Yes, you read the title right! You’ve just stumbled upon our recipe for vegan blue cheese dressing, or what our founder, Nina, calls That Salad Lady’s blue cheese-ish dressing.
Since publishing our recipe for homemade ranch dressing, we’ve gotten dozens upon dozens of requests for a blue cheese dressing recipe, more specifically, a “healthy” one. This came as no surprise! Right along with ranch, blue cheese dressing is among the most popular salad dressings in the world. Blue cheese aside, it shares practically the same consistency and almost the exact same flavor as ranch.
Also, right along with ranch, blue cheese dressing will likely never make the top of any list of healthy salad dressings. After all, it’s largely comprised of blue cheese and other ingredients dieters love to hate like mayonnaise, milk and sour cream. But this isn’t necessarily the reason we’ve decided to bring you a vegan version.
Why Vegan Blue Cheese Dressing?
Our rationale for bringing you a vegan blue cheese dressing has nothing at all to do with perceived nutritional superiority. Though vegan foods are generally praised as healthier foods, from a nutritional standpoint, a lot of them are actually lacking. This holds especially true for many store-bought vegan dressings. Believe it or not, with good quality ingredients, you can put a healthy spin on traditional blue cheese dressing or any of your favorite dressings.
So why? Why are we bringing you a vegan blue cheese dressing?
Well, besides the fact that we’re all about variety in our recipe creations, there’s actually an interesting little story behind the blend?
Nina has always been a huge fan of blue cheese – whether it’s sprinkled on a salad, paired with fruit and nuts or added to a dressing. However, close to 20 years ago she adopted a vegan diet. Of all the animal-based foods Nina missed, blue cheese was at the top of the list. She especially missed adding blue cheese dressing to her favorite Cobb salad.
Instead of just opting for a store-bought vegan version, Nina started experimenting with different plant-based ingredients to create her own. After many iterations, she ultimately crafted a vegan blue cheese-ish dressing that almost tasted like the real thing. She liked it so much that she continued to make it the exact same way – even after transitioning back to eating animal-based foods. We’re now bringing Nina’s perfected recipe to you.
THE BALANCING ACT
Replicating the strong, tangy, oh-so-delicious flavor of blue cheese dressing isn’t an easy task. But with the right combination of plant-based ingredients, as you’ll see, it is quite possible. Our vegan version starts with nuts, more specifically, cashews. A type of tree-nut, cashews have a mild flavor and rich, creamy, somewhat buttery texture that’s similar to peanuts. Like all nuts, cashews also have a high fat content. These taste and textural qualities make for a perfect base.
Still, cashews alone won’t produce the cheesy taste blue cheese fans know and love! That’s where nutritional yeast comes in. Often called “nooch,” nutritional yeast is a deactivated form of what’s known as baker’s or brewer’s yeast. The term “deactivated,” essentially means that the yeast cells are killed during processing and, ultimately, inactive in the final product. When deactivated, the cells lose the ability to expand. This is what makes baked products “rise.”
Turns out, when added to certain foods like nuts, seeds and legumes, nutritional yeast delivers nutty, savory flavor that’s even a bit salty. This is what mimics the natural flavor of cheese. So, it’s largely the combination of cashews and nutritional yeast that sets the stage for our dressing. But still, these layers won’t taste particularly good by themselves. Blue cheese dressing can only be as good as the seasonings you add to it.
That’s why we complement the cashews and nutritional yeast with a rich and tangy blend of acids, herbs and spices. For crumbly, cheese-like texture we add a little tofu too. The end result is a delightfully creamy vegan blue cheese dressing that’s chock-full of authentic flavor and good nutrition alike.
Now that we’ve hinted at some of the layers in our vegan blue cheese dressing, let’s talk more about what’s in our recipe and why.
Creamy and Oh So Craveable Cashews
We’ve already talked a lot about the taste and texture of cashews, and their role in our vegan blue cheese dressing. What we haven’t talked about yet is all the nutritional goodness they bring to the blend. Like other nuts, cashews are naturally rich in fiber, plant-based protein and monounsaturated fats. In addition to lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke, these fats also help the body better absorb certain vitamins and antioxidants housed in plant-based foods.
For more balanced flavor and good creamy texture, our recipe specifically calls for using unsalted raw cashews. We also suggest soaking the cashews in advance, overnight if possible. When cashews are thoroughly soaked, they’ll better absorb all the herbs, spices and other flavorings included in the dressing. Now, if you have nut allergies or just don’t like the taste of cashews, we’ve included some easy nut and nut-free alternatives to try (see recipe card).
Nutritional Yeast for the “Cheesiness”
As we mentioned before, nutritional yeast is what makes our dressing recipe cheese-ish. But it’s so much more than just a flavor enhancer. It offers good nutrition too! In fact, you can get close to 20% of a day’s worth of fiber and 10 grams of complete protein from just two tablespoons. Nutritional yeast is also a valuable source of health-promoting B vitamins, especially vitamins B6 and B12, the latter of which is one of the greatest nutritional concerns with vegan diets.
