Here are two "molded" cheeses, pictured with soaked wet sunflower seeds, which went into making them.

How to Make Fermented Nut Cheese

Megan Hors d'oeuvres, Condiments & Sides, Traditional Healing Foods, Whole Food Recipes 18 Comments

In love with legumes?  Me too!  White beans, mmm!  Refried beans, a childhood comfort food. Hummus, oh yes!!

But legumes are hard to digest, requiring days of soaking and simmering to prevent gas in the GI tract.  And if you happen to also be struggling with any kind of health issue, it is better to give your GI tract a rest.

(After all, it is where all health begins.[1]  To restore our health, we must heal the gut, being gentle with the foods we give it to digest.)

Nut Cheeses

A couple of years ago when I first started getting really excited about all things fermented, nut cheeses were the most exciting and magical endeavor I enjoyed in the kitchen.  They continue to captivate our palette years later as we make them for customers in our cafes, providing a source of probiotics, protein, whole nutrition, and a method of predigesting nuts.

The Benefits of Fermenting Nuts

In an article by Ramiel Nagel this necessity of predigesting nuts is expounded upon.  He says,

In general, nuts contain levels of phytic acid equal to or higher than those of grains. Therefore those consuming peanut butter, nut butters or nut flours, will take in phytate levels similar to those in unsoaked grains… Nut consumption becomes problematic in situations where people on the GAPS diet and similar regimes are consuming lots of almonds and other nuts as a replacement for bread, potatoes and rice…soaking is highly recommended in these circumstances.

Fermenting nuts accomplishes the same goal!  Phytates are eliminated.  Fermentation of every kind makes foods more digestible.

Predigestion of one method or another is essential with regular nut consumption; and fermented nut cheeses add creativity to this essential step!

If you are particularly careful with phytate consumption, you can soak your nuts or seeds first and then make nut cheese with them, doubly predigesting them.  I recommend this step.  It is so easy to do an overnight soak on nuts. And when you rinse away their “dirty” water, it is heartening to know how much good you’ve already done, even before taking the next step in fermentation.  Also, my family does eat a lot of nuts.  So cutting down on phytates every time we eat means that we get more minerals out of our food, instead of them being bound and unattainable by our bodies.

Another benefit of fermented nut cheeses is that fermenting makes nutrients more bio-available.  So the nuts, herbs, spices, garlic, coconut oil, anything you add will be more powerful nutritionally than it would be otherwise. 

Below, in the recipes section, I’ll give examples of how to be creative and add ingredients that are tasty and nutritious.  Then eat your creation with gusto, knowing it’s SO good for you, as well as being rich and indulgent in flavor.

Ingredients

I use cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, and almonds in the recipes that follow.  But if your budget can stand it, macadamia nuts and pine nuts also make GREAT cheeses, blond, creamy, and well-balanced in flavor.

What ignites the nut mixture to ferment?  I like to use fermented vegetables, because I always have some on hand; they’re healthy and flavorful, and their wetness helps the blender to run smoothly.

But cooks’ starters vary.  Any food that is high in probiotics and does not contain sugar can be used.  (If you introduce sugar to the ferment you will grow unwanted yeasts instead of beneficial bacteria.)  Some nut cheese-makers like to use rejuvelac, a grain-based fermented beverage.  Others actually use a high-quality probiotic pill emptied into their mix, or organic miso paste.  It is also fun to use a quantity of your former cheese to help jump-start the process.

Image

Here’s our little guy looking on as I assembled the ingredients for the Asian Brazil Nut fermented nut cheese: from left- fermented vegetables, sesame oil, fresh ginger, coconut amino acids, organic miso, dulse, fresh garlic, (soaked brazil nuts are in the background in the blender), and coconut oil.

Texture, Protection and Gourmet Recipes

When desiring to make firmer cheeses try adding coconut oil to your mixture too, or if you can tolerate lactose-free dairy, ghee.  These fats not only give you added options with the shape and texture of your kitchen creation; but they are also excellent for our immune systems as, with seeming magic, they help to protect fragile probiotics, delivering them to lower parts of our intestinal tract unharmed!

If you have a blender or food processor your fun science experiment can begin.

Picture what a few possible recipes will look and taste like: one is yellow with little seeds in it, tasting of India and complex curries; one is pale, like hummus, earthy in flavor and addictively delicious with subtle garlic, sea salt, and sesame seeds playing in your mouth; another can be dehydrated after being strained, wrapped in cheesecloth, and rubbed with oil.  It will be sliceable in a few days, like a firm goat cheese.  It is creamy in color and tangy.

There is great versatility in the textures, flavors, and uses of this food.

