No matter what holiday or special-occasion gatherings I attend, I encounter food options that contain gluten, milk dairy, or both. With the popularity of gluten-free foods well-integrated in the mainstream, dairy is still the ingredient that makes most offerings a “no-go.”
As we both sniffed over the breakfast pastries laid out at a conference site, I couldn’t help but notice that the man checking out the baked goods didn’t walk away with any. Instead, he filled a mug of hot coffee, skipped over the carafes of cream and milk, and then surveyed the food for anything else. We glanced up at each other and exchanged knowing smiles.
“Ever since I went vegan, people direct me towards anything labeled, ‘gluten free’,” he laughed.
“And ever since I got diagnosed Celiac, people direct me towards anything labeled, “vegan,” I said. “By the way, I went to check out what was in at the desk, since they said there was some special needs foods there.”
“What did they have?” he asked.
“Bananas and apples, ” I replied. And then both of us said, “Hmm.”
If you’ve been reading the My Allergy Advocate blog for at least a year, you’ve probably noticed that my recipes are designed with food-restrictive profiles in mind, so it should make logical sense that unless the ingredients are Top 8 allergens or foods that are on the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) or FODMAPs, I don’t add more substitutions or restrictions. Feeding us is hard enough. Instead, I place optional ingredients so that readers can pick and choose what works best for them.
Where vegans and many people with Autoimmune Diseases overlap in their food needs and interests are with dairy free options. If those same options can be made without nuts, legumes, beans, or glutinous grains, and they are animal-product free and low or no processed foods, I consider them a win for us all.
Vegan Cheese: Nooch for Us All
Can you see Oprah Winfrey calling out to an audience, “Everybody gets Nooch!” ? OK, well, maybe in MY dreams, I see Oprah directing everyone to look under their seats for a big container of the best vegan cheese ever. It’s like they say, the thing you can’t have is the thing you begin to obsess over. And I’ve been a bit crazy trying to find a vegan cheese that doesn’t make me sick. It hasn’t been created in commercial form, so once again, it took a little research and experimenting to make my cheesy dream come true.
I’m giving a shout out to Karina Ray, a Celiac Sister in the Greater Seattle area, who introduced me to Nooch, also known as Vegan Cheese, through a mention on my Facebook Wall. I think I was lamenting about not being able to make the perfect-tasting Mac and Cheese because I can’t have milk dairy, and even if I could tolerate it, it’s just a congestive food, I’m not sure I want to eat it all that much. As a runner, I already shoot plenty of snot rockets while I run, yet eating cheese would probably increase the snot-producing factor to a plant-watering level. Seriously.
Nooch is made from a combination of an oil, nutritional yeast, and flour, combined at low heat and whisked with water and spices to create a rich, cream, bechamel-like sauce. But to my point regarding the conversation above, vegan foods are not necessarily AIP compliant or gluten-free, for that matter. And voila, this one is!Print
A spicy, gluten-free and dairy free version of vegan cheese, inspired by Elephantasticvegan.com’s vegan cheese recipe.
2 tablespoons coconut oil (if you use vegan butter, check the ingredients, as some contain soy or other legumes)
1/3 cup Arrowroot powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika (or none if you use a strong curry)
1 teaspoon curry powder
ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup water, plus extra set aside
Optional: red pepper flakes
In a saucepan or small pot, heat coconut oil on low. Add all the spices and curry powder and stir until evenly distributed.
Add the arrowroot flour and whisk with a small whisk. Add nutritional yeast, and start whisking as if it meant your life. If you don’t have a small enough whisk, you may find that a large whisk isn’t breaking up the clumps that will begin to form. Take a spoon and break up the clumps, stirring quickly. Add water and continuing whisking. You may add more water until the sauce reaches the consistency you want.
When serving, add a few red pepper flakes for additional kick.
Nooch will thicken when it is not being heated or stirred. You can add a little more water and reheat to return it to the viscosity you want. Nooch can be poured on pizza crust, mixed with macaroni for a Mac and Nooch (also known as Mac and Chez), or used as a dipping sauce with gluten-free bread squares for a fondue (add in your alcohol, I’m not telling).
I have anticipated that some of you advanced home chefs will ask whether or not to add Xanthan gum to increase the elasticity of the cheese texture. I tried it with and without, and in my opinion, the clumping factor in the early stage in both versions led me to believe there is little advantage to add Xanthan gum to the recipe.
Keywords: vegan, nooch, dairy free, cheese
To complete my journey towards making the perfect gluten-free Mac and Nooch, I need to make the nooch gluten-free, AIP compliant, yet create smooth texture and nut-like flavor without the ingredients that typically create those specific things.
After experimenting with a few different gluten-free flours, I’ve chosen arrowroot as the substitute for wheat flour or cornstarch. Why? Arrowroot works the best when making gluten-free roux. It has a tendency to not clump into gummy balls when combined with fat, and during the whisking process, you’ll have a bit more time to work with the mixture before it begins to set and thicken. In contrast, alternative flours such as tapioca or all-purpose gluten free flour mixes will clump much faster. Trust me, it was a craptastic experiment in making edible glue.
My husband has some kind of cornstarch and flour radar built in. Anytime we’re eating in a restaurant, he takes a look at my plate to make sure that the food I’ve ordered has not had flour or cornstarch added to it. One of the ways he does this is to take a spoon to any liquid on the plate, scoop a small amount of it into the spoon, and then watch the liquid fall off the spoon. If flour or cornstarch has been added, the viscosity of the liquid can be seen, and the way it falls off the spoon immediately alerts him to the presence of “something” added. And of course, that “something” is almost always an ingredient that will make me sick. Over time, I’ve gotten better at developing my own detection system; his is always spot-on. He might be momentarily stymied when presented with two rouxs, one made with cornstarch, and one made with arrowroot. Arrowroot is the bomb for sauces!
Finally, I make my nooch with curry powder. If I could be addicted to any flavor, curry would have to be it. I found a curry that has so little alliums associated with it, it has not triggered inflammation nor allergic symptoms. For others, you may need to make your own concoction of the various spices minus the ones that don’t work for you, and keep a bunch of it in a container like it’s edible gold. I ration this curry powder because it’s $18 a pound. You do you. I won’t judge!