Dairy-Free Fresh Ricotta

Ricotta is often the unsung heroine of the US cheese world, but it’s truly a miracle of Italian resourcefulness. The dairy version is actually a by-product of cheesemaking. Once a hard cheese is made, the whey is reheated to draw out the whey protein so that it is not wasted. That is whey ricotta. This version has all the fluffy richness without the dairy. If you’re not sure you like ricotta, think of some of the delicious, iconic dishes that would be lost without it: lasagna, cannoli, white pizza. . . . The fact that ricotta is mild makes it a versatile starting point and blank canvas for traditional and nontraditional dishes. Need to add protein to a salad, roasted veggie dish, or even pancakes? Reach for ricotta!


  • 2 cups cashews (soaked for 8 to 12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes and drained) or the substitution of your choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lactic acid or 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup water


Combine the cashews, salt, lactic acid, and 1/2 cup of the water in the blender.

Pulse a few times in the blender, stopping to scrape down the side of the container to make sure all of the cashews are incorporated. (Note: If you accidentally overblend, you will make cashew cream, also delicious! Simply drain it in cheesecloth and use it as you would sour cream.)

If necessary, add more of the remaining 1/2 cup water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the blender can
run smoothly. Stop blending when the mix looks like wet oatmeal. If you are happy with the texture, you do not need to drain it (it will also thicken a little in the refrigerator). It’s ready to eat; or to drain, you can proceed to the next step.

If you need to drain the ricotta, place the cheesecloth in the colander and the colander in the bowl, in order to catch the liquid. Pour the ricotta blend into the cloth-lined colander.

Lift and twist the cheesecloth into a bundle. Squeeze until you see liquid (cashew milk) drip out. Use the cashew milk or “whey” that drains out within 3 days in smoothies, biscuit recipes, and creamy soups.

Your drained Fresh Ricotta is ready to eat. Use it right away or store it in the refrigerator in a dry, covered container. Enjoy it within 1 week.


Lemon Ricotta

In step 1, add to the blender:

2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest

Vanilla Ricotta

In step 1, add to the blender:

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons maple syrup, plus more to taste


For the Cashews (choose one):

  • 2 cups raw macadamia nuts (soaked for 8 to 12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes, drained)
  • 2 cups blanched almonds (soaked for 8 to 12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes, drained)
  • 2 cups raw sunflower seeds (soaked for 8 to 12 hours or boiled for 20 minutes, drained)
  • 2 cups cooked, drained white beans (cannellini, navy, or Great Northern), no water at all, plus 1 tablespoon tapioca powder and 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

Excerpted from One-Hour Dairy-Free Cheese: Make Mozzarella, Cheddar, Feta, and Brie-Style Cheeses—Using Nuts, Seeds, and Vegetables by Claudia Lucero (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Matthew Benson.