This is definitely a miss that turned into a big hit. With absolutely no special ingredients, you can make this vegan feta cheese at home with stuff from your pantry. It takes some patience while waiting for it to firm up, but other than that the recipe is pretty straightforward.
The inspiration for this recipe came along with my first attempts of homemade tofu when going vegan in late 2011. I did not achieve tofu, but I did achieve an interesting consistency that I thought would be fun to work with later. It was a lot more creamy than store-bought feta but not in a silken tofu kind of way. It reminded me of feta cheese, so I set out to merge the consistency with the taste of feta. To my inspiration, I recently had been testing out the popular almond feta. Although I really like the taste, I wasn’t very convinced by the texture of it. But it did give me ideas as to what makes your tastebuds go “uh, are we eating feta again?!”
problem challenge is that you can’t just throw spices together with your tofu and blend the cr*p out of it. This would, of course, give you all the desired taste, but in the shape of – well, a big blobby mess. Not so feta-ish. I was wondering how factory-made tofu has spices incorporated in all kinds of spice blends and still achieves a firm tofu. So I came up with a way of doing it that allows you to add your spices and have your tofu consistency too.
This is the amount of feta you get from this recipe (about 120 cubes, but who’s counting).
I use a very basic soymilk that consists of nothing but water, soybeans and salt. Using a milk that contains emulsifiers, gums and or other coagulants is likely to prevent the desired curdling. Almond milk is supposed to be able to curdle in the same way, so, if avoiding soy, you can use a store-bought sugarfree one or homemade almond milk. If you can only find a version with some sugar, it might still work, but you definitely want to leave out the added sugar in the recipe. Please use the picture of the curdled milk in the recipe for reference as to what your curds should look like in order for you to succeed with the recipe.
Use your favorite brand of nutritional yeast. I’ve only come across one specific (German) brand that I definitely felt messed up my feta cheese tastewise. But I don’t like that brand in anything, so go with your favorite and most cheesy-tasting brand and that should do the trick for you. If you have no clue what I’m talking about, here are some examples of nutritional yeast. Note that the more nutritional yeast you use, the less white your feta will be – but don’t leave it all out for that reason!
Does it really taste like feta?
Well, as with all veganized cheeses, the longer it’s been since you had the ‘original’ thing, the more the vegan version in front of you will taste like it 😉 But it’s creamy, it’s salty, it’s acidic, it’s cheesy and the little white cubes will bring your dish to a whole new level. Sounds like feta to me! I personally prefer this over the baked almond feta and the one store bought tofu based one I ever tasted (to be honest – and a bit cocky – I’m stilll not sure if the label “FETA” was a misprint that should just have read “spiced tofu”)
So, in order for you to understand how this is going to go down, here’s a visual walk through of the process:
- 4 C of unsweetened soy milk*
- 1/2 C of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 clove of garlic, minced (use it only if you enjoy the taste of raw garlic)
- 2 tsps fine salt
- 3 tsps fine salt you might want to drizzle more on top after final tasting
- 1 tsp cane or white sugar or syrup*
- 2-3 tbsps of nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder*
- 1 tbs fresh, chopped herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme) or 1 tsp dried.
- - Preferably a tofu press with bottom drain. Using a TofuXpress like model, turn it upside down to allow the whey to run off. I use a flat bottomed colander. You need to be able to apply quite a lot of pressure i.e. with a flat plate and then a heavy objects like a pile of books, a gold bar or even your golden retriever if you can make it sit still. I've even used two boards and a couple of clamps with great results.
- - A smooth kitchen towel or piece of cheesecloth, mousseline or the like, to line the colander or tofu press.
- Gently heat the soymilk and, while it's heating, make the lemon mix and pour in a bowl. Stir it until the salt and sugar are as dissolved as possible. I strain out the minced garlic so that the taste is not too overwhelming. When the soymilk is almost boiling, pour it in the lemon mixture, trying to distribute it evenly into the mix. It should end up looking like this:.
- Gently stir it if you see areas where it hasn't curdled properly, as illustrated above.
- Put a lid on and leave it undisturbed for about 20 minutes.
- Mix the dry ingredients (3 tsp salt, nutritional yeast, mustard powder and optional herbs) in a small bowl. Rub it between your fingers to powderize the nutritional yeast. Prepare your cloth-lined colander or a tofu press, as described in the GIF above.
- Sprinkle your spices on top of the curdled milk. Gently stir it to incorporate, but do it in slow motion to disturb the lovely little curds as little as possible.
- Now slowly pour the spiced, curdled milk into the cloth-lined colander or tofu press.
- Neatly pack the cloth around the soy mass, one side at a time, to get a more or less even piece of feta in the end. You should wind up with a 'package' about 4" by 6" wide. Place something flat on top and apply pressure. You want it to be mobile since it should be chilled while it's under pressure. Start pressing gently and spend the next 5-10 minutes applying more and more preessure until the feta block is just about ½ inch (1,2 cm) in height. You'll want to build your 'tower of pressure' in a way that enables you to move it to a cold place since it's supposed to chill and press for at least a couple of hours and preferably over night.
- This feta is more fragile than regular feta so be gentle when doing this.
- Now taste to see if it needs more salt. If so, sprinkle some finely ground salt on top and consider adding more salt to the spice mix the next time you make it to better accomodate your tastebuds.The consistency can be slightly adjusted to a more dry and less creamy state by wrapping the feta in a new and dry kitchen or paper towel. Or simply put it all into an airtight container and top it with a piece of paper towel that you change when it gets moist.
- Mustard powder can be left out
- I would love to add some light miso to the spice mix, but can't get my hands on miso powder which would be easier to incorporate than paste. Try it if you can get it.
- f you can get your hands on lactic acid this can partially replace the lemon juice for curdling adding a VERY authentic flavor to your feta. Note that not all types of lactic acids will be strong enough to induce curdling. I know that The Gentle Chef uses lactic acid from ModernistPantry.com
and this brand is supposed to be able to curdle your milk.
- The herb version of this cheese might benefit from the herbs being slightly heated with the milk in the very first step of the recipe. But since 80% of the milk is being strained afterwards it's hard to say without further testing how much of the taste will be washed out.
Use your vegan feta cheese to make ‘Greek neat balls’ again, yummmm…
Here’s a version made with fresh herbs