All seeds and nuts will work.

Also, the visual process is exciting.  You can watch your nut cheeses ferment by putting them in clear glass containers.  They will expand with air bubbles and rise; and you will know that you’re succeeding in your process.

All the air bubbles and the sponge-like appearance tell you it's done.

The air bubbles and the sponge-like appearance tell you it’s done.

There are three textures that you can choose from in making your cheese.

One is the hummus-like texture.  It’s the fastest, easiest method and delivers a mean sandwich spread or mezza-like garnish for any feast with bread or a grain-free bread alternative.

The second texture is a cheese that is firm enough to slice with a knife, an actual wheel.  This method is described in detail below and involves the use of a dehydrator.

The third and final texture is a combination of the above two.  By adding a fat to your puree, that solidifies when it is cold, you can create a semi-firm goat cheese-like texture and even mold your soft cheese into a shape before it chills.

Here is a Turmeric-Infused Seed Cheese that has been dehydrated.  It has a crunchy, falafel-like texture on the outside and is firm but soft on the inside.  It is a strong, tangy cheese, and delicious.

Here is Turmeric-Infused Seed Cheese that has been dehydrated. It has a crunchy, falafel-like texture on the outside and is firm but soft on the inside. It is a strong, tangy cheese, and delicious.

Here are some great recipes that can be used to create any of these outcomes:

Recipe Method

For all of the following ingredient combinations follow the same recipe steps:

1)    Combine all ingredients in high-powered blender.

2)    Puree for about 50 seconds until the mixture is smooth.  Add a small amount of water, fermented vegetables, or olive oil if the mixture is too thick to blend (and process again).

3)    Pour the contents into a glass container that will hold almost twice the volume of what you’ve just produced.  The low wide glass jars that come with their own rubber fitted lids work great.  (Four-cup ball jars also work well for most of these recipes.  But the wide mouth is important unless you have a really runny cheese.  You don’t want the mixture smeared on the sides of the jar.)  Once you’ve poured your cheese mixture in, depending on its lid type, do not seal the jar.  You can loosely screw on a metal lid, (or the ring and insert), or cover certain kinds of glass jars with the rubber lids that they came with.

4)    Now place the jar in a warm place (like the top of your dehydrator while it is running) for about a day and a half.  The ferment will take longer in colder temperatures.  Your nut cheese is fermented and ready to eat when the whole puree has risen and is filled with lots of air bubbles, like a sponge, but yummy looking.

5)    At this point, put the cheese into your fridge so it can chill and firm up.

6)    OPTIONAL FURTHER STEP- If  you wish to dehydrate or chill your ferment to create a shaped, sliceable cheese, choose a “mold”; a small low bowl works great.  Teeny dishes are fun too, if you want to make lots of individual cheeses.

7)    For the dehydrator method, line the small bowl or bowls with cheesecloth and spray the cheesecloth with organic coconut oil spray or just rub the cloth with olive oil.  (I learned this method the hard way!  The oil will prevent the dried cheese from sticking to the cloth.  You want the cloth to peel away easily so that the outer rind looks pristine.)

The soft fermented nut cheese has been pressed into this "mold," lined first with cheesecloth.

The soft fermented seed cheese has been pressed into this “mold,” lined first with cheesecloth.

8)    Place the bowl(s) into your dehydrator for about 12 hours, or up to 24 hours, until they can easily hold their own shape.

Here are two cute bundles of probiotic-rich fermented seed cheese.  They've been placed on the shelf of a dehydrator where they'll firm up and become sliceable.

Here are two cute bundles of probiotic-rich fermented seed cheese. They’ve been placed on the shelf of a dehydrator where they’ll firm up and become sliceable.

9)    Now pop it out of the bowl it was nesting in and peel off the cloth.  Touch the exterior, gently pushing on the cheese, to decide if you want it even firmer, or very soft inside.

10)                               If you want to get a more sliceable cheese, place your wheel back into the dehydrator by itself now, no bowl, no cloth, and continue to dehydrate it another 12-24 hours.  When it’s done to your satisfaction, place it in the fridge to chill.

Here are two "molded" cheeses, pictured with soaked wet sunflower seeds, which went into making them.

Here are two “molded” cheeses, pictured with soaked wet sunflower seeds, which went into making them.

11)                               OPTIONAL FURTHER STEP ALTERNATIVE– If you don’t have a dehydrator, you may want to strain your cheese before fermenting it; so think ahead.  Here’s the method:

12)                               Put the fresh puree in a cheesecloth-lined colander; it can actually ferment like that, wrapped in the cloth (covered with the flaps), and set inside an appropriately sized bowl to catch the drips, and set in a warm place!  Make sure, with this method, to include coconut oil or coconut cream in your recipe so that when it chills, it firms up.

