Vegan Mozzarella

Who doesn’t like a good tomato-mozzarella salad? Well, I would certainly be a member of the I-love-tomato-mozzarella-salad, but there is one problem – I don’t eat cheese!

Mozzarella cheese is one of those iconic Italian classics that works so well in pizza or salads. Traditional Mozzarella di Bufala is a curd cheese made from the fat-rich milk of water buffalo and very simple to slice. It is plain-tasting and soft and works really well when sopping up juices (like tomatoes and olive oil), which is why it is often used in salads and pizza.

Making a completely vegan version that emulates the function of true Italian cheese is no simple task. I have tried many versions (both purchased and self-made) and most are rubbery or taste too much like tofu. My newest version is different. It is soft and comes very close to the more traditional mozzarella. This is truly my new favorite plant-based cheese and it is simple to make! Just make sure you start a day ahead of when you need it.

Yield: makes about 500 grams (about 1 pound)

  • 150 grams (1 cup) raw cashew nuts
  • 240 grams (1 cup) plain soy yogurt
  • 240 ml. (1 cup) water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon citric acid
  • 3 tablespoons tapioca starch
  • 1 tablespoon agar powder
  • Soak the cashew nuts for 3-8 hours, then drain completely.
  • Combine the soaked and drained cashew nuts with the yogurt, 120 ml (1/2-cup) water, sea salt and the citric acid. Process in a blender (preferably a high-speed blender if you have one) until the mixture is completely smooth. Transfer to a clean bowl, loosely cover with clingfilm and allow to sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. The mixture should become slightly tangy.
  • Whisk in the tapioca starch once the yogurt-cashew mixture is fermented.
  • Combine the agar powder with 120 ml. (1/2-cup) water in a medium saucepan. Whisk the mixture well and bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Simmer 3-4 minutes, then pour the yogurt-cashew milk into the hot agar. Stir this mixture very well to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes smooth, glossy and somewhat stretchy – this will take between 10-15 minutes. Make sure to adjust the heat down during the mixing to prevent the mixture from splitting. Remove from the heat and cool for about 15 minutes.
  • Prepare a bowl with ice water. Scoop balls of the mixture (an ice cream scoop works well here) into the ice bath. Allow the mozzarella to completely cool by leaving them in the ice bath about 10 minutes. They will become firm as they cool.
  • Use right away or wrap well in plastic (clingfilm) and keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Jack’s Fresh Tip

Make sure your yogurt is unsweetened – sweetened yogurt would create a strange taste that is not pleasant to eat. Tapioca starch is sometimes called flour, but don’t get confused by the different terms…you want the starch that is similar to cornstarch (which you can substitute by the way). You can use agar flakes for this recipe. The conversion is 3x flakes to 1x powder.

When simmering the agar powder in the water, it is important to avoid a hard boil. The water should gently bubble.

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