Tofu Scramble Breakfast Sandwich with Melty Vegan Cheddar Cheese

This vegan breakfast sandwich is a classic comfort food which features a savory tofu scramble and a homemade cashew “cheddar” cheese spread. This melty, stretchy cheese spread also makes the perfect vegan grilled cheese!

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Sometimes, you just need a savory breakfast that’s a little extra indulgent and comforting, and this breakfast sandwich will definitely hit the spot. When I went vegan, I thought I’d never get to enjoy anything like a breakfast sandwich ever again, but over time I learned that it’s possible to make a vegan substitute for just about anything, including the classic egg and cheddar filled sandwich.

Many years ago when I was living in NYC, I needed a cheap breakfast which could keep me full all day through my busy schedule. Once I discovered there were bodegas on every corner serving up egg and cheese sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches became my everyday meal.

These days, since becoming vegan and more health-conscious, I tend to stick to oatmeal topped with nuts or seeds and fresh fruit. While this is great most of the time, I still occasionally have days where all I want is something as filling and satisfying as a classic breakfast sandwich. Since it was not specifically the greasy eggs and cheese that I missed, I knew I could make a vegan version which had a similar texture and flavor that would make for an equally delicious sandwich.

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Tofu scramble doesn’t need to be complicated. I’ve tried many scramble recipes which include chopped onions, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, and all sorts of add-ins, and while those scrambles make for great meals on their own, for this sandwich recipe I like to use a simplified version which is more versatile like classic scrambled eggs.

Here’s what you’ll need to make a basic tofu scramble:

  • firm tofu

  • nutritional yeast

  • smoked paprika

  • onion powder

  • garlic powder

  • mustard powder, or yellow mustard

  • turmeric

  • cumin

  • black pepper

  • salt, or use kala namak black salt for more of an eggy flavor

I like to mix all the spices together in a bowl and then add in a splash of water to make a spice paste. Pouring over the spices in the form of a paste allows for the spices to marinate the tofu in the pan rather than just cling to the outside of the tofu. Once you have your spice paste mixed, it takes just 5-7 minutes to brown the crumbled tofu in a pan, then add in the paste and cook for a few more minutes. This scramble recipe is so quick and easy!

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When I’d order my breakfast sandwiches at my local bodega, I’d always specifically ask for cheddar cheese. I loved the sharp tangy flavor on a breakfast sandwich, and to me any vegan version would be incomplete without a realistic cheddar substitute. While I normally avoid nut-heavy vegan cheese replacements, a vegetable-based sauce would just not cut it here for a cheddar cheese replacement. I’ve found that cashews are the way to go for the best spreadable, melty, homemade vegan cheese.

This cheddar cheese spread is perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches too! It can also be thinned out and made into a mac and cheese sauce (it reminded me so much of Velveeta!) but I still prefer my cheesy vegetable-based sauces more for pasta. If you are looking for a spreadable vegan cheddar that you can make at home, this is the perfect recipe!

How to make melty vegan cheddar cheese:

You will need:

  • cashews

  • water

  • tapioca starch

  • nutritional yeast

  • lemon juice

  • salt

  • white miso paste

  • paprika

  • maple syrup

  • onion powder

  • garlic powder

  • turmeric

Soak your cashews first if not using a high-speed blender. Then add all of the cheese ingredients into a blender and blend until completely smooth. Pour this mixture into a pan over medium heat and stir for a few minutes until it thickens. Scoop this mixture into a jar or other sealed container and store in the fridge until ready to use. This will keep for 7-10 days.

You can warm it up before using it or just spread it on the sandwich as is, since the warm scramble and toasted bread will heat it up. No matter the temperature, the texture will stay quite thick and melty, very similar to actual melted cheddar cheese.

If giving up cheese is the one thing holding you back from trying out a plant-based diet, definitely give this vegan cheese recipe a try!

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While you could pile this sandwich high with toppings such as mushroom bacon, sliced avocado, tomato, onions, or spinach, you could also just stick to the classic “egg and cheese on a roll.” Serve it on a biscuit, english muffin, whole grain bread, or even throw it all in a wrap for something different. Both the scramble recipe and the vegan cheddar recipe are so versatile and can be used to make a variety of other meals as well, so make a large batch and have a fun week of cheesy sandwiches!

To see the whole process, check out my recipe video:

For a super-easy version, check out the recipe notes for an alternative recipe which uses slices of marinated tofu instead of tofu scramble. It’s also a bit less messy and easier to take on the go. I make that version more often than the scramble, but both are so good.

I hope you love this vegan breakfast sandwich!



