Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez


Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez An Unrefined Vegan

A mere few weeks ago I was all hot for coconut butters.  Now I’m onto nut cheez.  The original recipe for this came from The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions and called for roasted red peppers and jalapenos.  I made a batch nearly straight-up (reduced the olive oil) true to the recipe and was just blown away by the flavor.  (When it’s still hot, it smells uncannily like diary cheese.)  It’s by far the best-tasting nut cheez I’ve ever made.  I’ve got a thing or two against commercial vegan cheezes but still felt like I was missing out, so this recipe is a great addition to my list of vegan staple items.  Slap a slice or two of this stuff between some red chile tortillas, grill – and you will be a very happy camper indeed.

The second time I made it, I thought pesto would be an ideal “add-in” instead of the jalapenos and red peppers.  It makes for a beautiful little loaf of healthy, reduced fat vegan cheez.  Totally worthy atop homemade crackers or melted between crunchy-soft bread.  Making cheez at home is not a cheap option – a 1 oz. bag of agar flakes is about $6.99 and cashews are pricey as well, but a little of this cheez goes a long way and last time I looked, my homemade stuff didn’t have any ingredients I couldn’t pronounce (or tons of oil, either).

Note: I prefer agar agar flakes to the powder because the powder more often than not fails to solidify properly. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, you can find agar agar flakes online here or at natural food stores. Best way to purchase nutritional yeast is in the bulk section of natural food stores. This goes for cashews, too. Be sure to get raw cashew pieces and save yourself some $$. I buy 5-pound bags online at Amazon; the price is a bit less per pound than at stores and I get free shipping with my Prime Membership.

Cheez Sandwich An Unrefined Vegan

Vegan Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez
Serves 8
Kick your dairy cheese habit to the curb with the satisfying (and sliceable!) plant-based cheese that's easy to whip up in your own kitchen. Play around with the add-ins to create your own "cheese house" speciality!
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467 calories
15 g
0 g
44 g
8 g
7 g
171 g
456 g
2 g
0 g
36 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
Amount Per Serving
Calories 467
Calories from Fat 383
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 44g
Saturated Fat 7g
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 6g
Monounsaturated Fat 30g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 456mg
Total Carbohydrates 15g
Dietary Fiber 3g
Sugars 2g
Protein 8g
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
  1. 1-ounce agar flakes or powder
  2. 3 cups water
  3. 2 cups raw cashews, ground into a fine powder
  4. 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  5. 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  6. 1/4-1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
  7. 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  8. 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  9. 1/2 tsp. onion flakes or powder
  10. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  11. ~1 cup quick, oil-free pesto (recipe follows)
Quick Oil-free Pesto
  1. 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  2. 2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  3. dash ground black pepper
Make the pesto
  1. In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic and pepper until finely chopped. Remove from processor and set aside.
Make the cheez
  1. Clean and dry the bowl of the food processor and grind the cashews. Either lightly oil a 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan or use medium-sized ramekins to get round cheezes. One loaf pan is perfect for this recipe, but if you go smaller, you will need more than one pan or dish.
  2. In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring the 3 cups of water and agar flakes to a boil and keep the mixture at a nice, rolling boil for 5 minutes, whisking often. Meanwhile, add the remaining cheez ingredients - but not the pesto or the water/agar - to the food processor. Process until everything is combined and you have a thick paste. When the agar mixture has boiled for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the cashew mixture. It will start off rather chunky, but will melt into the agar. Once it's all whisked and smooth, quickly dump in the pesto and stir only one or two times. You don't want to fully incorporate the pesto - you're looking for streaks and lumps.
  3. Quickly pour the cheez into the prepared pan(s) or dish(es). Pop into the 'frige and allow to firm up. Once the cheez is firm, you can remove it from the pan(s) by running a knife around the edges.
  1. Serve sliced or use in quesadillas or grilled sandwiches.
an unrefined vegan

Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez An Unrefined Vegan



134 thoughts on “Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez

  1. iatelunch

    Looks so good! I showed my co-worker, Bryce, this post. He’s requested that I make him some over the weekend and bring it in for lunch. Can’t wait to give it a go.

