We here at Planetarian Life are all about finding pleasurable ways to reduce our meat consumption. We’re also into figuring out satisfying dairy substitutes as well. So far, we’re happy with plant milks and creamers—especially oat. We love unsweetened coconut milk and coconut cream as a stand-ins for dairy cream and sour cream. But up until now, we’ve pretty much drawn the line at cheese. In Planetarian Life recipes, we always offer (and will continue to offer) both dairy and plant cheese options. That’s because there’s a difference between plant cheese and dairy cheese. Good plant cheese isn’t bad, but its texture is different, and it melts differently. So, when Maggy sent me a link for plant-based feta cheese made from tofu, I was intrigued but skeptical.
Getting the Brine Right
The recipe called for firm or extra-firm tofu, drained, weighted, and broken into bite-size chunks and soaked in a brine consisting of water, distilled vinegar, and kosher salt, which I immediately made and tasted the next day. Compared with traditional feta, this cheese was soft and spongy and the brine was too strong, resulting in plant cheese that was too salty and acidic.
Knowing how nutritional yeast gives everything a cheesiness, I tried a second batch, reducing the strength of the brine and tossing a couple tablespoons of nutritional yeast into the mix. The brine ratio was starting to taste right, but the nutritional yeast was an unnecessary distraction.
Perfect Plant-Based Feta Cheese
It finally occurred to me that our plant sour cream was flavored with a mix of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar, a combination of acids that we thought best mimicked the flavor dairy sour cream. It turned out that this was a winning combo for our Planetarian Plant-Based Feta Cheese.
Another change we made from the original was to replace the extra-firm tofu with super-firm tofu. When brined for a day, not only did it closely resemble the texture of dairy feta, it also didn’t need weighting before using. Just remove it from its packaging, pat it dry, and break it into bite-size chunks.
Plant-Based Feta Cheese Pizza
I hosted a pizza party last night. One of the guests couldn’t eat cheese. As she was contemplating what she wanted on her pizza and suggesting that good cheese-less pizza was likely impossible, I sent my husband into the house for my jar of Lemon-Rosemary-Marinated Planetarian Feta, which I crumbled liberally over her pie.
As it emerged, everyone was impressed with the look, but the proof was on the empty board.
- 1 cup warm water
- 6 tablespoons juice and strips of zest from 2 lemons, zest optional*
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 block (1 pound) super-firm tofu, broken into large, bite-size chunks
- In a 1 quart jar, mix water, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt. Add tofu, pressing on chunks to consolidate. Refrigerate in the brine for at least 24 hours. (Can be refrigerated for a month or more.)
Lemon-Rosemary-Marinated Tofu (optional)
- At any point after 24 hours, you can drain, pat chunks dry, return to the jar, and add lemon-rosemary oil (see note above). Press down on chunks to consolidate. Add additional oil, if necessary, to cover the feta. Refrigerate, returning to room temperature when ready to use.