Golden Turmeric Coconut Butter Granola [vegan, oil-free & gluten-free]

Crispy clusters of golden granola made with turmeric, coconut butter, rolled oats, buckwheat and mineral-rich nuts and seeds. Naturally sweetened with maple syrup, this simple granola recipe is free of refined sugar, processed oils, and gluten.

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Lately, this sunny yellow, lightly-spiced granola has been my new favorite breakfast. Coconut butter and maple syrup make the perfect rich binding mixture, and along with the nuts, seeds and whole grains in there, this granola makes for a healthy, nutrient-dense meal. Top it with fresh berries and plant-based milk, or enjoy it as a snack over some vegan yogurt.

One of the best parts about making golden granola cereal is that you also end up with delicious golden milk! Turmeric is what gives this granola a bright yellow color and it also contains powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. I’m always trying to find ways to include more turmeric in my day, and this is definitely one of my favorite ways to enjoy it!

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I chose to use coconut butter because it’s mild flavor lets the warm spices shine through, where as other nut butters can sometimes be a bit heavy and overpowering. No refined oils are needed in this recipe because the natural oils in the coconut butter allow the granola to crisp up perfectly.

Coconut butter is just blended coconut meat, with nothing added and nothing taken away, so it still contains all of it’s fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a much healthier alternative to coconut oil.

For a lower-fat version, you could substitute the coconut butter for date paste (soaked, blended dates) instead.

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This granola is done in under an hour and makes about 6 cups. It’s best to bake it at a low temperature for a longer amount of time to avoid creating harmful compounds which are created when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures. This granola will still get perfectly crispy and lightly golden, it just requires about 35-40 minutes in the oven at 275 ℉.

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Once it’s done baking, allow it to cool completely then store in a jar or sealed container on the countertop or in the fridge. The longest mine has ever lasted is three days, but it should keep well for about a week or so.

To see the whole process, check out my recipe video:

Let me know if you try it out and leave a comment below. I hope you enjoy this granola recipe!


Seasonal Cherry & Apricot Nut Crumble With Vanilla Almond Cream [with raw option!]

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Early summer produce is finally here so it's the perfect time for cherries and apricots here in the Pacific Northwest. This week our CSA box was full of the most delicious fresh local fruits and we found ourselves with a dozen apricots and six pounds of beautiful fresh local cherries. 

It didn't take long before most of the cherries were devoured and since the remaining cherries and apricots were starting to soften a bit, I decided I'd use the rest of them to make a warm cherry and apricot compote filling with a raw nut & date crumble topping. 

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With all of this fruit in season lately, I've been loving the combination of fresh fruit with different kinds of chopped raw nuts and whipped nut creams. When the fruit had first arrived, I was enjoying the fruit on it's own as well as with almond cream and nut crumbles on top, inspired by this recipe, by Laura of The First Mess. But as the fruit I was using became a little more soft and overripe, I decided to make warm, delicately cooked, bowls of syrupy cherries and apricots, while still keeping the date and nut crumble and the almond cream fully raw.

I mainly chose to keep the nuts raw to avoid the formation of a compound called acrylamide.

In looking at research on nuts, they have been shown to form the compound acrylamide when baked at high temperatures (above 265 degrees F) which causes oxidative stress leading to cellular apoptosis, which can age us and raise disease risk. The length of baking time doesn't seem to be a factor, but keeping the temperature low is what's most important.

Just to avoid this process all together I like to keep the nuts completely raw, but if you prefer a warm nut topping, you can bake these for about 40 minutes at 250 degrees F, and avoid too much damage to the nuts. 

Raw nuts and seeds are actually some of the healthiest whole foods we can eat.

Nuts and seeds contain: LDL cholesterol-lowering phytosterols, circulation-promoting arginine (an amino acid), minerals, including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and selenium, and antioxidants, including flavonoids, resveratrol, tocopherols (vitamin E), and carotenoids.

Nuts and seeds also promote heart health. Eating five or more servings of nuts per week is estimated to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 35 percent. 

While it's important not to go overboard, even with raw nuts, adding them to fresh fruit and greens in small amounts helps to boost absorption of nutrients, making them healthier together than when enjoyed on their own.

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Making the Vanilla Almond Cream:

The first step is to make the raw vanilla almond cream. You'll need to soak your almonds overnight or for at least 8 hours, before draining, rinsing, and then blending them with the water, vanilla, maple syrup, and pinch of salt. Scoop the cream into a jar or container and store it in the fridge until cooled. 

If you don't like seeing little brown specks in your almond cream, you can blanch the almonds first and then run them under cold water to remove the skins, but I find it doesn't make any difference in the taste or texture of the cream and I don't mind seeing some specks. 

