Vegan Ricotta Cheese tastes even better than “the real thing!” Use it on sandwiches, in lasagna, with pasta, and on pizza! It's great with crackers as a snack, too! Made with cashews, it comes together quickly. This easy dairy-free cheese recipe is vegan and gluten-free.
It wasn't until I was in my 20s that I first tried ricotta cheese. We ate a lot of lasagna when I was growing up, but it was always made with just mozzarella. I had no idea that it's traditional to spread the fluffy cheese between the layers of noodles and sauce. I can't really recall the first time I tried it, but I know I thought it was weird, and I'm pretty sure I thought someone had put cottage cheese in my pasta. It was only shortly before going vegan that I really began to enjoy it.
What is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese, which is made with the whey that's leftover from processing other cheeses. It's made by coagulating the proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese. Ricotta is commonly used in dishes such as lasagna, baked ziti, and calzones. It can also be used in sweet dishes, like cheesecakes and cannolis.
Vegan Ricotta Cheese
As I mentioned, I only started enjoying ricotta shortly before I went vegan. Actually, it was around the same time that I began to enjoy feta, too. My adventurous cheese-loving days were short lived.
That is until I discovered making vegan cheese with nuts. Suddenly, I became one of those people who hoard ingredients. I'd find myself scouring the internet, looking for the best deals on bulk cashews. Bowls of nuts were constantly soaking in water filled the fridge, and my Blendtec was constantly whirring away on the counter. How did the world not know about this sooner?
How to Make Vegan Ricotta Cheese
It couldn't be easier to make vegan ricotta! You just throw all of the ingredients together in a food processor, and process smooth but chunky. It'll look like traditional ricotta cheese when it's ready. It may take 5 to 10 minutes, depending on your food processor, and you may need to stop occasionally to scrape down the sides of the processor bowl.
If you don’t like cashews, you can use other nuts such as almonds or macadamias in this recipe. Since they’re harder than cashews, they will need to soak for at least 8 hours, and they need a little more time in the food processor.
When you're buying cashes, look for the raw type. They are soft with a mild flavor. Roasted cashews aren’t as soft, so they won't blend as easily. And they will give your ricotta a roasted, almost burnt flavor.
Raw cashews aren’t technically raw. Cashews have to be processsed with heat in order to be removed from their shells, which are toxic. They’re usually steamed or boiled in the process. They are consired “raw” because they haven’t been roasted.
Be sure to soak them in water for about 2 hours before you’re planning on making your ricotta. Soaking them softens them, and makes them easier to blend. Since them well after soaking them.
In vegan circles, nutritional yeast is common as "nooch." It's a deactivated yeast that has a nutty, cheesy taste. Nooch contains protein, vitamins, and minerals, and is a good source of vitamin B12.
When I post recipes that call of nutritional yeast, I frequently have people ask if they can make the dish without it. Nutritional yeast will add a slightly cheesy flavor to this ricotta, and it won't taste quite right without it, so I do not recommend skipping it.
Mellow White Miso
Miso paste is usually made from fermented soybeans, but I have seen chickpea miso, too. It comes in several varieties. Typically, the darker it is, the stronger and saltier the flavor. Two of the most common types are red miso and mellow white miso. I like using the mellow white kind for recipes like this, because it doesn't overpower the dish.
Miso is another ingredient that readers ask if they can skip. While you probably could skip it in this recipe, I recommend that you do use it. It will add the subtle tangy fermented flavor that ricotta is known for.
How to Use Your Vegan Ricotta Cheese
I like to use vegan ricotta in lasagnas and pasta dishes, but it's also great on pizza. Inspired by a menu item from Peacefood in New York City, I also like to slather in on sandwiches along with spinach pesto. You can also serve it as an appetizer or snack with crackers or cut veggies. It’s so good that I sometimes have to stop myself from eating it straight out of the food processor with a spoon!
What's your favorite way to serve ricotta?
Vegan Cashew Ricotta
- 2 cups raw cashews soaked for at least two hours, drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 teaspoon mellow white miso
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Place all of the ingredients in a food processer fitted with an s-blade and process until it looks fluffy and “ricotta-like”. It could take 5 to 10 minutes, and you may need to stop the food processer and scrape down the sides with a spatula a few times.
- Store in the fridge until ready to use. Vegan Ricotta will last for about a week in the refrigerator.
Use your Vegan Ricotta Cheese with:
Other vegan cheeses you might enjoy include:
- Cashew Cheese Sauce
- Herbed Vegan Cheese Spread
- Vegan Walnut Parmesan
- Smoked Almond Cheddar
- Vegan Tofu Feta