspoon of probiotic powder; not necessary, but great for your belly. (You can simply break apart a few probiotic capsules, if you like, to get the powder.) Process the mix till it’s crumbly but still holds its shape: I aimed for my texture to resemble ricotta cheese.

Wash a mason jar with hot water and soap, and dry it thoroughly. Place the fermented nut cheese in the jar, making sure there’s enough room for the mix to expand a bit, which it will as it ferments. Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a nutmilk bag, and secure it, with a rubber band. Place the mix in a warm place—85-95 degrees is optimal—and leave it be for six hours or more. Twelve hours is an optimal fermentation time, but if you let it go much longer than that it may turn a bit sour.

For my raw, vegan “goat’s cheese,” I used a cup of macadamias, and I soaked them about thirteen hours (overnight and then some). I blended them with my miso, processed till smooth, and placed in a glass jar covered with a nut milk bag. The temperature in my apartment is wacky these days—it’s freezing one day here in NYC, stifling the next, so my heat is on and off—so in order to assure that the cheese would ferment properly, I placed the whole jar in my dehydrator overnight and set it at 90 degrees.

It emerged looking something like this:

The top of any fermented nut or seed cheese will be either a little yellow or a little gray. That’s OK – it’s a part of the fermentation process. If you’d like, you can scrape off this thin covering. Then, give it a taste; it ought to be tangy, soft, and a little salty. Yum!

The next part is fun: you season the nut cheese however you’d like. It’s easiest to do this by pulsing the mix in your food processor again, but it’s fine to do by hand, too. I recommend that you add some sea salt and lemon to any fermented cheese; even with the miso, it’ll most likely need it. In addition to giving it flavor, the salt and lemon combination will make it taste far more like actual cheese. I added ¼ tsp sea salt and a good dose of lemon to my mac cheese, but take note: you could add dill, oregano, sundried tomatoes, black pepper, or any combination of herbs and spices you’d like to make the cheese taste better and more authentic.

By the time I was done, I had a cup of tangy, salty “cheese” that was, honest to god, a dead ringer for goat’s cheese as I remember it. I was flabbergasted. And it looked pretty similar, too! Check it out:

Thrilled with my efforts, I brainstormed about my salad. I had roast beets on hand (I usually do) and salad greens. I also tend to keep a tub of traditional French vinaigrette in the fridge, which is what I wanted to dress this salad with; the recipe is below, but any lemony vinaigrette will do. The only remaining components were the candied walnuts I’d planned on. Keep in mind that, if you’re in a rush, you can definitely skip these, and use raw walnuts instead! They’ll simply add a nice touch to the salad.

It’s very easy to make a raw spin on candied nuts: you coat them with agave/raw honey, a touch of oil, salt, and cinnamon. Typically, you should dehydrate the coated nuts for at least 12-24 hours, but it’s also possible to take a little shortcut, as I did. With not a lot of time on my hands (a few hours), I did a quick spin on candied walnuts: I mixed a teaspoon of agave nectar with ½ tsp coconut oil and a dash of cinnamon. Into this I mixed 1 oz of walnuts, and stirred to coat. I popped them into the dehydrator for 6 hours, and they emerged still sticky, but delicious.

With these in hand, I was ready to make:

Vegan Roast Beet, Goat Cheese, and Spinach Salad with Candied Walnuts (serves 1)

For the salad:

3 cups baby spinach (or a spinach + mesclun mix)
1 medium or large roasted beet, chopped
3 tbsp raw, fermented vegan “goat cheese”
1 oz (or so) candied OR raw walnut pieces

For the dressing:

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot (I don’t add this, but it’s very traditional)
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Black pepper
1/4 cup Good olive oil

Whisk all ingredients till smooth and emulsified.

Assembling the salad is a cinch: simply toss the salad ingredients together, and whisk in enough vinaigrette to coat lightly. The resulting salad is as close to a beet and goat cheese salad as any vegan dish could be; I’d even wager that an amateur cheese fan might be fooled.

