Vegans and the lactose intolerant get the short end of the pizza stick* when it comes to finding an enjoyable cheese substitute. Some choke down soy-, nut-, or oil-based alternatives like Daiya, but I personally think most of those have the texture of chewed bubblegum when melted. And they don't taste like cheese. At all.
Portland, Oregon's best vegan restaurant, Portobello, has the smartest solution: stop trying to replicate cheese in the first place. Owner Aaron Adams devised a simple, easy, vegan replacement for head pizzaiolo Will Fain's delectable pies that is nothing whatsoever like mozzarella, but is totally satisfying in its own right: cashew cream.
Hearing those words—cashew cream—conjures images of a peanut butter flavor, but in fact it tastes like nothing of the sort. Its profile is hard to describe, though there are certainly notes of butter, milk, and nutmeg. Instead of stretchy strands of aged mozzarella or chewy pools of fresh mozz, cashew cream is more of a sauce. Milky and creamy, it's substantial enough not to incorporate into the tomato sauce, but only just.
If you're making pizza for vegan family or friends, it's tough to beat this cashew cream. The beauty of it is, it's also open to home experimentation. Want it a little spicy? Mix in some cayenne. Prefer a chunkier cream? Don't puree the cashews as long. It's hard to go wrong here. Fain makes it in large batches for the restaurant, but we've scaled the recipe down for home use.
*What exactly is a pizza stick?
What you'll need for one pizza:
- One portion of dough and tomato sauce (Kenji's Neapolitan recipe is perfect for this)
- 1 cup raw cashew pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, grated
- sea salt
- fresh basil
- extra virgin olive oil
Curious to try a pizza completely free of animal byproducts? Check out the slideshow for the lowdown.