Raw, Vegan Walnut “Cheddar Cheese”
March 10, 2011

raw vegan walnut cheddar

I’m back!

Sorry for the day off, guys, but I’m glad you all had plenty of interesting conversation surrounding my post on the reality of healthy habits. I write from the other side of an insanely difficult stoichiometry midterm (Katie, I know you love it, but if I have to convert from grams to moles one more time, or make ratios out of coefficients, I swear…), and in spite of my anxiety over the grade, it feels good to be done. Right now, I’m getting ready for a week in D.C., followed by a long weekend in the deep South, and  in spite of the fact that NYC is rainy and cold, I refuse to pack anything heavier than a spring jacket!

A few days ago, I caught wind of an ongoing Twitter convo between Matt and one of his readers. Inspired by my zesty orange cashew cheese, they were debating whether or not nut cheese can be made from walnuts. Another reader chimed in, who suspected walnuts might be too soft; I said I wasn’t sure, but that I’m always up for a challenge. That very afternoon, in my class break, I came home to attempt a raw cheese using walnuts as my base. And I’m happy to report that they were anything but too soft; they were a perfect base for the recipe, which is now one of my favorites I’ve tried.

Now, a few days ago, my reader Hoshigaki remarked that the title of “cashew cheese” makes her uncomfortable; she’s vegan, and the language turns her off. Hoshigaki, you’ll have to forgive me here, because the title of this recipe is not only suggestive of real cheese, but also a particular variety of real cheese: cheddar. It’s tangy, tart, and salty, and I hope it evokes the flavor of cheddar enough to please those who are trying to ditch the dairy, and experiment with a vegan interpretation.

I’m more than sympathetic to any discomfort that comes from using the language of animal foods to describe my own cooking: I don’t feel positively about animal foods, naturally, so it feels like a shame to label my own recipes as imitative. Even so, these titles can help omnivores to understand the purpose of foods I’ve made. For example, calling cashew cheese “cashew butter with zesty orange” or “cashew pate” doesn’t quite evoke the uses I have in mind for it, which are all reminiscent of what an omnivore would do with cheese. And even though I and many of my readers see no appeal in comparing my recipe to “cheese” itself, I do think that presenting some of my recipes as substitutions for familiar, omnivorous foods might help newcomers to plant-based diets as they transition. And that’s a win-win.

In any case, with respectful apologies to my language-sensitive vegan friends reading, I present you with my walnut cheddar cheese. Whether you want to imitate cheddar spread, or you simply want to experience a new, vegan spread that’s bursting with flavor, I recommend it!

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Raw, Vegan Walnut “Cheddar Cheese” (almost raw, vegan, gluten free)

(Makes 1 1/3 cup)

1 cup walnuts
1 tbsp miso (optional; omit if you’re sensitive to soy)
3 tbsp tomato paste (I like Muir Glen Organic)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2-1 cup water

1) Place all ingredients save the salt/pepper and water in a food processor.

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Pulse till broken down and roughly ground.

2) With motor running, add water in a thin stream, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl. Stop when the “cheese” has reached a thick, spreadable, and smooth consistency. The amount of water you need may vary, which is why I say 1/2 to 1 cup; use as much as you need.

3) Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with crackers, as a sandwich spread, or, if you need more ideas, check out my top 10 uses for cashew cheese!

I’ve been enjoying mine as a dip for fresh veggies—a great midday snack…

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…and I recently copied my original zesty orange cashew cheese and apple wrap idea, and served the cheddar with thinly sliced, organic granny smith apples in romaine leaves. A perfect raw, vegan lunch item.

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As you can see, these were served with quite simply the best soup I’ve made in ages. But for that recipe, dearest readers, you’ll have to wait till tomorrow!


Categories: Small Plates, Raw

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  1. Thanks for posting. I just made a quick nut cheese with super random ingredients! Yay 🙂
    I used sun dried tomatoes instead of tomato paste and dijon mustard instead of miso.
    Turned out well!

  2. This was good with 2 tbsp adobo instead of the miso, tomato paste, and nutritional yeast. I had a lime instead of a lemon, delicious!

