Build Your Own Plant-Based Cheese & Charcuterie Board

When I made the switch to a plant-based diet many years ago, I figured my days of enjoying cheese and charcuterie boards were over. I truly assumed plant-based cheese and meat alternatives would be lacklustre. I sort of avoided these products and instead I spent a lot of time making my own cheese spreads, dips and even faux meats that were actually pretty great. However, I have to say, over time I’ve come to know and love several fantastic companies that make phenomenal plant-based cheeses and meats that not only rival traditional versions, but have made it much much easier to make the compassionate choice without having to make everything myself.  

As you know, I’m a huge proponent of spending time in the kitchen and learning how to make things from scratch, but I do realize that it’s not always possible especially during busy times (like the holiday season). It’s nice and so convenient to have store bought options that are healthy, delicious, and plant-based.

Nowadays, it’s so easy to put together a beautiful, bountiful spread combining a variety of cheese and meat alternatives along with other components of your choosing. If you’re looking for ideas or inspiration for your next holiday party, scroll down to learn how to build your own plant-based cheese and charcuterie board. Below I share some of my favourite brands and a few healthy holiday recipes too! 

I partnered up with my friends at Animal Justice to make this cheese and charcuterie board. We used Fauxmagerie Zengarry cheeses and GUSTA sausage along with an assortment of other delicious things.

I partnered up with my friends at Animal Justice to make this cheese and charcuterie board. We used Fauxmagerie Zengarry cheeses and GUSTA sausage along with an assortment of other delicious things.

Cheeses - Look for these brands: Daiya (Farmhouse Blocks), Culchered, Earth Island, Fauxmagerie Zengarry, Field Roast (CHAO Creamery), GUSTA, Happy Heart Vegan Gourmet, Miyoko's Creamery, Nuts For Cheese, Truffula (available in Edmonton, Alberta), Vegan Stokes, VegCheese, VegNature, and Violife.

Meat Alternatives - Look for these brands: Beyond Meat, Field Roast, GUSTA, Real Fake Meats (available in Halifax, Nova Scotia), Tofurky, The Very Good Butchers, and Yam Chops.

Fruits - Everybody loves grapes, berries, cherries, ground cherries, pomegranate, clementines, and dried fruits like figs, raisins, cranberries or apricots.

Veggies - My favourites include olives, sliced raw vegetables, pickled or fermented vegetables (beets, onions, and gherkin pickles are always popular), roasted red pepper, roasted garlic, black garlic, etc.

Nuts & Seeds - I like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, candied pecans, tamari almonds, and pistachios.

Dips & Spreads - Enhance your board with a nice grainy mustard, hummus, bruschetta, salsa, chutney, jams, compotes and maple syrup. I also love this fig & olive tapenade and zucchini almond dip.

Dark chocolate - Can’t go wrong here!

Bread & Crackers - I like a classic french baguette and/or a mix of crackers including Mary’s Gone Crackers, Le Pain des fleurs Crispbread, and more.

Decor -  In the photo above, the decor includes pine cones, holly and ivy, pine branches and of course a few nice cutting boards and decorative bowls. Things like micro greens or delicate leafy greens look pretty. You can also use festive household items like mini-lights, ornaments, candles, or whatever you have on hand to jazz up your board.

Many of the above-mentioned cheeses and meat alternatives are available throughout Canada and the US at health food stores, Whole Foods Markets, and most major grocery stores. In Canada, you can also order a variety of plant-based products online via Vegan Supply and Yam Chops

Did I miss anything? Tell me your favourites in the comment section below!

If you’re stuck on what to make for your holiday dinner, be sure to download my Healthy Holidays eBook. CLICK HERE to get your digital copy. 

Special thanks to Animal Justice for this fun collaboration! Click on the image below to see a fun little video on how we built our board.

Chickpea Crostini Melts with Aquafaba Aioli

This recipe was a long time in the making and I’m so happy that I waited until now to post it as series of serendipitous events has led me to create this fantastic Chickpea Melt recipe. If you if don't want to hear the story, scroll down to the bottom for the recipe (I won’t take offense, I promise). However, for those of you interested in how this recipe came to be, allow me to explain…

About 3 years ago I was at Pressed, a café here in Ottawa, and tried their chickpea salad sandwich. I don't think it's on the menu anymore, but at the time, the owner Jeff was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Since then, I’ve made the recipe countless times for myself, for friends or for yoga retreats, and over the years I’ve refined it to my liking.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago, I attended a wine and cheese party out in Alexandria, Ontario at the Zengarry HQ.  While there, I was speaking with Lynda, the owner and founder, and mentioned to her that I'd love to make a healthy appetizer for the holiday featuring chickpea salad and one of her cheeses. She happily obliged and handed over a round of her cashew-based Gruyère. 

At the Zengarry event also I met local vegan pastry chef, Kate of Kitty Kate Confections, and was super impressed by her beautiful and delicious macarons made using aquafaba. For those of you who haven't heard of aquafaba, it’s basically just chickpea brine.  Yep, the liquid from chickpeas that you usually pour down the drain! Turns out somebody came up with the genius idea of using chickpea brine as an egg replacer and it actually works. In fact, it works so well that vegan chefs and non-vegan chefs alike have begun using it as an egg substitute for making meringues, frothy egg whites on top of drinks (like pisco sour), in cakes and other baked goods, mayo and so on. I’ve observed the magic of aquafaba in the past since my mom has been experimenting with it and has had a lot of success, but I was never really interested in it (not sure why), until recently!

