A cheese flavoured vegan sprinkle, vegan parmesan ‘cheese’, is delicious over roast vegetables, soups, risotto, pasta, meatballs, vegan pizza, cauliflower gratin, or mac and cheese. It won’t melt like Parmesan cheese and has a slightly different taste and texture. However, it’s an excellent alternative for vegans or those with a dairy intolerance.
What is homemade vegan parmesan ‘cheese’ made of?
The two key ingredients of this vegan parmesan ‘cheese’ recipe are nutritional yeast and Brazil nuts. Not only do they create a cheesy flavoured vegan sprinkle, somewhat like parmesan cheese, but they also provide some nutritional benefits.
Nutritional yeast, also known as savoury yeast flakes or Brufax, gives this vegan parmesan ‘cheese’ its cheesy flavour and golden colour. It can be purchased in a container or bag and appears as dry, yellow flakes.
Nutritional yeast is delicious on its own, sprinkled on vegetables, soups, salads or popcorn. Alternatively, you can use it to create a cheesy flavour in vegan ‘cheeses’, sauces and dressings.
Nutritional yeast is a species of yeast known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is the same type of yeast used for baking bread and brew beer. However, unlike yeast used for bread and beer, nutritional yeast is not an active yeast. Therefore, it will not increase yeast overgrowth in the body, which may be a concern for those who suffer regular yeast conditions such as Candida or Thrush.
Nutritional Yeast – A good source of B12
Nutritional yeast is popular among vegetarians and vegans, not only because it has a delicious cheesy flavour, but it is a good source of nutrients, with some varieties of nutritional yeast further fortified with B12. Thus, nutritional yeast provides a great source for B12, which otherwise cannot be sourced from most other plant-based foods.
Just one tablespoon of some varieties of nutritional yeast contains nearly half the daily requirement of B12. Nutritional yeast is generally also high in other B vitamins, selenium and contains all nine essential amino acids.
I chose Brazil nuts as the base of this vegan parmesan ‘cheese’ because they contain a high oil content, giving it the gritty, nutty, oily taste and texture of parmesan cheese.
However, you could substitute Brazil nuts with other nuts or seeds.
Cashews are a common choice in other vegan parmesan ‘cheese’ recipes online.
Another alternative is hulled hemp seeds. They’ll give your ‘cheese’ a green tinge but are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids for vegans, and also offer a nut-free version.
Brazil nuts – An exceptional source of selenium
Nutritionally, I like the choice of Brazil nuts as they are a great source of selenium, which is often low in vegan and vegetarian diets. Selenium is a mineral that helps protect the body against free-radical damage, and also helps to regulate blood pressure, thyroid hormone production and the health of the immune system.
Brazil nuts contain the highest content of selenium of any other food, with other sources high in selenium including seafood, meats, eggs and dairy products. The content of selenium in plant-based sources is dependent on the selenium content of the soil they are grown. For this reason, a Brazil nut a day is a great way for vegetarians and vegans to ensure they are obtaining their required daily intake. Although, it’s best to keep consumption to below 2 or 3 Brazil nuts to avoid selenium toxicity. It’s all about everything in balance. It is possible to get too much of a good thing!
Now, although eating one Brazil nut a day is pretty easy to do (definitely no preparation required!) we can forget, or it can feel like taking your daily medicine—thus, taking the joy out of eating them. Therefore, this vegan parmesan ‘cheese’ provides another simple and delicious way to ensure you’re getting your daily dose.
How to make vegan parmesan ‘cheese’?
To make your own vegan parmesan ‘cheese’ is easy; it’s pretty much a matter of grinding the nutritional yeast and Brazil nuts together until you achieve a powdery consistency. Are you ready to give it a try?
Vegan Parmesan ‘Cheese’
- 1 cup raw Brazil nuts (150 g)
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Process all ingredients in grinder or food processor to a powder.
- Sprinkle on any dish that would be enhanced with a cheesy, nutty, savoury flavour—anything you’d typically sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
A note on selenium intake
One Brazil nut contains less than the daily requirement of selenium for an adult. However, with other food intake throughout a day, one Brazil nut is likely to ensure the daily nutritional requirement is met.
A note on dairy
I am not opposed to dairy-based parmesan cheese.
However, many people choose to avoid dairy due to ethical reasons, intolerance or preference.
As with all aged cheeses, Parmesan cheese only contains trace amounts of lactose as most of the lactose is drained away with the whey in production. Therefore, dairy-based Parmesan cheese is a good choice for those with lactose intolerance. This is because eating a small amount of lactose can help maintain the gut bacteria that support the breakdown of lactose.
Whether you choose to eat dairy or dairy-free parmesan cheese is a matter of personal preference and eating in a way to maximise variety and enjoyment.
Have you given it a try – vegan parmesan ‘cheese’?
I’d love to hear if you’ve made this recipe.
Let me know what you thought of the taste, or what you served it with. It might inspire others that enjoy my recipes!