  3. a few things that could be changed up in this recipe….To make it raw, leave out the Muir Glen tomato paste….that is not a raw product. neither is the nutritional yeast. It also has all synthetic vitamins added to it to fortify it. unless you can get the Alive Foods brand nutritional yeast…..nothing added to it. and i would soak the walnuts before making this. just some feedback for a change up.

  4. Tried this because I was out of my usual cashew cheese…and out of cashews and I had all the ingredients for this one…Nope! Way too much tomato paste; it doesn’t taste nutty nor cheesy (even with all the nutritional yeast and the miso). 3 tbsp of tomato paste is way too much…that’s all you can taste! I’l try it again with one tbsp …adding a little as I go . I tried adding more miso and more nuts….but it still didn’t taste right! ;0(

  5. Since I’m trying to cut out soy do I need to replace the miso with anything? Will this effect the texture? Thanks.

    • Hi Megan,

      The texture will be the same, but the miso adds saltiness, so I’d simply try to add extra salt to the recipe (use your judgment). Enjoy!


  6. How long does this keep for (if you don’t eat it all at once!)? Does it need to be kept refrigerated?

  7. This cheese is absolutely delicious. I added a dash of tumeric and cayenne to give it a little more bite. Otherwise I followed the recipe exactly and it was absolutely divine! A perfect solution to get me through my cheese cravings. 🙂

  8. I have a couple of questions for you- BTW this looks divine!! Can’t wait to make it!! But I was wondering, did you soak the walnuts at all? Or just throw them in “as is” and what type of miso did you use/ does it even matter? I am so excited for this!! And I will confess- I am not a raw foodie- so I will be making this as a base for a potato “cheddar” ale soup that I am making for my daughter and her new Bo- whom she asked me to serve something “normal” and not glaringly vegan! I think this will “fit the bill” perfectly!! Yes, bread will be made and served too. Sorry. 🙂 but I truly thank you!!

  9. This is the first nut cheese I have attempted and it was amazing! I put it on romaine leaves with cucumber, green peppers, and sunflower seeds. It was the best lunch ever! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel that is leaving behind real dairy. Thank you so much for such an easy cheese that tastes amazing!

  10. I’ve been reading your blog for about 3 months now and have tried a couple of your salad recipes… I tried making this walnut cheese today and it REALLY blew me away! It’s so good my fiance (who sees nothing wrong with his standard american diet) thought it some kind of real cheese! I consider that a huge success! Thanks for all the great recipes, advice, and stories.

  11. Oh my. This is my new favourite CR recipe (warning: may change with yr next update).

    I tried this again using almonds and found it was even cheddar-ier.

    You’re a genius! 😀

  12. I am dabbling in raw and vegan food, and this was the first nut “cheese” I had made. It was wonderful! I polished it off this afternoon with several sticks of celery and carrots, and it has brightened up several slices of toast with avocado. Thank you Gena!

  13. I made this, and I have to admit I wasn’t crazy about it because I felt it had too much of a tomato flavor (I used “red skin” walnuts that were gorgeous. Not sure if they perhaps added a different flavor). However, I’m not here to bash your recipe on personal taste, that’d be rude. I mixed it in with smashed chick peas and thinly sliced lemons and mustard and it made THE BEST chickpea salad EVER. It’s so perfect on a sandwich and now my new favorite chickpea salad version. I will definitely be making this again just to use with chickpeas. Thanks!

    • I felt the same way, I wanted to like this so much but it was too acidic or twangy or something for me. I had to blend in macadamia nuts and cashews to mellow it out.

      • I agree. I really wanted to love this, but it’s not for me. Doesn’t look or taste like cheese. The recipe name is misleading and should be called walnut dip instead. Disappointed. ..

  14. I can’t WAIT to try this one, I love walnuts and love nut ‘cheeses’ alike. I’ve been doing a roasted veggie mixed with cream cheese mixture although I’m still working on weeding out all dairy (very close!!!) and think this might combine well.

    Eating whole and raw is so good for the body but I must say, I’m trying to follow CSD pretty closely with only liquid before lunch (and lots of green juice) and between the detox from that, and a horrific and stressful week last week (including rodents, death, the IRS, tsunami and zero communications with my deployed husband) a veritable facial acre of cystic acne has popped up on the whole left side of my face. Children are pointing and saying things. Please tell me it will pass! Ha!