  2. evervescence

    Wow this looks amazing, looks just like a block of herbed feta cheese, but I love that it is non-dairy and soy-free and most of all you made it yourself. I cannot wait to try this!

  3. Kinenchen

    You read my mind! Now that Brent and I have been slogging though all the commercially available vegan cheeses… we need to start making our own. Thanks for this recipe!

    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      It would be really interesting now that you’ve sampled all the commercial products to see how a homemade version compares. And NO DOUBT you two will come up with a delicious twist!

      1. Kinenchen

        I suspect home-made will win the contest, even after we calculate cost. Thanks for the vote of confidence. We aim to please. πŸ˜‰

  4. toxicvegan

    It looks AMAZING. Wowsers. I’m a little scared by cheese in general and terrified of vegan cheese in particular but I used to love a cashew cream cheese that a raw vegan restaurant in town used to make. I am going to have to try this. I know it won’t look anything like your professional version though!!! xx

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    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      I like that! Now whenever I grab my bottle of Liquid Smoke I’ll think of you and Harry Potter. Let’s see…it can usually be found where the BBQ sauces, vinegars, etc., are and it’s a distillation of…smoke. Kind of crazy, but it works!

  6. Somer

    It’s even more beautiful than I imagined! The round version is so lovely that it’s killing me! I think I need to make both versions! How well do they keep? AND THAT SANDWICH…. seriously girl! I made your “real” orange julius again this morning. Dan approved πŸ˜‰ We had shots of wheat grass first. His first and he drank it straight (and kept a straight face). Success!

    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      I was a big grilled cheese sandwich junkie in my day! I had it BAD! So I’m loving this stuff. I have no idea how long it will last…but probably a couple of weeks?? I think we’ll eat through it long before that. I’m so glad the orange julius passed the test, hehe! And the wheatgrass!! Awesome! I actually enjoy drinking it now.

      1. Somer

        We would make grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade tomato soup at least once a week. Good times πŸ˜‰

        Really trying to up my vitamin C so I may make another julius for lunch. So good!

        100 or so pages into Born to Run. It’s a bit sad now that Caballo Blanco is dead πŸ™ also I’ve got a way different perspective than the last time I read it.

  7. Shira

    Incredible! This looks absolutely wonderful! A nice treat to wow folks and get that cheez fix in! Amazing, just amazing!

  8. Brittany

    This looks unreal!! SO amazing. The only thing I miss about being a vegetarian is cheese…and froyo, but that’s a different category all together! This cheez looks incredible.

  9. Kristy

    Annie, I love you. i love you, I love you, I love you! This is seriously one of the best cashew cheese recipes I have ever seen. I’m envisioning cheese plates re-entering my life. I love it! I think you forgot a step in the instructions, though- the one where I lick the food processor bowl clean. πŸ˜‰

  10. Gabby @ the veggie nook

    I totally agree with you on the commercial vegan cheeses- some of them I love but I have a little something against them too. Hence, I don’t buy them too often. I tend to put them on everything when I have them which is just not the most healthful thing. But this looks so healthy and delicious! Isn’t that cookbook great? It’s so good for ideas and your take on the cheese is fabulous!

  11. Lou Dwan

    Yummo! Yay, you’ve reminded me how GOOD vegan “cheeze” is – I haven’t made any in a while, must stock up my cashews. Love the idea of the pesto through it, herbs are amazing!

  12. Sophie33

    I am also experimenting with making my own vegan cheeze!!! I am not yet there! But your tasty creation surely is! I must try this tasty looking cashew cheeze instantly! Just georgous & beautiful! πŸ™‚ Yum Yum Yum!

