Mozzarella is a great intro to dairy-free cheese. This mild cheese can be flavored or left plain, shaped into balls like traditional Italian mozzarella or molded into a wheel or block for American-style shreds and slices.
Mozzarella Caprese [Vegan]
- 1 cup raw macadamia nuts (soaked for 8 to 12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes and drained) or the Substitution of your choice
- 1 cup water or unsweetened dairy-free yogurt of your choice
- 2 tablespoons tapioca starch or the Substitution
- 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil or avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast or the Substitution of your choice
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon mild miso paste (preferably chickpea-based)
- 1/2 teaspoon lactic acid or 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 clove garlic or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon agar powder
- 1/2 cup water, for agar mixture (omit if using quick-set agar powder)
- Ice bath: 2 cups cool water, plus 1 cup ice
- Olive oil, for oiling ladle if using
For Sun-Dried Tomato Mozzarella:
- In step 6, add to the pan:
- 1 tablespoon diced sun-dried tomatoes, not in oil
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- Shape the finished cheese in a heat-resistant wheel-shaped form, not in a water bath.
For Smoked Mozzarella:
- Omit the fine sea salt.
- In step 1, add to the blender:
- 1 teaspoon smoked salt, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon natural liquid smoke, or to taste
- Combine the macadamia nuts, 1 cup water, tapioca starch, coconut oil, yeast, salt, miso paste, lactic acid, and garlic in a strong blender or food processor to make mozzarella “milk.”
- Blend on low and gradually increase to top speed until the mixture is completely smooth. Depending on your machine, this could take 1 minute to 6 minutes. (Stop every minute or so to scrape down the side of the container as needed.)
- If you are using quick-set agar powder, add it to the blender without any additional water and blend until smooth, then skip to step 6. Otherwise, place the agar powder in a medium-size pot or pan. Use a fork to whisk the 1/2 cup water into the agar. Let the mixture sit for 1 minute. The agar may thicken a little.
- Vigorously stir the mixture over medium heat for 5 minutes. The powder will dissolve completely, and the mixture should bubble, boil, and froth a little. When it thickens to look like dense and slightly glossy applesauce, it’s ready.
- Quickly and very carefully scrape the agar mixture into the full blender before it solidifies. Use caution! Hot agar is painful and difficult to remove if it drips on your skin. Blend the mixture until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute.
- Pour the cheese mixture into a clean pot or pan. Stir it frequently over medium heat as the mixture simmers and starts to change from thin to lumpy.
- Stir the mixture continuously in order to eliminate lumps and create a smooth texture. It will thicken dramatically as it heats. Stir and fold the mixture for 5 to 7 minutes to fully activate the agar powder and cook the tapioca.
- Lower the heat if you feel any sticking in the pan or if the blend “spits” too much. Turn off the heat when the mozzarella is shiny and coats the spoon thickly—you may even see stretchy strings.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups water with 1 cup ice to make the ice bath for shaping the mozzarella mixture into balls. (See sidebar, opposite page, if you’d like to shape the mozzarella into a wheel or a block.)
- Use a spring-loaded scoop or a small, lightly oiled ladle (not with coconut oil) to gently spoon balls of hot mozzarella mixture into the cold water. Don’t worry if the first one is funny looking!
- Add a few more ice cubes if the water is no longer cold. Allow the mozzarella balls to float for 5 to 10 minutes. They are ready to be removed when they are uniformly firm.
- Gently blot the balls on paper towels before serving. They’re ready to be sliced into a Caprese salad or panini!
- Store this mozzarella in a dry, covered container in the refrigerator. It will remain most firm in the first 2 days but is good for about 1 week.
Notable substitutions. For the Macadamia nuts (choose one): 1/2 cup blanched almond flour, no skins (not almond meal)1 cup raw or roasted cashews (soaked for 8 to 12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes, drained)1 cup raw sunflower seeds (soaked for 8 to 12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes, drained)Not as dense and rich, but still very tasty:1 cup cooked, drained white beans (cannellini, navy, or Great Northern)1 cup cauliflower or zucchini, cooked until soft and drained well, plus 1 additional tablespoon tapioca starch For the Tapioca starch: 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder For the Nutritional Yeast (choose one): 1 teaspoon tahini paste, 1 teaspoon coconut aminos, 1 teaspoon additional mild miso paste (preferably chickpea-based), ½ teaspoon onion powder