This year, I made a vegan cheese ball for the holidays. When I transitioned to a plant-based diet, the hardest part for me was giving up cheese.
Even though I've been lactose intolerant my entire life, I loved cheese. Or, maybe I should admit I was addicted to cheese like most people. But, I still crave the creaminess of the cheese, so I make my own cheese, such as this vegan cheese ball recipe.
Back then, vegan cheese lacked taste and availability. In fact, I couldn't stomach any of the store-bought versions.
Today, of course, the variety of vegan cheeses available is astounding. Although many different kinds of vegan cream cheese, slices, and wedges are sold in every store, I still prefer to make my own cheese.
What is Agar-Agar? The key to making an oil-free vegan cheese ball
I recently discovered agar-agar, which you can buy (usually in either powder or flake form) in health food or Asian specialty food stores, is a thickening and gelling agent, and most use it to make a firm, Jell-O-like food.
Agar-agar is plant-based gelatin derived from seaweed. In flake, powder, bar, and strand form, agar-agar can be used in several vegan recipes as a stabilizing and thickening agent.
However, it is often promoted as a vegetarian substitute for regular gelatin made from animal products. Agar-agar is also gluten-free and nutritious.
Therefore, agar-agar works well in binding vegan cheese without using oil.
According to Dr. Ax, agar-agar has health benefits as well:
- Promotes Digestive Health
- Supports Satiety and Weight Loss
- Strengthens Bones
- Helps Prevent Anemia
- May Regulate Blood Sugar
- Effective Vegan Gelatin Substitute
Can't find agar-agar? Here are some possible substitutions:
Agar is available in health food stores, supermarkets that carry health food lines, Asian grocery stores, and online. Agar has no calories, no carbs, no sugar, no fat, and no fiber. Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to find, so here are some substitutions.
- Pectin powder: is a gelling agent that can stabilize a range of food products, including sauces and even vegan yogurt; however, its main use is jams and jellies.
- Carrageen: Carrageenan is an additive used to thicken, emulsify, and preserve foods and drinks. It’s a natural ingredient that comes from red seaweed (also called Irish moss).
What ingredients are in this easy vegan cheese ball recipe?
- Raw Cashews
- Nutritional yeast
- White or yellow miso paste
- Lemon, juiced & zested
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Agar-Agar powder (flakes will also work)
- Fresh Rosemary
- Dried cranberries
- Pecans or nuts of choice (optional)
Making a fabulous vegan cheese ball is easier than you may think.
First, it is always easier to blend raw cashews if they are soaked overnight. Speed up this process, boil the cashews for 10 minutes on the stovetop. As a result, the cashews soften enough to blend easily.
Also, I prefer my Mini Cuisinart Food Processor, or a small bowl on the regular food processor, when working with a small number of nuts for the vegan cheese ball.
- Combine the agar-agar in a separate bowl and microwave; stir, and it will thicken slightly. To
- In the small food processor bowl, combine drained cashews, garlic, nutritional yeast, white or yellow miso paste, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder. Blend until smooth.
- Add agar-agar mixture and blend again.
- Then, add chopped rosemary and pulse once to combine.
- Add the cheese mixture to the bowl's center in a small bowl lined with plastic wrap or cheesecloth.
- Tightly wrap the top of the plastic wrap or cheesecloth and return to the bowl, placing it in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours (or overnight is preferred)
- In the meantime, prepare the cranberry/nut mixture in a shallow bowl.
- Unwrap the vegan cheese ball and, using your hands, roll the cheese ball into the cranberry nut topping
- Press as you roll, so the nuts and cranberries stick to the outside of the vegan cheese ball.
- Next, place the vegan cheese ball on a plate and cover it, returning it to the refrigerator until ready for use.
- Serve with vegan crackers, fruit, vegetables, or Cranberry with Orange Sauce.
Try making a quick and easy vegan cheese ball if you really want to impress your vegan and non-vegan friends.
If you love fun vegan appetizers, try these recipes for your next party...
- Vegetable Egg Rolls
- Avocado Egg Rolls
- Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip
- Nacho Cheese Sauce
- Appetizers for the Holidays
- Beet Dip
- Buffalo Cauliflower
- Spicy Korean Baked Cauliflower
Hi! My name is Kathy, I am a retired high school English teacher & vegan enthusiast and blogger. My entire blog is fully plant-based vegan. I truly believe what we eat & how we live determines our health & the preservation of our planet! 🙂