Cheese Substitutes: Nutritional Yeast and Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce


To give you a sense of how much we love cheese in my family, I will tell you that my mother once toyed with breaking the law bucking the system to smuggle carry cheese in her suitcase on a return trip to Paris. When I asked her, “Do you feel like this cheese is really worth maybe getting arrested by customs?” she took a long time thinking about it. So did I. Because really, a good cheese might just be worth getting into a little hot water. Our people are French in heritage and we love our cheese. Cheese, however, does not always love me–one of many cruel food ironies.

As we start our marathon training in earnest this week, I am on the lookout for some replacements that will give me the satisfaction of cheese without the tummy trouble on my long run the next day. I am also exploring other plant-based sources of protein and nutrition during marathon training with the help of a great website, The No Meat Athlete. We have been reducing our meat consumption for several years now, so this is just one extra shift in our journey.

In general, I am not a big fan of cheese substitutes (and as I’ve detailed, I do love good cheese). Cheese substitutes often get the texture or flavor wrong and overall I’d rather NOT have cheese than to pretend I’m having cheese that tastes like salt or playdough. I have found some great ideas from other blogs that hold promise for me to enjoy some cheese-y flavor without any tummy trouble. If you are interested in trying something new or just shaving off some saturated fat from your diet, give these a try!

Nutritional Yeast

The first good cheese substitute is nutritional yeast. I know, sounds gross, but bear with me here. Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast super high in B12. It is also a complete protein. So, by itself, it is very good for you and it has the added benefit of the wonderful umami flavor of Parmesan cheese. Nutritional yeast comes in large flakes, so this is not something you would serve on crackers, but it is amazing in soups, stews, scrambled eggs/egg substitute or in a pasta dish. You can mix it with some olive oil to add to foods or just sprinkle it over foods like you might a dry cheese. Definitely, it’s worth a try. Not sure if you would like it? You can buy nutritional yeast flakes in the bulk bin of Whole Foods or other natural food stores and try just a little to see if you like it.

Vegan Cashew Cheese Sauce

Cashews are amazing little nuts that, when softened, can replace peanut butter and even cheese! I love reading the blog My Whole Food Life (check it out!). She has terrific ideas, recipes and now videos! I saw THIS video for a cashew cheese sauce and thought it would be great for nachos. It is easy to make, tasty and great for serving with corn chips, quesadillas or even drizzled over burritos. I’m not sure, but you could probably use this to make a vegan mac and cheese. I add a little more cumin and some red pepper flakes to the sauce because I like it spicy, but you could make this sauce yours in a million ways. Unlike conventional cheese sauce, this is healthy (have you read the ingredients in processed queso?) and without the heaviness  or tummy issues of milk-based cheese. Watch the video, starring her lovely daughter and her husband and see for yourself! If you like what you see, you can subscribe to her YouTube channel and get more quick videos!

Sole-ful musings

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