Besides being 100% vegan, nutritional yeast is naturally gluten-free, sugar-free and very low in sodium making it an excellent choice for practically any eating style. Nutritional yeast is available at most major grocery stores and fresh food markets, large and small. You’ll likely find it in the health foods, baking or spice aisle. That Salad Lady generally uses Bragg® Nutritional Yeast, but there are many brands on the market. Some are fortified with additional nutrients.
A Twist of Lemony, Vinegary Tang
Whether vinegar or lemon juice, you’ll find some type of acid in any traditional blue cheese dressing. Our vegan version includes a little bit of both. While most vinegars work, our recipe specifically calls for using apple cider vinegar. Made from fermented apple juice, like vinegar in general, this one brings that classic tangy taste to the mix.
But, owing to the presence of probiotics, apple cider vinegar also comes with powerful health-promoting effects ranging from blood sugar control to gut-health promotion (study up in our Nutrition Glossary to learn more). For this recipe, we suggest using raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Compared to filtered varieties, it generally contains more probiotics.
Then there’s the lemon juice, which adds great flavor balance to the apple cider vinegar. Fresh is definitely best – for both flavor and nutritional purposes. Freshly squeezed lemon juice itself is naturally rich in vitamin C, a potent water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that plays a key role in immune health.
Herbs and Spices GALORE
Whether traditional or vegan, much of the flavor of blue cheese dressing is owed to an exquisite mixture of herbs and spices, which deliver rich, savory flavors. Nina didn’t hold back in creating our vegan blend, which includes chives, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika and freshly ground black pepper.
Combined with the creaminess of the cashews, the cheesiness of the yeast and the tanginess of the acids, these ingredients build robust, downright craveable flavor.
If you’re a fan of ranch dressing, this combination of herbs and spices will give you the best of both worlds, mainly due to the addition of chives and dill as these are classic ranch ingredients. That’s actually why Nina calls it a blue cheese-ish dressing. If you don’t like the taste of ranch, you can modify the recipe a bit to reduce the ranch-ish flavor (see recipe card).
Besides being excellent flavor enhancers, the herbs and spices in our recipe collectively contain powerful phytonutrient antioxidants known to help fight inflammation and reduce damage to your body’s cells. This is true for both fresh and dried varieties.
Tofu for an Even Cheesier Finish
For many die-hard blue cheese fans, the chunkier the dressing, the better. That classic chunkiness fans love is created by simply mixing extra blue cheese crumbles into the finished product. To replicate that coveted texture, we swap out the blue cheese crumbles for crumbled tofu. This final layer is totally optional, but you won’t believe the difference it makes.
We suggest using firm tofu, which is one of the most versatile types. When slightly dried and crumbled, the consistency of firm tofu is very similar to that of blue cheese. Adding this whole soy food considerably ups the dressing’s overall nutritional value too. In addition to packing a powerful protein punch, certain phytonutrients housed in tofu may help lower heart disease risk.
If you’re allergic to soy foods or your diet is soy-free, you can certainly leave out the tofu. We promise you’ll still have a deliciously creamy blue cheese-ish experience. Another option is to add vegan blue cheese crumbles to the finished product. If your diet is more all-inclusive, by all means, add a little shot of tofu crumbles to the blend and thank us later.
As we mentioned before, you’ll want to soak the cashews before making the dressing. While we generally suggest soaking them overnight, you can also quick soak them to save some time. For the quick soak method, you’ll just need to cover the cashews in hot water and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Once you’ve soaked the cashews, use a colander or strainer basket to give them a good drain and then you’re ready to start mixing the dressing.
You’ll need a high-powered blender to mix the dressing. Start by adding the drained cashews to your blender pitcher along with half a cup of water. From there, you’ll add all other ingredients except for the tofu, if using. The next step is to blend everything together. With variable speed units, start with a low speed and then gradually increase it to a higher speed until the mixture is perfectly smooth and creamy.
Once you’ve mixed the dressing, transfer it to a mason jar or bowl with a lid, cover it and then let it chill in the fridge. If you’re using tofu, drain it well and pat it dry with paper towels. From there, crumble the tofu and gently stir it into the dressing and mix everything well. Return your covered jar or bowl to the fridge and let it chill for about 30 minutes before enjoying it. As the dressing sits, it’ll thicken, and all the flavors will come together.
The Versatility of Vegan Blue Cheese Dressing
Our authentically rich and creamy vegan blue cheese dressing makes about eight flavor-packed servings (approximately two tablespoons per serving). As with any other blue cheese dressing, you can use it as a dressing for your favorite salad bowl recipes, as a topping for sandwiches or as a dipping sauce for proteins, veggies and fruits.
We recommend transferring any leftover dressing to an airtight sealed container and then storing it in the fridge. It’ll last for up to a week. You can even freeze it to make it last longer. The dressing will thicken a bit during storage. To thin it out, simply add a little water as needed before using it.
SHOW US YOUR WORK
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This information is provided as a courtesy and is only an estimate. Please review our full disclaimer to get a clear understanding of the nutrition and health information and resources presented and written on our website.