Let’s just say that I have a complicated relationship with the official food of my childhood home state of Wisconsin. I can eat a couple bites here and there of the good quality stuff and I feel fine, but the problem is that I love it too much to ever stop at just a couple bites… and after a couple bites, my body no longer feels fine. I’ll spare you the gory details, but will tell you my physical reaction brings meaning to the phrase “cutting the cheese”!
Turns out, I may not be alone. According to at least one medical doctor, the protein fragments in casein that our body doesn’t break down attach to opiate receptors in your brain, which is why some of us crave cheese and have a tendency to overdo it. And for a person like me who is both lactose intolerant and has an autoimmune disease that may be aggravated by the protein in dairy, that is an addiction I need to break!
Dairy and the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)
Although some people are able to eventually reintroduce forms of dairy in their diet, it is initially eliminated on the paleo autoimmune protocol (AIP). According to Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, dairy leads to increased intestinal permeability (colloquially known as “leaky gut”), is a highly allergenic food, and is a potential gluten cross-reactor (that means that in the bodies of some people with gluten intolerance, dairy provokes the same response). There are arguments in favor of consuming dairy, provided you tolerate it and she summarizes all of that nicely in this post called The Great Dairy Debate.
Zucchini Cheese 2.0
While it was still in development, I titled this recipe for a new AIP cheese alternative “zucchini cheese 2.0” because I began with this recipe, posted almost three years ago on my blog but still one of the most consistently popular posts I have ever written. Ultimately, I had to abandon that name because my favorite version of the improved recipe ended up containing no zucchini at all!
I had several aims in this redeveloped recipe. Specifically, I wanted something with a more pronounced cheesy flavor, a brighter color, and I wanted it to be sliceable but also to be able to gently melt it, without it turning completely into liquid. It took some tinkering with different base vegetables and I ultimately settled on butternut squash because it had a nice neutral flavor and the vivid color that reminded me of Wisconsin cheddar. I ramped up the amount of nutritional yeast for more “cheesy flavor,” and then I played around with tapioca starch to give the cheese more body when it has melted.
- Butternut squash – You can peel and chop it fresh, but I really like using frozen squash. I found a 5 pound package of organic butternut squash, individually packaged into one pound bags they intend you to steam in the microwave, at Costco that worked perfectly.
- Gelatin – Make sure you use gelatin that dissolves only in hot liquids and not collagen. The orange can from Great Lakes or the green can from Vital Proteins are two examples that will work. I have used both and have no preference. Adjust the amount of gelatin you use to get the firmness you desire. Two tablespoons is just enough to make it barely sliceable but still quite soft; four tablespoons will give you something with a bit more bite. Omit the gelatin completely for a vegan option, but be aware that you probably won’t be able to slice it.
- Nutritional yeast – If you know you have the MTHFR mutation, or if you aren’t sure, it is best to use a yeast that does not have synthetic supplements added to it. I like the Sari Foods brand.
- Oil – You can use any kind of healthy AIP-friendly fat you like. I like avocado oil because it has a neutral flavor, but coconut or olive oil or even lard would work fine. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think bacon fat might be tasty and give it a “smoked cheddar” like flavor.
Now on to the recipe for AIP cheese… I hope you enjoy this as much as I do! If you are on Instagram, post a picture and tag me and use the hashtag #aipcheese2 so I see it!
AIP Cheese Recipe
- Put squash and about ½ a cup of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer until very soft (about 6-9 minutes).
- Drain water and discard.
- Transfer squash to a high powered blender, or leave in pan to use an immersion blender.
- Add all remaining ingredients.
- Blend until smooth.
- Line a small loaf pan or other container with parchment paper and pour the mixture in. Spread as evenly as possible.
- Place in refrigerator and allow to chill until set (about two hours, but this will depend on the depth of the pan or container you use).
For more AIP cheese and dairy alternative recipes, be sure to check out this post.
Did you know this recipe is very freezer-friendly? An adapted version of it appears in the community cookbook Freezer Cooking for the Paleo AIP. Learn more about that incredible resource here!
Shared on Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable
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