What’s the most common thing people say they can’t give up when going dairy-free? Cheese.
It’s always cheese.
Giving up cheese wasn’t that hard for me, but I quickly discovered that I actually love paleo and vegan cheese replacements. Much much better than regular dairy. Is that weird? As I started trying more and more vegan restaurants and paleo dishes, I quickly realized that cheese-flavored things, without real cheese, were my weakness.
Nowadays, more and more people are going dairy-free. 80% of the adult population is lactose intolerant. Most people stop creating lactase, which is the enzyme necessary to break down lactose, in childhood, and then are lactose intolerant for the rest of their lives. Some people are sensitive or allergic to the casein in dairy, some are affected by the whey, and others both. It’s an epidemic!
Besides that, a huge issue in our food supply is the source of the dairy products that are widely available in the U.S. Most conventional dairy products on the shelves are not real dairy. Most of that dairy has come from sick animals and therefore is polluted with hormones, antibiotics, and other toxins, or it has been “adjusted” to become “low-fat.” In other worlds, pumped with sugar.
My point is, most people are catching onto the fact that conventional dairy does not make them feel good (digestive problems, galore), but there’s still something oh-so-delicious about that cheesey flavor. Hence, the temptation. There are a ton of ways to replicate the flavor of cheese in recipes, though, and the tastiest option is usually nutritional yeast!
If you haven’t heard of nutritional yeast, it’s a staple item in any dairy-free kitchen, whether you’re paleo, vegan, or neither. It’s a deactivated yeast that has a dry, flakey texture. It’s packed with B vitamins, which support the immune system and nervous system, and it also contains protein, iron, selenium, zinc…all of the things. If you’re following a vegan diet, nutritional yeast is especially perfect for you because it’s a great source of B12, which you won’t get in other parts of your diet.
Nutritional yeast can be used in a number of different savory dishes to add flavor, but I especially like to use it to make actual fake cheese, and in creamy sauces. I had been wanting to make a version of the cauliflower parmigiana from Jessica Sepel’s book, Living the Healthy Life, for some time, and I wanted to replace the parmesan in her recipe with a creamy, cheese-flavored sauce. (Also, if you haven’t listened to the episode of Actually Adultish featuring the fabulous Jessica Sepel, you can listen to that here. She is incredible!)
Most paleo and vegan cheese replacement recipes use cashews, like in cashew cheese. You can find a recipe for cashew cheese in my Paleo Eggplant Lasagna recipe here. Cashews are great for making anything thick and creamy, and they pair with nutritional yeast perfectly to create the ideal vegan “cheese.” In that same post, you’ll find my recipe for walnut cheese, which I discovered about a year ago and have been obsessed with ever since! A lot of people don’t realize you can use other nuts besides cashews to make a fake “cheese,” and walnuts are one of my favorites to do just that.
My MRT test showed a sensitivity to cashews, so I’m not eating them right now. Because of that, I figured I’d make a cheese sauce with walnuts as the base! Plus, cashews are high FODMAP, so this sauce is perfect for anyone who is on a low-FODMAP diet due to SIBO or IBS. I used my walnut cheese recipe as inspo for this sauce, and it turned out better than I could’ve imagined. Poured over the cauliflower dish, I was literally drooling. I paired Jessica’s cauliflower parmigiana entree with ground lamb, and this walnut cheese sauce mixed in with the lamb was truly divine.
You could use this sauce on top of meat or chicken, or pour it over vegetables. You could put it on a salad, or use it as a thinner dip. Honestly, it’s just really good with everything. I like the versatility of a sauce for that exact reason. It’s a great way to add a new flavor to anything, and it can completely transform any vegetable or protein source into something brand new. Plus, sauces always make me feel fancy. Ya know?
I also love that this requires no prep. You don’t have to soak the nuts! It’s so quick and easy, and it will literally take you less than 5 minutes to pull together. It’s delicious warm or cold. Feel free to grab the ingredients, pop it in your blender, and immediately just pour it onto your dish. Store the extras in the fridge, and you’re good to go!
This walnut cheese sauce is low FODMAP, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, soy-free, sugar-free, and way too delicious and simple not to make RIGHT NOW.
Paleo & Vegan Walnut “Cheese” Sauce (Low-FODMAP)
Total Time: 5 minutes
Makes: About 3/4 cup
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil (I only use Kasandrino’s)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- juice from half a lemon
- Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Enjoy!
What would you pair this cheese sauce with?! Let me know in the comments!