Lifestyle

Making almond milk is easy, and vegan cheese is a low-effort bonus

Vegan Almond Cheese

Active time:20 mins

Total time:20 mins, plus 8 hours soaking time

Servings:8 servings (makes about 1 cup)

Active time:20 mins

Total time:20 mins, plus 8 hours soaking time

Servings:8 servings (makes about 1 cup)

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Making plant milk from scratch may seem like a hassle, but consider the alternatives: Store-bought brands often leave you deciding between an affordable option that’s made with emulsifiers and thickeners, or one made with whole ingredients that’s prohibitively expensive.

When I stopped buying cow’s milk, I was spending about $5 per liter on natural cashew milk from my grocery store in Rio de Janeiro. That’s the equivalent of almost $20 a gallon. As I leaned more toward a plant-based diet and used the milk in oatmeal, smoothies, soups and stews, the cost added up fast.

To save money, I started testing the nut and seed milk recipes in Amy Chaplin’s “Whole Food Cooking Every Day.” Chaplin soaks most nuts and seeds in water for six to 12 hours (macadamia nuts, cashews and hempseeds don’t require soaking). Then she rinses them, blends them with filtered water and strains the milk using a thin kitchen towel, a cheesecloth or a nut-milk bag.

It takes less than five minutes, and the variations are endless: I’ve made hazelnut milk, sesame seed milk, even pumpkin seed milk. I buy the nuts and seeds in bulk and store them in my freezer for even more savings. The milks keep fresh for four or five days, and the flavors are cleaner and fresher than anything I’ve gotten in stores.

I’ve settled into a routine of making batches of almond milk and cashew milk every week. I don’t bother with straining the cashew milk, which is naturally smooth. If I use the almond milk for smoothies, oatmeal or chia seed pudding, I leave it unstrained, too. But when I want a smooth almond milk, it needs to be strained, and that leaves me with leftover ground almonds. To cut back on food waste, I tried using them in granola, muffins and cakes. Those recipes all required far too much work and far too many dishes.

I was already making almond milk from scratch. I wanted something simpler.

I found an ideal solution when I enrolled in chef Tati Lund’s online class on vegan cooking. Lund runs Org Bistro, a vegan restaurant in Rio de Janeiro serving bright platters of quinoa croquettes and fresh salads adorned with edible flowers. She taught me how to turn my leftover almond pulp into a soft vegan cheese in a matter of minutes.

It’s an endlessly customizable recipe: Her version combines the pulp with olive oil, salt, black pepper, dried oregano and miso paste or lime juice. The cheese can be served immediately, though the flavor deepens and the texture firms up after about eight hours in the fridge.

My go-to version uses apple cider vinegar, garlic powder and smoked paprika. The pulp can be gussied up with finely shredded beets for a bright pink result, turmeric for a vibrant yellow one or finely minced herbs for one speckled with green. It makes for an unfussy snack when paired with crackers, sliced cucumbers or slivered carrots. I use it dolloped over a toasted slab of sourdough or as a spread in veggie sandwiches.

The best part: To make it, no extra dishes are required.

Equipment: You must have a high-powered blender to make this.

MAKE AHEAD: Almonds must be soaked for at least 8 hours in advance. The cheese tastes best after being refrigerated for at least 8 hours.

Refrigerate the cheese for up to 7 days. Refrigerate the almond milk for up to 5 days.

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  • 1 cup (5 ounces) raw almonds, soaked for 8 hours or up to overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups filtered room-temperature water
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 11/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more as needed
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried herbs, such as oregano, basil or rosemary
  • Toast, crackers, rice cakes or sliced vegetables, such as cucumbers and carrots, for serving

Place a nut milk bag, cheesecloth or very thin kitchen towel over a large fine-mesh strainer. Place the lined strainer over a large bowl.

In a high-powered blender, combine the soaked almonds and water. Blend on high speed until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Pour the milk into the lined strainer. Gather the corners of the fabric, lift and firmly squeeze the milk into the bowl. Pour the almond milk into a jar or bottle, using a spoon to scoop up any leftover foam to add to the jar or bottle, cover and refrigerate until needed. Use in drinks, oatmeal, cereal, sauces and more. The milk will separate after a few hours; shake before serving.

Rinse and dry the bowl. Add the almond pulp (you should have about 1 1/3 cup), oil, nutritional yeast, if using, vinegar, paprika, garlic powder and salt. Stir until the paprika is evenly distributed and the cheese can easily be formed into a ball, adding more olive oil if the cheese feels dry. Taste and season with more salt, if needed.

Place the almond cheese on a piece of parchment paper and use your hands to flatten it into a thick disk or roll it into a log. Sprinkle the dried oregano on top, then press it onto the surface. The almond cheese can be served immediately but tastes best after being refrigerated for 8 hours.

Serve as a spread with toast, crackers, rice cakes or sliced vegetables.

Per serving of almond spread (2 tablespoons)

Calories: 131; Total Fat: 12 g; Saturated Fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 149 mg; Carbohydrates: 5 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 2 g; Protein: 3 g

A nutritional analysis of the almond milk is not available because of the soaking and straining.

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from a recipe by Tati Lund, chef of Org Bistro in Rio de Janeiro.

Tested by Jess Eng; email questions to [email protected].

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