A few days ago at Loblaws cooking lesson, inspired by my mom and Kitty Kate Confections, I tried making aquafaba meringue (I followed this recipe). It’s almost unbelievable that chickpea brine, with a bit of cream of tartar, sugar, and vanilla could whip up so beautifully fluffy in a stand blender creating peaks (just like egg whites) and holding its shape and texture (likely better than egg whites).  Everybody in attendance was wowed by this incredible mock meringue and I was further inspired to play around with aquafaba.

A few days ago a light bulb went off. Since I was already planing to make chickpea salad melts for my blog, why not make aquafaba mayo to go along with it? I found several recipes online. I tried one, and it failed horribly. It was too runny, too yellow looking, and way too salty (it was not a lost cause though; I have since been reformatted into salad dressing). Then, I had a look at the Oh She Glows recipe, and it was a good starting point. However, I ended up altering it to make an aioli (garlic mayo) and I was so pleased with the results.

All of that to say, getting to this point was a process of sharing, learning, research, trial and error, and I hope you enjoy this yummy holiday appetizer.  If you’re reading this and it's not the Holidays, or if you aren’t in need of an appetizer, that’s okay. The Chickpea Salad recipe goes beautifully in sandwiches or wraps, on a bed of leafy greens, or even eaten as a dip with crackers. 

If you want more information on aquafaba check out the Aquafaba Hits and Misses Facebook page. It's mecca for aquafaba aficionados.  Or simply scroll down for the full step-by-step recipe. I hope you enjoy it!

CHICKPEA CROSTINI MELTS WITH ZENGARRY GRUYÈRE

Chickpea Salad:

Yields just under 5 cups.

  • 2 15 oz. cans of chickpeas or 3 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (reserve 3 Tablespoons of the brine for Aquafaba Aioli)

  • 2/3 cup homemade Aquafaba Aioli (see below) or store bought vegan mayo

  • 2/3 cup celery (about 1 or 2 ribs of celery), minced

  • 1 bunch green onions (approximately 8), chopped

  • 1/3 cup minced dill pickle

  • 2 tablespoon nutritional yeast, optional

  • 2 tablespoon tamari, soy sauce or coconut aminos

  • 1 heaping tablespoon kelp or dulse powder

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1 large handful, fresh dill, roughly chopped, divided (some for the salad + some for garnish)

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas coarsely with a fork or potato masher. Mix in the remaining ingredients (except the dill). Once evenly combined, sprinkle in the dill and mix again. Transfer to a large airtight container. This may be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Note: if you’re using store bought mayo and not the aquafaba aioli, you’ll want to add 1 small clove of minced garlic to the mix.

Aquafaba Aioli:

Yields approximately 1 cup

  • 3 tablespoons aquafaba (chickpea brine from canned or homemade chickpeas)

  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  • 3/4 cup grape seed oil (or other neutral oil)

  • 1 small clove of garlic, minced

Directions:

To make the aioli, you’ll need an immersion blender, or a blender with a narrow container.   If using an immersion blender, you’ll also need a large jar or a deep container/mixing jug that’s big enough to fit your immersion blender.  I personally used immersion blender and 5 cup mixing jug.

To begin, add the aquafaba, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and sea salt to the container or jug. Blitz these ingredients for a few seconds until you start seeing a bit of froth. Once your mixture is frothing, start pouring in the oil. Drizzle in the oil, very slowly, as you continue to blitz the mixture, allowing the oil to emulsify.

Within a minute, the mixture should begin to change colour and texture, very similar to that of mayo. Once you’ve added almost all the oil, add in the minced garlic and continue to process to ensure that the garlic mixes in nicely.  You’ll want to reserve 2/3 cups of your Chickpea Aioli for the Chickpea Salad, and transfer the rest to a container and store it refrigerator for up to 1 week.

To Assemble Your Chickpea Crostini Melts:

Ingredients: 

  • 1 baguette of your choice, cut into 1/4 inch slices (I used an organic sourdough)

  • 1 round of frozen Zengarry Gruyère

  • Chickpea Salad

Directions:

Set your oven to broil.  As it’s heating up, grab a baking sheet.  Place several baguette slices on to your baking sheet, then spread 1 heaping tablespoon of Chickpea Salad on to the sliced baguette.   Next, grate about a quarter of your frozen Zengarry Gruyère (grate more later, if needed). I prefer the larger grater setting on a box grater,  but you could also use micro-plane or small grater.  Use about 1/2 teaspoon of the grated Gruyère to top of each baguette.  Then put the baking tray in to the oven and broil for 4 to 5 minutes, watching closely to not overcook or burn your baguettes.

Once the baguettes are nicely crisp, and the Gruyère has melted and is slightly bronzed, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Garnish your Chickpea Crostini Melts with a bit of fresh dill and serve immediately.

Note: You may want to do this in small batches (about 8 to 10 baguettes at a time) so that you can serve and enjoy warm Chickpea Melts strait from the oven.   Use as much or as little of the Chickpea Salad and Gruyère as you need based on the number of people you’re serving. Any leftovers can be enjoyed later on for meals or snacks.