June 06, 2008

garbanzo cheese

There used to be a Country Life restaurant near our house. (If you're not familiar with Country Life Vegetarian Restaurants, they are a chain of restaurants associated with the Seventh Day Adventist church. I'm not sure of the exact relationship — franchises or independently owned — but in the case of our local Country Life, the restaurant was staffed and managed by members of the church. The restaurants promote the Adventist principle of keeping your body healthy by eating the highest quality food. This generally means vegan. There are other obvious items to be avoided, like alcohol and tobacco, and less obvious ones like cinnamon.)

Anyway, in addition to being the only vegan restaurant in town, Country Life was also very child-friendly. So, being vegans with three young children, we went there a lot. We got to know the managers pretty well and it got to be kind of like going to their house for dinner, except that we had to pay. Our children were never the kind that would be happy with a few bites from my plate. They were all hearty eaters who required full portions of food. They loved going to Country Life with its huge, comfortable room, fireplace and attached store, and where they could order anything on the menu. And they enjoyed the food. I usually ordered the salad bar — a wonderland of fresh salad ingredients with extras like chickpeas, olives and vegan potato salad.

Since the staff were not really professional restaurant people, this was not the sort of place you would go if you were in a hurry. Once we waited so long for our food, and the order was so confused, that they gave us the meal for free. We were quite comfortable with the pace and we liked going there. And even though they were all obviously "working in God's service," they never suggested we actually read the literature on the table, or pressed their religion on us.

The food was mostly familiar-sounding "comfort food," which is why I once got the (stupid) idea to take my parents there when they came to visit. I thought they would enjoy the food even though they weren't vegetarian. My father was not a patient man, but I thought we could all go out and enjoy a leisurely meal together. I mean, we could hang out, have conversation, enjoy each others company. Right? Well, I'll spare you the gory details, but I wasn't sure we'd be welcome again at Country Life after that night. But they were very gracious and understanding, of course, and we continued our visits there until the restaurant closed. (I can assure you we never returned there with my parents.)

We took a series of cooking classes at the restaurant and learned how to make tofu and other stuff and bought a couple of cookbooks. "Ten Talents" by John and Rosalie Hurd is a classic Seventh Day Adventist cookbook that has some weird and interesting recipes. We also have a "Country Life" cookbook, which brings me to the subject of this post. I've decided to revisit some of the old recipes I used to make. Some of the food seemed really good to me back then and I want to see if it still has appeal. I remember making garbanzo cheese and thinking it was so delicious, so I started with that. It isn't hard to make, but takes several days to sprout the beans. And the final step of cooking requires constant stirring for 25 minutes. It didn't seem as great this time around. But the process still fascinates me and the cheese is interesting and slice-able. Actually, I don't know why they called it "cheese." It's more like a garbanzo loaf. Today I wrapped some slices in a burrito with avocado and shredded lettuce and it tasted pretty good. Will I make it again? Maybe; it's strange, but it has a certain something that I find very compelling.

I fried a few slices in a tablespoon of oil until they were browned and crispy, and they were delicious. I gave some to my son, who had been grossed out by the stuff while I was cooking it, and he said it was really good.

Garbanzo cheese
Soak 1 cup dry garbanzos for 24 hours. Sprout for 48 hours. (To sprout, drain the beans and place them in a glass jar or ceramic bowl. Rinse and drain them twice a day. It helps to use beans that are not too old.)

Whiz in blender or food processor until smooth (really smooth):
  • the soaked sprouted garbanzos
  • 1/2 cup brazil or other nuts
  • 1-1/4 teasp. onion powder
  • 1-1/2 teasp. salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup yeast flakes (you know, nutritional yeast)
  • 1/2 cup jarred pimentos
  • 1/8 teasp. garlic powder
  • caraway or celery seed (optional)
Place in double boiler and cook until thick, or cook in a saucepan over low heat, 20–25 minutes, stirring constantly. I used the sauce pan and medium heat because I didn't have the patience for low heat. This stuff burns in an instant and you have to be vigilant. If you keep stirring and scraping the pan bottom, it will cook more easily over medium heat. It gets quite thick. Pack it into a loaf pan rinsed in cold water. I used a 9" square pan because that's what I had. Chill thoroughly before slicing. Try frying some slices for breakfast.

Update: Oh no. I'm addicted to this stuff just like I used to be. Especially the fried version.


  1. This is really interesting, because I have some chickpea flour around and have thought that at some point I would try to make Burmese Tofu, which sounds pretty much like your garbanzo cheese. Sounds just as labor intensive, too. Check this out:

    And this:

    Do you think that using the flour vs. sprouting the beans makes much of a difference? If I ever try it I'll tell you!

  2. Yikes. I don't know. I have some garbanzo flour that I was going to try using in the vegan sausage recipe so I could use less gluten. I used to use the flour years ago but I can't remember what I used it for!
    The tofu sounds like more work than this, which really isn't much work other than remembering to rinse the chick peas every day. You could try making it and let me know. (And let me taste it!)
    The garbanzo cheese really is interesting and I need more ideas about how to use it. The chick pea tofu looks a lot smoother.

  3. i just made these with walnuts and sauerkraut since i didn't have pimentos on hand. they are very tasty! thanks

    1. I never got around to making it again, but I miss it!

  4. would love to make this cheese , but we have nut allergies . Any suggestions for a suitable nut replacement ?

    1. How about sunflower or sesame seeds?

    2. Thank-you , sesame seed would be fine allergy wise :) but unfortunately I would not be able to try the sunflower seed . I had also thought maybe oats ? I will definitely try this and will try to remember to post my results .Thanks again for your recipe and help

  5. Fast forward 2017 - thanks for this post! I had the sprouted chickpeas ready to use and was looking for a cheese recipe. I used cashews in mine and did not cook - it had a cheese spread consistency. I also added a quarter of an orange bell pepper for color. I then made a grilled cheese sandwich with thinly sliced onions - heaven.

  6. Hi Janet! Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's been years since I made this, and the cheeses vegans are making today are a far cry from what we made in 2008. Still, I remember loving this garbanzo cheese, and I'm happy you reminded me about it — blog recipes so often get lost over the years. Your changes and additions sound delicious. It's really good cooked, and you might want to try it sometime, unless of course, you follow a raw diet.

  7. Hi Andrea,
    I have a 1990 version of the Country Life cookbook and just happened to make the garbanzo cheese today. It came out looking like cheese and was good, but I had to add extra water for it to blend and extra water to cook it for the 20 minutes.
    It was very thick even before cooking it. It was too thick to pour it.
    What was the texture of your cheese after blending and after cooking the 20 minutes? Could you pour it like pancake batter ?

    1. Well, Deborah, it's been a long time since I made this, but looking back over the recipe, I think a food processor would be a better choice for the blending, unless you have a high powered blender. Yes, it's very thick and hard to deal with, but I don't think I added liquid or would have mentioned it in the recipe directions. The batter is "packed" into the pan after cooking. It can't be poured.


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