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Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez [Vegan]

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It’s by far the best-tasting nut cheez I’ve ever made. I’ve got a thing or two against commercial vegan cheezes but still felt like I was missing out, so this recipe is a great addition to my list of vegan staple items. Slap a slice or two of this stuff between some red chile tortillas, grill – and you will be a very happy camper indeed.

Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez [Vegan]


For the cheese

  • 1 oz. agar flakes or powder
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups raw cashews, ground into a fine powder
  • 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. onion flakes or powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup quick, oil-free pesto (recipe follows)

For the quick oil-free pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • dash ground black pepper


For the cheese

  1. Clean and dry the bowl of the food processor and grind the cashews. Either lightly oil a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan or use medium-sized ramekins to get round cheezes.  One loaf pan is perfect for this recipe, but if you go smaller, you will need more than one pan or dish.
  2. In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring the 3 cups of water and agar flakes to a boil and keep the mixture at a nice, rolling boil for 5 minutes, whisking often.  Meanwhile, add the remaining cheez ingredients – but not the pesto or the water/agar – to the food processor.  Process until everything is combined and you have a thick paste.  When the agar mixture has boiled for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the cashew mixture.  It will start off rather chunky, but will melt into the agar.  Once it’s all whisked and smooth, quickly dump in the pesto and stir only one or two times.  You don’t want to fully incorporate the pesto – you’re looking for streaks and lumps.
  3. Quickly pour the cheez into the prepared pan(s) or dish(es).  Pop into the ‘frige and allow to firm up.  Once the cheez is firm, you can remove it from the pan(s) by running a knife around the edges.  Serve sliced, as is, or use in quesadillas or grilled sandwiches.

For the pesto

  1. In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic and pepper until finely chopped.  Remove from processor and set aside.






I was into my 30s before I began running and working out, but I was still missing something: diet.  The animal products I was consuming were undoing the benefits of all of that physical activity.  Today my body runs on a plant-based, low-fat, low sugar diet that keeps me healthy and strong. I’m sharing – via An Unrefined Vegan - what I've learned by offering simple, delicious and nutritious recipes that nurture body, soul and conscience.



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2 comments on “Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez [Vegan]”

Click to add comment
Josh Bennett
2 Years Ago

Anything you can use in place of nutritional yeast (that is still vegan)?

3 Years Ago

Black magic

J\'Marinde Shephard
3 Years Ago

Re: 2 cups raw cashews, ground into a fine powder.
I have some very finely ground cashew flour. Can I use that instead?

3 Years Ago

Thanks for the recipes. They look awesome. Can\'t wait to try them. What about freedom of choice? If you want to eat meat that\'s great. This is what life is about in my opinion. What about the people that are allergic to Dairy? Thank God for nut cheeses. Have a great day everyone. There is a lot worse things in this world then worrying about someone not liking dairy cheese. :)

3 Years Ago

How many teaspoons/tablespoons is one ounce of agar?

4 Years Ago

You can also list this as gluten-free by the way, depending on the brand of Liquid Smoke used in the recipe.

Jade Walker
4 Years Ago

Oh my gosh stop it! This is killing me reading this at work as I just want to race home and start making all of this incredible recipes. You are a vegan god.

Cláudia Santos
4 Years Ago

What is liquid smoke?

26 Jun 2015

Liquid smoke or also known as Hickory Smoke is a liquid found in the spice section of the grocery store. It gives things a smokey, kind of bacon flavor

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