  13. Richgail Enriquez

    This is genius. I never thought agar could be used to make cheeze, very interesting. I’m excited to give this a try.

  14. MÑrcia Gonçalves

    I thought of doing a cashew cheese but I didn’t know how and usually the instructions were a bit confusing… But your cheese is just perfect ! And it seems so easy to make … What an amazing recipe !

  15. Dudette

    Crazy, it totally looks like cheese on the picture – though I assume it tastes nothing like cheese, it HAS TO taste way better than store-bought vegan cheeses.

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  19. Moonrivers

    I’ve got to ask: How much is one ounce of agar in teaspoons? I’ve got a tiny jar of agar powder that I haven’t used in a long time and have never known how much of it to add to anything since the last time I used it in a recipe it turned into something like a superball. πŸ™‚

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  23. MoonRivers

    Hi. I just made this cheese and it’s great but boy it sure makes alot. Do you think it could be frozen? How did you store it once you made it? Any suggestions? I can’t believe how wonderful it is! Thanks so much for the recipe.

  24. Hillary

    This looks amazing. I have a question, is the nutritional yeast absolutely necessary? I have used it in a few sauces, and I’m sorry to admit but I hate the taste! Will this be horrid if I omit it?

    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Hi Hillary! Truth is, I don’t love nutritional yeast. However…it does add flavor and a bit of color to the cheez, but doesn’t come across overly powerful. If you forgo the NY, you might add something smoky like chipotle peppers (processed until smooth) or a touch of Liquid Smoke. Thanks for the comment!

      1. RubyShooZ


        I got my husband to make this a couple of times now and it was delicious. The first time he followed the directions I believe. The second time he made it he split it in two and made some with chipote peppers and another one with olives. We used a tad of liquid smoke too.

        Now I’m wondering how a touch of sriracha would taste in it. Oh, and for the record, it does freeze well.

        Thank you thank you and thank you again. πŸ™‚

      2. An Unrefined Vegan

        Amazing – I just recommended to someone that they add chipotles or Liquid Smoke to the cheez in place of the nutritional yeast. Great minds ;-).

        I love making this cheez and one could really create endless varieties. Thanks for letting me know you like it and for telling me it freezes! Excellent!

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  28. Sherry (btlover2)

    Hi! Absolutely love the idea of this cheese! I do have a question though. I have pesto that I made sitting in my freezer (it contains oil). Do you think the oil will change the consistency of this recipe? I can certainly make another batch without it, but for convenience, I’d just assume use it in this recipe. What do you think?

    Also, love your blog! Thanks for amazing recipes!

    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Hi Sherry! Thanks for visiting and commenting (and for the compliments ;-)!) I think the pesto you have on hand would work just fine! Better to clear out that freezer! If you try it, do let me know how it turns out for you.

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  30. ireneia

    HELLO, you have the most amazing website here, excellent job!! Thanks very much for your creative efforts!
    I would like to know if I could use agar powder instead of flakes or must it be flakes? I so then how much?
    thanks very much!

    1. An Unrefined Vegan

      Thanks! I appreciate that! I use flakes and here’s why: every time I’ve tried to use powder, the cheese has failed. It tastes fine, but doesn’t firm up correctly and I get kind of a spread instead of something I can slice. So – – I’ve stuck w/ the flakes. Maybe it’s the brand I’m using, but it’s very frustrating!

      1. ireneia

        Thanks for your prompt and clear reply, I understand, I was just hoping since its cheaper, where is the cheapest price, have you sourced it yet?

      2. An Unrefined Vegan

        It’s like gold, isn’t it?! I haven’t done a lot of comparison shopping on it, though I keep meaning to. I usually buy the small packets at Whole Foods (about $8 for 1 oz.!). I checked Amazon thinking I’d find a good deal, but the price per ounce came in a little higher.

  31. ireneia

    ok thanks! I will look at an asian market since they are usually cheaper there as its a common product for them..

