Vegan Pimento “Cheese” Spread

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If you’ve ever been invited to my house for a meal, or if I’ve ever been invited to your house and brought a dish to pass, you probably already know that I love surprise ingredients…I get really excited and even a little giddy.  My mantra usually goes something like this:  I made _____ (fill in the blank with any normal sounding dish), but there’s a secret ingredient – guess what it is!

In the past it’s been Chai-Spiced Ricotta Cake (no one guessed that it had ricotta or black pepper!), Parsnip Cake (zucchini was a common guess with this one), Chocolate Chestnut Creams (people kept guessing chocolate and coffee but no one thought of chestnut), and the queen recipe of secret ingredients – Chocolate Sauerkraut Cupcakes (I always tell people to sit down before I tell them what’s in this one, lol!).  And now this spread.  I took it to a party and people were calling it the “smoky cheese spread” and asking me what kind of smoked cheese I used in it.

Even though it tastes like cheese, this spread is actually vegan!  It gets its cheesy, umami flavor from nutritional yeast (and more umami from soy), smokiness from roasted red peppers and smoked paprika, and creaminess from almonds.  Aside from just sprinkling it on popcorn, this was my first time using nutritional yeast in a recipe…I can’t wait to do some more experimenting! 

Vegan Pimento “Cheese” Spread 

Yields about 1 cup 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 a medium roasted red bell pepper (store-bought, or see the bottom of this post for instructions on how to make them at home)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon mustard powder

1/2 cup blanched almonds

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (such as Bob’s Red Mill)

1 scallion, green and white parts, thinly sliced, divided

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add the onion and cook until softened and starting to brown in places, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly.  Cool completely. 

Add the onion/garlic mixture and all remaining ingredients (except the scallion) to a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in 1/2 of the scallion.

Chill, then top with the remaining 1/2 of the scallion and serve with crackers or crudités.

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  1. says

    This sounds amazing! I’ve made kale chips with nutritional yeast as the cheesy flavor…and people always think there is actually cheese in it!

  2. says

    Nutritional yeast? That’s a new one on me, Faith, so I Googled it. Appears it is exactly right for something like this dip. Very interesting and while the vegan part of things is not a big part of my life, it sure doesn’t hurt. :)

  3. says

    Faith this cheesey spread sounds quite delish. I have to confess that I’m drawn to and put off by the name. Somehow I have bad memeories of all “pimento cheeses” from childhood that I’m struggling to escape from. Your ingredient list looks quite reasonable and tasty. I have used nutritional yeast many times–mainly as a substitute for parmesan. It does have a umami flavor which is very like aged cheese. This dish looks like it would be fun at a party. Plus the ingredient-guessing-game would add to the pleasure.

    • says

      Stevie, That’s too funny — I absolutely adore regular pimento cheese, which is why I wanted to experiment with a vegan version. But I didn’t have it as a child, only as an adult, so maybe that has something to do with it. :) Love the idea of using nutritional yeast as a parmesan substitute, I will definitely try that!

  4. says

    My husband just made a vegan queso so he’s going to be excited to try this! He loves coming up with vegan dips. Thank you for sharing such a tempting treat with me. I hope you are having a happy start to your week!

  5. says

    I teach about the flavor “umami” but I have never seen the bit of knowledge be useful until just now! What a fantastic combination of flavors…and stunning, stunning photos!

  6. says

    Creative use of nutritional yeast. I do flatbreads and kale chips with nutritional yeast and this looks like another good way to use this unusual store cupboard ingredient. Actually I love all of the other ingredients too – especially the smoked paprika.

  7. says

    I LOVE that you added sauerkraut to chocolate cupcakes! What a hoot! :-) This dip looks and sounds so delicious, Faith. I adore veggie-based dips so I know I’d love this. :-)

  8. says

    This sounds wonderful. I would be sitting right by it at a party eating it all night. I am always amazed at how you can take fattening recipes and make them healthy and delicious:)

  9. says

    Oh you are a trickster aren’t you with this recipe filled with guessing traps lol. i can see how the nutritional yeast would lead people astray. But it looks wonderful and it would be great for a holiday pot-luck.

  10. says

    You would be my kind of dinner guest, and I, yours – for sure! I am the same… not so much about getting giddy over hiding ingredients in my food – I would definitely be giddy about anything you brought me… but I get giddy about any opportunity to taste anything new. I just LOVE that!
    Nutritional yeast I have never heard of and definitely will do some research on this. Kudos for you for creating such a lovely recipe that is vegan.

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