Making these vegan “buffalo mozzarella” balls is actually really easy. The most tedious part of making this cheese is gathering a couple of ingredients you might not already have.
A lot of vegans are already aware of agar-agar powder (aka vegan gelatin). But another ingredient you might not already have in your pantry is tapioca flour. It has a similar texture to corn starch, but it adds a stretchiness that other thickeners like corn starch or potato starch won’t.
The texture of these vegan mozzarella balls is actually very close to the real thing. It doesn’t have the exact same stringy texture when you pull them apart, but it does have that squishy, chewy, moist and tender texture of bocconcini.
You can decide how big to make these little cheese balls. I used two spoons to scoop the cheese mixture into the ice water bath, but they would probably turn out even cuter and more uniform if you used an ice cream scoop. Make big tennis ball-sized or egg-sized cheese or make little tiny grape-sized cheese. Make some of each! I think the smaller you make them, the cuter they turn out and the more surface area you have for drenching them in high quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yum!
Here you can see some of the naked cheese blobs I made on the left. They slice very well for making into a caprese salad with heirloom tomatoes and fresh-picked basil from the window sill. The agar-agar is great for firming them up without adding any weird taste or texture. They really are nice and soft and silky while still retaining their shape. You could easily cut them with the side of your fork but they’ll still hold up to being tossed with salad dressing. Basically, these aren’t gooey and they won’t melt.
If you’re looking for a good vegan mozzarella to slice and melt onto your next Margherita pizza, this isn’t the cheese you’re looking for. But if you’re (like me) looking for a cheese that’s so delicious on it’s own that you’re gobbling them up before you can even put them in the fridge, you’re going to want to try this recipe.
I used to buy tubs of baby bocconcini and snack on half of the container with my bare hands WHILE putting the rest of my groceries away. So you know I was glad to find this recipe for homemade vegan mozzarella balls on Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Life website. This recipe was originally written for VegNews Fall 2012 edition and is an updated version of the recipe included in her vegan cheese cookbook Artisan Vegan Cheese which is definitely up next in my to-read list since making this wonderful mozzarella.
- 1 cup plain, unsweetened vegan yogurt (I used coconut, soy is also fine)
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 3 – 8 hours and drained
- ½ cup water and another ½ cup water for later
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- 3 tablespoons tapioca flour
- 1 tablespoon agar powder
- Blend the yogurt, soaked cashews, ½ cup of water and salt in a blender. Blend for 2+ minutes or as long as needed until completely emulsified.
- Transfer to a bowl or container covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel and set aside at room temperature 12 to 24 hours to culture. It should taste slightly tangy and salty at this stage.
- After culturing, whisk in the tapioca flour.
- In a medium saucepan, bring the remaining ½ cup of water to a bowl and whisk in the agar. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Simmer 3-4 minutes.
- Pour in the yogurt mixture and whisk well with a whisk. Continue to cook over medium heat while stirring with a wooden spoon 5-10+ minutes until the mixture is "smooth, glossy and stretchy." (Yes, you will become bored while sitting at the stove stirring constantly for 5-10 minutes. Play music or a podcast while you're doing this and do not step away or you will get lumps.)
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Using an ice cream scooper, drop balls of the cheese into the ice bath. Let sit for 20 to 30 minutes until firm.
- Store in the fridge in brine (salted water), olive oil, or vinaigrette and it will keep for 2 weeks or so.
Thank goodness for people like Miyoko Schinner who can come up with such creative vegan cheese-making methods! Stay tuned for more vegan cheeses because I’m sure this will be just the beginning of my homemade cheese-making journey.
Leave a comment below to let me know if you’ll be trying this recipe! This even got the thumbs up from my carnivore Italian boyfriend and (dairy) cheese-loving mum so don’t be afraid to try this one.