- 1 16-oz (396g) block firm tofu, drained (see note 2)
- ½ cup raw sunflower seeds (see note 3)
- Juice of 1 medium lemon
- ¼ cup unfortified nutritional yeast (see note 4)
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp onion powder
- 1 ½ tsp sea salt (to taste)
- 1.5 tsp agar POWDER, optional
- 2 tbsp tapioca starch or flour, optional
- ½ cup or more unsweetened non-dairy milk, optional
- NOTE: Like I mentioned above, there’s an extra step you can do to this recipe to make it firmer, but I’ll leave that for the end. Follow these instructions up until that point for your cheese ball, regardless of what you choose to do.
- Prep tofu: So the first step is to drain the tofu. Cut open the package and pour out the liquid. Then wrap the tofu in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels and squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. It’s OK if the tofu breaks. You don’t need to use a tofu press or anything like that, we’re just getting out the majority of the liquid.
- Blend: Crumble it into your food processor or blender, and add the sunflower seeds, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, and spices. Pulse until combined and smooth. If you are doing the more firm version, you may need to add the non-dairy milk first to get it to blend (depending on your blender/food processor).
- Less firm version: If you don’t want to do the extra steps to make your cheese ball firmer, take it out now and place it in a small bowl or container. You could also wrap it in plastic wrap and form it into a ball shape -- if you find it too sticky for that, add a bit more sunflower seeds or nutritional yeast. Refrigerate 2 hours or until it’s chilled enough, then enjoy! It can be a bit tricky to get out of the bowl in this method (I’ve found personally), so use a butter knife to gently coax it out. You may need to smooth it with a spatula or your fingers, then decorate it as you wish and serve.
- Firmer version, add things: If you are making it firmer, taste the cheese ball now and adjust accordingly. Then add the agar powder, tapioca starch, and unsweetened non-dairy milk and blend until smooth. Now pour the contents of the blender into a small to medium non-stick saucepan. Make sure to use a spatula to get all that cheesy goodness out of the blender!
- Cook the cheese: Heat the pan over medium high heat until it starts to curdle. This should take only a few minutes. Stir it constantly with a strong spatula or wooden spoon. Turn the heat down to medium for the last few minutes of cooking, which is now--once it starts to curdle it will only be a few minutes before the cheese is ready to go in the mould. As your stir, the curdled cheese will transform into a glossy, thick, playdough like consistency. It will start to pull away from the pan very noticeably.
- Transfer: Transfer the cheese into the bowl you’re refrigerating it in. Keep in mind that the container you refrigerate it in will be the shape of your completed cheese. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look smooth on top--this is the BOTTOM of your cheese ball since we’re flipping it. You can always cut off that part later. And eat it--what a hardship.
- Chill and release: Chill for at least 3-4 hours, and then check it. It should be somewhat firm to the touch. When fully refrigerated, release it by running a butter knife around the inside of the bowl, turn the bowl upside down on the plate or board you’re serving it on, and give it a few taps. It should come out pretty easily.
- Serve: Decorate with whatever you like (see below), serve with crackers or crostini or veggies or fruit, and enjoy!
- Store: Either cheese can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Note 1: Prep and cook time estimates do not include chill time.
- Note 2: If you’re going the extra step and making this a firmer cheese ball, you could use a softer tofu, but if you’re not going to add the agar / tapioca mixture then you need to use firm or extra firm tofu, otherwise your cheese ball will be too wet to hold together. You could, however, still make a nice cheese dip this way. You could substitute soaked cashews or the tofu.
- Note 3: To make this vegan cheese ball taste nice, rich, and … cheesy… you’ll need a bit of fat. I recommend using raw sunflower seeds, as they are rich but neutral in flavor. I actually feel they’re even more neutral than cashews (less sweet), but you can totally substitute cashews if you like. If you’re cooking the cheese, you could use coconut milk instead (like in my vegan brie recipe).
- Note 4: I know there are those of you who hate the flavor but bear with me for a sec. Trust me that the finished product does not taste at all like nutritional yeast, it just tastes cheesy and rich so don’t skip it! You can always just buy the little bit you need from this recipe from bulk bins at a health food store if you don’t want a bunch of nutritional yeast hanging around your house. :) Also keep in mind there are two different types of nutritional yeast -- fortified and unfortified. The fortified version is more common and bright yellow in color due to the b-vitamins it’s fortified with. For light colored cheeses, I keep unfortified nutritional yeast around. It doesn’t matter at all for the flavor, though so you use whatever you like/have.
- Category: Snack, Vegan Cheese
- Method: Stove top
- Cuisine: American
Keywords: Vegan, Oil-Free, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan Cheese Ball