    1. Ireneia

      Hello again sorry for the bother once again on the same subject. Your recipes calls for either or on the flakes verses powder?

  32. ireneia

    Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez –
    Hello again sorry for the bother once again on the same subject. Your recipes calls for either or on the flakes verses powder?

    1. RubyShooZ

      I like to use the flakes and at one point I asked someone else and they said they use the flakes too. Have fun with this recipe and have a beautiful day. πŸ™‚

  33. Baimochs

    I just made this “cheez” last night and it is to die for!!! I just noticed your post above regarding the flakes vs powder. I used the powder, as that is all I could find. The cheez worked out perfectly and is totally sliceable! πŸ™‚ On another note, this recipe made a LOT of cheez. How long will it keep before it goes bad? And do you think I could freeze some of it?? Wondering if will have the same taste/texture, etc? Thanks again for sharing this recipe!!

  34. Baimochs

    Sorry….. I just found your previous reply that it can be frozen! I’m going to vacuum seal it for extra freshness! I am still curious to know how long it will keep for! Thanks!!

  35. celestedimilla

    Cheese was the hardest thing for me to give up when I went vegan. I craved it for the first few months after going plant-based. I don’t care for the vegan cheese substitutes, but I’ve never attempted to make a dairy-free cheese. I don’t really crave cheese like I used to, but I wouldn’t mind having a tasty dairy-free cheese on occasion. I just might try this Annie. From your photos, it looks wonderful. Celeste πŸ™‚

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  39. Lindsey

    I made this over the weekend for a vegan potluck I hosted yesterday, and I can’t believe how great it turned out! I didn’t think I’d get anything close to how pretty yours looks, but it did! I used a muffin tin and got about 4 1/2 mini rounds of cheese. It does make a lot, so next time I’ll definitely half the recipe, since I’m the only person in the household.

    Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to make different varieties!

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  41. Leslie

    Oh my! This is fabulous. I made a 1/2 batch with 3 cubes of frozen pesto, and it filled 4 custard cups. I used Agar Agar strands, cut into a manageable size, weighed, and put them in my NutriBullet to grind into flakes. Worked great (I really don’t think grinding is necessary, as it all melts). I bought my Agar Agar strands at an Asian market, 1.5 oz for $1.59. Can’t wait to experiment with uses and other flavor combos as it makes so much.

  42. Cristina

    This looks amazing and so simple!! I need to try this recipe ASAP. My only concern is with the liquid smoke, is it safe? Could I leave it out of the recipe? Thanks for posting!!!

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Hi Cristina! So glad you found me :-). It’s a very simple recipe and versatile – you can add in almost anything. If you’re not comfortable with using Liquid Smoke, use some smoked paprika instead.

      1. Rhonna

        Hi there, I know it’s been a while since the last comment, however I had a question for you about “aging”. I’ve been making a cashew goat cheese and almond feta for the past year and the recipe has them sit for a few days while the probiotics develop a “sharpness” to the flavor… Have you aged with this at all with this recipe? Or in general?

        Glad for another cheese recipe to work into my routine… And a way to use the agar I bought for one recipe a while back… That’s just taking up space now. πŸ™‚

      2. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

        Hi Rhonna – I have made “aged” cheese using Miyoko Schinner’s recipes. Some have been successful, some not so much :-P. I have NOT tried aging this type of cheese, but I’ll bet letting the cashews develop a bit of tang over a few days would add nicely to the flavor. If you try it – let me know!

  43. Rachel

    Hi! Just made this cheese and I love it! (As does my non-vegan husband and our non-vegan brunch guest!) I was wondering if you’ve ever tried to freeze it? It seems like a pretty big batch and I worry it’ll go bad before I finish it. Thanks!

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      I have tried it, Rachel – with mixed results. Some batches thawed with no changes in the texture, but others when thawed were a little bit softer than when originally made. That doesn’t help much, does it :-)?

