Your guests are sure to be cheesin' real hard after their first bite of this delectable Easy, Creamy Vegan Cheese Ball. Creamy cashews, sun-dried tomatoes, and port wine make for a delicious, dairy-free (and convincing!) impersonation of the retro classic. Best of all, it takes just 15 minutes to assemble.
If you've been reading my blog for a while, you may know that I used to be a cheese freak. Like, so obsessed that I used to have a "cheese drawer" in my fridge - don't judge!
As such, I'm on a mission to vegan-ize every single one of my old cheesy favorites into plant-based versions I can still enjoy. I've made some great progress, like with my Cashew Mac & Cheese, Vegan Parmesan, Alfredo Sauce, Tofu Feta, and Nacho/Queso Cheese.
This delicious vegan cheese ball is creamy, encased with crunchy almonds, perfect for spreading on crackers, and most importantly, it's made with wine! You DO know that wine and (nut) cheese are a match made in heaven, right?
The cheese is really easy to make; you basically just throw the ingredients in the food processor, chill a bit, top with almonds, and chill until set.
Honestly, the hardest part is waiting for the cheese to chill - though I have been known to eat some right out of the food processor. (Again, don't judge!)
What is Port Wine Cheese?
Port wine cheese is a 70's era "cheese food" rather than a cheese. (For reference, Cheese Wiz is also a "cheese food.")
If you've been to the grocery store lately, you've probably seen it sold in tubs (it is a cheese-food, after all), or turned into the fancy appetizer I remember from my childhood by being shaped into a cheese ball and rolled in nuts.
The original (read: dairy heavy) version is made by combining sharp cheddar cheese, cream cheese, some herbs and spices, and a serious glug of the syrupy dessert wine known as port.
To be honest, I'm not actually a huge port wine fan. While I will partake in a glass of a nice red now and then, I'm just not a huge fan of the sweet, thick stuff that is served for dessert.
Don't worry though - this delightful dairy-free cheese ball is still a treat, even if you don't love dessert wine. If you happen to like the OG version of this super retro appetizer, I can almost guarantee you'll like the vegan version.
What's In It
This creamy Vegan Cheese Ball is made with a base of cashews, sun-dried tomatoes, and coconut oil. Here's everything you'll need:
- Raw Cashews - Grabbing raw cashews is the most important piece of making this vegan port wine cheese. Don't try to swap in roasted nuts; the texture will end up all wrong.
- Sun-Dried Tomatoes - Feel free to use either the kind that come packed in oil or the dry kind in bags. If you opt for dry, just soak them with the cashews for easier blending.
- Coconut Oil - After knowing goes into the original version, I think you could easily swap in vegan butter here.
- Nutritional Yeast - This is one of my favorite vegan pantry items! Also known as "nooch," this yummy yellow powder tastes unmistakably cheesy and packs an impressive amount of B vitamins.
- White Miso - This is also sometimes sold as "shiro miso." While I haven't tried any substitutes for white miso with this particular recipe, my cooking intuition tells me that red miso paste or tahini with a splash of soy sauce would both make acceptable substitutes.
- Garlic Powder & Onion Powder - Oh, how I love my allium powders. No chopping, no tears or sticky fingers, and easy to keep on hand at all times.
- Sweet Paprika - Feel free to swap in smoked or hot paprika if you prefer!
- Salt - Salt can be a part of a healthy diet, but if you are following a low salt diet, you can omit it.
- Port Wine - The yumminess from my childhood used port wine, so I always prefer to use it for that nostalgic flavor. Feel free to use any other full bodied red wine or even red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar if you prefer.
- Sliced Almonds - Those elegant, oblong slices are key to my full enjoyment of this healthified guilty pleasure. You can very easily opt to use finely chopped or sliced nuts of any other variety.
How to Make
Step 1: Soak cashews (and sun-dried tomatoes, if needed) in hot water for about 10 minutes.
Step 2: Add all ingredients except sliced almonds to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until smooth, which usually takes about 5 minutes.