Or maybe not. Most cheese fans I know (hi bun!) tend to have discerning palates. So if you are a cheese lover, and you have to have the real deal, here are my tips

•    Try goat’s cheese, which has little or no lactose, if you’re prone to bloating or touchy digestion
•     If you like the taste of hard cheese, you might try raw cheddar style goat cheese, which is increasingly available in health stores
•    If you’re going to eat regular, bovine cheeses, opt for a local, organic variety if you can.

But really, you should give this mac cheese a try. It’s a very pleasant surprise!

With that, the work week begins. Nighty!

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Categories: Salads
Ingredients: Beets
Dietary Preferences: Gluten Free, Raw

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  1. Hi, I’m wondering what you would suggest as a replacement for the miso as I don’t eat soy.

  2. I made this cheese recipe to the t and i don’t think it taste like goat cheese at all. Sorry but it was ok but goat cheese its not. I added the salt and lemon but it didn t have the same saltiness that goat cheese has. And i really wanted to like it.

  3. It’s really a great and useful piece of information. I am glad that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Hi Gena,

    I have lost 55 pounds on a mostly vegan diet and your site along with a few others are inspiring me to go raw! Thank you for all of the great recipes and this is one I definitely want to try, ASAP. I have been doing the Daiya cheese thing too and I just keep feeling like it is so “processed” that is just can’t be that good for me. I will send you a link when I try this one! Thank you!


  5. I made some of this tonight and it came out tasting a little… off. I think there might have been some drops of water on the inside of my jar… could that have made it go bad? I don’t want to throw it out if it’s okay but am not sure exactly what it should taste like. Any advice would be appreciated, thank you!

  6. I’ve been making my own goat’s milk kefir and now I’m ready to try this vegan cheese. Thank you!

  7. Okay! My soaked nut mixture is currently in fermentation mode! I can’t wait. I have a couple of questions for you – do you know how long this keeps? My husband leaves tomorrow for 3 days and I so want to share it with him! Also, can I put the fermented nut cheese in the fridge if I’m not ready to whip it into goat cheese right away?
    Thanks so much! I love love love the looks of this.

    • I’d say it lasts at least a week, but use your judgment. And yes, you can put in the fridge!

      • Awesome! Thanks Gena. I’m excited, I’m going to whip it up today and try it! It was much easier to prepare than I thought it would be. Thanks for opening me up to something so new.

  8. i just made this cheese, but with cashews. holy cow! this is life changing. i didn’t expect it to turn out so well. it’s amazing. even my cheese eating boyfriend loved it. i added in lots of fresh basil and oregano. tasted just like the boursin cheese spread i used to eat as a kid. thank you. thank you. thank you.

    • Hi Katerina,
      I was wondering if you remember how much lemon juice you used.

  9. I’m really interested in trying nut cheeses but there are differing views on these all over the web (of course raw foodies have differing views on health of soy products) the foremost concern of mine being soaking or not soaking the macadamias. you say to soak 6+ hours, other sites say don’t soak at all because it nastifies them. do macs sprout when soaked. argh, maybe i just need to go for trial and error and jump right in. I love your writing style btw πŸ™‚

  10. This is one of my all-time favorite salads, too! And I love the idea of making my own fermented cheese. One question: I’m always nervous with this type of thing that I’ll leave it out fermenting too long and it will “spoil” and I’ll get sick. Is this possible with this recipe? (I know we’re talking “good bacteria,” but still unsure). Thanks! πŸ™‚

  11. My first comment, though I’ve been digging your blog for months now:)

    I just made this — my first nut cheese, yay! It turned out pretty well, though I think I maybe should have let if ferment a bit longer. I can’t wait for delicious salads the next few days. Thanks for the idea!

