Hands up who grew up eating parm in a shaker can? (*raises hand*)
I’m not sure I had real parmesan until maaaaybe sometime as a teenager. I do know that I never, ever bought it for myself, though! I’d definitely graduated on to real cheese by the time I was flying solo through grocery stores in my vegetarian college years. I’d honestly forgotten about the canned stuff’s existence until I ran across a recipe for vegan parmesan cheese recently.
Which got me thinking, because while vegan parmesan is to cheese what ketchup flavored chips are to fresh garden tomatoes, it is a really fun way to drop an umami bomb onto dishes. It has a savory, can’t-quite-put-my-finger-on-it-deliciousness that makes it strangely addictive even if it isn’t truly cheese like. And whats not to love about any kind of food that can be sprinkled all over other food? I’m fully on Team Sprinkle All The Things with this one.
There are a myriad of vegan parmesan recipes out there in the world, but the vast majority of them are the classic “nuts and nooch” combinations. They most often use blanched almonds or raw cashews, paired with nutritional yeast and some seasonings to emulate a “cheesy” flavor. If you go searching for a nut free vegan parmesan, you’ll commonly find versions that use hemp hearts or sunflower seeds. Which is fine and all, but if you can’t have nuts or seeds and still want something savory to sprinkle on meals like magical umami dust, what’s a girl to do?
So, I came up with a couple of different versions of my own nut free vegan parmesan sprinkles! I figured since the nuts and seeds were really being used in vegan recipes as much as a filler as anything else, why couldn’t they be substituted out with other things? I broke out my mini food processor and set to work blitzing a few different combinations.
Nut Free Vegan Parmesan #1
This version using plantain chips comes closest to the texture of the original powdery cheese in a can. The natural golden color of these chips also make for a cheesy yellow color that further fools your eyes! Since these kinds of chips are nice and carb-y, they blitz up nicely into fine crumbles. Just make sure you don’t over process them unless you’re looking to make an accidental paste! When combined with the nutritional yeast and seasonings, these sprinkles have a lovely savory flavor and a nice bite that isn’t quite a crunch.
I was worried that – since these are already fried in oil – they would turn out to be too hard to make a good “parm”, but they’re pretty perfect. The only thing with this nut free vegan parmesan version is that the oil from being fried will make the sprinkles clump up a little. No big deal, since those clumps can easily be broken up with a spoon, or by shaking them through a shaker like the original grated parm.
Nut Free Vegan Parmesan #2
This version uses lightly toasted and salted coconut chips. I used ready made chips in my recipe, but you could toast your own if you so choose. You’ll just want to barely toast them, so there’s a tiny bit of color on the edges. Don’t toast them too much that they take on too much color or get dark, bitter or burned. Since coconut chips are pretty high in fiber, they don’t process down as finely as the plantain chips and will yield larger pieces even when ground in the food processor. They still take on a good savory flavor, but the color won’t be as bright and you’ll still be able to smell the coconut scent if you get up close.
Because of the larger, chewier pieces of coconut, this version isn’t as close to the shakeable can dust in texture. It’s got a bit more bite, which makes it fun to use when you want a bit more texture or contrast, like sprinkled over salads or soups. These sprinkles have more in common, texture wise, with something like dukkah or similar. If keeping things lower carb is your thing, though, this would be the batch for you. You may want to add a little extra nutritional yeast, to taste, to balance out the natural sweetness of the coconut, too.
Whichever version of nut free vegan parmesan sprinkles you make, transfer it to airtight jars and keep it in a cool, dark place for up to a month. I like to reuse old glass herb and spice jars with shaker lids on top – that way, I can just shake my parmesan sprinkles right over my meal!
Remember, if you’re following the AIP, you’ll want to choose a non-fortified brand of nutritional yeast, like Sari or Kal. I can find Kal brand in stores local to me, but be careful: they make a fortified version, too! You’ll want to choose the Kal can with the green label marked “imported” to get the non fortified version. The fortified presentation is the same, except that has a blue label and is simply called “nutritional yeast”, no mention of being “imported”.
Looking to add more dairy & nut free cheesy goodness to your life?
Make some of my famous AIP Cheese Sauce! Then use it to make yourself a fat bacon cheeseburger or a pile of messy nachos. This stuff really is liquid gold! Drizzle it over roasted vegetables to convert any so-called veggie hater, make taco salads, spoon it over your favorite proteins or use it as a creamy, queso like dipping sauce. The possibilities are almost endless. (Psssst! You can find a coconut milk free version here.)
Looking for more seasoning blends and flavor makers?
Check out my other seasoning posts:
- 1 cup / 90 g lightly crushed plantain chips
- ¼ cup / 20 g non fortified nutritional yeast
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- Salt, to taste
- GRIND: Add the chips of your choice to the bowl of a mini food processor. Use the grind setting to process the chips until you have fine crumbles. The coconut will take a little longer to process than the plantain chips and won't be as fine in texture, but that's ok.
- PULSE: Add the nutritional yeast and garlic powder to the bowl. Pulse until evenly combined. Taste and add salt, if necessary. If you're using coconut chips, you may wish to add additional nutritional yeast to further balance the natural sweetness of the coconut.
- STORE: Transfer the parmesan sprinkles to an airtight jar and keep in a cool dark place for up to a month.
This post was featured in the Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable.
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