Step 3: Place contents in the center of a piece of plastic wrap. Form cheese mixture into a ball by wrapping with the corners.
Step 4: Put the cheese ball into the refrigerator and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes until hardened enough to keep its shape.
Step 5: Unwrap the ball and roll it in almonds - they should stick pretty easily.
Step 6: Put the ball into a sealed container and place back in the refrigerator for a few hours to fully harden.
Serving notes: Because coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees, it's best to take the cheese out of the fridge about a half-hour to an hour before serving so that the cheese is more spreadable.
The cheese will last up to 7 days in the fridge.
More of a visual person? Check out my video below on how easy it is to make!
How to Serve
Friends, this vegan port cheese ball is just the kind of old school fancy that makes me super happy. I think this would be the perfect appetizer for:
- Thanksgiving, Christmas/winter holiday parties, or really any party. Especially if there will be wine and mingling.
- Movie night
- Book Club
- Game Day (class up those tailgates!)
- Basically any time you want to impress.
If you happen to bust out this awesome vegan cheese ball at one of your events, snap a picture and tag me so I can see your magnificent creations!
Variations & Substitutions
This cashew cheese ball appetizer is pretty great just the way it is, but there's always room for customization here at V Nutrition and Wellness! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- No cashews? No problem! These could also be substituted for pignolias (pine nuts) or macademia nuts.
- If you're nut free, try swapping in your favorite unsweetened seed butter and skip the soaking step. Roll in your favorite seeds or a mixture of fresh herbs, or serve as a spread instead.
- Not a fan of sun-dried tomatoes? Try swapping in a tablespoon of tomato paste instead. If you like sun-dried tomatoes but don't have any, try caramelizing the tomato paste for a minute first!
- Make it spicy by swapping sweet paprika for your favorite red chili powder.
Expert Tips & Troubleshooting
This easy vegan cheese ball is a snap to make. Here are a few ways to deal with common missteps:
- Need a make-ahead app? This will last for up to 7 days in the fridge.
- Did you forget to take the vegan cheese ball out of the fridge in time? If you're in a rush, you can microwave the ball on low for about 20-30 seconds to soften enough to spread.
- If you forgot to leave time for it to chill into a ball, serve it as a vegan port wine cheese spread instead!
Oops! Sounds like you refrigerated it just a smidge too long. Try microwaving it in 10 second bursts until it is soft enough to hang on to them.
Yep! Cashews can be substituted for macadamia nuts or pine nuts (which are actually a seed). You can also opt to use your favorite seed butter instead, but note that you'll skip the whole soaking seed step since butter is already processed and creamy.
Sure! There are quite a few alcohol free wines on the market nowadays, or you can use a sweeter vinegar like red wine or balsamic.
Other Yummy Vegan Recipes
If you make this recipe and LOVE IT, please give it 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐!
Vegan Port Wine Cheese Ball
- Soak cashews (and sun-dried tomatoes if not soft) in hot water for about 10 minutes.
- Add all ingredients except sliced almonds to food processor and process until smooth (about 5 minutes).
- Take saran wrap and wrap cheese mixture into a ball.
- Put ball into the refrigerator and refrigerate for about 20-30 minutes until hardened enough to keep its shape.
- Unwrap ball and roll it in almonds.
- Put ball into a sealed container and place back into the refrigerator for a few hours to fully harden.
- Take the cheese out of the fridge about a half hour to an hour before serving so that the cheese is more spreadable. If you're in a rush, you can microwave the ball on low for about 20-30 seconds.
PLEASE NOTE: Nutritional information data is computer generated and only an estimate so it should be used only as a guide.
Mary Ellen Valverde MS, CNS, LDN is a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist who empowers vegans to feel clear and confident about what is uniquely nourishing to them. Mary Ellen's recipes and nutrition information have been featured on Yahoo News, Parade, VegNews, LIVESTRONG, Dr. Axe, Greatist, LIVEKINDLY, Brit+Co, Well+Good, and more.