13)                               Once the recipe is fermented in the cheesecloth strainer, proceed as described above, placing it in a “mold” lined with cheesecloth, unsprayed this time, but olive oil is okay.  Press the cheese into the bowl’s shape, smoothing the top, which will become the bottom, with a spatula, and chill for 6 hours or more.  Unmold it onto a plate.  Alternately, shape and roll the soft, drained cheese into a traditional log shape, as you’ve seen done with many goat cheeses.

14)                               Garnish any cheese with a drizzle of oil, small, fresh, edible flowers, coarsely ground black, green or pink peppercorns, or fresh or dried herbs.  Choose garnishes that will compliment the recipe you chose.

Recipe Ingredients

Italian Walnut

2 cups walnuts, raw and fresh, or soaked and wet

½ cup fermented vegetables, homemade or store-bought from a reliable source[2]

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 T hemp seeds, (optional)

2 T capers

½ cup fresh Italian parsley

¼ cup oil-cured olives, or other favorite gourmet olive

½ tsp. sea salt

a few drops lemon oil or 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

 

Israeli Walnut

2 cups walnuts, raw and fresh, or soaked and wet

½ cup fermented vegetables, homemade or store-bought from a reliable source

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil or 2 T. sesame oil

¼ cup tahini

1 large garlic clove, smashed and chopped

½ t. cumin

a few drops orange oil, (optional) or 1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ t. sea salt

 

Indian Almond

1 ¾ cups almonds, preferably soaked and peeled (wet skins squeezed off)

½ cup fermented vegetables, homemade or store-bought from a reliable source

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 T. organic red palm oil

1-2 T. chopped fresh ginger, depending on taste

1 large clove garlic, smashed and chopped

½ t. turmeric

½ t. cumin

½ t. sea salt

1/8 t. cinnamon

(1/2 cup filtered water, as needed to allow the blender to process)

 

Classic

2 cups sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts, or pine nuts, raw and fresh, or soaked and wet

½ cup fermented vegetables, homemade or store-bought from a reliable source

2 T. extra-virgin coconut oil or olive oil

1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped

1 T. nutritional yeast

1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ t. sea salt

 

Here's the Asian Brazil Nut blend.

Here’s the Asian Brazil Nut blend.

Asian Cheese

2 cups brazil nuts, raw and fresh, or soaked and wet

½ cup fermented vegetables, homemade or store-bought from a reliable source

½ cup filtered water

¼ cup olive oil

2 T. sesame oil, preferably black sesame oil

1 T. coconut amino acids

1 T. chopped fresh ginger

1 clove garlic, smashed and chopped

1 T. dulse

1 T. extra-virgin organic coconut oil

1 t. high quality organic fermented miso paste

This is the canning jar wherein the nut cheese will ferment.  This is it in its fresh, unfermented form.

This is the canning jar wherein the nut cheese will ferment. This is it in its fresh, unfermented form.

Can you see the textural difference?  Here's the fermented nut cheese.  It actually collapsed two inches before I took the picture, like a cooling souffle, while in the fridge chilling, but you can still see the bigger air pockets and how it's changed.  All the air bubbles and the sponge-like appearance tell you it's done.

Can you see the textural difference? Here’s the fermented nut cheese. It actually collapsed two inches before I took the picture, like a cooling souffle, while in the fridge chilling, but you can still see the bigger air pockets and how it’s changed. All the air bubbles and the sponge-like appearance tell you it’s done.

Soaking and Sprouting

For every 4 cups raw seeds or nuts, cover with room temperature filtered water by a full 2 inches, and 2 tsp. sea salt.  Stir to dissolve.  Leave out overnight; then drain and rinse well.

 


[1] Natural News writes, “Over the past few years, a few pioneers of western medicine have connected most health problems to an unhealthy gastro-intestinal (GI) tract. Hippocrates proclaimed all disease begins in the gut. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine has known this for thousands of years. Most of mainstream modern medicine has yet to accept recent rediscoveries of this fact. And the acceptance gap has just increased. GI tract connections to mental health have been established.”  And the well-respected Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride says, “Every disease begins in the gut and we have to look at the digestive system when we try to treat any degenerative disease no matter how unrelated it may seem to the condition.”