    Also, it’s understandable how the terminology can offend some, but on the flip side it’s commendable that you’re creating recipes, and monikers that can speak to those of us that find the changeover less than easy.

  15. I just made this – thanks for the recipe! Though not Raw, I’m guessing this would be a fantastic filling for lasagna, or mixed with past as a delicious sauce. Thanks again!

  16. Scanning the comments I deduce that I’m one of the few who thinks “nut cheese” sounds gross and slightly dirty!
    Nut cheese! Blarg!
    My concern with the language was more out of sort of squimishness of cheesiness (specially in spread form) at this point in my “v”-iew (vegan + view = still view) than anything else. I also remember cheese spreads as being wholly unappetizing even at my most omnivorous.

    My concern was not so much about an aversion to the language and practice of mock-meat and faux-shizzle although I’m fervently averse to the fake stuff too. I understand it as a conversion tactic (conversion tactic also sounds gross and culty!) but it’s still a little annoying. Like when I was in Brooklyn visiting friends and when I told peeps I was a vegan they said I just HAD to go to Foodswings (a greasy greasy vegan mock meat faux shizzle extravaganza)…I went to Bliss Cafe natch! But, I get it…

    What I mean by today’s comment is: I’m not like, vociferously against calling what you made “walnut cheddar cheese”. I shared my squimishness more as an aside. I really don’t care what anything’s called as long as it’s not made of the real thang yo!

    Although mayonaise- vegan or otherwise WILL ALWAYS be disgusting to me.

    • Thanks Hoshigaki! Didn’t mean to butcher your intentions there — as a non-cheese lover, to say nothing of my veganism, I totally get that aversion.

  17. I’m cool with the cheese-labelling, simply because it warns me in advance not to bother with a recipe. I’ve never been able to get over my repulsion for cheesy-tasting items (irrespective of whether they’re vegan!), so if you just called this a nut spread or something similar, I probably would have been disappointed with the result. Though I do confess to quite liking silly little veganisms like “cheeze”, “chilli non carne” and “not dogs”. Something about them makes me smile. 🙂

  18. Hi Gena,

    This looks so good. Actually, I just bought the new Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Vegan Daily Companion. I’ve only had a chance to thumb through it very quickly, but one daily article that caught my attention was one on making sure we don’t make up names for things like milk, but keep calling non dairy milks -milks. I didn’t read it, but I was gathering that it was because we the general public (non-vegans) to become comfortable and familiar with nut milks as a viable milk. By doing this, nut milks will be thought of as normal and mainstream and more people will start to buy them and purchase less animal milk.

    I understand people thinking of milk and cheese in animal forms, but I agree with this and think it’s time we start calling vegan alternatives by milk and cheese so that we can educate and familiarize non-vegans and vegetarians into using more plant based alternatives. I have no problem with the word cheddar cheese. For me, it evokes a flavor that I enjoyed as an omni and welcome a chance to experience vegan versions of a flavor I enjoyed. Bring on the cheeses 🙂

  19. Hi Gena! I love your blog! I was wondering if maybe for one post, you could show us every meal/ snack you eat for one day. I think this would really help all the readers see how some of the yummy meals that you post come together and balance out. Although everyone is different, it may be useful to new vegans, just to see an example of a full day of vegan eats!
    thanks so much!

  20. I tend to lean towards “faux-” and “un-” when choosing names for dishes: “faux fish sauce”, “uncheese”, “unmayonnaise”, “unpotato”, that sort of thing. I figure it gives an indication of what the experience is meant to be reminiscent of without, hopefully, being unappealing to people who dislike the regular terms.

    I’m less fond of creative misspellings like “cheeze”, and “mylk” is a term which just puts my pedantic little teeth on edge.

  21. I’ve never really been a fan of the raw versions of cheeses.. and I really used to love cheese a lot! I do think nutritional yeast brings about a “cheesy” flavor.. but “nut cheese” never sat well with me.. I’m going to give it another shot though inspired by this post 🙂

  22. I just made this recipe and used 3/4 cup raw walnuts (because that’s all I had left) and 1/4 cup raw cashews- it is spectacular!!! I love your recipes Gena!