  12. So now I have to buy a dehydrator. My huz is going to kill me πŸ˜‰ Sounds amazing and fun to make. I kind of enjoy making things with a long process time. I picked up some raw goat’s milk cheddar from the farmer’s market a few weeks ago…amazing! I definitely eat a lot less cheese, but have never seemed to have problems digesting dairy, so I haven’t taken it out completely. I only buy organic, rennet-free, and try to only buy it from the market. I also don’t think I could give up organic farm fresh eggs. I swear they seem to help keep my digestion a little more stable while I’m stuffing myself with all of these veggies!! Fun post..thanks for your creativity! =)

  13. Hi Gena! Just wanted to say that I was just introduced to your blog by a friend and I really LOVE it!!!! You have such a great philosophy that I totally agree with and your recipes look yummy. I’ll have to try the vegan beet and goat cheese salad. It looks great and not too difficult to make!

  14. This looks incredible Gena!! This I’m going to have to try, and I was hesitant about trying fermentation because I didn’t know what warm spot I have……….thanks for the tip on the dehydrator. It’s perfect!

  15. You go girl!! Love it. I did not really get to learn about fermented cheese when I was at school, and something that Lori and I had not the time to try. But you sure make it look easy!! YUM! Love beets and goat cheese, classic!

  16. Oh, I used to looooooove a good goat cheese too back in the day! I have yet to try my hand at fermenting cheese. Your recipe/technique sounds like a winner. I suppose the time is ripe.

  17. Yum, Gina! Looks excellent. My attempt at nut cheese was, well, moldy. I do love a good, organic raw cheddar, though

  18. That looks good but, then again, everything you make looks good. I will make my own nut cheese one of these days.

  19. Oh girl, I think I love you. Goat cheese is one food that without fail I taste and think, I could never be vegan, if only for the goat cheese. In fact, my favorite way to enjoy it lately is on pizza with pesto and marinara. Hot damn. But reading this recipe, I feel like whether or not it would fool a goat cheese lover, it’s got to taste really, really good regardless, so count me in.

  20. Interesting! I wonder if this would work with hemp seeds – they have a soft texture and are pretty oil-rich, like the macadamias you used for this recipe.

    I love the idea of fermenting foods for probiotics… oatgurt, kraut… but I am a bit wary about “bag bugs” forming (based on prior fermentation failures and living in oh-so-humid Florida!) However, I am curious. If I were to attempt this I would definitely proceed with caution… (i.e. washing and scalding all materials with hot water).

    Do you have any extra tips for this leery lady, m’dear?

  21. wow gena, this looks incredible! this was always one of my favorite goat cheese dishes when i ate dairy. even though i’m a little intimidated, i am definitely going to try this.

  22. Wow I love this recipe already! Thank you for sharing. I have yet to try making a nut cheese so this sounds really amazing..and easy! I love roasted beets and walnuts too…oh so good!

  23. That is my favorite salad! I lot of the time I sub blue cheese for goat cheese. My husband doesn’t care for either so I get to enjoy it all to myself. I’ll definitely try out your dressing on my next one.

  24. Gena, this is brilliant. I want to try making some. A few of us have been having negative reactions to processed vegan cheeses and this would be a fantastic alternative. πŸ™‚

  25. This is totally brilliant. I will be trying it soon. Currently, I am loving your pizza cheese. I am making more tonight in fact! And I tried your zucchini dressing and OMG – I loved it and even my husband loved it (and while I eat mostly vegan with only the occasional piece of fish, he eats meat and/or cheese every day). Thank you for all the wonderful recipes you develop πŸ™‚

  26. Awesome Gena, I need to try this for my sister who absolutely swears she could never give up cheese. Thanks!

  27. this is amazing gena! i miss cheese–goat’s my favorite too. this is a must try!

  28. I love the combo of beets and goat cheese. Did you know that beets and beet juice increases V02 max in a manner only comparable with blood doping? It’s amazing for athletes!

  29. Wow– I am majorly impressed with that cheese!! Rock on, girl! πŸ™‚

  30. This salad looks incredible! I really want to try fermenting now, thanks so much for this!!


  31. oh. gena. oh.
    I really don’t have words for how happy this post made me. I must try this.