[2] There are wonderful, locally made fermented vegetables available in most natural grocery stores.  However, their probiotic count will vary.  Although I live in Oregon I once purchased a fermented vegetable product that had been handmade in California.  Making a fermented nut cheese with it was the perfect test of its probiotic count.  It took days to jumpstart the process!  I knew not to buy that product again.  The cultures could have died in transit or never been high to begin with, another reason to buy local or make it yourself! J

  • Hi Megan,

    My name is Charlotte and I am the author being It’s me, Charlotte, which focuses on producing content about grain-free & primal living 🙂 I’m also a student at the U of O and am currently taking a journalistic interview class. Currently I am conducting a series of interviews on diet related topics and would love to have an angle from someone who is focused on eating nutrient dense foods. Would you be open to letting me interview you? It would be a casual 30 minutes interview 🙂 If you’re interested, please let me know how I could contact you (I have checked the box for follow-up comments so I will check back.)

    Looking forward to hearing from you!!

    Charlotte

    P.S. I’m a big fan of Vanilla Jill’s and found your blog through their facebook page 🙂

  • Hi Charlotte,

    I’d love to. If you email me at vanillajillsyogurt@gmail.com we can set up a time! Thanks for your interest.

    Best, Megan

  • Joe

    Hi Megan, Thank-you for this info.
    I’m not sure if my first message got through.

    I have a quick question about the fermented nut cheeses.

    Can I use Raw unfiltered Apple C. Vinegar in place of fermented veggies to start with? (I know it would mess with the finished consistency) Have you heard of anyone doing this as an alternative to start the starter for future “Cheeses”.

    What are your thoughts on that?
    Thanks.

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Joe, thanks for the question. There is not the same kind of culture in raw ACV as is required to inoculate a fermented food. I have read some about inoculating with the inside stem of a hot chili pepper. That might be something that interests you? Do you have a dietary restriction or just hoping to use the ACV?

  • Joe

    No, I have no diatery restrictions but I was wanting to start a batch of these cheeses and not have to find some fermented veggies. Not a big deal though; will store bought sourkrout be a fine replacement, (assuming its alive of course.)

    I am surprised you did not think it would work… I am currently doing a fermented cooked bean dip recipe from online which said I could use Raw A.C.V. to get it working.
    But I couldn’t find sources for fermenting nut meats online except for your site.
    Thanks for your for thoughts though.

  • Megan Stevens

    Let me know how it goes if you ever try ACV. 🙂

  • beechwdmdw@gmail.com

    Megan,
    I cannot tell you what a blessing your site had been. I have been studying nutrient dense diets for 30 years but yet still seem to find something useful and instructive on your site. THANK YOU. Question about the above: can you use whey (homemade from raw milk) as your inoculant. Also an unrelated question about raw cheese: isn’t it true that alot of cheese labeled raw, are not actually raw and finally we do drink organic wine. I am looking for unpasteurized organic wine and never see that on any labels. How is one able to distinguish the “unpasteurized” part.
    Roberta

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Roberta, I’m so glad you enjoy the site; thank you! I haven’t used whey with fermented nut mixtures, so I can’t speak from experience. Theoretically it would work, yes. Regarding raw cheese, I’m not familiar with the issue you’re referring to, unless it’s a discrepancy with the cheese-making milk being heated to too high of a temperature to be regarded as raw? I also don’t know enough about unpasteurized wine. I’d love to learn more. Sorry to not be of any help on these subjects! I guess homemade is still best! 😉

  • Aga Maros

    I am confused, Should I sealing the jar for fermentation. Or leave it open so air gets in but it’s covered by a cloth?

  • Megan Stevens

    Hi Aga, it depends which method you choose. If you have a firmer cheese you’re fermenting, then just wrap the cloth over the top and allow it to ferment. If you’re pouring the puree into a jar, then put the lid on loosely.

  • Vege-tater
  • Cheui

    Thank you. Thank you. I’ve been making fermented vegetable for years, but as I get older, realized that I may be lacking protein and my digestion is not optimal and fermented nut cheese seems to be the answer.

  • Megan Stevens

    Wonderful, I’m so glad!! Enjoy! 🙂

  • Cheui

    One more question. Does the nut have to be raw to ferment into nut cheese? I discovered that due to the processing of cashews, there are no raw cashews. http://www.living-foods.com/articles/rawcashew.html Is it possible even though the nut is not raw. My major concern is digestibility. Thank you.

  • Megan Stevens

    Yes, that’s exactly right! Cashews are never raw, yet fermenting makes them more digestible. My suspicion is that fermenting will pre-digest any nut, but that raw is best.

  • Cheui

    Thank you. I’m off to buy nuts. Can’t wait to try them.

  • Megan Stevens

    Yay, wonderful!! 🙂

  • Yvonne Forsman

    Am I blind or didn’t you bother to say what temp the dehydrator should be on?