Vegan Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions: #FeatureFriday Guest Post

You’re in for a delicious post with Leigh’s Vegan Grilled Cheese! Here’s a little about Leigh:

Leigh A. Hall is crazy-mad about Bikram yoga which she has been practicing for over three years. She has competed in two regional asana competitions and places last both times, but for some reason she keeps doing it. 

I love grilled cheese sandwiches, but when I decided to follow a primarily vegan diet I thought I had to give them up. I tried, at first, to find a substitute cheese that would work. I tried numerous vegan cheeses, some I bought in local stores and others I ordered online, but I was never truly satisfied with them. Eventually I gave up on the idea.

However, when I saw this recipe for vegan grilled cheese with caramelized onions, my excitement was renewed. It looked delicious and simple to make. However, I was nervous about the first hurdle I had to cross which was making the cashew cheese sauce. I tried making a nut-based cheese once, and it was an utter fail. But I decided it was worth one more shot.

Making the Sauce
The first thing I had to do was get my butt down to Whole Foods and buy raw cashews. Whole Foods lets you buy these straight from the canister so you can get as much as you need. I knew cashews would be expensive, but I was disheartened to see they were $13.99 a pound (and I needed half a pound). So there I was, spending 8.00 or so on cashews and worrying it was going to turn into an epic, expensive fail. But I proceeded on. You can also get your nutritional yeast at Whole Foods, and it’s not that expensive.

The cashews have to soak overnight. That was the easy part. 

The next morning I got up and was excited to see how this would work. I dumped all the ingredients in the blender and got ready for action!
Ok…turns out I needed to give things a bit of help. The cashews blended and everything else just sat on top. So I gave everything a stir, blended some more, and repeated the process until it was all done.

I noticed that my sauce was not turning orange like the picture in the recipe, but that didn’t deter me. Then I tasted it and thought…..

Ewwww…..this is not that great. I immediately felt frustrated.

But having spent about $15.00 on cashews, nutritional yeast, and bread, I was determined to work at this sauce a bit more. If you make this recipe as is, and find out you don’t much care for it, try the following:

1. Up the chili and onion powder. I just kept adding and blending an extra ½ teaspoon at a time (I put in 2½ tablespoons of each at the end).

2. Don’t forget the salt. I just dumped in a little bit at the time and kept adjusting until I liked it.

3. Add pepper! I dumped some in twice. Yes, dumping is an official measurement.

When all was said and done – DIVINE!

On To the Sandwich
The first step in the sandwich is to caramelize the onions. I used about ¼ of a yellow onion, and it worked out to be plenty. This took about 10 minutes to do, but of course you’ll do it to whatever consistency you want.

While you are waiting on your onions, here are some things you can do:

1. Bust out the cheese sauce. Realize it is even more delicious after sitting in the fridge.

2. Find a small piece of bread, spread some sauce on it, and snack!

3. Repeat step #2. Realize you are using bread as an appetizer for a sandwich. Rationalize this by simply choosing not to care.

4. Make your sandwich. Put the spread on both pieces. Eat some more spread out of the container. It’s your container. Dip your finger in it if you want. Think about all the things you can dip in this sauce.

5. Smack on some spinach. I ended up buying baby spinach in a container from the store as opposed to a fresh bunch. If you have a case of the kitchen lazies (like me), this is an excellent choice. Just pull the stems off and toss the pieces on the sandwich. No need to chop anything up to make it fit. Put on as much as you want.

6. Add the onions. They are done now.

7. Cook the sandwich in olive oil or a vegan butter of your choice. I used Earth Balance.

A Few Notes
On the surface, this seemed like an expensive lunch to me, but in reality the whole thing cost me around $20.00, and it will last for the week. The cashew sauce makes a lot. The recipe says it makes two cups, and I thought that sounded small, but it really isn’t. It also is supposed to hold for weeks. You could cut the sauce recipe in half and save a bit of money on the cashews if you want, but if you love this sauce like I do you will wish you had made two cups.

The sauce is good on just about anything you would put cheese on. I have used it on tortillas and to dunk pita chips in (I ran out of hummus). I could see this working for a nacho dish if you heated the sauce up just a tad.

If you are new to the idea of eating vegan – or the idea of vegan cheese – this dish may sound a bit strange, but I assure you it is simple to make and easy to love. I have taste-tested it on some hard core I will never be vegan! People and they are 100% in love with it.

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