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There are a couple of different ways you can make this crumble. If your fruit is very fresh and at perfect ripeness, you can keep this dish completely raw, like in the original recipe, but if your fruit is overripe and a little soft, I'd recommend the cooked option.

In the cooked option I keep the nuts completely raw and add them on at the very end along with the pre-made chilled vanilla almond cream. Or if you want the nut topping a little warm, it can be baked with the crumbles on at a very low temperature (250°F). 

Raw Option:

Filling: Slice in half the cherries and apricots and remove the pits, then slice the apricots into thin wedges. Place the raw fresh fruit in a bowl and refrigerate while you make the crumble topping.  

Raw nut crumble: In a food processor, combine the walnuts, almonds, pecans, dates, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon, until broken into large crumbs and with the dates evenly dispersed and finely chopped. 

Assembly: Scoop the sliced fruit into individual bowls and top with the nut and date crumble and a dollop of cold vanilla almond cream. 

Cooked Option:

Filling: Slice in half the cherries and apricots and remove the pits, then slice the apricots into thin wedges. Place fruit in a bowl and add in the lemon juice and coconut sugar. Stir together your starch slurry in a small bowl. Heat a saucepan over medium heat and once the pan is warm add in the fruit mixture. Bring to a gentle boil then reduce heat to a simmer and add in the starch slurry, stirring as it thickens. Simmer on low heat for 3-4 minutes, when the fruit softens but before it starts to go too mushy. 

Raw nut crumble: In a food processor, combine the walnuts, almonds, pecans, dates, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon, until broken into large crumbs and with the dates evenly dispersed and finely chopped. 

Assembly: Scoop the cooked fruit filling into individual bowls if serving right away, or into an 8x8 baking dish to serve it later. Top with the raw nut and date crumble and serve with a dollop of the chilled vanilla almond cream. If you choose the baking dish option you can make the crumble ahead of time and then refrigerate it before baking it with the nut topping on for 40 minutes at 250°F, or 20 minutes at 350°F, but make sure to leave the raw nut crumble off and add it on after it's done baking. Add the chilled cream just before serving.

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Complete Guide to Cooking Without Oil

Coronary angiograms of the distal left anterior descending artery before (left) and after (right) 32 months of a plant-based diet without cholesterol-lowering medication, showing profound improvement. ( source )

Coronary angiograms of the distal left anterior descending artery before (left) and after (right) 32 months of a plant-based diet without cholesterol-lowering medication, showing profound improvement. (source)

Oils, like any other food, aren't either good for you or bad for you, they're simply better or worse for you when compared to other foods. Oils shouldn't be avoided because they're a "bad foodand it's true that certain oils like extra virgin olive oil are certainly less bad for you than than other oils like coconut, corn, and palm. Even so, it's important to keep in mind that less damage is still damage.

From a health perspective, there's no reason to include oil in our diets. Most of us have about 2200-2500 calories in our calorie bank for the day, so it doesn't make sense to eat a highly refined, calorically dense food product, when instead we could be spending those calories on whole, unprocessed plant foods, which provide necessary fiber and nutrients. 

For the most part, I don't use any oil in my home cooking, and ever since learning to use the right substitutions and methods I don't find myself missing it at all. Lately, I rarely seek out specifically oil-free recipes since it's become easy enough to make any recipe I find without any oil. 

A few reasons to avoid oil:

  • Within hours of ingesting any kind of oil arteries stiffen and their ability to dilate is impaired.

  • The Mediterranean Diet is healthy in spite of olive oil- not because of it. The lowered heart attack risk on this diet is due to the high consumption of whole plant foods rather than the addition of olive oil.

  • The plaque that builds up in our arteries causing arterial lesions and blockages can only be cleared up by reducing total fat intake, not by choosing different "better" kinds of fats.

  • By age 10, almost all kids have fatty streaks in their arteries which is the first sign of atherosclerosis, the leading cause of death in the United States. So most of us should be eating for the purpose of reversing the heart disease that we likely already have.


How to cook without oil on the stovetop:

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  • Use nontoxic, nonstick cookware made of stainless steel, enamel-coated cast iron, or ceramic titanium.

  • Instead of frying vegetables in oil, use small amounts of vegetable broth, water, vinegar, or tamari/coconut aminos to keep things from sticking to the pan.

  • The key to this method is to add whichever liquid you're choosing a few teaspoons at a time. Just enough to release some steam and keep things from getting stuck to the pan, but not so much that the vegetables are sitting in a puddle. The pan should be hot enough that the liquid you add boils away somewhat quickly, but never turn the heat higher than medium-high to protect your pan from heat damage. Once it boils away completely, add another very small splash of liquid and stir things around to free them up again. Repeat this process until your food is fully cooked.

