Over the last few years, there has been skyrocketing demand for vegan cheese. There are now dairy-free alternatives for most popular cheeses available in supermarkets and grocery stores all over the world, but there’s nothing quite like making your own. Many people may be unaware that it’s pretty simple to make vegan cheese yourself, and this macadamia vegan feta recipe will show you how to do just that.
Feta cheese, a staple in Greek cuisine, has gained global popularity for its tangy and salty flavor, as well as its crumbly texture. Originating from Greece, feta is traditionally made from sheep’s milk or a blend of sheep and goat’s milk. It’s popular in a range of dishes, including salads – particularly the classic Greek salad – and is also used in pies, sandwiches, and as a topping for pizzas and pastas.
For vegans, however, traditional feta cheese is off the menu, as it’s a product of animal use and exploitation. There are a number of plant-based versions available on the market that mimic its taste and sensory experience, or you can make your own at home. Vegan versions of feta are typically made from tofu or nuts, and are often seasoned with lemon juice, vinegar, and herbs to replicate the tangy taste of the original.
This particular recipe comes from new plant-based cookbook BReD, which was written by Ed and Natasha Tatton. It uses macadamia nuts for its base, which should be easy to find in your local grocery store.
What are macadamia nuts?
Macadamia nuts are smooth, buttery-flavored nuts that originate from the macadamia tree, native to Australia. They have gained worldwide popularity for their rich, creamy taste.
The nuts are used to create vegan feta cheese due to their unique characteristics that closely mimic the texture and richness of traditional feta. These nuts have a naturally creamy and buttery texture, which, when blended, provides a smooth and rich base ideal for replicating the crumbly yet creamy consistency of feta cheese.
Macadamias have a subtle, slightly sweet flavor that can easily be enhanced with additional ingredients like lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and herbs to mimic the tangy and salty taste of feta. Their high fat content, predominantly consisting of healthful monounsaturated fats, contributes to the luxurious mouthfeel and satisfying richness that is characteristic of dairy-based feta. Additionally, macadamias blend well into a spreadable form without becoming grainy, a crucial factor for achieving the desirable consistency of vegan feta.
This recipe will take four days in total, so make sure you set aside plenty of time. Here’s everything you need to know about how to make it.
Vegan macadamia feta recipe
- 150 g (1¼ cups) natural macadamia nuts
- 550 g (2¼ cups) filtered water
- Divided zest of 2 lemons
- 50 g (¼ cup) lemon juice
- 5 g garlic (2 cloves)
- 20 g (3½ tablespoons) nutritional yeast
- 2.5 g (½ teaspoon) fine sea salt
- 5 g (2 tbsp) agar-agar flakes or powder
- 1 kg (4¼ cups) filtered water
- 50 g (¼ cup) fine sea salt
Prepare the feta
- Place the macadamia nuts in a 1L (4-cup) glass jar or other container. Add 300g (1¼ cups) of the filtered water. Cover and let soak in the fridge overnight.
- 1½ inches (14 × 9 × 4cm) to set the feta in. Lightly spray or wipe the inside with extra-virgin olive oil, then line it with a sheet of plastic wrap, pressing into all the corners and stretching out as many creases as possible.
- Drain the nuts and transfer to a high-speed blender. Add the remaining 250g (1 cup) filtered water, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast, and salt. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds, then slowly increase to high speed, blending until the creamy mixture is smooth and beginning to heat, 2 to 3 minutes
- Add the agar-agar. Blend, starting on low speed and slowly increasing to high, for about 4 minutes to activate the setting properties of the agar-agar. The cream will be very hot. Pour the cream mixture into the prepared container and let cool for 15 minutes. Cover the container with the lid and place in the fridge to set overnight.
Meanwhile, prepare the brine
- In a medium saucepan, bring the 1kg (4¼ cups) filtered water to a boil, then add the salt. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Pour the cooled brine into a container large enough to fit the slab of feta, cover, and set aside in the fridge overnight.
Brine the feta
- The next morning, remove the feta from the fridge. Using the plastic wrap as handles, gently lift the set feta from the container and transfer it to the chilled brine container (ensuring that the feta is submerged in the brine). Cover and return to the fridge for at least 2 days and up to 5 days, depending how firm or salty you like your feta.
- Once the feta is brined to your liking, gently remove it from the brine (discarding the brine) and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.
Excerpted from BReD by Edward Tatton and Natasha Tatton. Copyright © 2023 Edward Tatton and Natasha Tatton. Photography by Janis Nicolay. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.