  32. I have to admit, Gena…I’m kind of a cheese snob. Really, really stuck-up about my cheese. So I’m gonna have to pass this…but not that I wouldn’t try it! I would love to try it…but not as a substitute for cheese. Just as a tasty, raw, vegan food! πŸ™‚

  33. i’ve been wanting to try fermented nut cheeze for a while now, but all the recipes out there seem so difficult!!!

    this one my friend is the least intimidating.

    question: what if you don’t have a nut milk bag?

    thank you gena!!!

    p.s. goat cheese was my absolute favourite.

  34. What a fantastic spin on goat cheese! Roasted beet, goat cheese, and walnuts is one of my favorite salads too πŸ™‚

  35. I adore this post. Thank you so much for the patient, step-by-step guide to something that seems very complicated but is really quite simple!

  36. Gena, I’m immensely impressed with the fact that you made your own goat cheese but I don’t know if I will ever have the guts to do so myself! I’m hoping I do since that looks phenomenal… I love the combination of beets and walnuts πŸ™‚

  37. Ok girl, you amaze me all the time, but that ‘cheese’ looks and sounds incredible!

  38. This all looks amazing, and your instructions are so well done. I wasn’t much for cheese either … but I sure could get into this kind!

  39. I used to LOVE cheese, like seriously loved cheese could not live without it, and would dream about cheese! Random fact – I read in a dream book today that if you dream about cheese that is BAD. Interesting. But anyway, I could not imagine my life without the wonderful salty goodness. Crazy to think I haven’t had cheese in well over a year! There is hope for all of you cheese lovers out there, I promise. πŸ™‚ I love fermented nut cheese! I haven’t had it in a while but it definitely does satisfy the cravings for the softer cheeses if you have them. Thanks Gena!

  40. thank you for posting this! yes nut cheeses are quite simple to make and no one needs to eat goat cheese when they can whip this up.

  41. Gena you are a superstar! Wow girl..you’re a genius! I have to say..and I am actually blogging about this in a pre-written post for tomorrow…that everyone has jumped on the Daiya wagon and although great I’m sure, I havent b/c I don’t miss cheese! I think I am the only person who’s given up cheese and doesn’t miss it…I actually buy regular cheese for Scott and Skylar and I cut it up for them and don’t have any desire to have it.

    Now, if you wanna serve that raw cheeze of yours with some mary’s cracker’s or some fabulous raw crackers and a bottle of wine or a flight of champagne, you could twist my arm πŸ™‚

    I have uber fond memories of wine and goat cheese in Napa with Scott. A lifetime ago πŸ™‚

  42. hi gena! what are your thoughts on whether to look for a goat dairy products that are organic or not? i can’t seem to find organic and don’t know how to weigh the pros/cons of organic cow’s milk products (i try stay away from non-organic cow’s milk products for sure) vs. non-organic goat’s milk products…? thanks!

  43. I am very intimidated by fermenting, which is odd because I used to love feta, blue, Roquefort and all the stinky cheeses. I might have to give this a go…you make me believe the impossible is possible!

  44. Thank you for this recipe!! I was never a die-hard-fan of cheese, so it wasn’t too difficult to give up…except I LOVED goat cheese. That was honestly the only thing I missed tasting. I am definitely giving this a try πŸ˜€

    Oh, and I think reiterating that the jars/tools should all be clean is important. I’ve made homemade yogurt before and when it was done fermenting…it was pink and smelled awful. That would be…”bad” bacteria πŸ˜‰

  45. I agree with Jenny that goat cheese seems to be one of the easier cheeses to digest but cheese in general has a knack of making my skin break out so I try to avoid it.

  46. sweet jesus i will need to try this as soon as i have some time on my hands. i tried goat cheese for the first time late 2009 and found it surprisingly easier to digest, but this is even better, even though i was never a big cheese person. thank you gena!