Of all of the foods I gave up when I decided to go plant-based I never imagined cheese would be my biggest challenge.
It’s not like I ate much of it before taking that “no more dairy” step. I was already used to scraping off all of the toppings from my pizza (I hate that most pizza joints think all vegetarians like bell peppers and black olives, ugh) and I even tell you which decade I last had a grilled cheese sandwich or mac n’ cheese.
But there I was at a basketball game, staring down a plate of nachos trying to justify digging into—up to the elbows even—that liquid gold. Topped with some jalapeños of an indeterminate age they were the closest thing to plant-based that the arena offered.
I folded…hoping, for once in my life, that what I was eating wasn’t really food, but some oil based food-like substance that would keep me in the clear of the vegan-police (hey, there’s a reason I prefer using ‘plant-based’ as opposed to vegan—I’m not perfect—I’m a work in process).
Truthfully, I felt bad, and not just from ingesting baby cow food. I felt sick.
Since then I’ve recommitted to being dairy-free and thankfully, stumbled across two cheesy recipes that make perfect substitutes for nachos, baked potato toppings, sweet potato (or better yet, butternut squash) fries dippers, burrito fillers, steamed veggie sauces and casserole binders. And neither is nut-based.
Break out the organic tortilla chips and bake some potatoes because you’re going to want to eat these sauces on everything.
Nacho “Cheese” Dip
- 3/4 cup non-dairy milk (unsweetened)
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/2 small sweet potato (cooked and peeled) or sub ½ a small white potato and ½ a small carrot cooked and peeled (about ¼ cup total)
- 1-1/2 TBS corn or potato starch (or 1 TBS + 2 tsp arrowroot powder)
- 1 TBS lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
- ½ tsp turmeric (for color)
- ¼ – ½ tsp liquid smoke (or a dash of smoked paprika)
- Dash of: garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and chili powder or 1- 2 tsp. taco seasoning
- One cup of pico de gallo (homemade or store bought) optional
Combine all ingredients except pico in a sauce pan and whisk together (alternative method is blending in high-speed blender until smooth). Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to boil, stirring constantly. Turn heat to low and continue stirring until very thick. Remove from heat and add pico de gallo, stirring to combine. Serve warm. Delicious with chips, steamed veggies, over fires, in burritos or as a potato topping.
Hidden Veggie “Cheese” Sauce
- 1 small head of cauliflower (steamed and separated)
- 2 carrots (peeled, cooked and cut into chunks) optional, used for coloring
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- 1 TBS lemon juice
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- Dash of: onion powder, smoked paprika, cumin (optional)
- ½ tsp salt, to taste
Combine everything in blender. Blend until smooth (it will be thick and may need to be tamped down to blend). Best served in dishes like mac n’ cheese or casseroles. This is a great way to get picky eaters (like my husband) to eat more veggies.
Hopefully these two recipes will help ease your transition from a traditional diet to a more plant-based one. Or, if reducing your caloric intake while increasing nutrition is your intent, these should fit the bill.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Dana Gornall / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo Credit: Flickr/Helen Alfvegren