  23. Looks absolutely fabulous–can’t wait to try it! As for the labeling, I don’t bristle at all at the word “cheese” (or “milk” or “whipped cream,” etc.). I think of the word “cheese” as the generic descriptor of what the substance is and is used for, as you suggest, just as “chair” is the Platonic descriptor of a (usually) “four-legged seat that is suitable for one person.” You can have wooden chairs, wooly chairs, armchairs, bamboo chairs, etc etc. . . but they are all “chairs” just as cheese is all “cheese” in my mind. It’s the “walnut cheddar” part that can change to describe the particular cheese being presented. Whatever you call it, this “stuff” looks great!!

  24. This looks so, ridiculously good. I love all your cashew cheeses, Gena 🙂 Especially the lemon and dried cherry one last winter (it got me through a very “cheesy” trip to Vermont). I like using walnuts because they are so buttery and rich and lets not forget about the omega-3s! Good luck with all those pesky moles-


  25. Looks really good.
    I attended a fermentation lecture a few weeks ago and will be making a fermented cheddar cheez. Can’t wait to post about it.
    Peace and Raw Health,

  26. Ronn, I wonder instead of canned tomato paste (I try and not buy anything canned!), freeze dried tomatoes and reconstitute them and add to the mix. You might need to add some water to make up for the volume of the paste? I’m not sure, Gena, any idea?

  27. oh i think i have all of these things! except miso, boo. oh well. how do you feel about making this in 2 batches in a mini processor?

    • Ah, I don’t feel great! I have a possibly irrational hatred of mini processors–they’re great to chop garlic and onion with, but I’ve just found that they’re useless when it comes to nut pate and hummus and other stuff, unless you don’t mind sitting around and dividing up batches and scraping the bowl a LOT. I got so, so exasperated with mine! And beyond that, I really do think that food processors are the best and most worthwhile kitchen investment: at 140 or so, they will buy themselves back countless times. I’ve used the same one since I was 19, almost every day!

      That said, you should try it, as you’re not my only reader with a mini. 🙂

      • I will take one for the mini team 🙂 I’ve got a normal-person-sized one headed my way as soon as I move…counting down…

  28. Thanks you for this recipe, I have been wanting to make Cashew cheese ever since I tried it at Karyn’s on Green (in Chicago). It was topped over a risotto dish and I’ve been obsessed with it since.

  29. That looks great! By the way, do you always use a full-size food processor or sometimes the mini? I’ve been pretty frustrated with my mini because I feel like it doesn’t puree the cashew cheese finely enough, but I hate to break out the big one (though we do have a dishwasher so I really shouldn’t complain). Thanks!

    • Daphna,

      See the below! I really hate mini-processors — I find that you waste time simply in having to divide up batches and scrape the bowl, and the results are ALWAYS watery or chunky.


  30. I have no idea what stoichiometry is, but I can say that as a language-sensitive humanities student, that word makes me uncomfortable 😉

    (P.S. I absolutely mean this in a light-hearted way!!)

    As someone who loves the tanginess of strong cheeses, I’ll definitely be trying this soon. Just have to buy some tomato paste and walnuts!

  31. I love the idea of cheddar, but I am not such a walnut fan. I bet this would be good with pine nuts though. Oooh, and I have to go to the grocery store tonight. Hmmmm.

    You’ll learn to love stoichiometry. I know it. Come to the dark side…

    • Katie,

      Ya know, I really am kidding in part. I do love the proportions, the definite answers, the logic of it all. I just have a hard time getting from word problems to setting up equations; once I know how to do that, I love solving 🙂

      Pine nuts or cashews would be fine!


      • SO glad to see this, (not the chem part, I left that far behind when I switched from a chem major to an English major a long time ago!)I’m totally allergic to walnuts. They make my mouth itchy, but some pine, or cashew – YUM!

  32. Oh, this sounds delicious! The photos in this post are especially pretty. Can’t wait for the soup recipe!

  33. I was just curious about nutritional yeast. I have tried it several times and each time my body has a ‘lactose intolerant’ kind of reaction to it. Since I know you have struggled with digestive problems in the past, I just wondered if you had any ideas why nutritional yeast might bother me so much.

    • No idea, honestly! I love it and find it totally painless to digest. Sorry not to be more helpful–perhaps it’s just an individual thing.