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  46. Ocean

    I’ve used this cheese recipe several times. The last time I switched it up and made four different versions of it using things I had in my house. This is such a good recipe, even without the pesto. It’s so fun because you can add other things to it. I added baked peach to one and it was amazing. I’m fifteen and recently started getting into cooking. It’s funny because only a few months ago the idea of me making cheese, honestly, had never even crossed my mind. Now I’m making crazy cheeses and it’s so much fun. I’ve tried several cheese recipes but this one is my favourite by far.
    Thanks πŸ™‚

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      YAY!! What a wonderful comment to read this morning – thank you so much. I love that you have taken this recipe and “run” with it. I predict a very bright cooking future for you :-)! Baked peach sounds in-cred-ible!!

  47. Bee

    hey there! stumbled across the recipe and absolutely feeling the call to make it, but have a few questions before I can actually go ahead!! what is the measurement of the agar flakes in teaspoons or tablespoons (I just have the kind in a jar that I can’t measure by ounce!)? would Brazil nuts be a decent substitute for the cashews as I can’t do cashews? and lastly – is there anything I can use in place of liquid smoke (know it’s not the same flavour component but would coconut aminos work?) as I can’t get ahold of it easily here! thanks so much and looking forward to hearing back!! πŸ™‚

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Hi! Glad you found me :-). I believe one ounce is about 6 Tbsp., which sounds like a lot, but agar (as you know) is very light. As far as substituting nuts, I have no idea if Brazil nuts will work – but – my guess is that almost any nut would work as long as it’s very smoothly processed. And you can try using smoked paprika in place of Liquid Smoke OR yes, I also find that liquid aminos also have a nice, smoky flavor.

  48. Michelle Cooper

    Hello, I purchased a bag of agar agar flakes (says 1 ounce on the package) Do I use the whole bag for this recipe?

  49. thaliaeverdina

    Wonderful recipe! I just made this and it made for a super grilled cheese sandwich that I’ve been longing for, for awhile. I halved the recipe and used agar powder instead of flakes. It is quite firm. Is that how yours turned out or is it meant to be a bit softer?

  50. cotton kitsune

    Buy agar agar in sticks or strands at the local Asian market if you can. Then whir it in the food processor to get flakes. You can use it in stick form but, it takes longer to melt down. I just bought 1.5oz of strands for under $3(Ta Lin Market, NM). You may be able to order from an online asian market for less too.

    I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thanks

  51. Amber

    Can this cheese be frozen and used later? I made it and it is delicious! But it made more than I thought and I don’t want it to go bad.

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Hi Amber, I’ve never tried it with this recipe, though I have frozen other types of plant-based cheeses. I found that when thawed the consistency had changed to something softer and more liquid-y. No change in flavor – just the texture.

  52. de

    Hi there never made cheese in my life but will attempt to make this one looks delicious . What sort of size tin do you put it in to set and then do you keep in fridge? Also what is nutritional yeast and how much weight is a cup? We do by ml if liquid weight in UK or kilos by dried. I don’t know what cups is do you mean teacup? Thank you lovely recipes . Can’t wait to try it .

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Hi there! So nice that you found my recipe/site. I hope I can satisfactorily answer your questions! Nutritional yeast is yeast that has been “deactivated” using heat so that it is no longer “alive.” It can no longer act like yeast that you would use to make bread. It has a kind of cheesy, nutty flavor which is why you’ll often see it in vegan recipes. It’s dark yellow, comes in flake form and is dry. Health food stores are your best bet in locating it though it’s also available on One cup of DRY ingredients is equal to about 128 grams or 4.5 ounces. When I say “cup/cups,” that’s the U.S. measurement. For the liquid measurements, 1 cup liquid is equal to about 250 ml. I use a bread/loaf pan (the kind that you’d bake a pound cake in, say, or banana bread) – but you could use small ramekins and make several smaller rounds of cheez, too. And yes, it must be kept in the refrigerator. Let me know if you have any other questions!

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