If you’ve ever been to Live Food Bar in Toronto, Aux Vivres in Montreal or any other gourmet vegan restaurant worth its salt, you, like me, will have had a mini heart attack at seeing a vegan cheesecake on the menu – then will have taken it straight to the face while only briefly pausing to ask what the hell was actually in it.
I have always been a huge fan of cheesecake and it is one of the things I miss in my non-dairy new life. You can imagine my excitement, then, whenever I see a vegan version on a menu – and the best thing is that they taste even better than cheesy cheesecakes, but don’t make you feel quite so dense in the stomach afterwards.
After dining twice at Aux Vivres on my trip to Montreal I realised that I just HAD to try making a vegan cheesecake of my own. Inspired by Live, and my gluten-intolerant friend Hilary, this cheesecake is not only vegan, but its raw, gluten-free AND free of processed sugars too. And it even passed the ultimate Ukrainian family test – everyone loved it!
(Makes 1 pie, with 12 slices, or about 18 mini pies, made in a cupcake pan)
1 cup peeled almonds
1/2 cup ground flax
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup pitted honey dates
4 cups raw cashews
1 1/4 cups lemon juice (usually about 4 large lemons)
1 cup coconut oil / cold pressed canola oil
3/4 cup agave nectar
4 tbsp raw tahini
3/4 cup frozen blueberries (you can also use blackberries if you prefer)
Soak the cashews in water for a bare minimum of 4 hours (see note below)
Place the almonds in a blender until they’re coarsely ground, then throw in the ground flax, cinnamon and dates too
Blend everything together until it stays together when you press it between your fingers
Pour the mixture in a 9 x 1.5 inch pie dish and press it down firmly into the bottom of the dish, making sure it goes fully into the corners. I like to use the blunt end of my giant rolling pin to flatten it right down and make sure it’s even
Place the pie dish into the freezer while you prepare the filling
Place 2 cups of the cashews into the blender and blend until they’re as fine as possible
Set the ground cashews aside and repeat with the other 2 cups of cashews
Place all the ground cashews into the blender along with the lemon juice, oil, agave nectar and raw tahini
Blend for as long as humanly possible; you want the filling to be creamy but with small granules of the nuts – almost like ricotta!
Take the pie dish from the freezer, and pour just over 3/4 of the filling on top of the crust
Flatten the filling down, making sure it goes right to the sides and smoothing it out as much as possible
Place into the freezer for 1 hour
Throw the blueberries into the blender with the rest of the filling and blend together until the berries are evenly blended in and the filling is a gorgeous colour
Remove the pie dish from the freezer and pour the remaining filling on top of the pie
Smooth down as much as possible, making sure it goes to the sides, and place it back into the freezer
Keep the pie in the freezer until about 30 minutes before serving
This is the kind of thing that you want to make on a special occasion, not least because it does require a little effort but because this amount of cashew nuts aren’t exactly cheap. However, it will still be cheaper than a store-bought similar thing and the joy you’ll get from seeing everyone eat and (and feel healthy after!) is well worth the cash.
If you don’t have a Vita-mix (and who actually does?), it’s going to take a little while to get the filling to the right consistency. Stick with it, and eventually you’ll get there. Conversely, if you don’t mix the texture being more granular, feel free to keep your filling like that!
Not only is this possibly the best thing I’ve ever made, this recipe also has an amazing amount of stuff in it that’s good for you; nuts, flax, coconut oil, tahini and berries are all great for a vegan diet – and a carnivore too! It is full of good fats – and as David likes to tell us, fat doesn’t make you fat! In fact, WHFoods tell us that “In fact, people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts.” So go mad!
If you don’t have an amazing blender and don’t want to burn out yours, soak the cashews overnight or for at least 8 hours.
If you don’t have a springform pan, line the pie dish with Saran Wrap before assembling it; this will allow you to lift the pie out of the dish just before serving then just remove the wrap and it will look amazing!
You can use slivered almonds if you can’t get hold of peeled almonds / don’t fancy peeling your own!
You can also make delightful little mini cheesecakes by using a couple of cupcake pans instead of a pie dish!