  34. I made the cashew cheese two days ago and it is so good that I was rationing it so that I didn’t feel too much of a pig. Heehee, now I have an excuse to scoff it so that I can make the walnut version – I love walnuts so it sounds delish!!!

  35. This walnut cheese looks wonderful, and I want to make some! Only problem for me is, I don’t want to use the cooked canned tomato paste. PLEASE tell me there’s something raw I can use in its place!

    Thank you Gena!

  36. Gena, the cheeze looks wonderful and I love that you used tomato paste in it. I can almost taste the pop and zing that that would impart…perfect!

    I think that using softer nuts like walnuts and cashews (or hemp seeds) gives a great texture and pread-ability nut/seed-based cheezes and dips. I actually have better luck with those than say using almonds which are much firmer (Even when soaked). I just like the way cashews, walnuts, hemp seeds blend up. So I KNOW I would like this cheeze!

    And semantics and terms and labels…I go back and forth on this. Sometimes I think it’s fun to call things by a label like Thin Mint Fudge because it tastes *kind of* like thin mints. But no one in their right mind would ever think that my raw vegan fudge is exactly like a thin mint. It’s reminiscent, but not a dead ringer, b/c the texture is different even in the flavor is the same.

    But it’s still fun sometimes to get creative with labels and not take the labels too seriously. There’s a balance with everything 🙂

  37. This is my first time posting here although I have been reading your blog for a year now…(shy!)

    I have made many different varieties of raw vegan cheese and you can use just about any nut/seed to do it – they all have their own qualities – walnuts offer a rich and oily/creamy texture that’s great. I also really enjoy cheese made from soaked macadamias or brazil nuts – light, creamy, delicious! Often I don’t have enough of any one kind of nut in my house when I have a cheese craving, and end up combining things like pumpkin seed + almond, sunflower + brazil + walnut, etc.

    I do find that soaking your nuts before you use them helps the cheese to become more smooth and creamy (and gets rid of some of the enzyme inhibitors)…so if you have time I recommend doing that too!

    Your blog is great.

  38. Wow, that looks amazing. I’ve definitely made “cheese” out of cashews before, but never walnuts, and that spread really appeals! Perhaps I’ll attempt it this weekend. Have fun in DC!

  39. Although talk of animal products makes me uncomfortable as well, I do enjoy knowing that it may keep some from dropping the vegan bandwagon. Also, I am not going to lie that sometimes I miss the taste of cheez-its and goldfish! I still have yet to make a nut cheese, I have no idea why I have waited so long. Is it possible to make nut cheeses with almonds?

    • You definitely can. But I much prefer the softer, more mild nuts (cashews, pine nuts, walnuts) to almonds for nut cheese.

  40. Yum! I make a great walnut parmesan like topping, so I’ll bet this is really good. Earlier today, I was making tahini for my chipotle hummus and using toasted sesame seeds along with sea salt, garlic and nutritional yeast it made a delicious parmesan like topping too..

    I think it’s interesting.. the whole cheese debate. I’ve heard both sides.. and many omnis seem annoyed that our products are really not like cheese.. but I still call them cheese too.. because I use them to hit the same flavor notes as cheese and my recipes with them are satisfying in the same way cheese is!

  41. Two “cheese” recipes in one week (or so)? it’s too much!

    You’re right about labeling these recipes as “cheese” to help omnivores understand its intended use. Though I know from experience that the cheese label can sometimes lead to an expectation of taste. It has been a long time since I’ve had diary cheese so it’s hard for me to comment on taste, but I like to think these imitations, especially the raw, nut-based kinds, are enough like the real thing to spark someone’s interest.

    By the way, you are a tease with that soup. Happy spring break!

  42. Mmm! There is nothing more fun than cheese and apples. There is something so unique about that combination! As an omni, there is something sooo good about Vermont cheddar cheese with apples, and while this is not quite the same, I’m sure it tastes yummy! 😀

  43. ah, Gina – looks so tasty! so funny, I was just thinking of eating something ‘cheezy’ and this looks like it will fit the bill perfectly! can’t wait to get home tonight and make some 🙂

  44. Coming out of the nerd closet to say I LOVE stoichiometry. Seriously love it. Something about it fits just right with the way I think. Too bad I can make a living converting grams to moles….

