Easy oil-free vegan mozzarella–melts, grates & slices! Made with 5 ingredients (plus water), it is made without nutritional yeast and no carrageenan.
Benefits of Oil-Free Vegan Mozzarella that Melts, Grates & Slices
- Vegan (no eggs, no dairy)
- No nutritional yeast
- No carrageenan
- No miso
- Easy to make
- Made with 5 ingredients
The exact amounts of each ingredient are indicated in the recipe card at the end of the post.
The list of ingredients for this versatile cheese is brief:
- Raw cashews (see my tip for less expensive cashews)
- Agar agar powder
- Tapioca flour (it can also be labeled tapioca starch)
- Light-colored vinegar (or green olive brine, or lemon juice)
- Salt (this can be adjusted according to your dietary needs and/or preferences)
You will also need regular water (I use filtered tap water).
My favorite acidic add-in for this cheese is brine from a jar of green olives. It adds a perfect, subtle cheese-y tang to the cheese. But I get it, not everyone keeps jars of green olives on hand (always!) the way I do ????). So use any light colored vinegar (e.g., apple cider vinegar), or lemon juice instead.
What is Agar Agar?
Agar agar (sometimes called agar, singular) is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin. It is derived from red algae (a form of seaweed) and has been used in a wide range of dishes in Asia, both for thickening and gelling, for centuries. If you have not used it before now, it is a remarkable ingredient.
Agar agar is available in powder or flake form and is used in much the same way as gelatin: dissolve/hydrate in water, heat to thicken, and then set until firm.
I prefer to use powdered agar agar. I find that it dissolves more easily and is more reliable. If you use agar agar flakes, you will need to use an equivalent weight, not volume.
Tip: Use Raw Cashew Pieces to Save Money
To save money on cashews, for this or any recipe that calls for raw cashews, I always opt for raw cashew pieces (as opposed to whole cashews). These are broken and irregular cashews that are not pretty enough for packages of whole cashews.
Cashew pieces cost a lot less than whole cashews, especially when purchased in bulk. It is an easy way to save!
Step by Step Instructions
Note that the complete directions are also in the recipe card below.
Step One: Quick-Soak the Cashews
Place the cashews in a medium bowl. Add enough boiling water to cover the cashews by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Soak for 20 minutes.
- If you prefer, you can soak the cashews overnight: Use cold or room temperature water. Let soak for a minimum of 6 hours or up to 24 hours.
After soaking, drain the cashews through a colander or mesh strainer. Discard the soaking water.
Step Two: Select a Dish for Setting the Cheese
While the cashews soak, choose a dish for setting your cheese. Once you get started making the cheese, the process moves quickly (the agar agar will begin to set almost immediately after cooking). You will need to work relatively quickly to pour it into the dish and smooth it out.
Choose a shallow dish made out of glass or ceramic. I use a 5×5-inch (12.5×12.5 cm) glass storage container. Your choice of dish can be almost any shape, so use what you have (e.g., a pie pan, small loaf pan, etc.).
Step Three: Combine Tapioca Flour with Some Water
In a measuring cup or a small bowl, combine the tapioca flour and 1/3 cup (75 mL) water (not hot water) until blended and smooth. Set aside.
Step Four: Blend the Cheese Ingredients
Place the drained cashews in a blender. Add 1 cup water, the agar agar powder, vinegar and salt. Cover and blend until completely smooth, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the container.
Step Five: Bring the Cashew Mixture to a Low Boil
Pour the cashew mixture into a medium saucepan.
Turn on the heat to medium. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture comes to a low boil. Continue to stir for about 2 to 3 minutes longer. The mixture will begin to thicken, so keep stirring (a silicone spatula is the best tool for the job).
Note that the cashew mixture needs to come to a low boil in order to activate the agar agar. The cheese will not set firm if the mixture is not brought to a low boil.
Step Six: Add the Tapioca Mixture
Stir the tapioca mixture into the cashew mixture in the saucepan until completely blended.
Cook and stir over medium heat for one minute longer until even thicker. It should hold together when you lift a blob of it onto the end of the spatula.
Step Six: Spread Mozzarella Mixture into Prepared Pan
Scrape and spread the vegan cashew mozzarella mixture into the prepared pan or dish, smoothing the top.
Place a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper directly on the surface of the cheese to prevent it from drying out.
Step Seven: Chill the Mozzarella
Refrigerate the mozzarella for at least 4 hours, or until very firm to the touch. Agar agar sets much more quickly than traditional gelatin.
Step Eight: Unmold and Cut the Mozzarella
Run a dull knife around the edges of the dish. Invert the set cheese onto a cutting board. You made cheese!
Slice the Cheese
Slice the cheese and enjoy solo, as part of a cheese platter, in or on sandwiches, or perhaps as part of a caprese salad.
Grate the Cheese
Yes, you can grate the cheese! It works best to grate it using the large holes of a grater. Use the grated vegan mozzarella as you would for any grated mozzarella cheese (e.g., on pizza, in quesadillas, or on pasta or casseroles).
Melt the Easy Oil-Free Vegan Mozzarella
You will love the melt-y, stretchy texture of the cheese in all of your favorite dishes! I never grow tired of this snack: a quesadilla made from one of my 2-ingredient coconut flour tortillas, filled with this cheese.
FAQ & Tips
What is the Taste & Texture this Cheese?
This cheese has a firm, smooth consistency that looks and tastes like dairy mozzarella!
Cashews have a mild umami flavor (a good match for making mild mozzarella). The small amount of acid (vinegar, brine or lemon juice) adds the slightest cheese-y tang. I have left out strong flavorings, such as nutritional yeast and miso. I find they are too strong for a mild, mozzarella-style cheese.
What Can I Use in Place of Agar Agar?
For this particular recipe, agar agar cannot be substituted for any other ingredient. It is what makes the cheese solid so that it can be sliced and grated.
If you want to use the cheese as a mozzarella dip, or solely for melting purposes, you can leave out the agar agar. The cheese will be soft-set and can be spooned on top of pizzas, casseroles, or into tortillas for quesadillas. It will still be melt-y and stretchy when heated.
How Should I Store the Oil-free Vegan Mozzarella?
Store the cheese in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days.
Can I Freeze the Vegan Mozzarella?
Yes. Cut the mozzarella into slices (or grate it, or cut into smaller blocks) and place in an airtight container in the freezer. Defrost the cheese in the refrigerator. Gently blot the cheese with paper towels, if needed, once defrosted.
Can I Add Flavorings Directly to the Vegan Mozzarella?
Yes! Consider adding small amounts of chopped fresh, or dried, herbs to the blended cashew mixture.
Can I Use Agar Agar Flakes in Place of Agar Agar Powder?
I do not recommend it (I have had inconsistent results with agar flakes, including gel blobs). For optimum results, use agar agar powder, which dissolves almost instantly (flakes take several minutes to dissolve). Agar agar powder can be found in health food stores or ordered online from any number of online vendors.
If you (nevertheless) want to try this recipe with flakes, use 1 tablespoon flakes for every 1 teaspoon of powder.
What Can I Use in Place of Tapioca Flour?
Tapioca flour is what gives the mozzarella its stretchy melty texture when heated. Other starches–such as cornstarch, potato starch or arrowroot–will not create this texture. Hence I recommend sticking with tapioca flour.
Can I Use Cassava Flour in Place of Tapioca Flour?
No. Both are products from the yucca plant, but they work differently in recipes.