I was a little girl when I first tasted REAL Greek salad. I still remember the big chunk of feta (which I loved), black olives (which I hated), juicy tomatoes and cucumbers. It was right then and there I (and all my family) fell in love with Greek salad, and after our vacation it became a staple in our house. My dad varied the basic recipe a bit, but these always remained: lots of good feta cheese and a simple dressing of olive oil. My Greek salad with vegan feta cheese might be nothing like the salad I tasted 30 years ago, but I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best simple vegan salad I’ve ever tasted. If you want to know why, read along 🙂
I did a little research on the real Greek salad and this is what I found out:
- Tomatoes and cucumbers are not cut into small cubes, rather you leave them big and chunky.
- Red onions are an essential part of the salad. I like to cut mine very thin.
- And so are olives, which I chose to leave out of my recipe. I do like olives, a lot in fact, but decided to add a bit more salt and vinegar taste by adding small capers. The combination of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions and capers is perfectly salty and fresh.
- FETA is the key here, of course. So how could vegan feta cheese ever taste like real feta? In my opinion it doesn’t have to! It just has to have a similar soft feel and perfect saltiness. And it doesn’t hurt that this vegan cheese absorbs some other flavors well too without losing its own distinct “cheesy” taste.
- The dressing is another revelation: it is a simple mix of Extra Virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and dried oregano. You don’t need to drown the salad in the dressing, just gently coat all the salad elements.
- Yet another surprising fact (at least to me): No other ingredients are needed! I bumped into recipes with extra green bell peppers but I like to keep it simple. So no leafy greens, no fresh herbs, no other vegetables. Because this really is a simple and refreshing salad. A classic.
How did I achieve the perfect FETA like feel? I experimented with my basic vegan almond feta recipe. The original recipe suggests you have to let the soft almond “cheese” sit in the fridge overnight for all extra liquid to come out. This time I was too impatient to let the feta sit overnight, so I combined almonds with soaked cashews and now the cheese is ready to be baked immediately after blending all cheese ingredients. Although I love the original almond feta, cashews bring a beautiful creamy flavor to this vegan cheese. This cashew-almond feta is not only delicious in salads, it’s pretty perfect with bread, too.
I was super happy to have my kids help me with this photo shoot. They were overly excited about the tomatoes, which to them looked like bouncy super balls. They liked the salad (not the capers, though) and especially the feta. In fact, my daughter ate 1/2 of one cheese square right after the photo shoot! I also baked a gluten-free no-knead bread to go with the salad, and after the photo shoot I sat around the small wooden table with my daughter, and taught her to dip fresh bread in olive oil. Just like I was taught by my father a long time ago. It’s moments like these I’ll cherish in my heart forever 🙂
- Vegan feta cheese - Cashew-almond feta
- 1 cup cashews (unsalted), soaked (water and ½ tsp salt for soaking)
- ½ cup almonds *SEE NOTES
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2,5 tbsp lemon juice (juice of one small lemon)
- ½ tsp garlic flakes
- ½ tsp good quality salt (e.g.Himalayan)
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- Greek salad with vegan feta cheese
- 8 medium red tomatoes (about 1,5 cup chopped tomatoes)
- ½ medium cucumber (about 1 cup chopped)
- ½ small red onion
- 3 tbsp small capers
- ½ half of vegan feta cheese square.
- Salad dressing
- 1 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: freshly baked bread.
- Vegan feta cheese: Soak cashews in a jar / bowl filled with warm water and salt for 2-4 hours (or more).
- After soaking, drain and rinse cashews.
- Preheat oven to 390F/200C.
- Blend almonds into almond meal.
- Add all ingredients except olive oil into a blender or food processor and blend/process until completely smooth.
- Add olive oil to the liquid cheese mixture and mix with a spoon.
- Line two small baking tins (I used 5" x 5" / 12,5 cm x 12,5 cm) or one big one with parchment paper.
- Pour or spoon liquid cheese mixture into the baking tins and smooth the surface with a knife or spoon. NOTE: If you can't get all of the cheese scraped from the blender, you can blend it with some water and use the liquid as a cream in pasta sauces or other meals.
- Bake cheese in the oven (390F/200C) for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and firm.
- Greek salad with vegan feta cheese: Chop tomatoes and cucumbers into big chunks.
- Slice red onion into thin slices.
- Add tomato and cucumber chunks, red onion slices and small capers into a shallow serving bowl and mix gently.
- Cut ½ of vegan feta cheese into large cubes and put on top of salad.
- Salad dressing: Whisk oil, oregano and pinch of salt in a bowl.
- Add salad dressing on top of greek salad with a teaspoon. You don't have to use all the dressing, just enough for all the elements to be coated in a little olive oil and oregano. You can use the rest of the salad dressing as a dip for your bread.
- Add freshly ground black pepper on top of salad.
- Enjoy salad with freshly baked bread!
*I use almonds which I have activated: I soak raw almonds (with skin) for about 12 hours in a jar filled with warm water and salt (1/2 tsp or more, depending on the amount of almonds). After soaking I drain and rinse the almonds well and place them on a baking sheet. I dehydrate the almonds in the oven (lowest possible temperature) until the almonds are completely dry. This takes about 12-18 hours.
ps This salad would be perfect for family gatherings, parties and picnics! And the cashew-almond feta is a lovely addition to any lunch/dinner/buffet table on its own, too.