Vegan, Caramel, Gluten-free Cheesecake (Yes Please)

Vegan cheesecake

This beautiful recipe arose out of a kitchen fudge-up. To be honest, trial and error is my favourite way to create.

I was trying to make Vegan Mozzarella cubes using the recipe from Olives for Dinner, and it didn’t go quite right. It was *almost* perfect… but I messed it up by using regular coconut oil instead of refined (resulting in a very pronounced coconut scent that through off the flavour), and I overcooked the batter. They turned out more like squishy, chewy, cheesy coconut bars. Rather than toss them, I decided to use the coconut to my advantage and blend up the cubes into a cheesecake filling with some maple syrup and lemon juice. The result was *muah* delicious!

Vegan Mozzarella cubes
My Vegan Mozzarella cube fail

I decided to make the crust gluten-free and rich with a nut crust, and topped it with some caramel date sauce. I have nothing against gluten… except I try and limit my intake of wheat to avoid excess ingestion of glyphosate, the pesticide present in many commercial grains. I also find it preferable to substitute protein-rich legume-based doughs in place of the usual wheat flour. In the case of this cheesecake, the nut crust is a very satisfying pairing given the rich flavour and crunch.

Vegan GF Cheescake with date caramel sauce

Likewise, you could create this vegan cheesecake with simple sugar-based caramel sauce, but I find the date caramel sauce to be a deeper flavour and the natural sweetness of the dates allows you to reduce sugar content.

This recipe is a bit more intensive, but is SO convincing as the real thing, you’ll hopefully find it worth the effort. Seriously, the texture and flavour is bizarrely comparable to the dairy version, you could fool any omnivore.

DSC_0190

This recipe came at a perfect time for me, too. The typical vegan cheesecake recipe involves a cashew base. Having over-indulged on all things cashew at the start of my vegan journey, I developed a bit of a sensitivity to the nut. I tend to get super bloated and pained when I eat cashews now, so I had mostly ruled out cheesecake for the foreseeable future. Until now… This recipe does not use any cashews! That’s also good news for those looking for a less fat-heavy cheesecake recipe. The base of this cheesecake is coconut milk, which is half the fat content of cashews. If you’re looking to further reduce fat content, you can, again, substitute a flour or oat crust instead of the nuts.

For sure, the most labour intensive element of this recipe is the cheesecake filling, but the crust and topping are soooo simple it balances out. I won’t tell you my convoluted means of making this cake through all my mistakes, but rather, share with you the way to make this right the first time. Have fun!

Vegan Caramel Gluten-Free Cheesecake

This recipe will make enough for a small pie dish. Alternatively, you can make the recipe as individual cheesecakes in muffin trays.

Prep time: Overnight cooling, 30 minutes prep

Cook time: 25 minutes (baking 15 minutes, simmering 10 minutes)

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1 1/2 tbs vegan butter (or coconut oil), melted
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Filling: 

  • 1 tbs arrowroot powder
  • 1/2 tbs tapioca flour (or starch)
  • 5 tbs water
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (403 ml)
  • 3 tsp agar powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp coconut vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 tsp xantham gum
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tbs lemon juice

Caramel Date Sauce Topping:

  • 1 cup medjool dates (pitted)
  • 1 tbs maple syrup
  • 2 tbs vegan butter (or coconut oil), melted
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water (depending on how thick you want your sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions

Start with the crust, so it can cool in time for the filling. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine nuts and salt in a blender or food processor and pulse until nuts are chopped into a coarse grain. Avoid over-processing. Melt vegan butter in the microwave in a medium sized bowl, or on stovetop. Remove nuts from blender and combine with melted vegan butter in a bowl. Mix until nut mixture is consistently oiled.

Next, cut a round of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of your pie dish and fill with crust mix. The crust will still be crumbly at first, but should adhere with pressure. With a silicone spatula or your clean fingers, firmly press into crust to flatten as much as possible. The tighter the crust mixture, the easier serving your cheesecake will be.

Bake crust at 325 degrees F for 8 minutes. Increase temperature to 375 degrees F and cook for another 7 minutes until the crust becomes slightly golden brown on the edges. Allow to cool before filling. **

** Note on crust flavours. You can use any combination of nuts you prefer. Walnuts with macadamia nuts are also a nice choice. You can also use melted coconut oil in place of vegan butter, but I find the coconut oil doesn’t give it as much of a savoury flavour — so choose to your flavour preference. You can also add spices like cinnamon or nutmeg if you wish (I do this for my pumpkin pies.)

While the crust is cooking, combine arrowroot and tapioca flour (or starch) with water in a bowl. Stir until fully dissolved, and repeat as mixture settles. Set aside for now.

Next, mix your coconut oil and xantham gum in a separate bowl vigorously, and set aside. (If you are using this recipe to make non-dessert cheese, or you don’t love coconut fragrance, make sure the coconut oil you use is refined for a neutral scent and flavour).

In a small/medium saucepan, heat coconut milk over medium heat until it starts to boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer slowly until you are nearly ready to assemble your cheesecake. The filling tends to “cure” quickly, so you’ll want to make sure to work quickly. When you are ready, and coconut milk is simmering, add agar powder and whisk very quickly and constantly until completely dissolved. Add vinegar, salt, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Whisk quickly until dissolved.

Reduce heat further to the lowest setting and add starch mixture, and xantham gum-oil mixture. Whisk like your life depends on it very briefly, then quickly pour into cooled crust while mixture is still thin enough to pour. If it’s solidified to scoopable consistency, don’t worry too much. Just spread the mixture. It will be the difference between a soft, melting texture and a slightly chewier texture. Depending on your preference, of texture you can work quickly or slowly.

Cool the cheesecake for several hours or overnight (covered) until the filling has firmed up, but still has a bit of jiggle. The topping is added in two stages once the filling has solidified. First, there is a spread of raw caramel topping over the whole cheesecake surface, then there is the drizzle of cooked (caramelized) sauce to enhance the flavour.

Prep the sauce in advance, either while cake is cooling or while crust is cooking. Simply blend all caramel ingredients in a blender until it reaches sauce consistency, adding more water if necessary. Refrigerate half of the sauce to later spread on the cake filling. The other half gets heated in a small saucepan until sauce darkens and thickens slightly. This is then refrigerated as well until serving assembly, when you drizzle generously over each slice.

Enjoy!

Vegan Gluten Free Caramel Cheesecake

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