For most people, cheese was the hardest item to give up after making the switch to a whole-food, plant-based diet. This is no surprise, since cheese contains opiate-like compounds which are physically addictive. Although it may have been difficult to give up, avoiding any form of dairy will improve your health significantly!
Many people wonder how they can add an extra flavor boost to their favorite dishes without using Parmesan cheese. For those times when a little extra "splash" of flavor would enhance your Italian dish, salad, or soup recipe, using a blend of either walnuts, almonds, cashews, or Brazil nuts, nutritional yeast, and a dash of seasonings makes a wonderful substitute. For parents who have picky eaters at home, adding this topping to your child's food may encourage them to eat more vegetables.
Below are a few recipes you may enjoy. The basic recipe uses your choice of nut, nutritional yeast, and a dash of salt or seasonings. For Italian flavored dishes, adding Italian seasonings to this faux Parmesan cheese recipe makes it even more delicious!
- Lindsay Nixon from Happy Herbivore highlights Chef AJ's Vegan Parmesan recipe which uses cashews. Chef AJ adds this ingredient when making her famous Disappearing Lasagna recipe.
- Dreena Burton from The Plant-Powered Kitchen - Dreena's Cheesy Sprinkle recipe uses cashews and almonds while her Brazil Nut Parmezan recipe uses Brazil nuts
- Minimalist Baker - Vegan Parmesan Cheese recipe uses cashews and adds garlic powder
- Spark Recipes - Vegan Parmesan recipe uses walnuts
Nutritional yeast is grown and harvested on molasses. It's a deactivated yeast, so it doesn't have any leavening ability. It has a cheesy flavor and can be purchased in many grocery stores and health food stores. It comes in two different varieties, powered or flaked. The flakes are preferred. You may also be interested in purchasing the "unfortified" kind which hasn't been enriched with additional vitamins. Click here or here to see examples of the unfortified type. For more information on nutritional yeast, see Susan Voison's article What the Heck is Nutritional Yeast?
Keep in mind that nuts are a calorie-dense food, and when combined with nutritional yeast, the calories can add up quickly. (Two heaping tablespoons of nutritiona yeast is approximately 60 calories.) Faux "Parmesan cheese" is meant to be used sparingly as a condiment. Using more than what is needed can interfere with your weight loss goals. Please see my Starch-Smart System for more details.
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Image Credit - Lindsay Nixon, Happy Herbivore