    I also love walnuts, so thanks for a new use. I’m not the biggest cashew fan (heresy, I know, on this blog), so it’s nice to see a non-cashew based nut spread.

    • I should have known you’d be my partner in stoichiometry love! The numbers always work themselves out. It’s so neat and tidy and there’s always an answer. I love it.

  45. I think it’s great you took a day off; we all need ’em! Especially given your schedule! I don’t know how you do it….But you did it again because this sounds amazing. I am newly vegan and from Wisconsin. In other words, I sometimes miss cheese. So I will definitely be giving this a shot to get my cheddar fix!! Thanks!

  46. I tried to call my nut cheeses nut pates for a while and an omnivore friend told me I might as well call it a cheese, as far as he was concerned. There are so many varieties of cheese, from many different kinds of milk. He said he doesn’t have much expectation about it tasting a specific way, so long as I don’t add the name of a specific cheese (ie, cheddar). Then he’s disappointed. But if I say call my cashew (or walnut, I suppose) cheese sharp or mild or nutty or smoky, no problem. For him.

  47. I’ve tried cashew cheese and it just doesn’t cut it for me, but walnut cheese… mmm! I’m curious (and hungry). Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  48. Oh my! This sounds delicious!! Unlike the reader you mentioned, calling it cheese makes it more appetizing to me. I’m vegan and all, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss cheese. I gave it up for ethical reasons, and if anything, I think calling a nut or soy cheese “cheese” is our way to reclaim the word. “Cheese” doesn’t have to come from cows. Just like “milk” doesn’t to come from “cows.” Using those terms for non-animal products is a way to expand their meaning, and hopefully mainstream meaty culture will catch on. I even call my proteins “meat.” 🙂

    • I concur! I have decided to officially work to reclaim the words meat, cheese and milk. Thank you Bianca!!!

  49. I admire you for going “back to school” — I did the same thing myself this year, and it is wonderful and hard! Of course, it was to learn ancient Greek and Latin…ha. I find your discipline much more challenging – the humanities are my game.

    Anyway, the “cheese” looks divine. I’m still figuring out nooch, but recipes such as this help guide me! CR keeps urging me towards more vegan tendencies (we eat local meat maybe once every 3 months or so, I confess)…we gave up meat completely for Lent, but that isn’t really hard when you don’t eat much in the first place, so I’m trying to be mindful about animal products in general. Love that you give us so many creative resources to flirt with veganism!

  50. Yummy! I’m thinking this would be great on some raw tacos or mexi-pizza. Glad you were up for the challenge and passing the happy results to us. 🙂

  51. Do you have a preferred brand of nutritional yeast? I tried it years ago (don’t remember which brand) and liked it, but then never purchased it again until recently, when I bought some (Whole Foods brand) and it had a real fishy and rancid smell. I remember the first time that it didn’t smell particularly pleasant, but that it tasted fine once mixed into a recipe. But when I used the Whole Foods brand in a few different recipes, I could not get past the taste/odor. I don’t know if it was a bad can or a bad brand or what. I’d like to try incorporating nutritional yeast into my diet, but it’s an awfully expensive mistake to make if I buy another bad brand.

  52. That looks sooooooo good. I was planning to make Averie’s Spicy Doritos Dip tonight as I am hankering for some vegan cheezy goodness, but I may need to also make this dip since I have an open jar of tomato paste.

    When I was avoiding soy, I used South River Miso’s Chickpea miso, and then discovered their Azuki Bean miso as well. Totally soy-free. They are both great, and I alternate between using them and basic soy brown rice miso.Just wanted to mention it for any soy-sensitive readers who might like miso.

    ALso, all this talk of walnut is reminding me of another raw walnut pate recipe you shared back in 2009 with oregano and walnuts and parsley. I need to pull that one out. I have not made it since last summer.

    • Oh! I second the chickpea miso! Miso Master also has a chickpea miso that is delicious. And all of the chickpea miso’s I know about are barley free, making them gluten free as well.

      Totally have to check out the azuki bean miso! Thanks for the tip. So glad I read comments today 🙂

  53. I’m so making this tonight. Ever since you posted about the orange cashew cheese I’ve been on a nut cheese making bender. Send help.