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*UPDATED 2017* Vegan Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez

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  • Author: Annie
  • Prep Time: 720
  • Cook Time: 5
  • Total Time: 12 hours 5 minutes


I decided it was time to revisit the second most popular recipe on my site and see if I could improve it. This version – using a slightly different method – makes a smaller batch, but it’s smokier, creamier and cheesier.




  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper


  • .5 ounces agar flakes (not powder)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. refined coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp. liquid smoke
  • 1 Tbsp. white miso paste
  • 1 cup raw cashew pieces, soaked in water overnight, rinsed & drained
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. onion flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric powder


Make the pesto

  1. Add all of the pesto ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and process until the basil and garlic is broken down into little bits. Set aside.

Make the cheez

  1. Have a 2-cup ceramic or glass container (preferably round, but rectangular is fine, too) set aside; no need to oil it. In a small bowl, whisk together the nutritional yeast through the turmeric powder. Once the cheez is processed, you’ll want to move fairly quickly so it’s best to have everything you need in place.
  2. In small saucepan, bring the water to a low boil and add the agar flakes. Let cook for about 5 minutes, or until dissolved. Whisk frequently.
  3. Meanwhile, in a high-speed blender, add the lemon juice, melted coconut oil, liquid smoke and miso paste along with the cashews. Pulse the blender a few times just to break down the cashews. Now add the nutritional yeast/spice mixture. Pulse again, stopping a few times to stir the contents. Don’t worry about the cashews becoming smooth – that will happen once you pour in the water/agar mixture.
  4. Once the agar has dissolved, slowly pour in about a third of the mixture into the blender with the blender running at a low speed. If needed, stop the machine and stir the mixture with a sturdy spatula or spoon. Turn the machine back onto low and continue to pour in the remainder of the agar mixture. At this point, everything should be moving well, so pop the lid back onto the blender and crank that baby to the highest setting. This is when the cheez will get super smooth and silky.
  5. Turn off the blender and scrape the pesto into the blender and pulse a few times to incorporate it into the cheez. You don’t want to go too far or you’ll get green cheez. Tasty, but it might scare of some folks. Pour the cheez mixture into the 2-cup container and put it in the refrigerator until firm. Don’t put plastic wrap on top until the cheez is completely solid.
  6. To remove cheez, gently slide a knife around the sides of the container and place cheez on serving plate of cutting board. Slice and serve with crackers or use to make grilled cheese sandwiches.


  • Serving Size: 8
  • Calories: 131
  • Sugar: 1
  • Sodium: 383
  • Fat: 10
  • Saturated Fat: 3
  • Unsaturated Fat: 6
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 8
  • Protein: 4
  • Cholesterol: 0