  • Note that things won't always brown as much when using this method vs. when using oil. If want to something to brown or char slightly, let all of the liquid evaporate from the pan, or don't use any liquid in the first place, then let the food cook in the dry pan while watching carefully to see when it browns. Once it browns, you can add a very small amount liquid to the pan stop it from overcooking and burning or remove it from the pan entirely depending on the recipe.

  • Consider the temperature of the pan. Too much liquid added in during cooking time will cool down the pan and greatly slow down the cooking speed, so be sure to add as little as possible. Or if you accidentally add too much, adjust the temperature so it can boil again and evaporate away.


How to bake without oil:

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  • For baking, I like to use silicone cookware. It's nontoxic and the flexibility of it allows baked goods to just pop right out, no greasing the pan needed. Silicone bakeware will require that you increase the baking time, usually about by 3-6 minutes, depending on the recipe.

  • Some baked dessert recipes call for cups full of oil. When this happens there are many options for replacements: nut butters, dairy-free yogurts, applesauce, sweet potato or squash puree, pureed prunes or dates, or mashed banana.

  • When choosing an oil replacement in baking, take into consideration the recipe you're making and try to discern what the oil is being used for in that specific case (to add moisture, to add structure, etc.) . Be sure to also choose a replacement with a flavor or texture that would best suit that particular recipe.

  • This sometimes takes a bit of trial and error, but after a few attempts you'll find what works best for any given recipe.


How to roast without oil: 

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  • Instead of greasing the baking sheet, use a silpat or parchment paper to keep the pan lean and the veggies from sticking

  • Use another liquid to get the spices to stick to what you're roasting such as water, vegetable broth, tamari, maple syrup, mustard, vinegar, etc. depending on the recipe (full list down below).

  • If you have a spray bottle, it can really help to use that to mist water or liquid of choice on to the vegetables you're roasting, then toss to coat with seasonings.

  • Oil-free roasted veggies can dry out, but to avoid this as much as possible roast them low and slow

  • To achieve a shiny glaze on the surface of the vegetable without any oil, brush on some aquafaba, the cooking broth leftover from cooking beans.

  • Give them some room to breathe and don't overcrowd the pan- this should help them to get more brown and crispy.

  • Another trick to get your veggies to brown more is to use a glass baking dish with no parchment paper at all, just place the chopped veggies right on the glass. This will help them to get slightly more brown than if you used parchment paper.

  • Make sure to chop everything you plan to bake in chunks that are pretty much the same exact size to prevent uneven cooking.

  • Stir the roasted vegetables around a bit after about 10 minutes of cooking to ensure they don't get stuck to the pan if you're not using parchment paper or other non-stick surface. This will also help them to cook evenly.


Deep Frying Alternatives

My favorite kitchen appliance by far is my Air Fryer

It makes any whole plant food I put in there turn into the most crunchy and evenly crispy treat, all with no oil needed! 

It's very easy to use and clean, and the best part about it is you don't have to wait for it to preheat.

This device has greatly cut down on the amount of time I spend in the kitchen and it makes the best crispy tofu I've ever had.

While it's not necessary to have an air fryer to eat an oil-free diet, it certainly makes it a lot easier!  

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What to Use Instead of Oil

I mentioned previously that I like to use a glass spray bottle to evenly spritz my roasted veggies with liquid. While this isn't necessary, I find that it makes it much easier to lightly coat the veggies with a liquid instead of using oil. 

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While these liquid oil-substitutes wont prevent stuff from sticking to the pan (that's what parchment paper is for!) and they will evaporate over the cooking time, they still add in a bit of moisture to help prevent things from drying out while roasting and impart a really nice flavor.

It's also been nice to have a reason to save my cooking broth rather than pour it down the drain, especially when I make a nice salty broth and use lots of flavorful fresh herbs. These cooking liquids are so much more flavorful than most oils. 

Here are some of my favorite oil-alternatives for roasting veggies:

  • Tamari (low-sodium)

  • Coconut aminos

  • Vegetable broth

  • Leftover cooking broth, the one I'm using now is leftover from cooking white beans and thyme

  • Vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar or balsamic

  • Leftover liquid from steaming vegetables, a.k.a. pot liquor such as from steamed beets, potatoes, greens, etc.

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Those are all of my best tips for cooking without oil! Hopefully you've found these tips helpful and can start to cook oil-free with confidence. 

It will definitely take some time and experimentation to get it right the first few times you try this but after a while it will become much more intuitive. Expect a little trial and error in the learning process. Cooking without oil isn't the easiest thing- my partner calls it cooking on hard-mode, and that's exactly what it feels like initially, but once you get the hang of it you'll have a valuable skill that could actually improve the quality of your life and your long-term overall health. 

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